These chapters are about three men. Esau is the subject of Genesis 36, Joseph of Genesis 37, and Judah of Genesis 38.
Genesis 36—Increase of Esau. This “genealogy of Esau” shows the development of his family. Though it is mostly a bunch of names, some good lessons can be found here. •Flesh in Esau: five times (verses 1, 8, 9, 19, 43) this chapter says Esau is Edom and his family are Edomites—Edom is the name that represents the flesh (Genesis 25:30) which sold the spiritual birthright. •Fortune of Esau: his wealth and Jacob’s wealth kept them apart (v. 7)—wealth is often a bigger blight than blessing. •Foe in Esau: the descendants of Amalek, a descendant of Esau, were evil foes of Israel in the wilderness (v. 12). •First in Esau: his descendants had kings before Israel did (v. 31)—the world is often ahead of God’s people in worldly status but never in spiritual status.
Genesis 37—Introduction to Joseph. The last twelve chapters of Genesis (39–50) are all about Joseph. Here in Genesis 37 is an introduction to him before the main section in Scripture about him. •Virtue of Joseph: he was opposed to the evil of his brothers and was faithful in his duty as a son of Jacob. •Vesture of Joseph: the coat of many colors was given Joseph by Jacob which displayed affection from his father and designated authority from his father. •Visions of Joseph: his dreams of excelling above the family provoked the rest of the family especially his brothers. •Villains of Joseph: his brothers sold him as a slave to Egypt and then beguiled their father into thinking that a wild beast had killed Joseph.
Genesis 38—Iniquity of Judah. The emphasis in this chapter is twofold. •First, pollution of Judah’s sons: they were so evil that God killed them. • Second, prostitution of Judah’s daughter-in-law: Scripture reports the provoking of the prostitution (which was Judah’s failure to keep a promise to the girl about a husband); the partner in the prostitution (which was Judah himself); and the progeny of the prostitution (one of the twins born of prostitution is in the line of Christ). Sometimes we wonder why Scripture records some events such as this one in Genesis 38. The answer is that Christ is involved.
Butler, J. G. (2003). Daily Bible Reading: Synopsis (Vol. 1, p. 13). Clinton, IA: LBC Publications.