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The name Edom ( Hebrew אדום) denotes both a tribal association that has settled east of the Jordan Depression since the late Iron Age , as well as the land itself (cf. Idumea ). Together with the Arameans , Midianites , Israelites and Joktanites , the Edomites mentioned in the Bible are counted among the Hebrews .


Edom in hieroglyphics
M17 A2 D46 Z7 G17
T14 N25


Edom means "red" and is possibly derived from the color of the sandstone mountains east of the Araba Depression . According to the biblical tradition, the name refers to the reddish skin or hair of Esau ( Genesis 25, 25 EU ). The color red or shades of red are often symbolically used in the OT to represent blood / life and activity / liveliness, power and strength ( Isaiah 63, 2-3 EU ), but also with negative signs in the context of sin ( Book of Wisdom 13, 14 EU ) and the associated repentance ( Numbers 19, 1 ff EU ).

Assyrian cuneiform sources mention Edom from the middle of the 8th century BC. As Udumi (???) or Udumu (???). Greeks and Romans referred to the ethnic group as Idumea , such as Strabo and Ptolemy .

The history and area of ​​Edom is currently being researched primarily by French archaeologists and historians and by the Natural History Society of Nuremberg . Pierre Bordreuil from the Center National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) is of the opinion that a peculiarity of palaeographical nature, namely the great similarity of the Hebrew consonants Daleth and Resch , has repeatedly led to confusion between the names Aram and Edom. He thinks that in the 2nd book Samuel 8,13 EU instead of "Arameans" actually "Edomites" and in the 1st book of Kings 11,14 EU actually "Arameans" and "Aram" instead of "Edomites" and "Edom" be read. A. Lemaire takes the view that the Edomite king list in the book of Genesis 36 : 31-39 EU was originally an Aramaic king list.


The Kingdom of Edom at its greatest extent (red) and the approximate extent of Idumea in the classical period (dark)

The area lay east of the southern part of the Jordan Depression, the Wadi Araba between Moab (border Wadi Hesa ) to the north and Seir (Seir Mountains) to the south and is now part of Jordan .

According to several biblical passages ( Gen 32.4  EU , Jos 11.17  EU ), the Edomites come from the Seir mountains southwest of the Dead Sea .

The settlement area of ​​the Edomites overlaps with the 600 to 400 BC. Areas populated by Idumeans and Nabataeans . The exact relationship between these ethnic groups is unclear.

In particular, it is unclear

  • whether the Idumeans were identical to the Edomites or were a separate separate ethnic group,
  • whether the Nabataeans were descendants of the Edomites or whether they replaced or superimposed them.


Reports of the Egyptian pharaohs from the 18th dynasty name a country Edom, which had to pay tribute to Egypt. It was west of the Orontes , below Aleppo at the Orontes bend. In the Egyptian language it was called Shamash Edom . Whether there was a connection to the biblical Edom cannot be ruled out with certainty.

The Edomites were initially a late Iron Age tribal association of arable farmers (mainly on the chalk-limestone plateau) and cattle breeders (mainly in the sandstone mountains). The Bible is the main (partial) testimony about the Edomites at this time and claims that the people were subjugated by the kingdom of David (i.e. around 1000 BC) and reorganized into a state with central administration. This is likely to be a fiction of the later Israelite historians. This was Esau the progenitor of the Edomites, they therefore kept the Edomites for tribal relatives.

The biblical Edom is first mentioned in an Egyptian text towards the end of the 8th century BC. Mentioned. It was probably an independent state; for 850 BC The Bible tells of an apostasy from Judah and the establishment of a king of his own. At the same time, Edom had to pay tribute to Aššur , for example during the reign of Adad-nīrārī III. to Assurbanipal , i.e. around 800 to 630 BC Then Edom fell as a province to Babylon , probably at the same time as Judah, and was probably from 552 BC. Under King Nabonidus part of the province of Arabia. After that Edom fell to Persia , but enjoyed around 400 BC. Possibly great political freedom. During this time Edomites also settled in Hebron : ancient geographers report that Idumeans and Nabataeans were the most important population group in Judea alongside the Judeans. The prophets of Tanakh reviled the Edomites and Moabites for various offenses against the Israelites.

Herod's dynasty, ruling under Roman rule in Israel and Judah, was of Edomite origin, but it was a Judaic family.


According to archaeological findings, from the 7th century BC Various defenses built by the Edomites. So z. B. in Buseira (Bosra, Buseirah), 45 km north of Petra , a metropolis and important administrative center of the country.

Remains of another city, Eilat , developed by Azariah , King of Judah , were discovered during excavations at Tell el-Cheleifeh (north of Aqaba ). The excavation of the Edomite settlement of Umm-el-Bijara by C.-M., discovered by G. Horsfield in 1929, was decisive for the archaeological progress . Bennet and the identification of the typical Edomite ceramics by N. Glueck. This made it possible to establish Edomite settlements such as B. Elat in Tell el-Cheleifeh, Buseira, es-Sela and Tawilan can be safely assigned.

Edom as a synonym

In later Jewish historiography, "Edom" and "Esau" were used to describe the Roman Empire due to the frequent use of the color red in the banners and standards of the Romans , possibly also because of the bloody regime of the Romans in Judea . In medieval rabbinical texts, Edom is often used as a synonym for the Byzantine Empire (which viewed itself as the continuing Roman Empire) or Christianity .

Edom in literature

This synonymous use of the word Edom is often found in Lion Feuchtwanger's historical novels . So z. B. in The Jewess of Toledo , when Jehuda speaks negatively of the sons of Edom. Or also in Jud Süss : “The wickedness of the wicked is great, Edom's malice is offset mightily against Israel.” Heinrich Heine also uses the term Edom in his poem “An Edom!” And in his “Rabbi von Bacherach” as a synonym for the Christian majority society.

In his volume of poetry Was noch noch von Edom , the Romanian-German poet Horst Samson uses the term Edom in the sense of state, father-country, land of fathers, in which the dictatorship is raging, destroying everything and driving people to flee, which is subtle and poetic metaphorical exaggeration of Edom as “inner home”, which emigrants and refugees drag along with them forever as important virtual luggage.


The main god of the Edomites was Qaus . His name means "bow", probably meaning rainbow (cf. also Gen 9,13  EU ). Qaus was therefore a weather god who later assumed a warlike character.

From the second half of the 8th century BC. The name of God appears first as part of the name for Edomite kings: Qaus-Malak (Qaus is king ) or z. B. c. 677-667 BC King Qaus-Gabar (Qaus is strong). An administrative text from the 6th century BC. BC begins with the words: “I bless you in the name of the Qaus.” Decades later, proper names that contain “Qaus” as part of the name accumulate in Edom.

Even after the loss of national independence after the Hellenization , Qaus was revered by the Edomites, as numerous names translated into Greek prove. Even Flavius Josephus knows him in the form "Koze".

The outstanding position of Qaus probably led to the fact that the Bible counts the Edomites among the followers of YHWH in several places . According to the Deborahlied Edom and Seir belong to the countries in which YHWH showed himself (cf. Ri 5,4  EU ).

See also


  • Pierre Bordreuil: A long common history with Israel. In: World and Environment of the Bible , Issue 7, 1st quarter 1978, p. 22.
  • Manfred Lindner : The Edomites in southern Jordan. In: World and Environment of the Bible , Issue 7, 1st quarter 1978, pp. 57–58.
  • Mary LT Witter: Edom and the Edomites. Bohmeier Verlag 2005, ISBN 3-89094-451-5 .
  • Jakob Wöhrle:  Edom. In: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen, Stefan Alkier (Eds.): The Scientific Biblical Lexicon on the Internet (WiBiLex), Stuttgart 2006 ff.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Rainer Hannig: Large Concise Dictionary Egyptian-German: (2800 - 950 BC) . von Zabern, Mainz 2006, ISBN 3-8053-1771-9 , p. 1122.
  2. Note: The adjective is אָדוֹם - 'ādôm . The corresponding verb is ם - 'dm in Bdt. v. turn red or be red .
  3. 2 Sam 8.14  EU
  4. cf. Gen 36.10-19  EU ; Dtn 2.4-8  EU
  5. ^ Lion Feuchtwanger: Jud Suss. Structure, Berlin 2002, p. 258.
  6. Heinrich Heine: Complete Writings. Edited by Klaus Briegleb, Volume 1, Munich 1975, p. 271.
  7. What was left of Edom. Nosmas Verlag, Neuberg 1994