I have a lot of trouble when presented with "picky" questions about numbers, names, or even localities of the Bible events. Some of them are raised by people I talk to, and some of them are mine, when trying to read the Bible deeper and have a better understanding of God’s word. As for numbers, I read on your site of copying errors, and acknowledge it. However, there are 3 questions regarding names/localities that I would humbly ask you to answer if you know and have a time. 1. Esau’s wives: Genesis 26:34 and 28:9 mention 3 wives and Genesis 36:2-3 mention other 3 wives or same with other names but confused about their parents? For example, compare 36:2 (Basemath Ishmaels daughter, sister of Nebajoth) with 26:34 (Basemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite) and 28:9 (Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth). So who is Ishael’s daughter- sister of Nebajoth and whose daughter is Basemath? 2. Moses father in law is called Jethro (Exodus 3:1,18:1) and Reuel(2:18), as is explained that people used to have 2 names back then. However, did he have a third name Hobab (Judges 4:11), and was he Kenite(Judges 1:16) or Midian (Exodus 3:1)? 3. Nazareth – friend of mine claims Nazareth is not built on hill as Bible suggests (Luke 4:29). If you have any answers or directions it would be very encouraging. Thank you in advance!


1. The wives of Esau listed in the Masoretic text of Genesis probably have some sort of scribal error which has slipped in at some point. I do not think I can improve on what I found at the web site so I will copy and paste from there. They feel that the "error" is that the woman called Mahalath in Genesis 28:9 is called Basemath in Genesis 36:3 and explain where the name may have come from. The information in Genesis 28 and 30 agrees with Genesis 36:3 with regard to the number of wives and the information about where they came from is similar enough that I believe these are the same three women. My thought is that the actual name of the daughter of Ishmael whom Esau married is Mahalath and that the scribal error is in Gen 36:2. Here is the material from the web site cited above:

The Rabbis identify Mahalath with Basemath (based on the exchange of names between Gen. 28:9 and 36:3; cf. “Esau’s Wives”). Some of the Rabbis 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 (JT Bikkurim 3:3, 65c–d). Mahalath’s name indicates that the Holy One, blessed be He, pardoned (mahal) Esau for all his wickedness. Her other name, Basemath, also teaches that by this marriage Esau’s character improved (nitbasmah; Gen. Rabbah 67:13). However, according to another view, this marriage resulted from negative motives (Gen. Rabbah, loc. cit.): Esau married the daughter of Ishmael, and he and his father-in-law plotted to kill Isaac and Jacob and thereby inherit both families (Gen. Rabbah 67:8). 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 (mahalah, literally, sickness). Indeed, Mahalath was as wicked as Esau’s first two wives (Midrash Aggadah, ed. Buber, 28:9).

2. Midian is a place, which the Kenites were a tribe. Midianites refer to people from the land of Midian. The Kenites were Bedouins, but they were from Midian. To use a very rough analogy, I am a North American (the place geographically where I am from) and I am an American (my nationality, and excuse the bad example because the word American happens to be in both titles).

3. The description in Luke 4:29 has more than one possible interpretation. It could easily mean that they took him to the brow of the hill near which Nazareth was built. This is how I always interpreted the passage when I read it. In other words, the cliff would overlook Nazareth. Nazareth is, in fact, built on a hill, as one can see by looking on Google and images of the city. The city is nestled in a little depression up on a hill. Tradition has chosen a hill just a short distance from the hill on which Nazareth is built as the site of the events in Luke 4:29. Here is what I found at

The brow of the hill – Mr. Maundrel tells us that this is still called "the Mountain of the Precipitation, and is half a league southward of Nazareth. In going to it, you cross first over the vale in which Nazareth stands; and then going down two or three furlongs, in a narrow cleft between the rocks, you there clamber up a short but difficult way on the right hand; at the top of which you find a great stone standing on the brink of a precipice, which is said to be the very place where our Lord was destined to be thrown down by his enraged neighbors." Maundrel’s Journey, p. 116. Edit. 5th. 1732.

John Oakes

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