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SEIR (sē'ẽr, Heb. sē‘îr). Seir the Horite (Gen.36.20; 1Chr.1.38) was the ancestor of the inhabitants of the land of Seir. See next entry.

SĒIR sē’ ər (שֵׂעִ֔יר, rough, shaggy; LXX Σηιρ). 1. An unidentified site on the northern boundary of the tribal holdings of Judah (Josh 15:10).

2. The mountain range of Edom (q.v. for historical sketch) E of and roughly parallel to Wady Arabah. It extends from Wady Arnon southward to the vicinity of modern Aqabah. Petra and Mt. Hor are among its chief features. The rugged cliffs of this range mark the western boundary of Edom while its eastern foothills extend as far as Edom’s eastern boundary. Its height varies from roughly 600 ft. to 6000 ft. above sea level. The region was important to the Hebrews because of its command of the routes to Ezion-geber.

According to a tradition which seems to date from the Hurrian penetration of the area (c. 1700 b.c.), it derived its name from “Seir, the Horite” (i.e. the Hurrian) who founded a line of Hurrian rulers in the area (Gen 36:20-30). Esau dispossessed and destroyed the Horites in a manner comparable to the Heb. conquest of Canaan (Deut 2:12). At the time of Hezekiah, a group of Simeonites massacred a colony of Amalekites somewhere in the range and settled the site themselves (1 Chron 4:42, 43).

In general, “Seir,” “Mount Seir,” and “land of Seir” have all become synonyms for Edom (2 Chron 25:11; 20:10; and Gen 36:30 respectively).

The following issues have suggested to some that “Seir” also applied to mountain territory W of Wady Arabah: (1) The geographic contexts of Deuteronomy 1:2 and 1:44 seem to be W of Wady Arabah. (2) The poetic associations of Deuteronomy 33:2 and Judges 5:4 seem to be W of Wady Arabah. And (3) Joshua 11:17 and 12:7 are taken to demand a location S of Pal., i.e. W of Wady Arabah.

For these reasons some have concluded that “Seir” always applied to both sides of Wady Arabah. Others, notably Glueck, have concluded that the term originally denoted land E of Wady Arabah; but that, as the Edomites spread westward in the postexilic period, the name “Seir” was extended to their new holdings also.

One can argue against Seir W of Wady Arabah as follows: Some of the passages use geographical technical terms whose precise meaning is uncertain (Deut 1:2; Josh 11:17; 12:7). Others are poetic, and poetry is notorious for lack of precision (Deut 33:2; Judg 5:4). This leaves only one reference unaccounted for (Deut 1:44), and one v. is insufficient for settling such a matter.

The present writer feels that a dogmatic conclusion is unwarranted.


N. Glueck, “The Boundaries of Edom,” HUCA, XI (1936), 141-157.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) (har se’-ir, "Mt. Seir" (Ge 14:6, etc.), ’erets se`-ir (Ge 32:3, etc.); to oros Seeir, ge Seeir): In Ge 32:3 "the land of Seir" is equated with "the field of Edom." The Mount and the Land of Seir are alternative appellations of the mountainous tract which runs along the eastern side of the Arabah, occupied by the descendants of Esau, who succeeded the ancient Horites (Ge 14:6; 36:20), "cave-dwellers," in possession. For a description of the land see Edom.

(2) (har se`ir; Codex Vaticanus Assar; Codex Alexandrinus Seeir): A landmark on the boundary of Judah (Jos 15:10), not far from Kiriath-jearim and Chesalon. The name means "shaggy," and probably here denoted a wooded height. It may be that part of the range which runs Northeast from Saris by Karyat el-`Anab and Biddu to the plateau of el-Jib. Traces of an ancient forest are still to be seen here.