Edomites

e’-dum, e’-dum-its ’edhom, "red"; Edom:

1. Boundaries:

The boundaries of Edom may be traced with some approach to accuracy. On the East of the `Arabah the northern border ran from the Dead Sea, and was marked by Wady el-Kurachi, or Wady el-Chasa. On the East it marched with the desert. The southern border ran by Elath and Ezion-geber (De 2:8). On the West of the `Arabah the north boundary of Edom is determined by the south border of Israel, as indicated in Nu 34:3 f: a line running from the Salt Sea southward of the Ascent of Akrabbim to Zin and Kadesh-barnea. This last, we are told, lay in the "uttermost" of the border of Edom (Nu 20:16). The line may be generally indicated by the course of Wady el-Fiqrah. How much of the uplands West of the `Arabah southward to the Gulf of `Aqaba was included in Edom it is impossible to say.

2. Character and Features:

The land thus indicated varies greatly in character and features. South of the Dead Sea in the bottom of the valley we have first the stretch of salt marsh land called es-Sebkha; then, beyond the line of white cliffs that crosses the valley diagonally from Northwest to Southeast, a broad depression strewn with stones and sandhills, the debris of an old sea bottom, rises gradually, and 60 miles to the South reaches a height of about 700 ft. above the level of the Red Sea, 2,000 ft. above that of the Dead Sea. From this point it sinks until it reaches the shore of the Gulf of `Aqaba, 45 miles farther South. The whole depression is known today as Wady el-`Arabah (compare Hebrew ha-`arabhah, De 2:8 the Revised Version (British and American), etc.). On either side the mountains rise steeply from the valley, their edges carved into many fantastic shapes by the deep wadys that break down from the interior (see Arabah). The northern part of the plateau on the West forms the spacious grazing ground of the `Azdzimeh Arabs. The mountains rise to a height of from about 1,500 ft. to a little over 2,000 ft. This district was traversed by the ancient caravan road to South Palestine; and along the eastern side traces of the former civilization are still to be seen. The desert region to the South is higher, reaching to as much as 2,600 ft. The mountain range East of the `Arabah is generally higher in the South than in the North. Jebel Harun beside Petra, is 4,780 ft. above sea-level; while East of `Aqaba, Jebel el-Chisma may be as much as 5,900 ft. in height.

Limestone, porphyry and Nubian sandstone are the prevailing formation; but volcanic rocks are also found. The range consists mainly of rough rocky heights with many almost inaccessible peaks separated by deep gorges. But there are also breadths of fertile land where wheat, grapes, figs, pomegranates and olives are grown to advantage. The northern district is known today by the name el-Jebal, corresponding to the ancient Gebal. Seir is the name applied to the eastern range in Ge 36:8; De 2:1,5; 2Ch 20:23. It is also called Edom, and the Mount of Esau (Ob 1:8 f). Seir, however, is used for the western highlands in De 33:2. This seems to be its meaning also in Jud 5:4, where it appears as the equivalent of "the field of Edom." With this same phrase, however, in Ge 32:3 it may more fitly apply to the eastern range.

See illustration under DESERT.

3. Origin of Name:

The name Edom, "red," may have been derived from the red sandstone cliffs characteristic of the country. It was applied to Esau because of the color of his skin (Ge 25:25), or from the color of the pottage for which he sold his birthright (Ge 25:30). In Ge 36:8 Esau is equated with Edom as dwelling in Mt. Seir; and he is described as the father of Edom (36:9, Hebrew). The name however is probably much older. It may be traced in the records of the Twelfth Dynasty in Egypt. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters (Brit Mus No. 64) Udumu, or Edom, is named; and in Assyrian inscriptions the name Udumu occurs of a city and of a country. The latter may have been named from the former: this again may have been derived from a deity, Edom, who may be traced in such a name as Obed-edom (2Sa 6:10).

4. History:



5. Idumaea and the Idumeans:

West of the `Arabah the country they occupied came to be known by the Greek name Idumaea, and the people as Idumeans. Hebron, their chief city, was taken by Judas Maccabeus in 165 BC (1 Macc 4:29,61; 5:65). In 126 BC the country was subdued by John Hyrcanus, who compelled the people to become Jews and to submit to circumcision. Antipater, governor of Idumaea, was made procurator of Judea, Samaria and Galilee by Julius Caesar. He paved the way to the throne for his son Herod the Great. With the fall of Judah under the Romans, Idumaea disappears from history.

The names of several Edomite deities are known: Hadad, Qaus, Koze, and, possibly, Edom; but of the religion of Edom we are without information. The language differed little from Hebrew.