A kingdom that neighbored Judah on its southeastern border during the Iron Age. It encompassed the area southward from the Wadi Hesa in Jordan to the Gulf of Aqaba, and, during part of this period, included the area called Seir, southwest of the Dead Sea and south of Kadesh‐barnea (see Map 1:Y7).

Very little is known about Edom. Virtually no Edomite inscriptions have been found, apart from some seals and a few ostraca. The primary literary source for the history of Edom is the Bible, but only the barest outline can be constructed from that source. Some information comes from Assyrian records, and archaeological excavations and surveys have enabled a general picture of the development of the region to be sketched.

The early development of Edom remains largely unknown. The stories in Genesis that describe family relationships between Israel's ancestors and those of all the surrounding kingdoms are generally understood to be artificial. For Edom this is particularly clear, since the connection between Isaac's brother Esau and Edom is tenuous and awkward in the narratives of Genesis 25:19–34 and is almost certainly a later imposition on the stories.

Archaeological surveys indicate that the land of Edom was occupied fairly sparsely during the Late Bronze Age (ca. 1550–1200 BCE), with only a few small fortified towns and some tiny villages. The geographic name Edom appears for the first time in an Egyptian document of the thirteenth century BCE.

Numbers 20.14–21 suggests that Edom was already a monarchy at the time of the Exodus in the thirteenth century. Recent studies, however, have cast considerable doubt about the historicity of this and related stories. Even the so‐called Edomite king list in Genesis 36.31–39 has been shown to be garbled and unreliable.

Saul is said to have fought Edom successfully (1 Sam. 14:47), but it was David who conquered it and incorporated it into his empire, setting up garrisons throughout the land (2 Sam. 8.14). Although a certain Hadad tried to rebel against Solomon, he does not appear to have been successful (1 Kings 11.14–22). Edom remained under Israelite control, ruled by an Israelite governor until the reign of Jehoram of Judah in the mid‐ninth century (2 Kings 8.20). At that time the Edomites successfully rebelled and set up their own king.

During the reigns of Amaziah of Judah (797–769) and Uzziah (769–734) Edom again came under Judean domination. Uzziah recaptured and rebuilt Elath on the Gulf of Aqaba early in his reign. But in the reign of Ahaz Edom decisively threw off Judean control and remained independent of Judah from that time on.

In Judah's place, however, came Assyrian domination, but as was the case also for Ammon and Moab, the Assyrian presence appears to have been economically and politically beneficial to Edom. Excavations at Buseira (probably the Edomite capital Bozrah), Tawilan, and Tell el‐Kheleifeh (Elath), show that the late eighth through the mid‐sixth centuries BCE saw the peak of Edomite prosperity and expansion. It is from these centuries that monumental architecture is known, and there are indications that Edom expanded its influence into the southern hinterlands of Judah.

Edom seems to have survived the violence of the Babylonian campaigns under Nebuchadrezzar, and, although Buseira, Tawilan, and other sites suffered destruction later in the sixth century, the region recovered and continued to play a role in international trade during the Persian period. With the rise of the Nabateans, a significant proportion of the Edomites seem to have moved westward, so that, by the Hellenistic period, Idumea (the Greek form of Edom) was the name of the region directly to the south of Judah (Map 10:W‐X5–6; see 1 Macc. 4.29). The most famous Idumean was Herod the Great.

Attested Edomite names suggest that the Edomites worshiped the well‐known West Semitic gods, Hadad/Baal and El. But it appears that the primary deity of Edom was a god named Qaus/Qos. Little is known of this god, and even his basic characteristics (is he a war god or a storm god?) are debated. Some scholars have speculated that in the late second/early first millennium BCE, Yahweh may have been an important deity in Edomite religion, since a few biblical passages link Yahweh closely with Edom and Seir (Judg. 5.4; Deut. 33.2; Hab. 3.3).

Although Deuteronomy 23.8 expresses a tolerant attitude toward the Edomites, most biblical passages dealing with the kingdom display a severe hostility toward it, reflecting the almost constant conflict between Judah and Edom. Considerable bitterness is evident in the biblical texts concerning Edom's attitudes and actions after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587/586 BCE (see, e.g., Jer. 49.7–22; Obad.; Isa. 34). Edom, in fact, became a symbol of Israel's enemies in postexilic literature.

Wayne T. Pitard