The Country and Its Names. The country known in the Old Testament principally as Edom (Hebr. 'Edhom, Assyr. Udumu or Udumi, Egyptian Aduma) lay southeast of Palestine, and included the valley of the Arabah south of the Dead Sea, approximately 100 miles in length, and the mountain ranges which border it, with a somewhat indefinite extent of territory east and west, corresponding to the present al-Sherâ. In its greatest extent it reached north and south from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Akabah, eastward to the Arabian desert, and westward to the desert of Sin (Josh. xv. 1). The name most probably means "Red (Land)," from the color of the sandstone cliffs which are a prominent feature of the topography. Other possibilities are that Edom is the name of a deity, or that it means "man (par excellence)," being connected with “Adam," the Bible name for the first man. The country is also known as Seir and Mount Seir (Heb. Se'ir, "hairy," possibly from the effect of the wooded or brushy crests of the mountains as seen from a distance, Gen. xxv. 25, 30, xxvii. 11, 23, xxxii. 3; Num. xxiv. 18; Deut. i. 44; and often); and, poetically, "the mountains of Esau" (Obad. 8-9, 19, 21). The later name was Idumea (Isa. xxxiv. 5-6; Ezek. xxxv. 15, xxxvi. 5; Mark iii. 8). The region is at present for the most part barren, though portions in the east are not only tillable but luxuriantly fertile. The valley has an elevation of 600 feet near the middle part of its length, and slopes northward down to the Dead Sea, and south to the eastern arm of the Red Sea. Among its cities were Mann (Judges x. 12), the present Ma'an; Punon or Pinon (Num. xxxiii. 42-43; cf. Gen. xxxvi. 41); Bozrah (Gen. xxxvi. 33, and often), probably the capital, the modern Buseirah; Selah or Petra (I1 Kings xiv. 7). Possibly Teman (Gen. xxxvi. 34; Jer. xlix. 7, 20; Amos i. 12; and often) was the name of a district, not of a city. An important feature of the country were the trade-routes which cut or skirted it, especially that from Damascus to the Red Sea, and the eastern and western road from Babylonia to Egypt.
The People. The Edomites belonged to the northern branch of the Semitic race, with the Moabites, Ammonites, and Hebrews constituting the Hebraic group. The Old Testament makes them descendants of Esau (who is as eponym given the name Edom because of his coloring; cf. Gen. xxv. 25), the elder brother of Jacob-Israel. This statement of the relationship of the two brothers is the expression of the consciousness in Israel of the earlier origin or crystallization into nationality of the Edomites. But the latter appear as the conquering invaders of the country, not as the autochthonous inhabitants, who are called "sons of Seir the Horite" or "Horites " (Gen. xxxvi. 2, 20; Dent. ii. 12, 22; cf. the Egyptian Sa`aïra; "Horites" probably means troglodytes; see GEZER; cf. the Egyptian designation of the people as Haru), who are represented as continuing in the land, while the Egyptian reports of two peoples as "Beduin from Aduma" and Sa`aïra existing side by side east of Egypt corroborate the representation. According to Gen. xxxvi. 15-19 the Edomites were composed of thirteen clans; Gen. xxxvi. 40-43 implies only eleven. Gen. xxxvi. 31 names eight Edomitic kings; and Num. xx. 14 and Judges xi. 17 imply a kingdom as early as Moses. The people are described as hunters, agriculturists, and viticulturists, which corresponds to the nature of the country. Their home on the great roads of commerce also gave them tribute from that source, and they may have been carriers. Of their religion little is known; II Chron. xxv. 14 makes them polytheists (cf. I Kings xi. 5-6). Divine names form elements in the names usually borne by Edomites, and it has been shown to be plausible that the name Edom belonged to a deity who became the eponymous ancestor of the people (cf. the names Gad and Asher [qq.v.]). The name Obededom, "servant of Edom" (found also in an inscription from Carthage), is much in favor of this hypothesis, while an Egyptian papyrus knows of a goddess Atuma, possibly implying a Semitic male deity Atum. The element Baal in Baalhanan (Gen. xxxvi. 38-39) may be a mere appellative. Hadad (Hadar, Gen. xxxvi. 35-36, 39; I Kings xi. 14 sqq.) may have been an Aramean loan-god. In the cuneiform inscriptions a proper name is possibly to be read Malik-rammu, the first element of which may be compared with Moloch in its general meaning of king of his people. Ye'ush, an Edomite clan name (Gen. xxxvi. 5), may be the Edomitic form of Ya'uth, the name of an Arabic deity. Josephus (Ant. XV., vii. 9) knows of an Edomitic deity Koze, and he is corroborated by numerous inscriptions in cognate languages and by the element Kaus appearing in proper names (see below). Nothing is known of Edomitic civilization, though the trade-routes passing through the land must have had results in this direction. One of Job's friends was Eliphaz of Teman, presumably an Edomite, and it has been plausibly suggested that the Book of Job is Edomitic. Not a single inscription of the language has survived, but the tongue probably differed only dialectically from Hebrew.
History till the Assyrian Period. Apart from the early Biblical references (Gen. xxxvi. 35, which credits the Edomites with a victory over the Midianites), the region and its people enter history by the mention in Egyptian documents of the thirteenth century of Shasu (Bedouin) from Aduma (ut sup.) who were allowed to pasture their flocks near the Egyptian frontier, and a papyrus states that the Shasu of Sa`aïra (Seir) were defeated in battle (c. 1200). Gen. xxxii. 4, xxxvi. 8 asserts that Esau took up his abode on Mount Seir. The story of the Exodus makes Israel encompass the Edomitic territory, permission being refused to pass directly through the region. The next contact of the two peoples appears in the campaign of Saul against them (I Sam. xiv. 47), which appears to have had no permanent results, as David was in conflict with them probably in the valley south of the Dead Sea (II Sam. viii. 13-14; cf. I Kings xi. 15-16; I Chron. xviii. 11-13), and Joab is said to have extirpated the males in this campaign of half a year. At this time probably was laid the beginning of that intense enmity between the peoples which lasted till the time of Herod the Great. One of the royal house escaped either to Egypt (Heb. Mizraim) or to the North Arabian Muzri (see ASSYRIA, VI, 2), where he married and his son Genubath was brought up, and then proved a thorn in the side of Solomon (I Kings xi. 14-22, 25b, where read 'Edhom instead of 'Aram, "Syrians"). The latter's command of the Gulf of Akaba, involving control of the roads leading thither, shows that the Edomitic territory was under Hebrew dominion (I Kings ix. 26-28). After the division of the kingdom Edom fell to the portion of Judah, and in the time of Jehoshaphat (c. 850) must still have been subject to Judah (II Kings iii.), since the king of Judah was in control of Ezion-geber (I Kings xxii. 48); it is also stated (ver. 47) that the ruler of Edom at the time was a "deputy" (cf. II Kings iii. 9. 10, 12, 26, where the ruler is called king). In the campaign of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat against Moab the Edomites furnished part of the allied forces, almost certainly as a tributary people. In the reign of Jehoshaphat's son Joram they revolted, with at least partial success (II Kings viii. 20-22; II Chron. xxi. 8-10). Amaziah inflicted a severe defeat (c. 790), capturing Selah (II Kings xiv. 7; II Chron. xxv. 11), and Amaziah's successor Uzziah was in possession of Elath, one of the ports on the Gulf of Akabah (II Kings xiv. 22; II Chron. xxvi. 2, 7). Later the Edomites seem to have been allies of the Syrians (II Kings xvi. 6), and were active against Judah (II Chron. xxviii. 17).
They figure in the cuneiform inscriptions about 734-732 as tributary to Assyria under their king Kausmalik. In 711 Edom was a member of the great western coalition against Sargon, but rendered tribute to the great conqueror. They were also in the confederation of 701 led by Hezekiah, but the Edomitic king Malik-rammu submitted and paid tribute. Kausgabri, king of Edom, was one of the princes subject to Esarhaddon (681-668) and to Asshurbanipal (668-626). Edomitic representatives were among those who consulted at Jerusalem, evidently with the idea of resisting the approach of Nebuchadrezzar (Jer. xxvii. 3). The Deuteronomic representation implies friendly relations about 625 (Deut. ii. 4-5, xxiii. 8). On the capture of Jerusalem Judean fugitives found refuge in Edom (Jer. xl. 11). Yet at that period the long hostility between the two peoples found vent in Edomitic rejoicing which raised new bitterness in the Hebrew mind (Lam. iv. 21-22; Ezek. xxxv. 3-15; Obad. 10-16). Edomites seized the territory of southern Judah, including the region about Hebron, to which the name of Idumea was given, bearing witness to the fact. A contributing cause for this northward movement was doubtless the pressure exerted upon Edom by the Nabatæan wave of migration from Arabia (see ARABIA, III). There is reason to believe that the Edomites maintained their hold upon the district and even advanced to the neighborhood of Jerusalem, where they appear to have been just before the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, after which the strength of the Jews probably restricted them to the south. Judas the Maccabee fought them (I Macc. v. 3, 65) and finally drove them from Jewish territory. John Hyrcanus carried operations into their own country, conquered them, and compelled them (c. 109) to adopt Jewish rites and religion (Josephus, Ant., XIII. ix. 1, XV. vii. 9; War, I. ii. 6, III. iii. 5), Idumea becoming fully recognized as Jewish territory. There is reason to believe that they were amalgamated with the Jews, lost their national identity, and added one more strain to the much mixed blood of the Jews. The people of South Judah not only gave the dynasty of Herod (see HEROD AND HIS FAMILY), but took part in the final revolt of the Jews against the Romans, and suffered with them in the catastrophe.
GEO. W. GILMORE.
Bibliography: F. Buhl, Geschichte der Edomiter, Leipsic, 1893; W. Libbey and F. E. Hoskins, The Jordan Valley and Petra, New York, 1905; Schrader, KAT, i. passim; F. Baethgen, Beiträge zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte, pp. 10 sqq., Berlin, 1889; E. H. Palmer, Desert of the Exodus, 429 sqq., Cambridge, 1871; E. Hull, Mount Seir, etc., pp. 85 sqq., London, 1885; J. F. McCurdy, History, Prophecy and the Monuments, 3 vols., New York, 1894, 1896; E. Meyer, Entstehung des Judentums, pp. 114 sqq., Halle, 1896; E. Robinson, Researches, ii. 117 sqq., 168 sqq., London, 1841-43; A. Musil, Arabia Petræa, ii., Edom, Vienna, 1908.