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Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Edom

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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).

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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Edom'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/bbd/e/edom.html. 2004.

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