Genesis 26:34—How many wives did Esau have?

Problem: Genesis 26:34 states that Esau married Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite. However, Genesis 36:2–3 states that Esau’s wives were Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, and Basemath, Ishmael’s daughter. Did Esau marry Elon’s daughter Basemath or his daughter Adah? Did Esau have two, three, or four wives?

Solution: The wives of Esau were four—Judith, the daughter of Beeri; Basemath, who was also named Adah, the daughter of Elon; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah; and Basemath the daughter of Ishmael. The reason Judith is not mentioned in Genesis 36:2–3 is because she bore him no children, and Genesis 36 is a statement of “the records of the generations of Esau” (Gen. 36:1, nasb). Also, it was a common practice for men and women to be known by more than one name. Apparently, Basemath, the daughter of Elon, was also named Adah and is so identified in Genesis 36:2 in order to distinguish her from Basemath the daughter of Ishmael. So Esau had four wives.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.