1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Idumaea
IDUMAEA (Ἰδουμαῖα), the Greek equivalent of Edom (אֱדֹם), a territory which, in the works of the Biblical writers, is considered to lie S.E. of the Dead Sea, between the land of Moab and the Gulf of Akaba. Its name, which is connected with the root meaning “red,” is probably applied in reference to the red sandstone ranges of the mountains of Petra. This etymology, however, is not certain. The apparently theophorous name Obed-Edom (2 Sam. vi. 10) shows that Edom is the name of a divinity. Of this there is other evidence; a Leiden papyrus names Etum as the wife of the Semitic fire-god Reshpu.
The early history of Edom is hidden in darkness. The Egyptian references to it are few, and do not give us much light regarding its early inhabitants. In the early records of the Pentateuch, the country is often referred to by the name of Seir, the general name for the whole range of mountains on the east side of the Jordan-Araba depression south of the Dead Sea. These mountains were occupied, so early as we can find any record, by a cave-dwelling aboriginal race known as Horites, who were smitten by the much-discussed king Chedorlaomer (Gen. xiv. 6) and according to Deut. ii. 22 were driven out by the Semitic tribes of Esau’s descendants. The Horites are to us little more than a name, though the discovery of cave-dwellers of very early date at Gezer in the excavations of 1902–1905 has enabled us to form some idea as to their probable culture-status and physical character.
The occupants of Edom during practically the whole period of Biblical history were the Bedouin tribes which claimed descent through Esau from Abraham, and were acknowledged by the Israelites (Deut. xxiii. 7) as kin. That they intermarried with the earlier stock is suggested by the passage in Gen. xxxvi. 2, naming, as one of the wives of Esau, Oholibamah, daughter of Zibeon the Horite (corrected by verse 20). Among the peculiarities of the Edomites was government by certain officials known as אַלּוּפִים which the English versions (by too close a reminiscence of the Vulgate duces) translate “dukes.” The now naturalized word “sheikhs” would be the exact rendering. In addition to this Bedouin organization there was the curious institution of an elective monarchy, some of whose kings are catalogued in Gen. xxxvi. 31-39 and 1 Chron. i. 43-54. These kings reigned at some date anterior to the time of Saul. No deductions as to their chronology can be based on the silence regarding them in Moses’ song, Exodus xv. 15. There was a king in Edom (Num. xx. 14) who refused passage to the Israelites in their wanderings.
The history of the relations of the Edomites and Israelites may be briefly summarized. Saul, whose chief herdsman, Doeg, was an Edomite (1 Sam. xxi. 7), fought successfully against them (1 Sam. xiv. 47). Joab (1 Kings xi. 16) or Abishai, as his deputy (1 Chron. xviii. 11, 13), occupied Edom for six months and devastated it; it was garrisoned and permanently held by David (2 Sam. viii. 14). But a refugee named Hadad, who escaped as a child to Egypt and grew up at the court of the Egyptian king, returned in Solomon’s reign and made a series of reprisal raids on the Israelite territory (1 Kings xi. 14). This did not prevent Solomon introducing Edomites into his harem (1 Kings xi. 1) and maintaining a navy at Ezion-geber, at the head of the Gulf of Akaba (1 Kings ix. 26). Indeed, until the time of Jehoram, when the land revolted (2 Kings viii. 20, 22), Edom was a dependency of Judah, ruled by a viceroy (1 Kings xxii. 47). An attempt at recovering their independence was temporarily quelled in a campaign by Amaziah (2 Kings xiv. 7), and Azariah his successor was able to renew the sea trade of the Gulf of Akaba (2 Kings xiv. 22) which had probably languished since the wreck of Jehoshaphat’s ships (1 Kings xxii. 48); but the ancient kingdom had been re-established by the time of Ahaz, and the king’s name, Ḳaush-Malak, is recorded by Tiglath Pileser. He made raids on the territory of Judah (2 Chron. xxviii. 17). The kingdom, however, was short-lived, and it was soon absorbed into the vassalage of Assyria.
The later history of Edom is curious. By the constant westward pressure of the eastern Arabs, which (after the restraining force of the great Mesopotamian kingdoms was weakened) assumed irresistible strength, the ancient Edomites were forced across the Jordan-Araba depression, and with their name migrated to the south of western Palestine. In 1 Maccabees v. 65 we find them at Hebron, and this is one of the first indications that we discover of the cis-Jordanic Idumaea of Josephus and the Talmud.
Josephus used the name Idumaea as including not only Gobalitis, the original Mount Seir, but also Amalekitis, the land of Amalek, west of this, and Akrabatine, the ancient Acrabbim, S.W. of the Dead Sea. In War IV. viii. 1, he mentions two villages “in the very midst of Idumaea,” named Betaris and Caphartobas. The first of these is the modern Beit Jibrin (see Eleutheropolis), the second is Tuffūḥ, near Hebron. Jerome describes Idumaea as extending from Beit Jibrin to Petra, and ascribes the great caves at the former place to cave-dwellers like the aboriginal Horites. Ptolemy’s account presents us with the last stage, in which the name Idumaea is entirely restricted to the cis-Jordanic district, and the old trans-Jordanic region is absorbed in Arabia.
The Idumaean Antipater was appointed by Julius Caesar procurator of Judaea, Samaria and Galilee, as a reward for services rendered against Pompey. He was the father of Herod the Great, whose family thus was Idumaean in origin. (See Palestine.) (R. A. S. M.)
- A curious etymological speculation connects the name with the story of Esau’s begging for Jacob’s pottage, Gen. xxv. 30.
- The same word is used in the anonymous prophecy incorporated in the book of Zachariah (xii. 5), and in one or two other places as well, of Hebrew leaders.