Saturday, November 27, 2010
EDOM: A Further Examination
EDOM (Heb. אֱדוֹם), a land in the south of eastern Transjordan, the southeastern neighbor of Palestine.
"The land of Edom" is the most common name for the Edomite territory. It had, however, other names and appellations, both prosaic and poetic, i.e., "the field of Edom" (Judg. 5:4), "Seir" (ibid.), "Mount Seir" (Deut. 1:2), "the land of Seir" (Gen. 36:30, "the lands of Seir," cf. mâtātid še-e-riki, in el-Amarna letter no. 288, line 26; Pritchard, Texts, 488; J.A. Knudtzon, Die El-Amarna-Tafeln, 2 (1915), 1340), and a combined name, "the land of Seir the field of Edom" (Gen. 32:3). There are also in Egyptian sources the equivalents of two names: Seir (Pritchard, Texts, 262) and Edom (Papyrus Anastasi VI, Pritchard, Texts, 259). It is possible to establish, according to the Egyptian and Akkadian sources, that the name Seir is chronologically first, since it is mentioned at the beginning of the 14th century B.C.E. in the Tell el-Amarna document, as well as in an Egyptian list from the time of Ramses II, i.e., from the first half of the 13th century B.C.E. On the other hand, the first mention of the name Edom in Egyptian sources occurs only at the end of the 13th century B.C.E.
The name Seir is apparently related to the Horites; this is especially evidenced by Genesis 36:20: "These were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were settled in the land" (cf. Deut. 2:12). The name Edom is related to the Western Semitic settlers who came after them.
It appears that the Edomite territory consisted of the mountain which extends from the Dead Sea in the north to the Red Sea in the south. The northern border of Edom was the Zered River (Wadi al-Hesa), which was also the southern border of Moab (Deut. 2:13). Its eastern border was the desert and its inhabitants were the Kedemites. Its southern border was Elath and Ezion-Geber (Deut. 2:8), i.e., the gulf of Elath. There was probably no fixed western boundary; during the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites who requested permission to pass through Edom said to the king of Edom: "Now we are in *Kadesh, the town on the border of your territory" (Num. 20:16). Another place mentioned as being on its western border is "Mount Hor on the boundary of the land of Edom" (Num. 20:23). The western border is described more comprehensively as "the boundary of Edom to the wilderness of Zin at the farthest south" (Josh. 15:1), and in an abbreviated manner as "south, toward the boundary of Edom" (Josh. 15:21).
In later periods there was an Edomite expansion beyond Mount Seir, especially after the fall of the kingdom of Judah (see below). Ezekiel thus terms the Edomite territory "Mount Seir and all Edom" (Ezek. 35:15). The capital of Edom was probably Bozrah (see especially Amos 1:12, "the palaces of Bozrah," similar to the palaces of other capital cities mentioned in this prophecy). Bozrah was the principal city, the other cities of Edom being called Bozrah's cities: "For I have sworn by myself, says the Lord, that Bozrah shall become a horror, a taunt, a waste, and a curse; and all her cities shall be perpetual wastes" (Jer. 49:13). Among the other cities of Edom mentioned in the Bible are Teman, which is used as a parallel for Bozrah (Amos 1:12), and Dedan (Jer. 49:8). The principal cities of Edom, which were also the royal cities, can be learned from the list of kings, who reigned "before any king reigned over the Israelites" (Gen. 36). In this list, Bozrah and Teman are mentioned with other towns such as Avith, Rehoboth Hanahar, Masrekah, and Pau, about which nothing is known from the Bible or from other sources.
In the biblical tradition about the origin of the Edomites or, more precisely, in accounts about the eponym "Esau who is Edom" (Gen. 36:1), the Edomites are related to the Hebrews. Esau was the grandson of Abraham the Hebrew and the son of Isaac. The close relationship of *Esau to Israel is especially emphasized in the narratives which point out his closeness with Jacob-Israel, and describe their birth as twins. In parenthetical narrative comments and especially in genealogical lists, the complexity of the Edomites' ethnic composition is demonstrated. In the accounts of Esau's marriages, which should be viewed as etiological-ethnological stories, it is told that Esau married Canaanite-Hittite women (Gen. 26:34; cf. 36:2). It is likewise told that he married Ishmaelite women (Gen. 28:9; cf. 36:3). He also took Hivite wives (Gen. 36:2). These parenthetical narrative remarks substantiate and confirm the contents of the genealogical lists of Edom. The ethnic composition appears to be even more heterogeneous when in addition to the Canaanite-Hittite, Hivite, and Ishmaelite elements, Kenazite (Gen. 36:15), Amalekite (36:16), and especially Horite (36:20, 21, 29, 30) elements are found in the genealogical list of Esau's descendants and in the list of the chiefs of Esau. A similar picture is reflected in the names appearing in the genealogical lists of Edom. West-Semitic names are listed side by side with Horite names. It is possible to distinguish earlier and later elements in the ethnic composition of Edom. Traditions, whose authenticity is beyond doubt, have been preserved in the Bible about the antiquity of the Horites in Edom. In the Deuteronomic tradition about the ancient settlers of eastern Transjordan before the advent of the Hebrews, it is stated: "Seir was formerly inhabited by the Horites; but the descendants of Esau dispossessed them, wiping them out and settling in their place" (Deut. 2:12). This tradition is reported in brief also in the chapter specifically dealing with Edom, Genesis 36, where a parenthetical remark is made: "these were the sons of Seir the Horite, who were settled in the land" (36:20). Thus, the ancient ethnic element of Edom is the Horites, to whom were later added those descendants of Esau who were from a Western-Semitic origin. This is corroborated by epigraphic sources and archaeological findings. From Akkadian and Egyptian epigraphic sources it is known that toward the first half of the second millennium B.C.E. "Horite" (Akk. ḥurru) tribes penetrated all the areas of the Ancient East and settled in these areas including Canaan and eastern Transjordan. There is also information about waves of migration of Western-Semitic elements who infiltrated western Asia, including Transjordan, and apparently conquered these territories and defeated the Horite population. According to biblical tradition, Esau and his descendants first inhabited the land of Canaan (Gen. 36:5), and when "the land in which they sojourned could not support them because of their livestock," Esau, together with Jacob and his children, "took … all the members of his household … [and] settled in the hill country of Seir" (36:6–8). From the archaeological survey of eastern Transjordan conducted by Nelson Glueck the same picture emerges. It appears that the settlement which existed from the 23rd to the 20th centuries B.C.E. was highly civilized, but the 19th century B.C.E. saw a steep decline and the total extinction of all the great fortresses and settlements. The blow was final and the destruction, total. The cities were not rebuilt and most of Transjordan became a camping spot for shepherds and nomads until the end of the 14th century B.C.E. The archaeological survey demonstrated that at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 13th centuries B.C.E., there was a revival of an agricultural civilization among the Edomites, the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Amorites, who quickly divided into national groups within defined territorial boundaries. Thus, Transjordan was divided into the kingdoms of Edom, Ammon, and Moab, which were separated mainly by the deep and wide natural boundaries of the Zered, Arnon, and Jabbok rivers. These kingdoms underwent a fast development of prosperity and growth, primarily material, from the 13th to the 8th centuries B.C.E. There followed a period of decline which ended in utter destruction in the sixth century B.C.E.
These latter comments would have exhausted our knowledge about Edom had the Bible not preserved much information about this kingdom, more so than about any of the other kingdoms neighboring Israel. This great amount of material in the Bible is very valuable from both the historical and historiographical points of view. Biblical information about Edom may be divided into two types, which are distinctly separable. The first type is the original and authentic material, which apparently originated in Edom itself and somehow made its way to Israel, and which is found mainly in Genesis 36. The second type is information about Edom which is connected with the history of Israel. These two types of material give a chronological coverage of the two periods of Edom's history (see below). The original and authentic material about Edom is from the period before the monarchy was established in Israel (it is not intended here to discuss R.H. Pfeiffer's Edomite-Seirite, or Southern source (S); for its scope, character, and time see *Pentateuch). This material describes the history of Edom until its conquest by David. On the other hand, the material about Edom which is contained in the Israelite history covers the period of the monarchy in Israel and Judah, and, in fact, beginning with the time of David, the history of Edom is contained within the history of Israel.
History until Its Conquest by David
From the information contained in Genesis 36, it may be learned that the Edomites were governed by chiefs (allufim) and kings in the period which preceded its conquest by David. The question arises as to whether chiefs and kings ruled at one and the same time, the kings being only the most powerful of the chiefs, or whether there were two periods, a first of chiefs and a subsequent one of kings. It appears that two periods should be distinguished, the "period of the chiefs" and the "period of the kings," typologically paralleling the "period of the judges" and the "period of the monarchy" in Israel.
THE PERIOD OF THE CHIEFS (Allufim)
It appears that the chiefs were the heads of the thousands (alafim), which were tribes or clans (in the broad sense of the word), and later, heads of regions. This form of organization was prevalent among nomadic tribes. Actually, only 11 chiefs of Edom are mentioned, but there is reason to accept the opinion that a 12th name, which is found in the Septuagint, was left out. The tradition of the 12-fold organization in Edom is based on, and confirmed by, the organization of other tribes which are closely related to Edom in terms of race and origin. This 12-fold organization is found among the Nahorites (Gen. 22:20–24), the Ishmaelites (25:13–15), and the Israelites, and it is M. Noth's opinion that this system is based on "principles such as were customary in tribal societies which were still lacking settled political institutions" (Noth, Hist Isr, 87; for details). Taking as a starting point the conclusion of Nelson Glueck's survey that the Edomites arrived in Edom at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 13th century B.C.E., it may then be assumed that the rule of the chiefs lasted approximately 150 years, until the middle of the 12th century B.C.E. Actually, the Bible appears to contain information to the contrary, since in the narrative on the Exodus from Egypt and the penetration of Canaan it is told that the Israelites had dealings with the king of Edom (Num. 20:14; if it is assumed, as is the accepted opinion today, that the Exodus was during the second half of the 13th century B.C.E.). It is known, however, that the source for the narrative (Num. 20) is late and "the king of Edom" is an anachronism. More authentic evidence from a very early poetic source, the Song of the Sea, testifies that at the time of the Exodus the chiefs were ruling in Edom: "Now are the chiefs of Edom dismayed" (Ex. 15:15). There are also sources outside the Bible which confirm this. In the Papyrus Anastasi VI from the time of Merneptah (end of the 13th century B.C.E.) the population of Edom and its adjuncts is divided into "tribes" or shasu: "[We] have finished letting the Shasu (šʾsw) of Edom (ʾidm) pass the Fortress [of] Merneptah" (in Pritchard, Texts, 259). Ramses III (beginning of the 12th century B.C.E.) boasts: "I destroyed the people of Seir among the nomad tribes. I razed their tents: their people, their property, and their cattle as well, without number, pinioned and carried away in captivity, as the tribute of Egypt" (see Papyrus Harris I, in: Pritchard, Texts, 262). In any event, it becomes evident from these two Egyptian sources that there was a tribal organization, the population was nomadic, and there was no monarchy.
THE PERIOD OF THE MONARCHY
The genealogy of Edom in Genesis 36 contains a list of the kings of Edom who ruled "before any Israelite king reigned" (probably meaning "before any Israelite king ruled over Edom"). It is not certain whether "kings" were merely judges or tribal chiefs, or whether they were literally kings. Those scholars who hold that they were judges point to the following supporting evidence: the absence of succession, the absence of a fixed capital city, the parallelism of melekh / shofet ("king"/"judge") in Ugaritic and the Bible, as well as the formula "in those days there was no king over the Israelites," which recurs repeatedly in the Book of Judges in reference to the period of the judges. Thus, king here means judge (this opinion has been expressed by S. Talmon). It appears that the second opinion is the correct one, however, and that kings is meant literally.
The list of the Edomite kings (36:31–39) resembles a "royal chronicle" in that it includes various details found in the Judean and Israelite chronicles contained in Kings and Babylonian Chronicles. Details given in this list – though not all the details are given for every king – are the name of the king, his father's name, the name of his city (or place of origin), and an informative comment. This list includes eight kings. The names of the fathers of four of them are given, and the city (or place of origin) of seven out of the eight is mentioned. An informative comment is made about two of them. The informative comment about Hadad son of Bedad is distinctly historical. It is stated that he "defeated the Midianites in the country of Moab" (36:35), while the comment about Hadar, the last king, refers to his wife's genealogy: "and his wife's name was Mehetabel daughter of Matred daughter of Me-Zahab" (36:39). This list has been analyzed by numerous scholars in an attempt to derive from it information about the history of Edom, its chronology and the possibility of synchronization, its monarchy, and its character. It is clear from this list that the monarchy in Edom was not dynastic. Not one of the kings of Edom is said to be son of the former king. However, it should not be deduced from this, as has been done by several scholars, that the monarchy was not consistent. The formula: "when … died, … succeeded him as king" attests to the consistency and continuity of the monarchy. Further, it should be pointed out that there was no central authority based in one capital city. The fact that the king's capital or place of origin is mentioned shows that there was no common ruling city for even two of the kings (cf. the absence of a regular capital city in the kingdom of Israel until the establishment of Samaria by Omri). The two informative statements were variously interpreted by scholars. From the statement about Hadad son of Bedad E. Meyer tried to establish a synchronistic connection with events in Israel, namely that Hadad, who defeated the Midianites, was a contemporary of Gideon who defeated the Midianites. On the basis of this they attempted to derive chronological conclusions with regard to the history of the kings of Edom. There is no certainty, however, about Gideon's time, and even less about the time of the kings of Edom, concerning whom there is no chronological information. From the information about Hadar's wife's lineage on her mother's side, and from the naming of her mother and grandmother, W.F. Albright attempted to deduce the existence of a royal dynasty in Edom which passed in succession on the side of the mother and not the father. Thus, the king's son-in-law because he marries the queen's daughter is heir to the throne. A general conclusion of this nature, derived from a single comment, is, however, difficult to maintain. Moreover, there are no examples of such a custom in the ancient Near East to support this hypothesis (the example of Saul-Michal-David cannot be explained in this way).
It is most difficult to assess the dating of Edom's kings since, as has been stated, there is no chronological information given in regard to this period. It is only known that it ended at the time of David's conquest of Edom. If this assumption is correct, namely, that at the time of the Exodus, Edom was ruled by chiefs and not by kings, then the period of these kings can be set from the middle of the 12th century to the end of the 11th century B.C.E., i.e., a period of around 150 years, and an average of approximately 20 years per king.
During this period of chiefs and kings, Edom was strong and its borders well-fortified by a series of border fortresses which prevented the penetration of nomadic tribes from the desert. A series of fortresses was discovered during the archaeological survey in eastern and southern Edom, and some also in western Edom. (In the north, Edom shared a common border with Moab, with which it apparently had close and good neighborly relationships.) There is almost no biblical information in regard to contacts between Israel and Edom during this period, except that Edom is listed among the nations oppressing Israel which Saul defeated at the end of this period (I Sam. 14:47; it is possible that this refers to Amalek which is related to Edom). In Psalm 83, which is assumed by B. Mazar and S. Feigin to be from the period of the judges, Edom (as well as Amalek and Gebal which belong to Edom) is also mentioned as joining with Israel's other neighbors against Israel. It appears, however, that these two mentions are schematic and it is difficult to arrive at historically valid conclusions from the appearance of Edom in these lists.
From David until the Destruction of Judah
THE TIME OF DAVID AND SOLOMON
In David's wars of expansion, Edom was conquered after a decisive defeat in the Valley of Salt. This is echoed in three biblical sources – actually three accounts of the same battle. According to II Samuel 8:13 it was David who defeated Edom (this should be read instead of Aram) in the Valley of Salt, slaying 18,000 Edomites. According to I Chronicles 18:12, "Abishai son of Zeruiah slew 18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt," while according to Psalm 60:2, it was Joab who defeated Edom, and here there is a different number given for Edom's casualties – 12,000. While a few scholars held that these are accounts of battles led by the different people mentioned, it appears that they are, in fact, different accounts of the same event, and the numbers are schematic. In any event, in order to clarify the historical aspects, it appears that the original historical version is that Joab defeated Edom. The introduction of Abishai in Chronicles is aimed against Joab and is based on the wars in eastern Transjordan in which Joab and Abishai led the armies. The war was attributed to David because it appears that the victories of Joab, his military commander, were credited to the king, David, as was the case in the defeat of Rabbath-Benei-Ammon (II Sam. 12:26–31). Edom suffered a decisive defeat, apparently after a difficult battle. Contrary to his custom with regard to the other nations of Transjordan, David did not leave the Edomite monarchy in power but made Edom into an Israelite province ruled by appointed governors (II Sam. 8:14; I Chron. 18:13). There is additional information about this battle in I Kings 11:15–16 which states that "For six months did Joab remain there with all Israel, until he had cut off every male in Edom." His reasons for turning Edom into a province which rendered tribute and was ruled by governors were probably primarily economic, since Edom controlled the trade routes, both overland – the "King's Highway" – and maritime – the port of Ezion-Geber-Elath. Israel's rule of Edom by means of governors lasted throughout David's reign and apparently also through most of Solomon's time, until Hadad, a descendant of the last Edomite king, rebelled against Solomon. (It is difficult to determine whether Hadad was the son or the grandson of the last king of Edom. Actually, this was the introduction of a dynastic monarchy in Edom. In the opinion of Edward Meyer the Edomites were loyal to their last king.) This Hadad, who fled to Egypt during the conquest of Edom, received personal aid and political support in Egypt, and returned to Edom after David's death (I Kings 11:14–22). According to the Septuagint, what is said about Aram in I Kings 11:25 refers to Edom, and it thus turns out that this Hadad rebelled at the beginning of Solomon's reign and ruled Edom. It is difficult to accept this version, however, since it would mean that at the beginning of his reign, a time of prosperity and growth, of the development of the Negev and Arabah, and of maritime and inland trade, Solomon did not have absolute control over Edom and over the routes which crossed its territory. It would therefore appear that Edom's liberation was possible only at the end of Solomon's reign.
FROM JEHOSHAPHAT TO AHAZ
There is no information about Edom from the end of Solomon's reign until Jehoshaphat's, either from the Bible or from other sources. It may be assumed that after the collapse of Solomon's kingdom and its division, and especially after Shishak's campaign in Judah and Israel, Edom finally overthrew the yoke of Israel's rule and established an independent kingdom, which lasted around 50 years, until the time of Jehoshaphat. With the expansion of Judah southward in the time of Jehoshaphat, the submission of the Arabian tribes (II Chron. 17:11), and the institution of a mercantile fleet at Ezion-Geber (I Kings 22:49), Edom was probably conquered. In fact, there is an explicit statement in this regard from which it can be understood that not only was Edom conquered by Jehoshaphat but he dealt with it as did David and turned it into a province ruled by governors. Chronicles writes in connection with Jehoshaphat that "there was no king in Edom; a deputy was king" (I Kings 22:48 (47)). The conquest of Edom probably stemmed from the same economic motivations which existed at the time of David and Solomon. Edom became subject to Judah, and, during the period of subjection, "the king of Edom" (probably the "deputy" mentioned above) joined the campaign of Joram king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah against Mesha, the rebellious king of Moab, which passed "through the wilderness of Edom" (II Kings 3:8). The participation of the "king of Edom" angered the king of Moab, who attempted first and foremost "to break through opposite the king of Edom" (3:26). The failure of this campaign led to the weakening of the rule of Judah and Israel in eastern Transjordan, as well as Judah's rule in Edom. It is explicitly stated that during the time of Joram, Edom rebelled against Judah: "In his days Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah, and madea king over themselves" (II Kings 8:20). Joram attempted at the beginning of his reign (probably in 848 B.C.E.) to reinstate Israel's hegemony over Edom in a great campaign including "all the chariots" (8:21–22), which apparently failed (the biblical text is corrupt here), and Edom was completely liberated from the domination of Judah. Edom maintained its independence for about 60 years, until the middle of Amaziah's reign. At the time of Amaziah, Judah recovered from the pressure of Aram, to which it paid heavy taxes. This recovery is expressed in the undertaking of a military campaign against Edom in order to renew the rule of Israel there. It is said of Amaziah that "He slew of Edom in the Valley of Salt 10,000, and took Sela by war, and called the name of it Joktheel unto this day" (II Kings 14:7). The battle was waged in northern Edom, the Valley of Salt (as in David's time), and in Sela. Amaziah (like Joab) treated the Edomites with cruelty, as is recounted in II Chronicles 25:11–12: "…and [Amaziah] smote 10,000 men of Seir. The men of Judah captured another 10,000 alive and took them to the top of a rock and threw them down from the top of the rock; and they were all dashed to pieces." It seems that the changing of Sela's name can be interpreted not only as a symbol of renewed domination but perhaps also as the introduction of Judahite settlers in the new important town Joktheel which "on account of its geographic conditions, its distinctly strategic location, its close proximity to the capital Bozrah which lay south of it, and its control over the approach to the mines of the Arabah, … was subject to a violent controversy between Israel and Edom" (S. Abramsky). With the conquest of Sela, Amaziah assured Judah of control over northern Edom and the copper mines of the Punon area. It appears that Uzziah son of Amaziah completed his father's activity by conquering Edom. Uzziah, who expanded his kingdom in the direction of south and the Negev, "built Elath and restored it to Judah" (II Kings 14:22); this was the climax of his activity in the Negev and the Arabah, in developing agriculture, industry, and commerce, which has been confirmed by archaeological excavations and surveys. Apparently, in the days of Jotham son of Uzziah as well, Judah ruled over Edom. The "ליתם" (lytm) seal found at Ezion-Geber may have belonged to Jotham. This period of Judah's rule over Edom did not last long, and ended with the establishment of the Aramean-Israelite coalition between Rezin king of Aram and Pekah king of Israel: "At that time the king of Edom recovered Elath for Edom (the MT text reads Aram instead of Edom) and drove the men of Judah from Elath; and the Edomites came to Elath, where they dwell to this day" (II Kings 16:6). The Edomites took the opportunity to penetrate Judah itself: "For again the Edomites had come and smitten Judah, and carried away captives" (II Chron. 28:17). There was probably a final attempt on the part of Judah, during the time of Hezekiah, to renew its hegemony over Edom. In the genealogical list of Simeon's descendants, it is stated parenthetically that "some of them, 500 men of the Simeonites, went to Mount Seir … and they destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites that had escaped, and they have dwelt there to this day" (I Chron. 4:42–43). This attempt, however, was probably limited to the western border district of Edom and had no real results since Edom, like Judah, was subjugated by Assyria.
FROM AHAZ UNTIL THE DESTRUCTION OF JUDAH
From the time of Ahaz, Edom became an Assyrian vassal state, like the other nations of Palestine and Syria. Tiglath-Pileser III (745–727 B.C.E.) mentions, together with the kings of Palestine and Syria, Qosmalaku, king of Edom, who surrendered to him (Pritchard, Texts, 282). Sennacherib mentions the king of Edom, Aiarammu (ibid., 287), who surrendered to him in his campaign against Jerusalem (701 B.C.E.). Esarhaddon (680–669 B.C.E.) mentions Qosgabri king of Edom together with the 22 vassal kings whom he swore to loyalty at Nineveh (ibid., 291). In addition to its subjugation to Assyria, Edom was, beginning with the eighth century B.C.E., under pressure from the Arabian tribes that impoverished the land and brought about its decline in material culture. Toward the end of the kingdom of Judah (beginning of the sixth century B.C.E.), when Judah was rising up against Babylonian rule, Edom was among the peoples preparing to rebel against the Babylonian king. The king of Edom sent messengers to a meeting of rebels called in Jerusalem by Zedekiah king of Judah (Jer. 27). Later, however, during the destruction itself, Edom was on the other side, sending its troops against Judah (II Kings 24:1; "the bands of Edom" should be read in place of "the bands of Aram"), and even participating in its destruction. This is verified from the recently discovered Arad letters, in which Judah is guarding itself against Edom's penetration into the land (Y. Aharoni). Edom's participation in the destruction of Judah aroused the great anger and strong condemnation of the poets (Ps. 137; Lam. 4:21–22) and prophets (Isa. 34, which is to be dated to this period; Jer. 49; Obad.) of Judah. The anger and condemnation continued in the following generation in the prophecies of Deutero-Isaiah (Isa. 63).
Edom, too, was subject to destruction in the sixth century B.C.E. Nomadic tribes infiltrated Edom and exerted pressure on the Edomites, who turned toward Judah and settled in its southern region. This settlement was long known in Hellenistic sources as *Idumea.
Religion and Culture
The gods of Edom were mainly fertility gods, as is evidenced by the numerous clay figures found in Edom. Like Ammon and Moab, Edom had one chief god, Qos. This name is known to be a theophoric element, both from the names of the Edomite kings mentioned in the inscriptions of the Assyrian kings (see above) and from names which are preserved in the Bible (e.g., Barkos, Neh. 7:55). This name also appears as a first name in a seal in Hebrew-Edomite script on oil jugs from the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E. which were found at Tell al-Khalayfa "לקוסענל עבד המלך," "lqwsʿnl servant of the king." There are some scholars who read instead of the unclear name Alqum in Proverbs 30:31, Alqus, on the assumption that the name is included here in the context of Edomite wisdom. Although Edom had one national god, it cannot be described even as monolatry. Biblical evidence emphasizes Edomite polytheism. It is told of Amaziah after "he came from the slaughter of the Edomites, he brought the gods of the men of Seir, and set them up as his gods, and worshipped them, making offerings to them" (II Chron. 25:14).
Apparently there was an early connection between the religion of the men of Seir and the early religion of Israel, a connection deduced from an Egyptian list from the time of Ramses II (13th century B.C.E.) from a statement in which there is the unusual juxtaposition "the land of the Shasu of JHW" (see Herrmann in bibl.). In the same list there is the equivalent juxtaposition "the land of the Shasu of Seir." (The connection between YHWH and Seir can be learned from a number of early biblical verses, e.g., Deut. 33:2; Judg. 5:4.) Of course, one cannot speak of the identification in this period of this name with YHWH but rather about the origin of YHWH from the same area and ancient contacts between the people of Israel in its early period and the sons of Seir. In this way the biblical tradition is confirmed.
From the archaeological excavations and surveys in Edom it appears that its material culture was developed. The only evidence with regard to its spiritual culture is biblical. The wisdom of Edom was held in esteem by the prophets. Jeremiah asked in amazement: "Is wisdom no more in Teman? has counsel perished from the prudent? has their wisdom vanished?" (49:7); Obadiah 8 repeats the same idea: "destroy the wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of Esau."
In Second Temple Times
The geographical conception of Edom during the Second Temple period differs radically from that at the time of the First Temple. Following the movement of Edomites from southern Transjordan and into southern Palestine, across the Arabah, in the late seventh and early sixth centuries B.C.E. (II Kings 24:2; Ezek. 35:6), the area to the south of the territory of Judah came to be referred to as Edom/Idumea. The territory of "Darom" ("south") in Talmudic literature usually refers to Idumea. Idumea in Second Temple times was further north than in the previous period and covered a considerable part of the territory of the tribe of Judah, including Hebron. The border with Judea passed south of Beth-Zur. This change came about on the one hand in consequence of the invasion of Old Edom by new tribes from the desert and the establishment there, in the course of time, of the Nabatean kingdom; and secondly through the weakening of Jewish resistance during the time of the destruction of the Temple and the Babylonian exile. The return only changed the situation slightly; in general the returning exiles did not settle south of Beth-Zur. Even in the list of those who built the walls of Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah, there is no mention of men from places south of the line Tekoa-Beth-Zur-Keilah-Zanoah.
During the Hellenistic period the Idumean region formed a separate administrative district and is mentioned as such by Diodorus in connection with the period of the Didache (Bibliotheca Historica, 19, 98, 1). Marissa and Adorah were the main Idumean settlements in the Hellenistic era. Marissa became an important junction during the Ptolemide era and served, as can be inferred from one of the Zenon papyri (C.C. Edgar, Catalogue général des antiquités égyptiennes du Musée de Caire, 1 (1925), 34, no. 59015 verso), as the seat of the government administration. From the inscriptions and painted designs in one of the tombs, it is possible to follow in great measure the process of Hellenization of Marissa during the Ptolemide era. Among other things, a Phoenician settlement, which was the standard-bearer of the Hellenistic movement in Idumea, existed in the town, and had organized itself as a politeuma of Sidonians in Marissa (W. Dittenberger, Orientis Graeci Inscriptiones Selectae, 2 (1905), 284–5 no. 593). The Ptolemide government of the country also helped in the migration of many Idumeans to Egypt. Hostile relations between the Idumeans and the Jews persisted throughout the Hellenistic period. Ben Sira enumerates the Edomites among the "nations whom his soul abhorred" (50, 25–26). The same enmity is reflected in the quotation from the Greek writer Mnaseas given by Josephus (Apion 2:112ff.) describing how Zabidus of Dorii fooled the people of Jerusalem. During the Hasmonean wars the Idumeans assisted the Seleucids against the Jews. Judah Maccabee fought the Idumeans, and was particularly active against Hebron (I Macc. 5:65).
A decisive change in the relations between the two nations took place in the days of John *Hyrcanus (end of second century B.C.E.). Hyrcanus conquered the whole of Idumea and undertook the forced conversion of its inhabitants to Judaism (Jos., Ant., 13:257ff.). Thenceforth the Idumeans became a section of the Jewish people, Idumea becoming one of the ordinary administrative districts of the Hasmonean state. It appears that the Hasmonean dynasty used some of the respected families of Idumea to establish its dominion in that country. During the reigns of Alexander Yannai and his wife Alexandra Salome, *Antipas, who was an Idumean, served as ruler of Idumea on behalf of the Hasmoneans (Ant., 14:10). *Herod, appointed king of Judea by the Romans in 40 B.C.E., was his grandson. During the reign of Herod, Idumea served in general as the firm basis of his authority. He considered the Idumeans to be much more loyal to him than the Jews, and also depended upon them for the military settlement in Transjordan; three thousand Edomites being settled in Terakhan (Ant., 16:285). Despite this, even during his reign, an attempt was made to sever the link between Idumea and Judea. The king's brother-in-law, Costobar, entered into a conspiracy with Cleopatra, queen of Egypt, for the purpose of annexing Edom directly to Egypt, but the plot was foiled by Herod. After the death of Herod in 4 B.C.E. Idumea was included with Judea and Samaria in the ethnarchy of Archelaus. When the latter was deposed in 6 C.E., Idumea became part of the Roman province of Judea. Furthermore Gaza was severed from any administrative connection with Idumea and added to the province of Syria. Consequently, the size of Idumea was reduced – and in view of the fact that by degrees the differences between the Idumeans and their northern neighbors became blurred – the Roman government decided to abolish the separate status of Idumea as an administrative district equal in status to Judea or Samaria. Toward the end of the Second Temple era, Idumea appears as one of the 11 ordinary toparchies of Judea (Jos., Wars, 3:55).
The Idumeans participated in the Roman War of 66–70 C.E. They were organized into their own detachments and, at the time of the fratricidal war in Jerusalem between the Zealots and their opponents under the leadership of Anan b. Anan, hastened to the help of the Zealots, on the assumption that Anan and his associates intended to deliver the city into the hands of the Romans. The Idumeans were led by four commanders. They penetrated into Jerusalem on a rainy night and freed the Zealots who were besieged in the Temple, thus triumphing over their enemies. During the siege of Jerusalem by Titus they constituted a special division, numbering 5,000 men. They were led by ten officers, the most prominent among them being *Jacob b. Sosas and Simeon b. Katala. They acted under the high command of Simeon b. Giora (Jos., Wars, 5:249). Johanan, the brother of Jacob, was killed during the siege (6:290), and the Idumeans were prominent in the defense of Jerusalem (9:358–6:92, 148). Titus, too, regarded them as an important element of the Judean military force (8:379). It is not known which were the most important Idumean centers of settlement at the end of the days of the Second Temple. At the time of the Parthian invasion in 40 B.C.E., Marissa had already been destroyed, and Adorah no longer appears in the sources of the period. On the other hand Hebron is mentioned (4:529, 554).
Idumea is frequently mentioned in Latin poems of the period, usually as a synonym for Judea.
In the Aggadah
Edom appears sometimes in the aggadah as referring to the actual Edomites and sometimes to the Romans, who are identified with them (see *Esau aggadah).
THE HISTORICAL EDOM
The historical Edom is chiefly discussed from the point of view of its relations with the Israelite people as these are reflected in the books of the Bible. Beside the enmity and hatred already stressed there, the aggadah emphasizes that Edom oppressed the people most closely akin to him. There are interesting aggadot which discuss, for example, the legal aspects of Israel-Edom relations in the time of King David (Gen. R. 74:15; ed. Theodor-Albeck, p. 872ff.), and also attempt to justify David's wars against Edom despite the biblical command laying down that Edom was not to be a heritage of the people of Israel (Deut. 2:5).
EDOM AS ROME
The identification of Edom with Rome is never found in the literature of the Second Temple period. It appears for the first time close to the Bar Kokhba revolt (cf. Margolioth, p. 610/2). R. Meir even connects it with the verse (Isa. 21:11), "The vision of Dumah" = the vision of Dome (דומי = רומי, Rome, TJ, Ta'an. 1:1, 64a see ed. princ.); also "The re'emim [wild-oxen] shall come down with them" (Isa. 34:7) is read as "The Romans shall come down with them" (PdRK 7, 11, ed. Mandelbaum, p. 134). The previous verses (5–6) speak of Edom (cf. also Targ. Jon. ed. Sperber, Isa. 9, "The streams thereof shall be turned into pitch": "The streams of Rome shall be turned into pitch"). Many scholars are of the opinion that the source of this identification lies in the connection between *Herod, a descendant of Edomite proselytes, whose evil rule over Judea left a harsh impression and the intensification of Roman rule in Judea, especially as Herod was virtually a vassal of Rome. However these conjectures cannot be accepted. Not only are substantial proofs lacking, but the identification appears only in the second quarter of the second century C.E., more than four generations after the death of Herod. It seems, therefore, that its source is to be sought elsewhere.
In the Bible Edom is described as the eternal enemy of Israel (and Judah, Amos 1:11; Ezek. 35:5) who not only always oppressed Israel, but at the time of the destruction of the First Temple took advantage of the situation and seized control of parts of Judah (Ezek. 25:12; 35:5, 10, 2; Obad. 11–16), and it is hinted that Edom also took part in the destruction of Jerusalem (Ps. 137:7; Obad. 11) and even in that of the Temple itself (Obad. 16). In consequence, during the Second Temple period there spread a belief that it was actually the Edomites who burned the First Temple (I Esdras 4:45; Ethiopian Enoch 89:66), and also interfered with the building of the Second Temple (ibid., 72). Hence the intense enmity toward Edom which grew stronger in the course of time (Ecclus. 50:25–26), until the conquest of Edom and its conversion to Judaism in the time of John Hyrcanus – a conquest which is the background to the descriptions of the wars of Jacob and his sons with Esau and his sons in the Book of Jubilees (37–38) and in the Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs (Judah 9). Edom is even compared to a black boar (I En. 89:12, 42–43, 49, 66; Jub. 37:20, 24). The intense hatred of Rome after the cruel crushing of the revolt of the Diaspora in the time of Trajan and still more after the harsh suppression of the Bar Kokhba revolt and the decrees of persecution in Hadrian's days; the fact that Rome, like Edom, had destroyed the Temple; the similarity of Edom, compared to a pig, with Rome, for whom the pig (or, more correctly, the sow) was a most important symbol; the allusions to Edom dwelling on high like an eagle and the fact that the eagle, too, was an important Roman symbol; and perhaps finally even the similarity to the name Rome and Romans in several verses that speak of Edom, Seir, and Esau – all these apparently combined to cause the application to Rome of the biblical references to Edom, the eternal enemy of Israel.
At the end of the tannaitic period, and still more in the amoraic, the identification became very widespread, and the overwhelming majority of homilies about Edom speak explicitly of Rome. Thus it was stated that Rome was founded by the children of Esau, and Rome was identified as one of the cities of the chiefs of Esau enumerated at the end of Genesis 36 (these identifications occur not only in the Midrashim and the Talmuds but also in the Palestinian *Targums of the Torah and in the Targums to Lamentations and Esther). At a still later period the term became a synonym for Christian Rome and thence for Christianity in general, and allusions were even found to *Constantinople among the cities of Edom (and see *Caesarea).
[Moshe David Herr /
Carl Stephen Ehrlich (2nd ed.)]
F. Buhl, Geschichte der Edomiter (1893); M. Noth, Das System der Zwoelf Staemme Israels (1930); N. Glueck, The Other Side of the Jordan (1940); R.H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (19522), 159–67 (on the S. Document); S. Abramsky, Mesillah ba-Aravah (1959); J. Liver (ed.), in: Historyah Ẓeva'it shel Ereẓ Yisrael … (1964), 190–205; S. Herrmann, in: Fourth World Congressof Jewish Studies, Papers, 1 (1967), 213–6 (Ger.); Y. Aharoni, in: Eretz Israel, 9 (1969), 10–21 (Heb. pt.), 134 (Eng. summ.). SECOND TEMPLE PERIOD: Klausner, Bayit Sheni, index; S. Klein, Erez Yehudah (1939), 249–54. IN THE AGGADAH: M. Gruenbaum, in: ZDMG, 31 (1877), 305–9; A. Epstein, Kol Kitvei, ed. A.M. Habermann, 2 (1957), 33; Ginzberg, Legends, 5 (19476), 272–3; Schuerer, Hist, 3 (19094), 320–11; I. Heinemann, Darkhei ha-Aggadah (1954), index, S.V. Esau; H. Fuchs, Der geistige Widerstand gegen Rom (19642), 69ff., 78. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Kasher, Jews, Idumeans, and Ancient Arabs (1988).
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.