Idumea, or Idumaea, was the name used by the ancient Greeks (Ancient Empires - Greece) and Romans (see Ancient Empires - Rome) for the land of Edom, which was located between the northern section of the Gulf of Aqaba and the southern shore of The Dead Sea. Measuring approximately 100 miles / 160 kilometers long and 50 miles / 80 kilometers wide, it's named after Esau, the son of Isaac and Rebekah, who was the very slightly older fraternal-twin brother of Jacob / Israel (Genesis 25:23-26).

The region is known in various translations of The Bible as Idumea (Isaiah 34:5-6, Ezekiel 35:15), "the field of Edom" (Genesis 32:3), "the land of Edom" (Genesis 36:16). Also, because it is, in part, mountainous, it was also known as "the mountains of Esau" or "the mountain of Seir" (Obadiah 1:8,9,19,21). The southern part of Edom was known as Teman.

Sela, more popularly known by the Greek name Petra, is within Edom (2 Kings 14:7). One of its rock-carved faces is seen in the photograph.

The capital was of Edom was Bozrah (Isaiah 63:1). The earlier inhabitants of the land were Horites, but they were driven out by the Edomites (Deuteronomy 2:12). Edomite tribes settled also in the south of Judah, like the Kenizzites (Genesis 36:11), to whom Caleb and Othniel descended (Joshua 15:17).

Although the Edomites were closely related in blood and in language to the Israelites, they were at times in a state of war with the neighboring Kings of Israel and Judah (2 Kings 8:20, 2 Chronicles 28:17).

The Edomites refused a request by Moses for the Israelites to simply pass directly through Edomite territory on their way north (Numbers 20:14-21) (see Wilderness Journey).

The territory was conquered by King David (2 Samuel 8:14, 1 Kings 9:26), and in later years by Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:11-12), but they regained their independence and again made war against Judah. The Edomites sided with the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar when they conquered Judah and devastated Jerusalem (see Why Babylon?), but later the Edomites were themselves conquered by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 27:3-6).

There are many prophecies concerning Edom: Isaiah 34:5-6; Jeremiah 49:7-18, Ezekiel 25:13 and 35:1-15, Joel 3:19, Amos 1:11, Obadiah 1:1-21, Malachi 1:3-4.

Fact Finder: Although (fraternal) twins, were Jacob and Esau very different in appearance and personality?
Genesis 25:25-27

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