Read Genesis 36
Focus on verse 40-42
We have a saying among people of Mennonite heritage that when two Mennonites meet for the first time, it typically takes them two minutes to get acquainted, and five minutes to be related. Apparently we find it interesting to know who is related to whom, and make it our business to know. Our Mennonite culture is not unique in this regard. Heritage is important to many different groups of people, and often there is a certain level of pride that is expressed about our connection to whatever that heritage might be.
In today’s reading Moses lists the ancestry of Esau. One might wonder why this would be included when it is obvious that Jacob is the child of promise and the focus of the story.
These are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir. (v. 9)
While it is possible that the inclusion of Esau’s descendants is merely to lend credibility to the text validating that these are real people we are talking about, it also explains to us how the Edomites came to dwell in the hill country of Seir. These are the people who generations later would stage a war of resistance against the nation of Israel when they return after spending 400 years in Egypt as slaves. The inclusion of genealogies in the text to some degree humanizes the nations that are mentioned. It reminds us that these people have names and wives and families just as the people of the nation of Israel had names and wives and families.
I think we sometimes forget that even the people that God commanded Israel to destroy in their conquest of Canaan were real people. While it is true that these people had chosen to rebel against God and as is always the case, their rejection of God had consequences, it does not diminish the fact that they were also people created in the image of God, and, I might add, were loved by God. This is a concept we often find difficult to accept, and causes some of us to question the goodness of God because we cannot fathom how God could love a group of people, yet allow (or as in this case – actively encourage) them to be destroyed by another group of people. Philosophers and theologians call this “the problem of evil”, which is a concept humanity has been attempting to solve for ages past, and I suspect will continue to puzzle over in the ages to come. Personally, I have attempted to reconcile the issue for myself by attributing my lack of understanding this aspect of the nature of God to the fact that God is an infinite being and I am not, and that – at least for now – I am okay with that.