Note. Although Edom refers to a group of people, the Edomites, they are not a city. Their major city was Petra which of course, suffered the same fate as the people. Edom is grouped with cities because biblical prophecies regarding them are numerous and specific.

Genesis chapter 12, tells of God calling Abraham (Abram see Genesis 17:5) at the age of 75, to leave his home in Ur and go to a place that God will show him and that God will make him into a great nation and all people will be blessed through him. However, Abraham did not have any children and his wife Sarah (Sarai, see Genesis 17:15) was past the child-bearing age. Ten years go by and no child, so Sarah tells Abraham that maybe God needs some help so he should take her Egyptian servant girl Hagar and have a child through her.[1] Hagar gives birth to Ishmael whose off spring became the Arab people. At the age of 90 or 91, Sarah gave birth through Abraham who is now 100, to a son whom they named Isaac.[2] He is often referred to as the “child of the promise.” The promises God gave to Abraham were passed on to Isaac. Isaac’s wife Rebekah, had twin boys with Esau being born before Jacob. In those days, the right of inheritance fell on the first son, but Esau traded this for a bowl of lentil soup.[3] Consequently, all of God’s promises to Abraham passed on to Jacob. As well, Jacob deceived his father Isaac, who was blind at this stage, to give his blessing to him rather than Esau. This made Esau angry and many years later Esau had the opportunity to wipe out Jacob and all his family, but he relented.[4]

While Jacob married from within his own family, Esau took foreign wives:

When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. They were a source of grief to Jacob and Rebekah.[5]

Esau’s Hittite wives worshipped false god and idols. This act of defiance by Esau followed through all of his descendants as they rejected the One true God and worshipped false gods and this ultimately brought about their demise.

God changed Jacob’s name to Israel[6] and his descendants became known as the Israelites and they received the promises God made to Abraham.  The descendants of Esau became the Edomites,[7] and their main city, Petra, was built into the rock face in the mountains south-east of the Dead Sea, such as to render it almost impregnable. They placed their faith in their own ability to construct an unassailable fortress. In fact, Obadiah in verse 3 refers to the Edomites boasting: Who can bring me down to the ground?

The reasons for God’s condemnation of Edom

  1. As the Children of Israel were coming out of the desert and heading towards the Promised Land, Moses asked the king of Edom to allow them to pass through since they were ‘brothers.’[8] The king refused and attacked them when they tried.[9] and for this action God held Edom to account as well as for the fact that the Edomites opposed Israel at every opportunity.[10]
  2. Also, as the Babylonians were destroying Jerusalem, the Edomites did not attempt to help their “brother.”[11] In fact, they even cheered as Jerusalem was being destroyed.[12]

Prophecies against Edom

God had Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah and Ezekiel pronounce many judgments on the Edomites.

  • They shall have a bloody history (Ezekiel 35:6, Isaiah 34:5–7).
  • Edom will be stripped bare; her hiding places will be uncovered. You who live in the clefts of the rocks. From there, I will bring you down. So no man will live there; no man will dwell in it. (Jeremiah 49:7-18).
  • everyone in Esau’s mountains will be cut down in the slaughter. Because of the violence against your brother Jacob. (Obadiah 9-10).
  • People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau (Obadiah 19).
  • I will take vengeance on Edom by the hand of my people Israel. (Ezekiel 25:14).
  • Edom will become totally desolate, a haunt for jackals, a home for owls and wild animals will inhabit the area (Isaiah 34:13–15).

The fulfillment of these prophecies

Under the Persian empire, Edom became a province called Idumea, the Greek form of Edom. In 325 BC, an Arab tribe known as Nebateans conquered the eastern part of Edom’s territory and it was they who built the ornate dwellings as shown, carved into the rock. Also, they made Petra a great trading city. During the intertestamental Hasmonean period, John Hyrcanus subdued the Idumeans and forced them to accept Judaism.[13] Edom was included in the land that the Romans conquered.[14] After the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the Idumeans and hence the Edomites disappeared from history and the remains of their ancient capital, Petra was forgotten until it was discovered by the Swiss traveler J L Burkhardt, whose image is shown, visited the area in 1812, he saw the place as a wild desert and even though the Edomites are mentioned multiple tens of times in the Bible, many doubted their existence. Another early traveler noted that the area was abounding with a variety of scorpions and vipers to such an extent that the local Arabs avoided the place.[15]

How accurate were the prophesies?

  • It has had bloody history as Ezekiel predicted.
  • People from the Negev will occupy the mountains of Esau Obadiah prophesised. The Nebateans were a group of nomadic Arabs whose field of wandering covered the Negev and it was these people who occupied the mountains of Esau.
  • The Israelites under John Hyrcanus, subdued the Idumeans and forced them to accept Judaism in accordance with Ezekiel’s prophecy.
  • Edom was stripped bare and her hiding places uncovered. The ghostly vacant carved buildings at Petra stand testimony to the truth of Jeremiah’s and Obadiah’s prophecies.
  • The nation and city had become a desolation, as Ezekiel and Isaiah prophesised.
  • It has never been populated again as Jeremiah stated.
  • Edom became barren and only populated with wild animals as Isaiah predicted.


The descendants of the twin brothers, Esau and Jacob have vastly different histories, Jacob’s descendants received the promises God gave to Abraham, not only the land but also the blessing of all people through the Messiah and they dominate the news media even in the 21st century. Esau’s descendants received the wrath of God and disappeared from the pages of history in a manner consistent with the many prophecies concerning them.

The history of Edom confirms the reliability of the Bible.

Acknowledgement: The images are the courtesy of Wikimedia commons

[1] Genesis 16:3-4.


[2] Genesis 17:17.


[3] Genesis 25:30.


[4] Genesis 33:4.


[5] Genesis 26:34.


[6] Genesis 32:28.


[7] Genesis 36:9.


[8] Genesis 25: 23-26.


[9] Numbers 20:14-21.


[10] 1 Sampson 14:47; 1 Kings 11:14-18; 2 Kings 8:20-22; Jeremiah 27:1-7; Psalm 137:7; Jeremiah 49:7-22 and Ezekiel 25:12-14.


[11] Obadiah 12-14; Ezekiel 35:13.


[12] Psalm 137:7.


[13] J D Douglas and Merrill C Tenney, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 2011, page 387.


[14] Antipater, the father of Herod the Great who became procurator of Judea came from Idumea.


[15] J McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, Here’s Life Publishers, 1979, pages 290-291.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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