BibleAsk Team

What is Edom in the Bible? 


The inhabitants of Edom descended from Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (Genesis 36:1). This word in Hebrew means “red,” a reference to Esau’s reddish look at birth (Genesis 25:25). The Edomites were the offspring of both Isaac and Abraham, thus related to the Israelites (Genesis 36:1).   

The land of the Edomites, known also as “mount Seir” (Genesis 36:8), was south of the Dead Sea, extending for a distance of about 100 mi. (160 km.). It is located south of Moab, stretching from the brook Zered southward toward the Gulf of Aqabah. It encompassed the country on both sides of the Arabah. This group of people lived in the city of Petra.

The country to the east of the Arabah is distinguished by colorful limestone. Though it is semidesert and lightly populated today, there is abundant archeological proof that this land in Biblical times supported a great population. It was significant for its rich copper and iron deposits (Deuteronomy 8:9), which its kings utilized. It governed the trade pathway from the desert to western Palestine and the Mediterranean and the great King’s Highway.  

Relationship to Israel 

The Edomites were related to the Israelites. For this reason, Israel was commanded to show them special consideration (Deuteronomy 23:7). They were related to the Israelites more than were either the Moabites or the Ammonites. Although relations between the two nations seem initially to have been fairly friendly (Deuteronomy 2:4–6, 29), it later turned into enmity and the two nations lived in continual conflict. The Edomites took particular delight in the fact that Jerusalem was ruined by the Babylonians (Psalm 137:7). 


The Edomites flourished long before the Israelites. In the Pre-Mosaic era, Moses in Genesis 36:31-39 lists 8 Edomite rulers. Their monarchy was not hereditary, since in no case did a son come after his father. It was, rather, elective, with the kings chosen, possibly, by the “dukes,” which was similar to rulers of the Roman Empire.  

In the Mosaic era, the Edomites did not permit the Israelites to pass through their land in their way to the Promised Land (Numbers 20:14-21). In fact, their king gathered his troops and made a show of force, showing every intention of resisting by force of arms any attempt at passage through his country. However, they did sell the Israelites the needed provisions (Deuteronomy 2:28, 29). 

In the kings’ era, David had conquered the Edomites (2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Chronicles 18:12, 13). But Upon the death of David, Hadad the Edomite returned from Egypt to be a thorn in the flesh to Solomon and fight with him (1 Kings 11:14-25). Because of Solomon’s sins, he could not have full victory over them. The Edomites also fought King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:22), and they “revolted against Judah’s authority, and made a king over themselves” (2 Chronicles 21:8). 


The prophet Obadiah mentioned Edom as a people to be condemned for their pride in having great joy over the destruction of Jerusalem (Obadiah 1:1, 8). The prophet predicted that the Edomites would be “small among the nations . . . utterly despised” (Obadiah 1:2) And that “‘The house of Jacob shall be a fire, and the house of Joseph a flame; but the house of Esau shall be stubble; they shall kindle them and devour them, and no survivor shall remain of the house of Esau” (verse 18). 

Jeremiah’s prophecy against the Edomites closely parallels that of Obadiah. Several passages are so strikingly similar (Jeremiah 49:7; cf. Obadiah 8; Jeremiah 49:9, 10a; cf. Obadiah 5, 6; Jeremiah 49:14–16; cf. Obadiah 1–4) that it is believed that the two prophets were collaborating in their work.

The prophecy of Obadiah was partially fulfilled when, the Nabateans overcame them and kicked them out of Petra in the 5th century B.C. Consequently, the Edomites moved south of Israel and lived in Idumea. Then, they were again overcome by John Hyrcanus before 100 B.C. (Josephus Antiquities xiii. 9. 1). And they fully disappeared from history, thus, completly fulfilling Obadiah prophecy. 

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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