Edom

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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [1]

a province of Arabia, which derives its name from Edom, or Esau, who there settled in the mountains of Seir, in the land of the Horites, south-east of the Dead Sea. His descendants afterward extended themselves throughout Arabia Petrea, and south of Palestine, between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean. During the Babylonish captivity, and when Judea was almost deserted, they seized the south of Judah, and advanced to Hebron. Hence that tract of Judea, which they inhabited, retained the name of Idumea in the time of our Saviour,  Mark 3:8 . Under Moses and Joshua, and even under the kings of Judah, the Idumeans were confined to the east and south of the Dead Sea, in the land of Seir; but afterward they extended their territories more to the south of Judah. The capital of east Edom was Bozrah; and that of south Edom, Petra, or Jectael. The Edomites, or Idumeans, the posterity of Esau, had kings long before the Jews. They were first governed by dukes or princes, and afterward by kings,  Genesis 36:31 . They continued independent till the time of David, who subdued them, in completion of Isaac's prophecy, that Jacob should rule Esau,  Genesis 27:29-30 . The Idumeans bore this subjection with great impatience; and at the end of Solomon's reign, Hadad, the Edomite, who had been carried into Egypt during his childhood, returned into his own country, where he procured himself to be acknowledged king,  1 Kings 11:22 . It is probable, however, that he reigned only in east Edom; for Edom south of Judea continued subject to the kings of Judah, till the reign of Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, against whom it rebelled,  2 Chronicles 21:8 . Jehoram attacked Edom, but did not subdue it. Amaziah king of Judah, took Petra, killed a thousand men, and compelled ten thousand more to leap from the rock, upon which stood the city of Petra,  2 Chronicles 25:11-12 . But these conquests were not permanent. Uzziah took Elath on the Red Sea,  2 Kings 14:22; but Rezin, king of Syria, retook it. Some think that Esar-haddon, king of Syria, ravaged this country,  Isaiah 21:11-17;  Isaiah 34:6 . Holofernes subdued it, as well as other nations around Judea, Judith 3:14. When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, the Idumeans joined him, and encouraged him to rase the very foundations of that city. This cruelty did not long continue unpunished. Five years after the taking of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar humbled all the states around Judea, and in particular Idumea. John Hyrcanus entirely conquered the Idumeans, whom he obliged to receive circumcision and the law. They continued subject to the later kings of Judea till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. They even came to assist that city when besieged, and entered it in order to defend it. However, they did not continue there till it was taken, but returned into Idumea loaded with booty. The prophecies respecting Edom are numerous and striking; and the present state of the country as described by modern travellers has given so remarkable an attestation to the accuracy of their fulfilment, that a few extracts from Mr. Keith's work, in which this is pointed out, may be fitly introduced:—

2. There are numerous prophecies respecting Idumea, that bear a literal interpretation, however hyperbolical they may appear. "My sword shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment. From generation to generation it shall lie waste, none shall pass through it for ever and ever. But the cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it: and he shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom; but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof; and it shall be a habitation of dragons, and a court for owls. Seek ye out of the book of the Lord and read; no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate; for my mouth it hath commanded, and his Spirit it hath gathered them. And he hath cast the lot for them, and his hand hath divided it unto them by line; they shall possess it for ever, from generation to generation shall they dwell therein,"

 Isaiah 34:5;  Isaiah 34:10-17 . "I have sworn by myself, saith the Lord, that Bozrah" (the strong or fortified city) "shall become a desolation, a reproach, a waste, and a curse; and all the cities thereof shall be perpetual wastes. Lo, I will make thee small among the Heathen, and despised among men. Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the height of the hill: though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord. Also Edom shall be a desolation; every one that goeth by shall be astonished, and shall hiss at all the plagues thereof. As in the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the neighbour cities thereof, saith the Lord, no man shall abide there, neither shall a son of man dwell in it,"

 Jeremiah 49:13-18 . "Thus saith the Lord God, I will stretch out mine hand upon Edom, and will cut off man and beast from it, and I will make it desolate from Teman." "I laid the mountains of Esau and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith, We are impoverished, but we will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of hosts, They shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them, The border of wickedness,"  Malachi 1:3-4 .

Is there any country once inhabited and opulent, so utterly desolate? There is, and that land is Idumea. The territory of the descendants of Esau affords as miraculous a demonstration of the inspiration of the Scriptures as the fate of the children of Israel. A single extract from the Travels of Volney will be found to be equally illustrative of the prophecy and of the fact: "This country has not been visited by any traveller, but it well merits such an attention; for, from the report of the Arabs of Bakir, and the inhabitants of Gaza, who frequently go to Maan and Karak; on the road of the pilgrims, there are, to the south-east of the lake Asphaltites, (Dead Sea,) within three days' journey, upward of thirty ruined towns absolutely deserted. Several of them have large edifices, with columns that may have belonged to the ancient temples, or at least to Greek churches. The Arabs sometimes make use of them to fold their cattle in; but in general avoid them on account of the enormous scorpions with which they swarm. We cannot be surprised at these traces of ancient population, when we recollect that this was the country of the Nabatheans, the most powerful of the Arabs, and of the Idumeans, who, at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, were almost as numerous as the Jews, as appears from Josephus, who informs us, that on the first rumour of the march of Titus against Jerusalem, thirty thousand Idumeans instantly assembled, and threw themselves into that city for its defence. It appears that, beside the advantages of being under a tolerably good government, these districts enjoyed a considerable share of the commerce of Arabia and India, which increased their industry and population. We know that as far back as the time of Solomon, the cities of Astioum Gaber (Ezion Geber) and Ailah (Eloth) were highly frequented marts. These towns were situated on the adjacent gulf of the Red Sea, where we still find the latter yet retaining its name, and perhaps the former in that of El Akaba, or ‘the end of the sea.' These two places are in the hands of the Bedouins, who, being destitute of a navy and commerce, do not inhabit them. But the pilgrims report that there is at El Akaba a wretched fort. The Idumeans, from whom the Jews only took their ports at intervals, must have found in them a great source of wealth and population. It even appears that the Idumeans rivalled the Tyrians, who also possessed a town, the name of which is unknown, on the coast of Hedjaz, in the desert of Tih, and the city of Faran, and, without doubt, El-Tor, which served it by way of port. From this place the caravans might reach Palestine and Judea, (through Idumea,) in eight or ten days. This route, which is longer than that from Suez to Cairo, is infinitely shorter than that from Aleppo to Bassorah." Evidence, which must have been undesigned, which cannot be suspected of partiality, and which no illustration can strengthen, and no ingenuity pervert, is thus borne to the truth of the most wonderful prophecies. That the Idumeans were a populous and powerful nation long posterior to the delivery of the prophecies; that they possessed a tolerably good government, even in the estimation of Volney; that Idumea contained many cities; and these cities are now absolutely deserted; and that their ruins swarm with enormous scorpions; that it was a commercial nation, and possessed highly frequented marts; that it forms a shorter route than the ordinary one to India; and yet that it had not been visited by any traveller; are facts all recorded, and proved by this able but unconscious commentator.

3. A greater contrast cannot be imagined than the ancient and present state of Idumea. It was a kingdom previous to Israel, having been governed first by dukes or princes, afterward by eight successive kings, and again by dukes, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel,   Genesis 36:31 , &c. Its fertility and early cultivation are implied not only in the blessings of Esau, whose dwelling was to be the fatness of the earth, and of the dew of heaven from above; but also in the condition proposed by Moses to the Edomites, when he solicited a passage for the Israelites through their borders, that "they would not pass through the fields nor through the vine-yards; " and also in the great wealth, especially in the multitudes of flocks and herds, recorded as possessed by an individual inhabitant of that country, at a period, in all probability even more remote,   Genesis 27:39;  Numbers 20:17;  Job 42:12 . The Idumeans were, without doubt, both an opulent and a powerful people. They often contended with the Israelites, and entered into a league with their other enemies against them. In the reign of David they were indeed subdued and greatly oppressed, and many of them even dispersed throughout the neighbouring countries, particularly Phenicia and Egypt. But during the decline of the kingdom of Judah, and for many years previous to its extinction, they encroached upon the territories of the Jews, and extended their dominion over the south-western part of Judea.

4. There is a prediction which, being peculiarly remarkable as applicable to Idumea, and bearing reference to a circumstance explanatory of the difficulty of access to any knowledge respecting it, is entitled, in the first instance, to notice: "None shall pass through it for ever and ever. I will cut off from Mount Seir him that passeth out, and him that returneth,"

 Isaiah 34:10;  Ezekiel 35:7 . The ancient greatness of Idumea must, in no small degree, have resulted from its commerce. Bordering with Arabia on the east, and Egypt on the southwest, and forming from north to south the most direct and most commodious channel of communication between Jerusalem and her dependencies on the Red Sea, as well as between Syria and India, through the continuous valleys of El Ghor, and El Araba, which terminated on the one extremity at the borders of Judea, and on the other at Elath and Ezion Geber on the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea, Idumea may be said to have formed the emporium of the commerce of the east. A Roman road passed directly through Idumea, from Jerusalem to Akaba, and another from Akaba to Moab; and when these roads were made, at a time long posterior to the date of the predictions, the conception could not have been formed, or held credible by man, that the period would ever arrive when none would pass through it. Above seven hundred years after the date of the prophecy, Strabo relates that many Romans and other foreigners were found at Petra by his friend Athenodorus, the philosopher, who visited it. The prediction is yet more surprising when viewed in conjunction with another, which implies that travellers would "pass by" Idumea: "Every one that goeth by shall be astonished." And the Hadj routes (routes of the pilgrims) from Damascus and from Cairo to Mecca, the one on the east and the other towards the south of Idumea, along the whole of its extent, go by it, or touch partially on its borders, without passing through it. The truth of the prophecy, though hemmed in thus by apparent impossibilities and contradictions, and with extreme probability of its fallacy in every view that could have been visible to man, may yet be tried.

5. "Edom shall be a desolation. From generation to generation it shall lie waste," &c. Judea, Ammon, and Moab, exhibit so abundantly the remains and the means of an exuberant fertility, that the wonder arises in the reflecting mind, how the barbarity of man could have so effectually counteracted for so many generations the prodigality of nature. But such is Edom's desolation, that the first sentiment of astonishment on the contemplation of it is, how a wide extended region, now diversified by the strongest features of desert wildness, could ever have been adorned with cities, or tenanted for ages by a powerful and opulent people. Its present aspect would belie its ancient history, were not that history corroborated by "the many vestiges of former cultivation," by the remains of walls and paved roads, and by the ruins of cities still existing in this ruined country. The total cessation of its commerce; the artificial irrigation of its valleys wholly neglected; the destruction of all the cities, and the continued spoliation of the country by the Arabs, while aught remained that they could destroy; the permanent exposure, for ages, of the soil unsheltered by its ancient groves, and unprotected by any covering from the scorching rays of the sun; the unobstructed encroachments of the desert, and of the drifted sands from the borders of the Red Sea; the consequent absorption of the water of the springs and streamlets during summer,—are causes which have all combined their baneful operation in rendering Edom "most desolate, the desolation of desolations." Volney's account is sufficiently descriptive of the desolation which now reigns over Idumea; and the information which Seetzen derived at Jerusalem respecting it is of similar import. He was told, that at the distance of two days' journey and a half from Hebron, he would find considerable ruins of the ancient city of Abde, and that for all the rest of the journey he would see no place of habitation; he would meet only with a few tribes of wandering Arabs. From the borders of Edom, Captains Irby and Mangles beheld a boundless extent of desert view, which they had hardly ever seen equalled for singularity and grandeur. And the following extract, descriptive of what Burckhardt actually witnessed in the different parts of Edom, cannot be more graphically abbreviated than in the words of the prophet. Of its eastern boundary, and of the adjoining part of Arabia Petrea, strictly so called, Burckhardt writes: "It might, with truth, be called Petrea, not only on account of its rocky mountains, but also of the elevated plain already described, which is so much covered with stones, especially flints, that it may with great propriety be called a stony desert, although susceptible of culture; in many places it is overgrown with wild herbs, and must once have been thickly inhabited; for the traces of many towns and villages are met with on both sides of the Hadj road between Maan and Akaba, as well as between Maan and the plains of the Hauran, in which direction are also many springs. At present all this country is a desert, and Maan (Teman) is the only inhabited place in it: ‘I will stretch out my hand against thee, O Mount Seir, and will make thee most desolate. I will stretch out my hand upon Edom, and will make it desolate from Teman.'" In the interior of Idumea, where the ruins of some of its ancient cities are still visible, and in the extensive valley which reaches from the Red to the Dead Sea, the appearance of which must now be totally and sadly changed from what it was, "the whole plain presented to the view an expanse of shifting sands, whose surface was broken by innumerable undulations and low hills. The sand appears to have been brought from the shores of the Red Sea, by the southern winds; and the Arabs told me that the valleys continue to present the same appearance beyond the latitude of Wady Mousa. In some parts of the valley the sand is very deep, and there is not the slightest appearance of a road, or of any work of human art. A few trees grow among the sand hills, but the depth of sand precludes all vegetation of herbage." "If grape gatherers come to thee, would not they leave some gleaning grapes? If thieves by night, they will destroy till they have enough; but I have made Esau bare. Edom shall be a desolate wilderness." "On ascending the western plain," continues Mr. Burckhardt, "on a higher level than that of Arabia, we had before us an immense expanse of dreary country, entirely covered with black flints, with here and there some hilly chain rising from the plain." "I will stretch out upon Idumea the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness." Such is the present desolate aspect of one of the most fertile countries of ancient times! So visibly even now does the withering curse of an offended God rest upon it!

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Idumea. ("red".) Esau's surname, the firstborn of Isaac; Jacob's twin brother, who sold his birthright for the red pottage (of yellow brown lentils, Dashim ; the cooking of which is still seen in Egyptian representations), from whence came his surname ( Genesis 25:29-34). The name was appropriate to Edom's possession, "mount Seir," the mountainous territory having a reddish hue. Seir means rugged, applicable alike to Seir the hirsute (like Esau) progenitor of the Horites, Edom's predecessors, and to their rugged forest covered territory ( Genesis 14:6;  Genesis 32:3;  Genesis 36:1-8;  Genesis 36:20-22). It extended from the Dead Sea S. to the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea. Esau, with his 400 armed men ( Genesis 32:6), commenced driving out the Horites, and permanently settled in mount Seir after his father's death, yielding Canaan to Jacob, in accordance with his father's blessing.

It is objected to  Genesis 36:31 that the language supposes kings had already reigned over Israel. But in  Genesis 35:11 "God Almighty" ( 'Εel Shaday ) had promised Jacob "kings shall come out of thy loins." Moses, too, foretold of the Israelites having a king over them. Naturally then he notices that eight kings had reigned of Esau's family up to his own time, "before the reigning of any king to the children of Israel." The prosperity of the worldly is often immediate and brilliant, but it is transitory; that of God's people is slower in coming, that they may believingly and patiently wait for it, but when it does come it will abide for ever. Of the kingdom of the Messiah, Israel's king, there shall be no end ( Luke 1:33). The dukes did not precede the line of Edomite kings, and afterward succeed again (Genesis 36); but a single king (emir) reigned in all Edom contemporaneous with several dukes (skeikhs) or princes of local tribes. The king is mentioned ( Judges 11:17), and the dukes a short while before ( Exodus 15:15).

Moreover, the monarchy was not hereditary, but the kings apparently were elected by the dukes. The Edomites became "dwellers in the clefts of the rocks" ( Jeremiah 49:16; compare  2 Chronicles 25:11-12), like their Horite predecessors who were troglodytes or "dwellers in caves" ( Obadiah 1:3-4) Petra (Sela, Hebrew, rock), their chief city, was cut in the rocks. S. Idumea abounds in cave dwellings. Red baldheaded sandstone rocks are intersected by deep seams rather than valleys. In the heart of these, itself invisible, lies Petra (Stanley), Edom' s stronghold in Amaziah's days ( 2 Kings 14:7). Bozrah, now Buseireh, was its ancient capital, near the N. border. (See Bozrah .) Elath and Ezion Geber were Edom's seaports; afterward taken by David and made by Solomon his ports for equipping his merchant fleet ( 2 Samuel 8:14;  1 Kings 9:26).

Edom (100 miles long, 20 broad) stretched Edom of the Arabah valley, southward as far as Elath. Eastward of Elath lay the desert. Israel, when refused a passage through Moab N. of Edom, as also through Edom, went from Kadesh by the S. extremity of Edom past. Elath into the desert E. of Edom ( Deuteronomy 2:8;  Deuteronomy 2:13-14;  Deuteronomy 2:18;  Judges 11:17-18;  2 Kings 3:6-9). The Brook Zered ( Wady El Ahsy ) was the boundary between Moab (Kerak) and Edom (now Jebal, Hebrew Gebal, mountainous, the N. district, along with Esh. Sherah, the S. district), Edom subsequently took also the territory once occupied by Amalek, S. of Palestine, the desert of Et Tih ("wandering") ( Numbers 13:29;  1 Samuel 15:1-7;  1 Samuel 27:8). Low calcareous hills are on the W. base of the mountain range of igneous porphyry rock, surmounted by red sandstone.

On the E. is a limestone ridge, descending with an easy incline to the Arabian desert. The promised ( Genesis 27:40) "fatness of the earth" is in the glens and terraces of Edom ( Genesis 27:39), while from their rocky aeries they sallied forth "living by the sword." When navigation was difficult merchants' caravans took Edom as their route from the Persian gulf to Egypt, which became a source of wealth to Edom. At Kadesh Edom came out against Israel, on the latter marching eastward across the Arabah to reach the Jordan River through Edom, and offering to pay for provisions and water; for the rocky country there enabled them to oppose Israel. The wady Ghuweir (where probably was "the king's highway") would be the defile by which Israel tried to pass through Edom being the only practicable defile for an army, with pasture and springs ( Numbers 20:14-21).

But Edom dared not resist Israel's passage along their eastern border, which is more defenseless than their frontier toward the Arabah. Edom then at last made a virtue of necessity and let Israel purchase provisions ( Deuteronomy 2:2-8;  Deuteronomy 2:28-29). In both accounts Israel offered to pay for provisions, and did so at last on Edom's eastern side, whereas they and Moab ought to have "met (Israel as their brother) with bread and water" ( Deuteronomy 23:4). Edom was among the enemies on the frontier from whom Saul at the beginning of his reign delivered Israel ( 1 Samuel 14:47). Hadad the Edomite, who escaped from David's slaughter to Egypt, returned thence from Pharaoh Shishak to excite Edom to revolt against Solomon ( 1 Kings 11:14). Jehoshaphat of Judah reduced the Edomites 897 B.C., dethroning their king for a deputy from Jerusalem, and trying by a fleet at Ezion Geber to regain the trade; but his vessels were broken by the Edomites or the Egyptians.

Amaziah of Judah killed many thousands in the Valley of Salt near the Dead Sea, and took Selah, afterward Joktheel, the first mention of this extraordinary city ( 2 Kings 14:7), and adopted their gods of mount Seir. Uzziah built Elath on the opposite side of the bay from Ezion Geber, the Roman (Etana, now Akabah; but in Ahaz' reign the Edomites (as  2 Kings 16:6 should be read for "Syrians") recovered it ( 2 Kings 14:22). When Israel and Judah declined Edom "broke off Israel's yoke," as Isaac had foretold, in Jehoram's reign ( 2 Kings 8:20-22), re-conquered their lost cities and invaded southern Judah ( 2 Chronicles 28:17). Edom also joined the Chaldaeans against the Jews ( Psalms 137:7). Hence, the denunciations against Edom in  Obadiah 1:1, etc.;  Jeremiah 49:7, etc.;  Ezekiel 25:12, etc.;  Ezekiel 35:3, etc. At the Babylonian captivity they seized on the Amalekite territory, and even Hebron in southern Judaea, so that Idumaea came to mean the region between the Arabah and the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile mount Stir or Edom proper, was occupied by the Nabathaeans (descended from Nebaioth, Ishmael's oldest son and Esau's brother in law), a powerful people of S. Arabia; they founded the kingdom of Arabia Petraea in ancient Edom, and their monarchs took the name Aretas. Aretas, the father-in-law of Herod Antipas (Matthew 14), took Damascus at the time of Paul's conversion ( Acts 9:25;  2 Corinthians 11:32). Rome subdued this kingdom of Arabia A.D. 105. Idumea S. of Palestine was joined to Judaea under Judas Maccabaeus and John Hyrcanus. Antipater, one of the Jewish prefects, an Idumean by birth, by the Roman senate's decree (37 B.C.) became procurator of all Judaea. His son was Herod the Great. Just before the siege under Titus 20,000 Idumeans were admitted into Jerusalem and filled it bloodshed and rapine. Muslim misrule finally destroyed Edom's prosperity in fulfillment of prophecy ( Ezekiel 35:3-14).

Psalm 44 was written by the sons of Korah in the midst of Edom's invasion of Israel, taking advantage of David's absence at the Euphrates. David was striving with Aram of the two rivers (Naharaim) and Aram-Zobah when Joab returned and smote of Edom in the Valley of Salt (the scene also of Amaziah's victory over Edom, the plain S. of the Dead Sea, where the Ghor or the Jordan Valley ends; the mount of rock salt, Khasm Usdum, is in its N.W. grainer) 12,000 men ( 2 Samuel 8:13;  2 Samuel 10:6;  2 Samuel 10:8;  2 Samuel 10:10-19;  1 Chronicles 18:12;  1 Kings 11:15-16). Israel's slain lay unburied until Joab returned from smiting Edom along with Abishai. The scattering of Israel among the pagan ( Psalms 44:11) was but partial, enough to gratify Edom's desire to falsify the prophecy, "the elder shall serve the younger." Edom's spite is marked ( Joel 3:19;  Amos 1:6;  Amos 1:9;  Amos 1:11).

Israel pleads faithfulness to the covenant, which suits David's time; also they had no "armies" in Babylon ( Psalms 44:9), which precludes the time of the captivity there. David wrote Psalm 60 when victory was in part gained, and he was sending forth the expedition against Edom. Translated in the title, "when David had beaten down Aram of the two floods," "when Joab returned," which he did not do all he had fully conquered the Syrians;  Psalms 60:4, "Thou hast given a banner," etc., alludes to this victory and to that over Edom (in  2 Samuel 8:13 "Edom" should be read for "the Syrians," Aram) in the Valley of Salt, the token that the expedition ( Psalms 60:9-12) for occupying Edom in revenge for invading Israel would succeed. "Over (rather, to) Edom I will cast out my shoe," as one about to wash his feet casts his shoe to his slave ( Matthew 3:11;  John 13:8;  Acts 13:25); and the casting of the shoe marked transference of possession ( Ruth 4:7;  Joshua 10:24).

David as king, Joab as commander in chief and Abishai under Joab, smote Edom. Abishai first killed 6,000, Joab afterward 12,000 (as the title of Psalm 60 states); so in all 18,000 (in  2 Samuel 8:13). Edom was also linked with Ammon and Moab in the desperate effort made to root out Israel from his divinely given inheritance (their main guilt,  2 Chronicles 20:11;  Psalms 83:12) under Jehoshaphat, as recorded in 2 Chronicles 20. They joined craft with force, marching S. round the Dead Sea instead of from the E. No news reached Jehoshaphat until the vast multitude was in his territory at Engedi; "they have taken crafty counsel," etc.  Psalms 83:3-5;  Psalms 83:12 probably was written by Jahaziel, of the sons of Asaph, upon whom'" came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation."

Psalm 47 (compare  Psalms 47:4-5;  Psalms 47:8-9) was sung on the battle field of Berachah ("blessing") after the victory. Psalm 48 was sung "in the midst of God's temple" ( Psalms 48:9);  Psalms 48:7 alludes to Jehoshaphat's chastisement in the breaking of his Tarshish ships for his ungodly alliance. This danger from within and the foreign one alike God's grace averted. Psalm 83 is the earliest of the series, for it anticipates victory and is a thanksgiving beforehand, which was the very ground of the victory which actually followed ( 2 Chronicles 20:21-22). See "Studies in the CL. Psalms," by Fausset. N. Edom is now called El Jebal (Gebal), with the villages Tufileh, Buserah, and Shobek. Its S. part is Esh Sherah, inhabited by fellahin; of these the Ammarin are so degraded as not to have the Bedouin virtue of keeping their word. The Liyathoneh are a branch of the Kheibari Jews near wady Musa.

Holman Bible Dictionary [3]

Most of the biblical passages pertaining to Edom refer to this Edomite center east of the Arabah.  Isaiah 63:1 , for example, speaks of one that “cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength.” (See also  Jeremiah 49:22;   Amos 1:11-12 ). Yet there are other passages which presuppose that the territory west of the Arabah, south of the Judean hill country and separating Judah from the Gulf of Aqaba, was also part of Edom. See especially the description of Judah's boundary in  Numbers 34:3-4 and   Joshua 15:1-3 , where Judah's south side is described as extending “even to the border of Edom the wilderness of Zin.” Certain of the tribal groups which ranged this wilderness area south of Judah are listed in the Edomite genealogy of  Genesis 36:1 . In New Testament times, even the southern end of the Judean hill country (south of approximately Hebron) was known officially as Idumea (Edom).

The “land of Seir” seems to be synonymous with Edom in some passages ( Genesis 32:3;  Genesis 36:8;  Judges 5:4 ). Egyptian texts from about 1300 to 1100 B.C. know of Shasu (apparently semi-nomadic tribes) from Seir and Edom. “Teman” also is used in apposition to Edom in at least one biblical passage ( Amos 1:12 ), but normally refers to a specific district of Edom and possibly to a town by that name. One of Job's visitors was Eliphaz the Temanite ( Job 2:11; compare  Ezekiel 25:13 ).

The Israelites regarded the Edomites as close relatives, even more closely related to them than the Ammonites or Moabites. Specifically, they identified the Ammonites and Moabites as descendants of Lot, Abraham's nephew, but the Edomites as descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother ( Genesis 19:30-36;  Genesis 36:1 ). Thus Edom occasionally is referred to as a “brother” to Israel ( Amos 1:11-12 ). Edomites seem not to have been barred from worship in the Jerusalem Temple with the same strictness as the Ammonites and Moabites ( Deuteronomy 23:3-8 ). Yet, as is often the case with personal relations, the closest relative can be a bitter enemy. According to the biblical writers, enmity between Israel and Edom began already with Jacob and Esau (when the former stole the latter's birthright) and was exacerbated at the time of the Israelite Exodus from Egypt (when the Edomites refused the Israelites passage through their land). Be that as it may, much of the conflict also had to do with the fact that Edom was a constant threat to Judah's frontier, and moreover blocked Judean access to the Gulf of Aqaba.

Both Saul and David conducted warfare with the Edomites—probably frontier wars fought in the “wilderness” area southwest of the Dead Sea ( 1 Samuel 14:47-48;  2 Samuel 8:13-14 ). David achieved a decisive victory in the valley of salt, probably just southwest of Beersheba where the ancient name still is preserved in modern Arabic wadi el-Milk. Apparently this secured Davidic control of the Edomite area west of the Arabah as well as access to the Gulf of Aqaba. Thus we read that Solomon built a fleet of ships at Ezion-geber and sent them to distant places for exotic goods. Later Hadad of the royal Edomite line returned from Egypt and became an active adversary to Solomon. This would have involved Edomite attacks on Solomon's caravans which passed through traditionally Edomite territory from Ezion-geber to Jerusalem ( 1 Kings 11:14-22 ).

Apparently Judah gained the upper hand against Edom again during the reign of Jehoshaphat. Once again we read of a Judean attempt (unsuccessful this time) to undertake a shipping venture from Ezion-geber ( 1 Kings 22:47-50 ). Edom regained independence from Judah under Joram, who succeeded Jehoshaphat to the throne ( 2 Kings 8:20-22 ). A later Judean king, Amaziah, is reported to have defeated the Edomites again in the valley of salt and then to have pursued ten thousand survivors to “the top of the rock” from which they were thrown down and dashed to pieces ( 2 Chronicles 25:11-12 ). Possibly the Hebrew term sela translated “rock” in this passage should be understood as a proper name, “Sela.” If so, then it seems reasonable to locate the incident with the craggy terrain just northwest of the Edomite capital Bosrah, where still today an Arab village bears a corresponding name (as-Sil`). An alternate candidate for biblical Sela favored by some scholars, Umm el-Biyara at Petra, seems too far south from either the valley of salt or the center of Edomite population.

Conflict between Judah and Edom and efforts on the part of Judean kings to exploit the commercial possibilities of the Gulf of Aqaba continued ( 2 Kings 14:22;  2 Kings 16:6;  2 Chronicles 26:1-2;  2 Chronicles 28:17 ) until eventually the Edomites, like the other peoples and petty kingdoms of Syria-Palestine, fell under the shadow of the major eastern empires—the Assyrians, then the Babylonians, finally the Persians and the Greeks. Some scholars hold that the Edomites aided the Babylonians in their attacks on Jerusalem in 597,586 B.C. and then took advantage of the Judeans in their helpless situation. This would explain, for example, the bitter verbal attacks on Edom in passages such as  Jeremiah 49:7-22 and the Book of Obadiah. Yet there is no clear evidence to support this view.

By New Testament times a people of Arabic origin known as the Nabateans had established a commercial empire with its center in the formerly Edomite territory east of the Arabah. Their chief city was Petra, and the whole region southeast of the Dead Sea had come to be known as Nabatea. Only the formerly Edomite territory west of the Arabah was still known as Idumea (Edom). Herod the Great was of Idumean ancestry. See Transjordan; Esau; Bozrah; Nabateans; Petra; Sela .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

The name Edom meant ‘red’ and was given to Esau, his descendants, and the land they later occupied ( Genesis 36:1;  Genesis 36:8-9). Esau was red haired, he exchanged his birthright for red bean soup, and Edom was a land of red soil ( Genesis 25:25;  Genesis 25:30;  2 Kings 3:20;  2 Kings 3:22).

Features of the land

Edom’s territory stretched from the southern tip of the Dead Sea down to the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqabah (the north-eastern arm of the Red Sea). It was a mountainous region, divided down the centre by a semi-desert valley known as the Arabah. Chief among Edom’s mountains was Mt Seir, after which the land was sometimes called ( Genesis 14:6;  Genesis 32:3;  Genesis 36:21;  Deuteronomy 2:1;  Deuteronomy 2:4;  Deuteronomy 2:12;  Joshua 15:1;  1 Kings 9:26). (For details of the Arabah see Palestine .) The Edomites’ security depended largely on a strong defence system they had built throughout their mountains ( 2 Chronicles 25:11-12;  Obadiah 1:1-4).

Chief of Edom’s mountain towns were Sela, Bozrah and Teman ( 2 Kings 14:7;  Isaiah 34:6;  Isaiah 63:1;  Jeremiah 49:20;  Jeremiah 49:22;  Amos 1:11-12). Teman was famous for its wisdom teachers ( Job 2:11;  Jeremiah 49:7;  Obadiah 1:8-9). The other important population centres of Edom were the twin towns of Ezion-geber and Elath on the Gulf of Aqabah ( Deuteronomy 2:8;  2 Chronicles 8:17). Since much of Edom’s land was unsuitable for farming, and since Edom’s Red Sea ports gave it control over important trade routes, many of the Edomites were traders rather than farmers ( Amos 1:6;  Amos 1:9).

Old Testament history of Edom

An important road known as the King’s Highway ran through Edom. From Ezion-geber it went north over the mountainous plateau on the east of the Arabah to Moab, Ammon and Syria. The Israelites of Moses’ time wanted to use this road on their journey to Canaan, but Edom and Moab refused permission, forcing the Israelites to detour around the borders ( Numbers 20:14-21;  Numbers 21:10-13;  Numbers 21:21-26;  Numbers 33:35-37;  Judges 11:15-24).

There was some conflict between Israel and Edom during the reign of Saul ( 1 Samuel 14:47), but in the reign of David Israel conquered Edom and took political control of the country ( 2 Samuel 8:13-14;  1 Kings 11:15-16). Solomon in turn established a fleet of ocean-going ships at Ezion-geber. These ships carried goods to and from India and other countries, thereby bringing him considerable profit ( 1 Kings 9:26-28;  1 Kings 10:22;  1 Kings 22:48).

The strategic and economic importance of Ezion-geber and Elath was one cause of later conflicts between Judah and Edom. When Judah weakened during the reign of Jehoram, Edom regained its independence ( 2 Kings 8:20-22). Under Amaziah, Judah conquered the mountain regions of Edom, and under Azariah it took control of Ezion-geber ( 2 Kings 14:7;  2 Kings 14:22). Judah lost Ezion-geber to Edom in the reign of Ahaz and never regained it ( 2 Kings 16:6).

When Judah finally fell and Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon (587 BC), the Edomites took wicked delight in joining with the Babylonians to try to wipe out the last traces of the ancient Israelite nation. When the Jerusalemites tried to flee the city, the Edomites blocked their path, captured them and handed them over to the Babylonians. They also joined the Babylonians in plundering the city ( Psalms 137:7;  Obadiah 1:10-14). Because of this violent hatred of the Israelite people, God assured Edom of a fitting punishment ( Jeremiah 49:7-22;  Lamentations 4:21-22;  Ezekiel 25:12-14;  Ezekiel 35:15;  Joel 3:19;  Amos 1:11-12).

Later history

Some time after the destruction of Jerusalem, Edom itself was destroyed, as the prophets had foretold ( Malachi 1:2-4). In their search for refuge and security, many Edomites moved west across the Arabah and settled in Judean territory around Hebron. Various Arab groups mingled with them, and the region later became known as Idumea ( Mark 3:8).

Years later, after the Romans had conquered Palestine (63 BC), an Idumean named Herod was appointed ‘king’ of Palestine under the governing authority of Rome. This man, known as Herod the Great, was the person who tried to kill the infant Jesus ( Matthew 2:1-19; see Herod ). The modern nation of Israel includes this Idumean territory along with much of old Edom, and extends to the Red Sea port of Elath (or Elat).

Easton's Bible Dictionary [5]

  • Idumea ( Isaiah 34:5,6;  Ezekiel 35:15 ). "The field of Edom" ( Genesis 32:3 ), "the land of Edom" ( Genesis 36:16 ), was mountainous ( Obadiah 1:8,9,19,21 ). It was called the land, or "the mountain of Seir," the rough hills on the east side of the Arabah. It extended from the head of the Gulf of Akabah, the Elanitic gulf, to the foot of the Dead Sea ( 1 Kings 9:26 ), and contained, among other cities, the rock-hewn Sela (q.v.), generally known by the Greek name Petra ( 2 Kings 14:7 ). It is a wild and rugged region, traversed by fruitful valleys. Its old capital was Bozrah ( Isaiah 63:1 ). The early inhabitants of the land were Horites. They were destroyed by the Edomites ( Deuteronomy 2:12 ), between whom and the kings of Israel and Judah there was frequent war ( 2 Kings 8:20;  2 Chronicles 28:17 ).

    At the time of the Exodus they churlishly refused permission to the Israelites to pass through their land ( Numbers 20:14-21 ), and ever afterwards maintained an attitude of hostility toward them. They were conquered by David ( 2 Samuel 8:14; Compare  1 Kings 9:26 ), and afterwards by Amaziah ( 2 Chronicles 25:11,12 ). But they regained again their independence, and in later years, during the decline of the Jewish kingdom ( 2 Kings 16:6; RSV marg., "Edomites"), made war against Israel. They took part with the Chaldeans when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, and afterwards they invaded and held possession of the south of Palestine as far as Hebron. At length, however, Edom fell under the growing Chaldean power ( Jeremiah 27:3,6 ).

    There are many prophecies concerning Edom ( Isaiah 34:5,6;  Jeremiah 49:7-18;  Ezekiel 25:13;  35:1-15;  Joel 3:19;  Amos 1:11; Obad.;  Malachi 1:3,4 ) which have been remarkably fulfilled. The present desolate condition of that land is a standing testimony to the inspiration of these prophecies. After an existence as a people for above seventeen hundred years, they have utterly disappeared, and their language even is forgotten for ever. In Petra, "where kings kept their court, and where nobles assembled, there no man dwells; it is given by lot to birds, and beasts, and reptiles."

    The Edomites were Semites, closely related in blood and in language to the Israelites. They dispossessed the Horites of Mount Seir; though it is clear, from  Genesis 36 , that they afterwards intermarried with the conquered population. Edomite tribes settled also in the south of Judah, like the Kenizzites ( Genesis 36:11 ), to whom Caleb and Othniel belonged ( Joshua 15:17 ). The southern part of Edom was known as Teman.

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Edom'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/ebd/e/edom.html. 1897.

  • Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

    Name given to Esau because he craved the red pottage of Jacob, Edom signifying red,  Genesis 25:30;  Genesis 36:1,8,19; but the name is more usually given to his tribe and the territory they possessed. This extended from the land of Moab, southward to the Gulf of Akaba, in length about 100 miles, from about 29 30' to 31 N, and about 35 30' E. It is a remarkably mountainous district with lofty peaks and deep glens, but also with very productive plains. It had been called mount Seir.  Genesis 36:8 . Some of the rocks were so precipitous that Amaziah killed 10,000 of the children of Seir (Edomites) by casting them down from the rocks, whereby they were dashed to pieces.  2 Chronicles 25:11 . Bozrah and Sela, or Selah, were its chief cities.

    When Israel was approaching the land of Palestine, Moses appealed to Edom to let them pass through their country, but they refused. The Israelites therefore returned south by way of the Red Sea (Gulf of Akaba) in order to compass the land of Edom, and then kept to the east of Edom until they reached the land of Moab.  Numbers 21:4 .

    Edom is constantly referred to in the prophets as having had relations with Israel, and is judged because of its perpetual hatred against them.  Ezekiel 35:5 . God at one time stirred up the king of Edom to punish Israel ( 1 Kings 11:14 ), and then again strengthened Israel to punish Edom.  2 Chronicles 25:10,11 . Some of the prophecies however extend to the future. Edomtook pleasure in the punishment of Judah when judgement was falling upon it. Of Jerusalem they said, "Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof,"  Psalm 137:7 , evincing, as also do other passages, the hatred and jealousy of the descendants of Esau.

    Many prophecies speak of its punishment. When the king of the north in a future day invades Palestine and overthrows countries as far as Egypt, "Edom, and Moab, and the chief of the children of Ammon" will escape, being reserved to be subdued by Israel.  Daniel 11:41;  Isaiah 11:13,14;  Obadiah 18,19 . It is from 'Edom' that the Lord Jesus is represented as coming 'with dyed garments' because of His having executed judgements.  Isaiah 63:1 . Its destruction will be complete.  Obadiah 10 .

    During the captivity the Edomites extended their dominion in the West and possessed Hebron; and some 300 years B.C. the Nabatheans took Petra (which is supposed to be the same as Sela, q.v. ), and established themselves in the district. They settled down and engaged in commerce, and formed the kingdom called by Roman writers Arabia Petraea. Under the Maccabees the Edomites in the west were conquered, and Hebron was recovered. After possession by the Romans, under the withering influence of Islamic rule the district came to ruin.

    The Greek form of Edom is IDUMEA,which occurs only in  Isaiah 34:5,6;  Ezekiel 35:15;  Ezekiel 36:5;  Mark 3:8 .

    Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

    E'dom. (Red). The name Edom was given to Esau, the first-born son of Isaac and twin brother of Jacob, when he sold his birthright to the latter for a meal of lentil pottage. The country which the Lord, subsequently, gave to Esau was, hence, called "the country of Edom,"  Genesis 32:3, and his descendants were called Edomites. Edom was called Mount Seir and Idumea also. Edom was wholly a mountainous country. It embraced the narrow mountainous tract (about 100 miles long by 20 broad) extending along the eastern side of the Arabah from the northern end of the Gulf of Elath to near the southern end of the Dead Sea. The ancient capital of Edom was Bozrah ( Buseireh ). Sela (Petra ) appears to have been the principal stronghold in the days of Amaziah (B.C. 838).  2 Kings 14:7. Elath and Ezion-geber were the seaports.  2 Samuel 8:14;  1 Kings 9:26.

    History. - Esau's bitter hatred to his brother, Jacob, for fraudulently obtaining his blessing appears to have been inherited by his latest posterity. The Edomites peremptorily refused to permit the Israelites to pass through their land.  Numbers 20:18-21.

    For a period of 400 years, we hear no more of the Edomites. They were then attacked and defeated by Saul,  1 Samuel 14:47, and some forty years later, by David.  2 Samuel 8:13-14. In the reign of Jehoshaphat, (B.C. 914), the Edomites attempted to invade Israel, but failed.  2 Chronicles 20:22. They joined Nebuchadnezzar when that king besieged Jerusalem. For their cruelty at this time, they were fearfully denounced by the later prophets.  Isaiah 34:5-8;  Isaiah 63:1-4;  Jeremiah 49:17.

    After this, they settled in southern Palestine, and for more than four centuries, continued to prosper. But during the warlike rule of the Maccabees, they were again completely subdued, and even forced to conform to Jewish laws and rites, and submit to the government of Jewish prefects.

    The Edomites were now incorporated with the Jewish nation. They were idolaters.  2 Chronicles 25:14;  2 Chronicles 25:15;  2 Chronicles 25:20. Their habits were singular. The Horites, their predecessors in Mount Seir, were, as their name implies, Troglodytes , or dwellers in caves; and the Edomites seem to have adopted their dwellings as well as their country. Everywhere, we meet with caves and grottos hewn in the soft sandstone strata.

    People's Dictionary of the Bible [8]

    Edom ( Ç'Dom ), Red. Called also Idumæa and Mount Seir.  Genesis 32:3;  Genesis 36:8;  Genesis 19:21. The country extended from the Dead Sea southward to the Gulf of Akabah, and from the valley of the Arabah eastward to the desert of Arabia, being about 125 miles long and 30 miles wide. It was given to Esau, and called the field or land of Edom.  Genesis 32:3;  Genesis 36:16;  Numbers 33:37. The country is well watered, rich in pasturage, abounding with trees and flowers, reminding us of Isaac's prophecy: "Thy dwellings shall be the fatness of the earth."  Genesis 27:39. Its principal towns were Bozrah, Elath, Maon, Ezion-geber, Selah or Petra. Its destruction was proclaimed.  Isaiah 34:5-8;  Isaiah 63:1-4;  Jeremiah 49:17;  Ezekiel 25:12-14;  Amos 1:10-11. See Esau and Idumæa.

    American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [9]

    Red, a name of Esau, Isaac's eldest son, appropriate on account of his natural complexion, but given, it would seem, from the current name of food for which he sold his birthright-"that same red,"  Genesis 25:25,30 . See Esau and Idumea .

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [10]

    (Hebrews Edom', אֵֹדם or אדֵוֹם so called from his red hair,  Genesis 25:25, or from the red pottage for which he bartered his birthright,  Genesis 25:30; Sept. Ε᾿Δώμ ), the later name of Isaac's son, elder twin-brother of Jacob; more frequently called ESAU (See Esau) (q.v.). (See Obed-Edom).

    EDOM (Sept. Ι᾿Δουμαία ) stands also collectively for the Edomites, the posterity of Edom or Esau; and likewise for their country. (See Edomite).

    The Nuttall Encyclopedia [11]

    Or

    mountainous but not unfertile country, comprising the S. of Judæa and part of the N. of Arabia Petræa, 100 m. long by 20 m. broad, peopled originally by the descendants of Esau, who were ruled by "dukes," and were bitterly hostile to the Jews.

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [12]

    E´dom [ESAU]

    References