Genesis 28:6–9:

6 Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. 8 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9 so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had. NIV, ©2011

Why did Esau only realize how much it bothered his parents then? They had evidently been quite angry about it for awhile, especially his mother.

Also, why the additional marriage? Why would that help, given that he was presumably still married to his Canaanite wives at that point?

2 Answers 2


I think that this is supposed to be an illustration of his character. He respects his parents only in a shallow way. Another such case is when Esau plans on killing Jacob as soon as his father dies (Genesis 27:41). He respects his father enough not to kill Jacob in his lifetime, but seemingly doesn't care that killing Jacob as soon as Isaac dies would also be against his wishes.

In the same way, Esau probably should have known that his parents didn't want him to marry a Canaanite wife. Apart from the fact that they told Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman, Abraham had also made sure that Isaac wouldn't marry a Canaanite woman (Genesis 24:3). When he finds out for certain that his parents don't want him to marry a Canaanite woman, he marries an additional wife instead of divorcing the wife his parents disapprove of, which is also a way to comply in a way with his parents' preference but without requiring him to restrain his own.


Some teachers maintain Esau’s marriage to Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael reflected his desire to repent of his evil deeds and act in accordance with the wishes of his parents Isaac and Rebekah for a proper mate. However, according to another view, this marriage resulted from negative motives This negative attitude to Esau is based on his not divorcing his two Hittite wives Adah and Judith when he married Mahalath, even though he knew that they were displeasing to his parents. If he had married Mahalath to fulfill his parents’ bidding, he should have divorced them; since he did not do so, he merely increased his parents’ pain and suffering, Mahalath was as wicked as Esau’s first two wives.

  • Interesting viewpoint. Could you provide some source material for your statements?
    – agarza
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 19:05
  • Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your contribution. Please remember to take the tour (link below) to better understand how this site works. This answer could be improved by providing some references to support the assertions.
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 8:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.