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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
Edom is the name which was given to Esau, the first-born son of Isaac, on the day he sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage, the reddish color of which gives it its name—"Adom" (Genesis 25:30). The country which was subsequently inhabited by Esau and his descendants was called "the field of Edom" (Genesis 32:3, R. V.) or "the land of Edom" (Genesis 36:16; Numbers 33:37). "Edom" in the Bible is also used as an equivalent for "Edomites," though the expression "the children of Edom" occurs but once (Psalms 137:7). The country had before that been called "Mount Seir" (Genesis 32:4 [Hebr.], 36:8), from "Seir" the progenitor of the Horites, who lived there previously (Genesis 14:6; 36:20,21). According to Josephus ("Ant." 1:18, § 1), the name "Seir" is due to the fact that Esau was hairy (Genesis 25:25), but according to Genesis 14:6, the mountain was called "Seir" long before Esau's birth. The boundaries of Edom are very concisely defined: The country stretched along the route followed by the Israelites from the Sinaitic peninsula to Kadesh-barnea, that is, along the east side of the valley of Arabah. Southward it reached as far as Elath, which was the seaport of Edom (Deuteronomy 1:2; 2:1,8). On the north of Edom was the territory of Moab (Judges 11:17,18; 2 Kings 3:8,9). The boundary between Moab and Edom was the brook Zered (Deuteronomy 2:13,14,18). The ancient capital of Edom was Bozrah (Genesis 36:33; Isaiah 34:6, 63:1, et at). In the time of Amaziah (838 B.C.), Selah (IIέτρα) was its principal stronghold (2 Kings 14:7); Elath and Ezion-gaber its seaports (1 Kings 9:26).
Contrary to the promise of Isaac that Esau's dwelling would be of the fatness of the earth and of the dew of heaven (Genesis 27:39), Edom was a rocky and calcareous country. Esau is described as a man who subsisted by hunting (Genesis 25:27 et passim), as his descendants, the Edomites, did, living amid rocky fastnesses and mountain heights (Jeremiah 49:16; Obad. 3, 4). The name "Mount Seir" or "Mount of Esau" shows that Edom was a mountainous country, and therefore it was called by later writers "Gebalene" (the mountainous).
Rulers of Edom.
According to the Bible, immediately after Isaac's death Esau settled in Mount Seir (Genesis 36:6,8), where he had lived before (Genesis 32:3). The Edomites soon became powerful enough to extirpate the Horites, the former inhabitants of the country (Dent. 2:12), whose ways of life they adopted. As among the Horites, each tribe was ruled by a prince or chief (), whose position resembled probably that of an Arab sheik (Genesis 36:15-19,29-30). Later the Edomites organized themselvesinto a kingdom, and had had eight kings when the first king in Israel began his reign (ib. 36:31-39). However, a list of chiefs given after that of the kings (ib. 36:40-43) shows that subordinate chiefs ruled under the sovereignty of the king. In the time of Moses both chiefs and king are mentioned (Exodus 15:15; Numbers 20:14). When the King of Edom refused to allow the children of Israel to pass through his land on their way to the land of Canaan the Israelites were expressly ordered not to wage war upon the Edomites, but to go round their country (Numbers 20:14-21; Deuteronomy 2:4-6). Neither did the King of Edom attempt hostilities against the Israelites, though he prepared to resist aggression.
Nothing further is heard of the Edomites until their defeat by Saul four hundred years later (1 Samuel 14:47); forty years later David overthrew the Edomites in the "valley of salt," and his general Joab slew all their males (2 Samuel 8:13,14; 1 Kings 11:15,16). Hadad, one of the royal family, fled to Egypt, and after David's death returned and endeavored to excite his countrymen to rebellion; failing in which he went to Syria (ib. 11:14-22; Josephus, "Ant." 8:7, § 6). From that time Edom remained subject to Israel. David placed over the Edomites Israelite governors or prefects (: 2 Samuel 8:14), and this form of government seems to have continued under Solomon. When Israel divided into two kingdoms Edom became a dependency of Judah. In the time of Jehoshaphat (914 B.C.) a king of Edom is mentioned (2 Kings 3:9,10,13,26), who was probably a Judean appointed by the King of Judah. It is stated further (2 Chronicles 20:10-23) 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, elected a king of its own, and afterward retained its independence (2 Kings 8:20-22; 2 Chronicles 21:8). Amaziah attacked the Edomites, and slew 10,000 in battle; 10,000 more being dashed to pieces from the cliffs. Their stronghold, Selah, was taken, but the Israelites were never able to subdue Edom completely (2 Kings 14:7; 2 Chronicles 25:11,12).
In the time of Nebuchadnezzar the Edomites took an active part in the plunder of Jerusalem and in the slaughter of the Jews (Psalms 137:7; Obad. 11, 13, 14). It is on account of these cruelties that Edom was so violently denounced by the Prophets (Isaiah 34:5-8; Jeremiah 49:7-22; Obad. passim).
Edom is mentioned in the cuneiform inscriptions in the form "Udumi" (u); three of its kings are known from the same source: Ḳaus-malaka at the time of Tiglath-pileser (c. 745), Malik-rammu at the time of Sennacherib (c. 705), and Ḳaus-gabri at the time of Esarhaddon (c. 680). According to the Egyptian inscriptions, the "aduma" at times extended their possessions down as far as the borders of Egypt (Müller, "Asien und Europa," p. 135). After the conquest of Judah by the Babylonians, the Edomites were allowed to settle in southern Palestine. At the same time they were driven by the Nabatæans from Idumea. In southern Palestine they prospered for more than four centuries. Judas Maccabeus conquered their territory for a time (B.C. 163; "Ant." 12:8, §§ 1, 6). They were again subdued by John Hyrcanus (c. 125 B.C.), by whom they were forced to observe Jewish rites and laws (ib. 13:9, § 1; 14:4, § 4). They were then incorporated with the Jewish nation, and their country was called by the Greeks and Romans "Idumea" (Mark 3:8; Ptolemy, "Geography," 5:16). With Antipater began the Idumean dynasty that ruled over Judea till its conquest by the Romans. Immediately before the siege of Jerusalem 20,000 Idumeans, 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 (Josephus, "B. J." 4:4, § 5).
From this time the Idumeans ceased to be a separate people, though the name "Idumea" still existed the time of Jerome.
According to the Law (Deuteronomy 23:8,9), 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 R. Simeon and other Talmudists, who maintained that female descendants were also excluded until the fourth generation, contrary to R. Simeon, who regarded the limitation as applicable in only to male descendants (Yeb. 76b).
Use of Name.
The name "Edom" is used by the Talmudists for the Roman empire, and they applied to Rome every passage of the Bible referring to Edom or to Esau. In Leviticus Rabbah () Rome, under the name of "Edom," is compared to a boar, and the symbolic name "Seir" was used by the poets of the Middle Ages not only for Rome (comp. Ecclus. 1. 26, Hebr.), but also for Christianity (Zunz, "Literaturgesch." p. 620). On this account the word "Edom" was often expunged by the censor and another name substituted (Popper, "Censorship of Hebrew Books," p. 58). In place of "Edom," the word "Ḥazir" (swine) was occasionally used, perhaps as a mere term of reproach (but see Epstein, "Beiträge zur Jüd. Alterthumskunde," p. 35). In Midrash Tanḥuma Bereshit, Hadrian is called "the King of Edom." The Talmudists, however, made an exception in favor of Antoninus Pius, whom they assured would attain paradise, because he had not acted in the manner of Esau ('Ab. Zarah 10b). 'Abodah Zarah 10a, however, explaining Obadiah, verse 2, says that Edom had neither written nor spoken language. This is inconsistent with its application to Rome. See TEMAN.
- Buhl, Die Edomiter, 1893;
- Nöldeke, in Cheyne and Black, Encyc. Bibl. 2:1181;
- Trumbull, Kadesh Barnea;
- Baethgen, Beiträge zur Semit. Religionsgesch. p. 10;
- Hommel, Ancient Hebr. Trad., Index;
- Rapoport, Erech Millin, p. 14.
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Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Edox, Idumea'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tje/​e/edox-idumea.html. 1901.