Edom and the Edomites: Bible Verses, History and Symbolism

Edom was an empire primarily related to Esau and his offspring in the Bible. Discover the biblical relevance and symbolism of the Edomites.

Updated Sep 07, 2022
Edom and the Edomites: Bible Verses, History and Symbolism

Edom was a biblical empire primarily related to Esau and his offspring. The Edomites were connected to the Israelites through Jacob, the father of the brothers Jacob and Esau. They are also known as Idumeans, as Idumea was used by the Greeks and Romans for the country of Edom.

The phrase "Edom" is found 100 times in scripture (including "Edomites"), which harkens to the importance and prevalence of Jacob and his descendants in the Old Testament.

Edom in the Bible

Genesis 25:30 - And Esau said to Jacob, "Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary." Therefore his name was called Edom.

Genesis 32:3 - Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.

Genesis 36:1 - Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom.

Deuteronomy 23:7-8 - “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother. You shall not abhor an Egyptian, because you were a sojourner in his land. Children born to them in the third generation may enter the assembly of the Lord."

Isaiah 34:5 - For my sword has drunk its fill in the heavens; behold, it descends for judgment upon Edom, upon the people I have devoted to destruction.

Amos 2:1 - Thus says the Lord: “For three transgressions of Moab, and for four, I will not revoke the punishment, because he burned to lime the bones of the king of Edom.

Malachi 1:4-5 - If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the Lord of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, and they will be called ‘the wicked country,’ and ‘the people with whom the Lord is angry forever.’” Your own eyes shall see this, and you shall say, “Great is the Lord beyond the border of Israel!”

Genealogy of the Edomites Through Esau

Now this is the genealogy of Esau, who is Edom. Esau took his wives from the daughters of Canaan: Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Aholibamah the daughter of Anah, the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite; and Basemath, Ishmael's daughter, sister of Nebajoth. Now Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, and Basemath bore Reuel. And Aholibamah bore Jeush, Jaalam, and Korah. These were the sons of Esau who were born to him in the land of Canaan.

Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the persons of his household, his cattle and all his animals, and all his goods which he had gained in the land of Canaan, and went to a country away from the presence of his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together, and the land where they were strangers could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau dwelt in Mount Seir. Esau is Edom. And this is the genealogy of Esau the father of the Edomites in Mount Seir. (Genesis 36:1-9)

The History of Edom

The name Edom was given to Esau, Isaac's first-born son and Jacob's twin brother, when he sold his birthright to the latter for a meal of lentil pottage. The country the Lord subsequently gave to Esau was called "the country of Edom" (Genesis 32:3), and his descendants were called Edomites. Edom was also known as Mount Seir and Idumea. Edom was a thoroughly mountainous region. The ancient capital of Edom was Bozrah (Buseireh). Sela (Petra) appears to have been the principal stronghold in the days of Amaziah (B.C. 838). (2 Kings 14:7) Elath and Ezion-Geber were the seaports. (2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Kings 9:26).

Esau's bitter hatred for his brother Jacob for fraudulently obtaining his blessing appears to have been inherited by his latest posterity. The Edomites peremptorily refused to permit the Israelites to pass through their land. (Numbers 20:18-21) For a period of 400 years, we hear no more of the Edomites. They were then attacked and defeated by Saul (1 Samuel 14:47) and some forty years later by David. (2 Samuel 8:13-14) In the reign of Jehoshaphat (B.c. 914), the Edomites attempted to invade Israel but failed. (2 Chronicles 20:22) They joined Nebuchadnezzar when that king besieged Jerusalem. At this time, they were fearfully denounced for their cruelty by the later prophets. (Isaiah 34:5-8; Jeremiah 49:17

After this, they settled in southern Palestine and continued to prosper for more than four centuries. But during the warlike rule of the Maccabees, they were again completely subdued and even forced to conform to Jewish laws and rites and submit to the government of Jewish prefects. The Edomites were now incorporated with the Jewish nation. They were idolaters. (2 Chronicles 25:14-20) Their habits were singular. The Horites, their predecessors in Mount Seir, were, as their name implies, troglodytes, or dwellers in caves; and the Edomites seem to have adopted their dwellings as well as their country. Everywhere we meet with caves and grottos hewn in the soft sandstone strata. (Excerpt from the Smith Bible Dictionary)

Who does Edom Symbolize?

The name Edom signifies “red,” which is readily connected with Esau, who traded his birthright for red stew and then acquired the name Edom (Genesis 25:30). Despite the connection with Esau, numerous scholars consider that the kingdom of Edom was associated with red because of the red cliffs located in its location before Esau took control of it. Bozrah and Petra (or Sela) were prominent cities in Edom, with Bozrah as the kingdom's capital and principal city.

The book of Obadiah addresses Edom’s judgment specifically. The Edomites were proud (Obadiah 1:3), violent (Obadiah 1:10), and indifferent to the annihilation of Israel (Obadiah 1:11), and therefore God pledged a reckoning for their transgressions. After the Edomites were forced from their land by the Nabateans, they relocated to the southern part of Israel and became known as the Idumeans. Farther in biblical history, Herod the Great, an Idumean, emerges as a biblical figure. Herod attempted to murder the newborn Jesus in Bethlehem, continuing Edom's rebellion.

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