Is there any symbolism or other explanation as to why there were specifically eight kings of Edom who ruled before any king in Yisrael did, like it says in Bereshis 36 (31-39)?

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    Hello rikitikitembo, and welcome to Mi Yodeya! ....I hope you don't mind that I edited your question; if I did anything you didn't like, you can always fix it here. [ Note: I edited the tags of the question, and linked to the specific verses you referred to. ]
    – MTL
    Sep 15, 2014 at 2:51
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    – MTL
    Sep 15, 2014 at 2:53
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    The last king, Hadar, is not the same as the others: it is not mentioned that he died. Therefore, typically, this episode is referred to as the 7 primordial kings who died.
    – paquda
    Sep 15, 2014 at 16:57
  • @paquda referred where? In Chronicles it is recorded that he died. Sep 16, 2014 at 0:43
  • @rikitikitembo referred to in kabbalistic literature. If you google the phrase ז' מלכין קדמאין דמיתו you'll get some sources if you want them.
    – paquda
    Sep 16, 2014 at 15:27

4 Answers 4


Rashi on that verse brings a medrash Gen.Rabbah 83:2 that says the eight kings correspond to the first eight jewish kings. Edom came to autonomous power only during the rule of the ninth king.

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    Max, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for contributing this answer! I hope you'll look around and find other material of interest, perhaps including our 500+ other parshanut-torah-comment questions.
    – Isaac Moses
    Sep 15, 2014 at 12:38
  • Are these only kings of Judah that you count? If Saul is the 1st the 8th is Yehoram of Judah who actually reigned the same time as Yehoram of Israel. The 9th king was Ahaziah or only reigned for a short time and was wicked. And after him the even more wicked Queen Ataliah. This lets us understand the "when you feel aggrieved" clause. A wicked king in Judah and Eisav can break the chains.
    – CashCow
    Dec 1, 2014 at 11:14

At the simplest level, it's saying that when Esav chose to sell off the birthright, he had the opportunity to fast-forward history -- boom! Monarchy, nationhood, no muss no fuss. Jacob, on the other hand, had to go on an arduous journey and process of becoming a nation. Thus, "Esav had eight kings while Israel still hadn't gotten to that stage." (If you want quick and easy, Judaism's not for you.)

But this doesn't say anything about the number 8 per se.


The first 8 kings proper of Israel and then Judah were:

  1. Saul
  2. David
  3. Solomon
  4. Rehoboam
  5. Aviyah
  6. Asa
  7. Yehoshafat
  8. Yehoram (of Judah)

The 9th king was Ahazya, the one killed by Yehu. And after that was Queen Ataliah.

The first 8 kings were all righteous, and then Ahazya and Queen Ataliah were wicked.

Remember the prophecy / blessing from Yitzchak "when you feel aggrieved, you will break the yoke.." Once the kings of Judah turned wicked, Edom could break the yoke and rebel.

This is based on Rashi's intepretation.


There is an interesting commentary that Edom had 8 kings before Israel had even one because Jacob humbled himself before Esau at the time of their reunion and called him "my Lord" (adoni) 8 times.

  • Welcome to Mi Yodeya Meir! Thanks for sharing the answer. Consider familiarizing yourself with the nature of the site, with this short Beginners' Guide. Hopefully well see you around the site. || Where did you see this commentary?
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 14, 2016 at 17:08

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