on Genesis 36 :31
Before there reigned any king over - Israel - I suppose all the verses, from Genesis 36:31-39 inclusive, have been transferred to this place from 1 Chronicles 1:43-50, as it is not likely they could have been written by Moses; and it is quite possible they might have been, at a very early period, written in the margin of an authentic copy, to make out the regal succession in Edom, prior to the consecration of Saul; which words being afterwards found in the margin of a valuable copy, from which others were transcribed, were supposed by the copyist to be a part of the text, which having been omitted by the mistake of the original writer, had been since added to make up the deficiency; on this conviction he would not hesitate to transcribe them consecutively in his copy. In most MSS. sentences and paragraphs have been left out by the copyists, which, when perceived, have been added in the margin, either by the original writer, or by some later hand. Now, as the margin was the ordinary place where glosses or explanatory notes were written, it is easy to conceive how the notes, as well as the parts of the original text found in the margin, might be all incorporated with the text by a future transcriber; and his MSS., being often copied, would of course multiply the copies with such additions, as we have much reason to believe has been the case. This appears very frequently in the Vulgate and Septuagint; and an English Bible now before me written some time in the fourteenth century, exhibits several proofs of this principle. See the preface to this work.
I know there is another way of accounting for those words on the ground of their being written originally by Moses; but to me it is not satisfactory. It is simply this: the word king should be considered as implying any kind of regular government, whether by chiefs, dukes, judges, etc., and therefore when Moses says these are the kings which reigned in Edom, before there was any king in Israel, he may be only understood as saying that these kings reigned among the Edomites before the family of Jacob had acquired any considerable power, or before the time in which his twelve sons had become the fathers of those numerous tribes, at the head of which, as king himself in Jeshurun, he now stood.
Esau, after his dukes, had eight kings, who reigned successively over their people, while Israel were in affliction in Egypt.
on Genesis 36 :31
The series of eight kings here enumerated are plainly elective, as not one succeeds his father. The king co-exists with the dukes, who are again enumerated at the close of the list, and are mentioned in the song of Moses Exodus 15:15. These dukes are no doubt the electors of the common sovereign, who is designed to give unity and strength to the nation. It is natural to suppose that no sovereign was elected until after the death of Esau, and, therefore, if he lived as long as Jacob, after the children of Israel had been seventeen years in Egypt. As we calculate that they were two hundred and ten years in that country, and forty years afterward in the wilderness, this would allow two hundred and thirty-three (250-17) years for seven reigns, and a part of the eighth, during which Moses and his host marched along the borders of Edom. Allowing some interval before the first election, we have an average of thirty-three years for each reign. "Before a king reigned over the children of Israel." This simply means before there was a monarchy established in Israel. It does not imply that monarchy began in Israel immediately after these kings; as Lot's beholding the vale of Jordan to be well-watered before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Amorah, does not imply that the cities were destroyed immediately after Lot beheld this sight Genesis 13:10.
Nor does it imply that monarchy in Israel had begun in the time of the writer; as Isaac's saying, "That my soul may bless thee before I die" Genesis 27:4 does not imply that he was dead at the time of his saying so. It merely implies that Israel was expected to have kings Genesis 35:11, as Isaac was expected to die. Of the several sovereigns here mentioned we have no other historical notice. "Beor" is also the name of Balaam's father Numbers 22:5. This indicates affinity of language between their respective tribes. The site of "Dinhabah," the capital of Bela, though the name is applied to many towns, has not been ascertained. "Bozrah" is el-Busaireh, about twenty-one miles nearly south of the Salt Sea. "The land of the Temanite" has its name from Teman, son of Eliphaz. His town was, according to Jerome, five miles from Petra. "Hadad" is a name of frequent recurrence among the Aramaeans. "Who smote Midian in the field of Moab." This records an event not otherwise known, and indicates external conquest on the part of the Idumaean state. "Avith" or Ajuth (1 Chronicles 1:46, probably a graphic error) is not otherwise known.
"Masrecah" is likewise unknown. "Rehoboth by the river." If the river be the Phrat (Onkelos), Rehoboth may be er-Rahabah, not far from the mouth of the Khabur. Otherwise it may be er-Ruhaibeh on a wady joining the Sihor or el-Arish Genesis 26:22, or the Robotha of Eusebius and Jerome, the site of which is not known. "Hadar" is probably a colloquial variation of Hadad Genesis 36:35 which is found in Chronicles. Pau or Pai is unknown. Matred is the father of his wife. Mezahab her mother's father. The death of all these sovereigns is recorded except the last, who is therefore, supposed to have been contemporary with Moses.
on Genesis 36 :31