Did Edom’s Original Territories Extend West Of ‘Wadi Arabah? -- By: Bruce R. Crew

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 15:1 (Winter 2002)
Article: Did Edom’s Original Territories Extend West Of ‘Wadi Arabah?
Author: Bruce R. Crew

Did Edom’s Original Territories Extend West Of ‘Wadi Arabah?

Bruce R. Crew


One of the more neglected topics in the field of biblical geography involves the territorial extent of Edom’s geographical domain. Earlier scholars have limited the geographical territories of Edom exclusively to southern Transjordan’s mountains of Edom (i.e. Edelman 1995:2–3; Aharoni 1979:40–41; Bartlett 1969:1–20; Gleuck 1936:152). Its boundaries included an area that lies between ‘Wadi el-Hesa in the north. ‘Wadi Arabah in the west, ‘Wadi Hisma in the south and Transjordan’s basalt desert in the east.

However, recent scholars have challenged this notion. They argue that the Edom’s original territories also included the Negev’s Central Highlands and southern portion (Meshel 2000:104; 1974:147–50, xii; MacDonald 1994:230–46; Rasmussen 1989:91–92; Liver 1982:324–25; Crew 1984:2–3; 1981:110–50; Avishur 1971: 370–71; Eod-Awd 1963:622; Cohen, S. 1962:25). Moreover, two recent archeological discoveries have provided additional support for this notion. The first is the discovery of a large system of Israelite forts and settlements in the Negev’s Central Highlands that dates to David and Solomon’s time in the 11th-10th centuries BC (Meshel 2000:104; 1974:147–50; xii; Na’aman 1992:73; Cohen 1979:61–79). In particular, excavations at Kadesh Barnea (‘Ein el-Quiderat) and Kuntillet Ajrud reveal a continuous period of Israelite settlement throughout the period of the Judean monarchy (Meshel 1993a; 1458–64; 1993b; 1517–20; Cohen, R. 1983:1976:49–50). The second is the absence of a similar system in southern Transjordan’s mountains of Edom. Archeological surveys from this region further show that any Israelite settlement occurred between the ninth-seventh centuries BC after which there was a noticeable decline (Na’aman 1992:73; Bartlett 1992a: 290 ff; MacDonald 1994:230–46; 1992:296 ff; Weippert 1979:29–30).

Thus the notion of an Edom whose geographical territories lay solely in southern Transjordan is no longer a universal assumption. Moreover, three OT passages provide additional insight into this matter. Two of these passages refer to the stationing of Israelite garrisons in Edom by King David during his reign (2 Sm. 8:14; 1 Chr 18:13). The third passage alludes to a flight to Egypt by Hadad, a member of the Edomite royal family, as a result of David’s military campaign in Edom where his forces under Joab’s command slaughtered every living Edomite male (1 Kgs 11:14–22).

The ‘Self-Consistency’ Approach

Therefore, if the original territo...

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