( ) is a name given to Esau
in the Hebrew Bible
as well as to the nation descending from him. The nation's name in
; in Syriac
; in Greek
(Idoumaía); in Latin
Edomite people were a Semitic-speaking tribal group inhabiting
Desert and the Arabah valley of
what is now southern Dead
Sea and adjacent Jordan.
region has much reddish sandstone, which may have given rise to the
name "Edom". The nation of Edom is known to have existed back to
or 9th century BC
, and the Bible dates it back
several centuries further. Recent archaeological evidence may
indicate an Edomite nation as long ago as the 11th century BC
, but the topic is
controversial and others argue that the 8th or 9th century dates
are correct. The nation ceased to exist as a settled state with the
The Edomites may have been connected with the Shasu
, nomadic raiders
mentioned in Egyptian
letter from an Egyptian scribe at a border fortress in the Wadi Tumilat during the reign of Merneptah reports movement of nomadic
"shasu-tribes of Edom" to watering holes in Egyptian
The Bible identifies Esau as the fraternal twin
brother of Jacob, the
grandson of Abraham
. Jacob became the father
of the Israelites
after God ( ) renamed
Jacob "Israel." Thus Esau shared his mother's womb together
with the founder of the nation of Israel.
. Although Esau was Isaac's first-born entitled to inherit Isaac's
wealth and blessing, Esau sold his birthright to his younger
brother Jacob (Israel) for a pot of stew. The descendants of Esau
and Israel led divergent paths with Edom settling east of modern
day Israel forming tribal chiefs while Jacob traveled west of the
Red Sea and north along the Jordan river inaccordance with the
lands that were granted to the people of Israel, his
The Bible explains the name "Edom" with no mention of red rock. It
refers to the Edomites as descendants of Esau
and the Book of Genesis
"red" a number of times in describing Esau and explaining his
alternate name Edom. "The first one [Esau] came out
], as hairy as a fur coat. They named
him Esau." Years later, "Jacob
simmering a stew, when Esau came home exhausted from the field.
Esau said to Jacob: "Feed me, I pray thee
with that same red pottage; for I am faint: therefore was his name
called Edom". ( , KJV) (see also retroactive
[[Image:Levant 830.svg|thumb|272px|Map of the southern Levant
, c.830s BC
Edomites' original country, according to the Tanakh, stretched from the Sinai peninsula as
far as Kadesh Barnea.
it reached as far as Eilat, which was
the seaport of Edom.
On the north of Edom was the territory
. The boundary between Moab and Edom was
the Wadi Zered
. The ancient capital of
Edom was Bozrah
According to Genesis, Esau's
descendants settled in this land after displacing the Horites
. It was also called the land of Seir
; Mount Seir
have been strongly identified with them and may have been a cultic
the time of Amaziah (838 BC), Selah (Petra) was its
principal stronghold; Eilat and Ezion-geber its seaports.
Genesis 36 chronicles Esau's family and the kings of Edom:
These are the kings who ruled in the land of Edom
before a king ruled the children of Israel.
And Bela ben Beor ruled in
Edom, and the name of his city was Dinhabah.
And Bela died, and Jobab ben
Zerah from Bozrah ruled in his place.
And Jobab died, and Husham of the land of Temani ruled in
And Husham died, and Hadad
ben Bedad, who struck Midian in the field
of Moab, ruled in his place, and the name of
his city was Avith.
And Hadad died, and Samlah of Masrekah ruled in his
And Samlah died, and Saul of Rehoboth on the river ruled in
And Saul died, and Baal-hanan ben Achbor ruled in his
And Baal-hanan ben Achbor died, and Hadar ruled in his place, and the name
of his city was Pau, and his wife's name
was Mehetabel bat Matred bat Mezahab.
And these are the names of the clans of Esau by their families, by their places, by
their names: clan Timnah, clan
Alvah, clan Jetheth,
clan Aholibamah, clan Elah, clan Pinon,
clan Kenaz, clan Teman, clan Mibzar, clan
Magdiel, clan Iram.
The Hebrew word translated as "clan" is aluf
, also translated as "chief", "general", or
"duke", and used in this sense only in connection with Edom and
Hori. (Since 1948 it has been used for senior ranks in the Israeli Defense Force
If the account may be taken at face value, the kingship of Edom
was, at least in early times, not hereditary
, perhaps elective
. First Chronicles mentions both a
king and chieftains
. When the King of
Edom refused to allow the children of Israel to pass through his
land on their way to Canaan
, they detoured
around the country because of his show of force or because God
ordered them to do so rather than wage war. The King of Edom did
not attack the Israelites, though he prepared to resist
Nothing further is recorded of the Edomites in the Tanakh until
their defeat by King Saul
of Israel in the
late 1000s BC. Forty years later King
David and his general Joab defeated the
Edomites in the "valley of salt",
(probably near the Dead
Sea). An Edomite prince named Hadad escaped and
fled to Egypt, and after
David's death returned and tried to start a rebellion, but failed
and went to Syria.
From that time Edom remained a vassal
of Israel. David placed over the Edomites
Israelite governors or prefects, and this form of government seems
to have continued under Solomon
. When Israel
divided into two kingdoms Edom became a dependency of the Kingdom of Judah
. In the time of Jehoshaphat
(c. 914 BC) the Tanakh mentions a
king of Edom
, who was probably an
Israelite appointed by the King of
. It also states that the inhabitants of Mount Seir
invaded Judea in conjunction with Ammon and Moab, and that the
invaders turned against one another and were all destroyed. Edom
revolted against Jehoram
and elected a king
of its own. Amaziah
attacked and defeated
the Edomites, seizing Selah, but the Israelites never subdued Edom
In the time of Nebuchadnezzar II
the Edomites helped plunder Jerusalem and slaughter the Jews. For
this reason the Prophets denounced Edom violently.
Although the Idumaeans controlled the lands to the east and south
of the Dead Sea, their peoples were held in contempt by the
Israelites. Hence the Book of Psalms
"Moab is my washpot: over Edom will I cast out my shoe". According
to the Torah
, the congregation could not
receive descendants of a marriage between an Israelite and an
Edomite until the fourth generation. This law was a subject of
controversy between Shimon ben
, who said it applied only to male descendants, and other
, who said female descendants were
Archaeological excavations in southern
Jordan have uncovered dozens of sites dated to the 7th and
6th centuries BC and attributed to the Edomites.
Buseirah is generally identified with biblical Bozrah
, probably the Edomite capital. However, most
of the Edomite sites are small villages, farms or seminomadic
sites. Edomites are usually associated with
Edomite pottery, a ware found and
manufactured both in southern Jordan and the
For over a century, archeologists specializing in the Middle East
maintained that there was no
evidence of an organized state society in Edom earlier than the
800s or 700s BC, and first believed no Edom existed at all.
this fact as one piece of evidence of the Bible's ultimate
unreliability as a historical source. Excavations such as
the 2004-2004 UCSD dig at
Khirbat an-Nahas, part of the Jabal Hamrat Fidan (JHF)
Archaeological Project, in Jordan have shed new light on the
history of Edom, unearthing artifacts and evidence of settled state
society as early as the tenth century BC,
Thomas E. Levy,
among other scholars, concluded from a survey of the an-Nahas site
that Edom was a sophisticated, urbanized society as early as the
eleventh century BC, (the date of the first Israelite monarchy,
according to the Bible) which even had its own copper works. Newer
data pushes back the archaeological chronology some three centuries
earlier than the current scholarly consensus. "Now," said Levy,
"with data from the first large-scale stratified and systematic
excavation of a site in the southern Levant to focus specifically
on the role of metallurgy in Edom, we have evidence that complex
societies were indeed active in 10th and 9th centuries BC and that
brings us back to the debate about the historicity of the Hebrew
Bible narratives related to this period." Radiocarbon tests from
the site have confirmed that the industrial areas of the site date
to the eleventh and tenth centuries BC. However, according to the
March Issue of Antiquity in 2006 published by the colleagues of
Levy, the datings that Levy has presented is exactly the problem.
Levy used the Bayesian radiocarbon tool which differed from the
tabulated calibrated radio carbon dates in which they did not
specify to have been used to reach these dates. According to the
Department of Archeaology, "The authors need to be more specific
about the archaeological or other data they have used to reach
their extremely early BCal dates, before they can make any claims
based on these dates.At each step, it seems, the authors are
attempting to push the dates as early as possible, on average about
a hundred years or so earlier than the calibrated radiocarbon
evidence allows for. The irony is that the authors claim that their
‘high-precision radiocarbon dating is liberating us from
chronological assumptions based on Biblical research’, but their
paper clearly manipulates the dates according to chronological
assumptions that are not articulated. This lack of transparency is
The Kingdom of Edom drew much of its livelihood from the caravan
trade between Egypt, the Levant
, and southern Arabia
, along the Incense
Route. Astride the King's
, the Edomites were one of several states in the region
for whom trade was vital due to the scarcity of arable land.
also said that sea routes traded as far away as India, with ships
leaving from the port of Ezion-Geber.
Edom's location on the southern highlands
left it with only a small strip of land that received sufficient
rain for farming.
probably exported salt and balsam (used for perfume and temple incense in the ancient world) from the
Map showing kingdom of Edom (in red)
at its largest extent, c.
Areas in dark red show the approximate boundary of
Edom is mentioned in Assyrian cuneiform
inscriptions in the form
; three of its kings are known
from the same source: Ḳaus-malaka
at the time of Tiglath-pileser III
(c. 745 BC),
at the time of Sennacherib
(c. 705 BC), and Ḳaus-gabri
at the time of Esarhaddon
(c. 680 BC). According to the Egyptian
inscriptions, the "Aduma" at times extended their possessions to
the borders of Egypt. After the conquest of Judah by the Babylonians, the Edomites were allowed to settle
in the region of Hebron.
prospered in this new country, called by the Greeks and Romans
"Idumaea" or "Idumea", for more than four centuries..Strabo,
writing around the time of Christ, held that the Idumaeans, whom he
identified as of Nabataean
constituted the majority of the population of Western Judea, where
they commingled with the Judaeans and adopted their customs .
During the revolt of the Maccabees
kingdom, II Maccabees
refers to a Seleucid general named
as "Governor of Idumaea";
whether he was a Greek or a Hellenized
Edomite is unknown. Some
scholars maintain that the reference to Idumaea in that passage is
an error altogether. Judas Maccabeus
conquered their territory for a time in around 163 BC. They were
again subdued by John Hyrcanus
BC), who forced them to observe Jewish
rites and laws
. They were then incorporated
with the Jewish nation.
The Hasmonean official Antipater
was of Edomite origin. He was the progenitor
of the Herodian Dynasty that ruled
Judea after the Roman conquest.
Under Herod the Great
Idumaea was ruled for him by
a series of governors, among whom were his brother Joseph ben Antipater
Immediately before the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, 20,000 Idumaeans,
under the leadership of John, Simeon, Phinehas, and Jacob, appeared
before Jerusalem to fight in behalf of the Zealots who were besieged in the Temple.
After the Jewish Wars the Idumaean people are no longer mentioned
in history, though the geographical region of "Idumea" is still
referred to at the time of St.
The nature of Edomite religion is largely unknown. As close
relatives of other Levantine Semites
they may have worshipped such gods as El
Identification with Rome
Later in Jewish history, the Roman
came to be identified with Edom, and specifically the
remnants of Amalek
and still designate
nowadays western countries
be seen in rabbinic and Pharasaic writings
such as the Mishnah or the Talmud, the Spanish Rabbinic leaders Ramban and
Ibn-Ezra, the French Rabbinic
scholars Rashi (1040-1105) and Tosphoth,
Babylonian Jewish scholars like Sa-adia
Gaon and other Jewish exilarchs, the Lithuanian leader Rabbi Vilnius Gaon and
" to refer to Rome, the Byzantine Empire
. In parallel, the Islamic
world is referred to as "Ishmael
was an Edomite province, and possibly the name of
an eponymous chieftain ( ), mentioned in the Bible
36:31-43). In various midrashim,
Magdiel was associated with Rome.
- van der Steen, Eveline; Piotra Bienkowski How Old is the
Kingdom of Edom 
- Redford, Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times,
Princeton Univ. Press, 1992. p.228, 318.
- J.M. Tebes (2006), "You Shall Not Abhor an Edomite, for He is
Your Brother": The Tradition of Esau and the Edomite Genealogies
from an Anthropological Perspective, JHS 6/6
- , material in brackets added.
- , material in brackets added.
- ; , , et al.
- , King James Version 1611
- ; Josephus,
Jewish Antiquities viii. 7, S 6
- ; ; Obadiah
- Yevamot 76b
- Redford 305.
- Jagoda, Barry (2005). Controversial Dates Of Biblical Edom Reassessed In Results
From New Archeological Research
- Levy, Thomas E. and Mohammed Najjar. "Edom and Copper."
Review. July/August, 2006. 5.
- King Solomon's (Copper) Mines? Newswise, Retrieved on
- See the recent debate in Antiguo Oriente: T.E. Levy/M. Najjar/T. Higham. (2007) 'Iron Age
Complex Societies, Radiocarbon Dates and Edom: Working with the
Data and Debates', AntOr 5; E. van der Steen/P.
Bienkowski. (2006) 'How Old is the Kingdom of Edom? A Review of New
Evidence and Recent Discussion', AntOr 4; I.
Finkelstein/L. Singer-Avitz. (2008) 'The Pottery of Edom: A
Correction', AntOr 6.
- Müller, Asien und Europa, p. 135.
- ; Ptolemy, "Geography," v. 16
- Josephus, "Ant." xii. 8, §§ 1, 6
- ib. xiii. 9, § 1; xiv. 4, § 4
- Josephus, Jewish Wars iv. 4, § 5