Esau’s Wives

By Bill Cavender

“And when Eau was forty years old he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beerl the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite: and they were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah …. And Rebekah said to Isaac, I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Beth: If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Beth, such as these, of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me? And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother …. So Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddanarem, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take 2 wife of the daughters of Canaan; and that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Paddanamm: and Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father; and Esau went unto Ishmael, and took, besides the wives that he had, Mabalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaloth, to be his wife” (Genesis 26:34-35; 27:46; 28:1-9).

I suppose parents who are sincere Christians have six basic desires regarding their children: (1) that they be healthy, both mentally and physically; (2) that they grow up to obey Jesus Christ, to be true to God and the church all their lives; (3) that they marry loyal and true children of God, Christians; (4) that they engage in an honorable occupation for their livelihood; (5) that they be a blessing to themselves, their families, the church and the world all their lives; (6) that they be prepared to die, to face Jesus in the Judgment Day successfully, and to inherit God’s wonderful promise of eternal life in heaven. I know that these matters are what my own wife and I have thought of, hoped for, taught, and prayed most about regarding our children from the days of their births until the days they left home to go out into the world to be on their own. And our daily hopes and prayers for them and their families are still regarding these same matters.

Nothing is more heart-rending, spirit-breaking, discouraging and hurtful to godly parents than to see their children grow up to be disobedient to God, to turn their backs on Christ, to marry unwisely and unscripturally, to engage in dishonorable occupations, to be a curse and a hindrance to the world and to the church, and then to lose their souls for all eternity in the devil’s hell (Matt. 25:41). Tragic, indeed, are the tears, toils and trials of parents who tried, yet still lose a child or children to the devil and to sin. Marrying unwisely, marrying someone who is not of the faith, marrying someone who has no scriptural right to marry, marrying someone who is not compatible with the ideals, faith, works, life and hopes of a child of God is one of the common mistakes made, especially of the young, which leads to the loss of spiritual interests and values, and finally to the loss of the soul forever and ever (Matt. 25:46).

We can learn some good lessons regarding the marriages of Esau. He had godly parents (although they evidently made some mistakes in showing partiality to their children, being willing to deceive one another as Rebecca did Isaac), was circumcised the eighth day, was reared under religious influences (belief in God, worship and sacrifices), yet despised his birthright and blessing, was a profane man, and married very wrongly and unwisely. We see:

(1) He married Hittite women, heathens of Canaan who were generally immoral in conduct and worshipers of idols and demons. His own character and spiritual stature were demonstrated by the type of women he desired and married. Birds of a feather flock together. They did then and they do now. A man is still judged by the company he keeps, including women he dates and marries (and vice versa, women are judged by the company they keep, date and marry). Evil companions still corrupt good morals (1 Cor. 15:33).

(2) He did not consider his parents. Most young people do not. They do as Esau did. They do not realize their own families will be constantly intermingled and involved with those whom they marry. Esau’s wives were ” a grief of mind” (“bitterness of spirit”) to Isaac and Rebekah: “a standing grief, not only because of their heathen descent, but also because of their uncongenial tempers. They brought only trouble into the family” (Jacobus). These ungodly women would not change, and Isaac and Rebekah could not. Esau married out of the faith. Grief and sorrow, not happiness, resulted.

(3) Isaac and Rebekah hoped to avoid in Jacob the marriage mistakes Esau had made. Probably about age 57 to 77, they sent him away from home, away from heathen Canaan, away from heathen women if possible, to be among their kinsmen who were believers in God. Chances of successful, happy marriages are greatly increased the more Christians associate with other true believers. In homes, churches, communities and schools, our young people need to be with other Christians. Money spent by wise and discerning parents to keep their children in an environment and association of true believers is some of the best money we can spend. Faith, godliness, godly companions and marriages to true believers are worth more money than any of us will ever have and are eternal values, not reckoned nor counted in silver and gold, dollars and cents.

(4) Jacob obeyed his parents – Children should do that for it is God’s will (Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Eph. 6:1-3). They will be blessed if they do. Even someone as old as Jacob was when he left home is wise to listen to the counsel of loving, experienced, aged parents. Jacob’s wives were believers. Although the tragic, terrible practice and custom of polygamy prevailed, still Jacob was not plagued with wives who were heathens. His marriages were better than Esau’s.

(5) Esau married a third wife. She was of Ishmael’s family, Isaac’s half-brother. Why Esau did this is not clear. Whether it was to please his parents after he had so displeased and hurt them the other times, or whether he belatedly sought to ingratiate himself with his parents, or whether he was sincerely trying to do better and right, cannot be determined for sure. But the harm was done. He could not turn back. He could not undo the past. Bad marriages last forever: if not in fact, they do in influence. They are generally disastrous to life, happiness, good and salvation. Do not ruin now and forever the only life God gives you by entering into a unwise, unscriptural marriage.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 9, pp. 225, 248
April 19, 1984