History Files

Near East Kingdoms

Ancient Central Levant States


Edom (Udumi)

The kingdom was supposedly founded by a branch of the early Israelites, taking in the territory centred around Mount Seir from the Brook of Zered to the Sinai Peninsula (the Negev desert and the Arabah Valley, near the Dead Sea and in modern Jordan). The border between Edom and its Moabite neighbour to the north was the Wadi Zered, while the kingdom's capital was at Bozrah (modern Buseirah in Jordan), a pastoral city to the south-east of the Dead Sea.

The name Edom has a connection with the colour red, with 'red rock' after the region's reddish sandstone perhaps being the favourite reason (note the red cliffs of Seir, for example). To the later Assyrians the state was Udumi, while in Latin it was Idumea. All seem to be variations of the Egyptian name which mean 'the red land'.

Akkadian sources which date to the kingdom's earliest years of existence mention nomadic groups along the Trans-Jordanian highlands whom they term the Shutu. These groups extend deep into Mesopotamia, probably occupying the edges of the habitable zone there. Speculation about the Shutu mentions that the name may be a variant of the Egyptian term 'Shasu', Semitic cattle-herding nomads who operated in a clan system with tribal chieftains. While the historical identity of these Shutu is unknown, they have been linked to the Moabites and Ammonites.

It seems the Edomites and the Moabites remained in Canaan while the Israelites supposedly emigrated to Egypt in the seventeenth century BC, and both kingdoms fought against their return around four hundred years later. Edomite succession was apparently not hereditary. Instead it may have been elective (the practise is not unknown in ancient Syria and Canaan).  A good source of wealth was the fact that Edom lay along the 'King's Highway', an important north-south trade route between Egypt, Syria, and Mesopotamia.

While the Canaanite occupants of Palestine to the south-west are usually accepted as the source for the Hyksos invaders of Egypt in about 1700 BC, Edom has been put forward as an alternative candidate. Some scholars refuse to believe Edom existed as a state at all, while there is little evidence of a settled society before the eleventh century BC.

(Additional information from Egypt, Canaan and Israel in Ancient Times, Donald Redford (Princeton University Press, 1992), and from Early Israel and the Surrounding Nations, A H Sayce.)

c.1700 BC


Son of Isaac.

c.1700 BC

According to the Old Testament, the Edomites under Esau displace the apparently primitive Horites to claim their kingdom, probably absorbing the previous population into their own. Mount Seir is identified with a Horite leader of the same name, and the area may have been of religious importance to them. The following clans form the new Edomite nation: Timnah, Alvah, Jetheth, Aholibamah, Elah, Pinon, Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, Magdiel, and Iram.

c.1680? BC


c.1660? BC

Teman I

c.1640? BC

Bela ben-Be'or

Ruled from the city of Dinhabah.

c.1610? BC

Jobab / Yovav ben-Zerach

Son of Zerah and great-grandson of Esau. Ruled from Bozrah.

17th cent BC

An Egyptian execration text dated to the seventeenth century BC refers to an 'Ayyab' as king of the Shutu. The name is possibly a variant form of 'Job', with Jobab of Edom being a handy candidate. However, tentative identification of the mysterious Shutu has linked them with the Moabites and Ammonites to the north of Edom.

c.1580? BC

Husham / Chusham

Ruled from the city of Temani.

c.1560? BC

Hadad ben-Bedad

Ruled from the city of Avith.

c.1540? BC

Samlah / Smlah

Ruled from the city of Masrekah.

c.1520? BC


Ruled from the city of Rehoboth.

c.1480? BC

Baal-hanan / Ba'al hana ben-Akhbor

c.1460? BC


Ruled from the city of Pau / P'ai.

1453 - c.1200 BC

Egypt reasserts its authority in the region by conquering territory in the Levant, and while Edom may or may not be in its line of conquest, it seems possible that it becomes a client state. In 1286/1258 BC Ramses II of Egypt reaches a stalemate with the Hittites at the Battle of Kadesh, after which the earliest known peace treaty is signed in 1258 BC. Ramses limits his control to southern Palestine, where he draws a firm and fortified boundary.

Chiefs of Edom

By around 1200 BC, during the chaos prevalent throughout the eastern Mediterranean coastal region, Egyptian control of the Levant had weakened considerably. It seems that the Edomites regained a degree of self-governance under a new 'dynasty' of chiefs, although whether there was any relation between them is unknown. In fact, almost nothing is known of them, other than through the Bible. When the Israelites returned from Egypt, the king of Edom refused them access via his territory, but did not fight them. However, both sides prepared for a conflict they knew was coming.

c.1200 BC


Fought the returning Israelites.







Teman II


fl c.1015 BC


Defeated by Saul of Israel.

c.1015? BC

The Edomites are defeated by the Israelite king, Saul, and are probably made vassals.

fl c.975 BC


Defeated by David of Israel. Last independent king of Edom.

c.975? BC

Forty years after Saul's victory, Edom is defeated by King David and fall directly under the rule of the kingdom of Israel. Governors are placed in control of the former kingdom.

c.975? BC


Prince of Edom. Escaped to Egypt.

c.928 BC

When the kingdom of Israel divides, Edom becomes a dependency of Judah.

fl 853 BC


Governor? Allied to the king of Samaria.

853 BC

FeatureThe governor or chief of Edom is a member of an alliance of states which also includes Ammon, Arvad, Byblos, Damas, Egypt, Hamath, Kedar, and Samaria. Together they fight Shalmaneser III of Assyria at the Battle of Qarqar which consists of the largest known number of combatants in a single battle to date, and is the first historical mention of the Arabs from the southern deserts. Despite claims to the contrary, the Assyrians are defeated, since they do not press on to their nearest target, Hamath, and do not resume their attacks on Hamath and Damas for about six years.

Map of Canaan and Syria c.850 BC
When the Neo-Assyrian empire threatened the various city states of southern Syria and Canaan around 853 BC, they united to protect their joint territory - successfully it seems, at least for a time (click or tap on map to view full sized)

c.847 BC

The king (or governor) of Edom, together with Jehoshaphat of Judah and Joram of Samaria, form a coalition which attempts to retake Moab by force, but despite some initial gains, the attempt is unsuccessful.

846/843 BC

Edom rebels against Jehoram of Judah. The rebellion is put down but Edom is never completely subdued, and occasional flare-ups continue to occur.

Five kings of Edom are recorded by the Assyrians. All are known only by the Assyrian translations of their Edomite names.

fl c.745 BC


At the time of Tiglath-Pileser III.

fl c.740 BC


At the time of Tiglath-Pileser III.

fl c.735 BC


At the time of Tiglath-Pileser III.

724 BC

Assyria conquers Edom. Two years later Moab, Philistia, Judah, and Edom rebel against Assyrian overlordship. The rising is apparently put down,

fl c.700 BC

Malik-rammu / Melek Ram

At the time of Sennacherib.

fl c.680 BC

Kaus-gabri / Kaus Geber

At the time of Esarhaddon.

612 BC

Babylonia takes control of the region following the fall of Assyria.

587/586 BC

After the conquest of Judah by Babylonia, the Edomites are allowed to settle in Hebron, which the later Romans call Idumaea. They migrate from their earlier homeland, possibly alongside the Moabites, although the latter drift out of the historical record at this time.

Idumaea (Edom)

Following the Babylonian conquest of the Levant, large numbers of people were shipped off to endure captivity. With good land having been made available, the Edomites migrated northwards to settle in Hebron, which the Romans called Idumea (the Moabites may similarly have migrated northwards but they seem to have lost their identity as a result). This movement allowed Arab tribes to venture northwards from their desert territories, with the result that the Kedarites and Nabatu became players in international politics during the seventh and sixth centuries BC. The Edomites remained in Hebron and prospered, for more than four centuries, independent from 539 BC to around 275 BC. After that they probably fell under Egyptian control, followed by Seleucid and Roman rule. By the second century BC they possibly made up the majority population of western Judea.

In 200-195 BC, in order to achieve his part of a treaty with Philip V of Macedonia that was designed to carve up Egypt's colonial possessions, Antiochus III of the Seleucid empire invaded Coele Syria. This triggered the Fifth Syrian War which saw Ptolemaic General Scopas defeated at Panion near the source of the River Jordan in 200 BC. This gained Antiochus control of Palestine and Phoenicia (which included the city of Miletus). The campaign ended in a peace deal in 195 BC which gained for Antiochus permanent possession of southern Syria (which included Idumaea), while Ammon took advantage of the shift in power to declare its own independence.

(Additional information from Jewish War & Jewish Antiquities, Flavius Josephus, and from External Links: Encyclopędia Britannica, and Appian's History of Rome: The Syrian Wars at Livius.org, and Diodorus of Sicily at the Library of World History (dead link).)

c.165 BC

Idumaea gains its freedom from Seleucid rule, probably at the same time as Judea achieves its own independence. This mirrors the rise of the Nabataean kingdom elsewhere in the former Edomite territory.

160s BC


160 - 109 BC


109 BC

The Seleucid civil war continues through 111-109 BC, while Antiochus IX and his ally, Ptolemy IX Soter of Egypt, support the Samarians against John Hyrcanus of Judea, until Rome intervenes on the side of the Jews and against Antiochus IX and the Samarians (of the former northern Jewish kingdom of Samaria). At the same time, Idumaea is drawn into the Hasmonaean kingdom, and governors are subsequently appointed to administer the region.

c.100 - 78 BC


Governor of Idumaea.

78 - 43 BC


Father of Herod the Great of Judea. Governor of Idumaea.

c.43 - 35 BC

Joseph ben Antipater

Son. Governor of Idumaea.

37 BC

Under Roman rule, the Idumaean king of Judea, Herod the Great, is granted the authority to appoint the governor of Idumaea, usually a relative.

? - 30? BC


Brother-in-law of Herod the Great. Governor of Idumaea.

28 BC

Costobarus is accused of treason by his wife and is presumably executed by Herod. Idumaea is drawn directly under Judean control.

4 BC

Rome assumes direct control of the region.

AD 66

The Idumaeans benefit from the First Jewish Uprising, having governors of its own appointed from the revolutionary government in Judea.

c.66 - 68

Niger the Peraean

66 - 68

Joshua ben Saphas ha-Kohen

66 - 68

Eleazar ben Hananiah

AD 68 - 135

The uprising is crushed by Rome and the governors removed. The Idumaean people disappear from historical records following the uprisings, although the regional name of Idumaea is still in use for a time. Much of the kingdom eventually forms the modern kingdom of Jordan.