OBADIAH Edom was located south of the Dead Sea and north of the Gulf of Aqaba. The region boasts numerous mountains over 5,000 feet (1,524 m) in height, some pasturage and a few oases. Many Edomite dwellings were cut into the faces of these high, craggy mountains and gave rise to Obadiah's description of the Edomites as people "who live in the clefts of the rocks"and "soar like the eagle" (Ob 3-4). Some such ancient abodes are still visible today.
Edom prospered through its control of the major north-south caravan route, the "King's Highway," as well as through the mining of iron and copper. A pre-Edomite Early Bronze agricultural civilization flourished in this region, organized under semi nomadic clan chiefs. Pharaohs were involved in Edom's copper mines from the fourteenth to the twelfth centuries B.C., and thus the area is mentioned often in Egyptian documents.
As descendants of Esau, the twin brother of the patriarch Jacob, the Edomites were considered "brothers" by Israel (cf. vv. 10 — 12). Moses unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate passage for the Israelites through the territory of the king of Edom. Saul fought against the Edomites, but David conquered Edom. His general, Joab, killed many adult males during a six-month occupation, although Hadad, a royal heir, escaped to Egypt (1 Ki 11:14-22). Edom revolted from under Joram (c.851 B.c.), but later Amaziah (c. 800 B.c.) captured its capital, Sela, and renamed it Joktheel. Edomites sometimes raided Judah (e.g., 2Ch 20; 28:16-17).
From 734 B.C. until the fall of Jerusalem, Edom was under Assyrian domination.3 Assyrian records mention three Edomite kings as tributaries: Qaus-malaku (732 B.c.), Aiarammu (701 B.c.) and Qaus-gabri (629 Edom prospered under Assyrian control, and its population increased consider-ably. Evidence of Edomite settlement during this period appears at several sites in southern Judah. Obadiah indicates that the Edomites participated in the 586 B.c. destruction of Jerusalem.
During the postexilit period Edom proper was overrun by Arabs until the Nabateans became established there.5 Edomites (who were during the postexilic period called Idumeans) established Hebron as their capital.6 John Hyrcanus forcibly converted the Idumeans to Judaism in approximately 120 B.C. Antipater, an Idumean, became governor of Judea, and his son Herod ruled the region as king.' After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) ldumea and the Idumeans disappeared from history.