Esaus Wives

ESAU'S WIVES


“Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth. Now Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, and Basemath bore Reuel. And Aholibamah bore Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah.” (Genesis 36:2-5 NKJV)

The names and relationships of the wives of Esau appear to pose difficulties. Yet the best perspective may be the advice provided by one author: “These are variations which cannot be easily accounted for, and they are not of sufficient importance to engross much time.” (Genesis 36:2 Adam Clarke's Commentary)

Order of the names
 The order of the names of the wives in Genesis 26:34 is Judith and Basemath with Genesis 28:6 adding Mahalath.
 The order of the names of the wives in Genesis 36:2-5 is Adah, Aholibamah, and Basemath.
 The order of the names of the wives in Genesis 36:15-19 is Adah, Basemath and Aholibamah.

Multiple names
Esau is consistently described as having ONLY THREE wives. Yet FIVE names are given as the names of Esau’s wives: Judith, Basemath, Mahalath, Adah, Aholibamah.
Some of the wives may have been called by multiple names, which was apparently a common practice at that time:
 Esau himself had multiple names
 The brother of Esau had multiple names
 The grandfather of Esau had multiple names
 The grandmother of Esau had multiple names

Esau’s wives
The genealogy of Esau lists only three wives.
 Through Eliphaz by ADAH – “Now Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau.” (Genesis 36:4 NKJV) “These were the chiefs of the sons of Esau. The sons of Eliphaz, the firstborn son of Esau, were Chief Teman, Chief Omar, Chief Zepho, Chief Kenaz, Chief Korah, Chief Gatam, and Chief Amalek. These were the chiefs of Eliphaz in the land of Edom. They were the sons of Adah.” (Genesis 36:15-16 NKJV)
 Through Reuel by BASEMATH – “Basemath bore Reuel [to Esau].” (Genesis 36:4 NKJV) “These were the sons of Reuel, Esau's son: Chief Nahath, Chief Zerah, Chief Shammah, and Chief Mizzah. These were the chiefs of Reuel in the land of Edom. These were the sons of Basemath, Esau's wife.” (Genesis 36:17 NKJV)
 Through AHOLIBAMAH – “And these were the sons of Aholibamah, Esau's wife: Chief Jeush, Chief Jaalam, and Chief Korah. These were the chiefs who descended from Aholibamah, Esau's wife, the daughter of Anah. These were the sons of Esau, who is Edom, and these were their chiefs.” (Genesis 36:18-19 NKJV)
Although the genealogy of Esau lists only THREE wives. However, it may be that these are the wives that had children. It may be that only three of the four wives had children, while Judith was childless (see below). Barnes’ Commentary states that Aholibamah was a FOURTH wife: “[Oholibamah, daughter of Anah, daughter of Zibon the Hivite.] This may have been the fourth wife of Esau in the order of time.” (Genesis 35:22-29 Barnes' Notes)

TWO daughters of Elon are named as wives of Esau
 Adah – “Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite.” (Genesis 36:2 NKJV)
 Basemath – “Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite.” (Genesis 26:34 NKJV)
It does NOT appear that Adah and Basemath can be the same person, for each is described in the same passage as having a different child: “Now Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, and Basemath bore Reuel.” (Genesis 36:4 NKJV)

Ishmael is named as the father of the wife of Esau; however there are two different names given to the daughter of Esau
 Mahalath - One of the wives of Esau is named MAHALATH: “So Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham's son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife in addition to the wives he had.” (Genesis 28:9 NKJV) This appears to be the THIRD wife of Esau, for she was his wife IN ADDITION to the WIVES (plural) that he already had.
 Basemath - “Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth.” (Genesis 36:2-3 NKJV)
Possible resolution: Judith may have been a FOURTH wife of Esau, yet one who did not have any children and was accordingly not listed in the genealogy of Esau.


PERSPECTIVE OF THE WIVES

Judith
 One of the wives of Esau is named Judith, who is described as “the daughter of Beeri the Hittite”: “When Esau was forty years old, he took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite.” (Genesis 26:34 NKJV)
 The Hebrew word Yehuwdiyth translated as “Judith” means “praised” (OT:3067 Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon)
No children? - There is no record of Judith having children. Barnes’ Commentary states “On comparing the account of his two wives whom he married at forty with the present, the first, namely, Judith, daughter of Beeri the Hittite, no longer appears either by her own name, that of her father, or that of her tribe. Hence, we presume that in the course of the past forty-seven years she has died without male issue. This presumption is favored by the circumstance that the daughter of Elon the Hittite is now advanced into the first place.” (Genesis 35:22-29 Barnes' Notes)
Possible resolution: Several Biblical scholars think that Judith is the same person as Aholibamah.
 When describing Aholibamah, Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary states “A wife of Esau “Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite.” (“AHOLIBAMAH” Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary)
 Fausset's Bible Dictionary states “Her personal name was Judith (Genesis 26:34). Aholibamah was her married name, taken from the district, in the heights of Edom, near mount Hor and Petra; Aholibamah is therefore the name given her in the genealogical table of Edom.” (“AHOLIBAMAH” Fausset's Bible Dictionary)
 Adam Clarke's Commentary states “It appears that Esau's wives went by very different names. Aholibamah is named Judith” (Genesis 36:2 Adam Clarke's Commentary) However, others have thought that Judith was the same person as Basemath (see below)

Basemath
 The word translated as “Basemath” means “spice.” (Bashemath OT:1315 Brown Driver & Briggs Hebrew Lexicon)
 One of the wives of Esau is named Basemath, who is described as “the daughter of Elon the Hittite”: “He [Esau] took as wives Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite.” (Genesis 26:34 NKJV)
 The same name of “Basemath” appears to also be given to the daughter of Ishmael: “Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth.” (Genesis 36:2-3 NKJV)
Possible resolution:
 It may be that Basemath was also called “Mahalath.” Barnes’s Commentary states “Basemath, previously called Mahalath.” (Genesis 35:22-29 Barnes' Notes)
 It may be that Esau had two wives initially given the name of Basemath. Esau may have called Basemath, the daughter of Elon, by the name of “Judith” and may have called Basemath, the daughter of Ishmael, by the name of “Mahalath.” This would reduce the friction caused when two different wives heard Esau call them by the same name.