Esau's wife Aholibamah is said to be "the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite" (Gen 36:2). It is easy to fail to notice that a Zibeon is listed further down in the chapter as son of Seir the Horite (36:20), that Anah is listed as one of "the children of Zibeon" (36:24), and that Aholibamah is listed as one of "the children of Anah" (36:25). This is far too much of a coincidence: surely Esau married a great-granddaughter of Seir the Horite, through Anah. But why is Anah called a Hivite, not a Horite, in 36:2?

1 Answer 1


We cannot say that the Zibeon of Gen 36:2 was a different Zibeon from that of 36:20, because the text goes on to say that this Zibeon sired Anah, who fathered “Aholibamah the daughter of Anah.” (36:24-25) Those are too many coincidences indeed.

The answer is simple: probably this was a copyist’s error, as in Hebrew the orthography of “Horite” (הַחֹרִ֔י) and “Hivite” (הַֽחִוִּֽי) are very similar and easily confused. This is quite enough of an explanation, and there is nothing irreverent or unusual in saying that copyists at some point mixed up names of similar appearance.

There is one issue that might come up in defending this answer: the text does say that Oholibamah was daughter of Anah, the "daughter of Zibeon". This implies this Anah was a woman and mother of Oholibamah! On this we could open a new question, "Was Anah, the parent of Aholibamah, a man or a woman?"

But the answer is also briefly stated, although gets even more complex. There is an Anah among “the sons of Seir” at Gen 36:20, yet in that same list of sons is Zibeon, and Zibeon is said to be the father of Anah. So is Anah the son, or grandson, of Seir—or both? Perhaps both, but not necessarily, as there is no special word for “grandson” in Hebrew. The grandson is described with masculine pronouns in any case at 36:24, where he is said to be father of Aholibamah, and one of these men, if they are indeed different, is called “Duke” at 36:29. The son of Zibeon, grandson of Seir mentioned at 36:24 is definitely the same Anah mentioned in 36:2 as “daughter of Zibeon.” One must conclude that “daughter” (בַּת or bath) in the latter is another scribal error. This is again plausible, because the Hebrew orthography of בַּת, bath, can be confused with בֵּן, ben, the word for "son".

It is not perhaps surprising that such copying errors might creep into this particular chapter, which is not exactly the most exciting one in the Bible.

But, all that said, perhaps Zibeon was called a Hivite in 36:2 because his mother was a Hivite. This is possible; the text does not rule it out.

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.