Monday, September 23, 2019

Chiefs of Edom and Seir

Alice C. Linsley

Genesis 36 provides a list of the chiefs of Edom. The patriarch of the Edomites is called Seir the Horite. Edom and Seir are linked in the Song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:3-4:
"Listen, O kings! Give ear, O princes! I will sing to the LORD; I will sing praise to the LORD, the God of Israel. O LORD, when You went out from Seir, when You marched from the land of Edom, the earth trembled, the heavens poured out rain, and the clouds poured down water."

Deuteronomy 68:8 declares, "The LORD came from Sinai and dawned upon us from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran and came with myriads of holy ones, with flaming fire at His right hand."

As is seen in the diagram above, Moses and Aaron were descendants of Seir, the Horite ruler. The Hebrew clans of Seir and Edom apparently intermarried. In the Septuagint, (LXX 42:17d) Job is said to be a ruler of Edom. He was a descendant of Seir's grandson Uz, in whose territory Job resided.

The antiquity and prestige of the Edomite rulers and of Teman of Edom is expressed in Jeremiah's reference to these as ancient seats of wisdom (Jeremiah 49:7). Genesis 36 explains, "These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the children of Israel."

Genesis 36 lists the chiefs also: Bela, the son of Beor; Jobab, the son of Zerah of Bozrah; Husham of the land of the Temanites; Hadad, the son of Bedad, and Samlah of Masrekah."

Genesis 36:15 lists four chiefs born to Esau's son, Eliphaz: Teman, Omar, Zepho, and Kenaz. One of Seir's royal daughters was named Timna. Timna married Eliphaz.

The Edomite chief Teman likely served as a ruler-priest at the shrine of Teman, a site excavated in 1975 by the Tel Aviv University archaeologist Ze’ev Meshel and his team. The site is known as Horvat Teman. In the Bible is is called Teman of Edom. The Bedouin call the place Kuntillet 'Ajrud which means “the solitary hill of the water source.” That is the perfect description of an ancient Horite Hebrew high place.

The finds from Horvat Teman are fascinating and have stirred much debate. Among the finds are two large storage jars that weighed about 30 pounds each. The jars are painted with images believed to be deities, humans, and animals. There are symbols and a number of inscriptions, including three that refer to Yahweh.

The drawings reveal an ancient Egyptian context indicating that Nilotic peoples lived in the Sinai. One image is a sophisticated mural of an Egyptian ruler (reconstruction shown below).

King Hezekiah in the late eighth century BC initiated a campaign in Judah to destroy all the ancient images. “He removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole. He broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it” (2 Kings 18:4).

In doing so, explains the Bible, Hezekiah “did what was right in the sight of the Lord.” But was Hezekiah motivated only by “the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses”? Or was his iconoclasm an attempt to impose a new religion for political purposes? Iconoclasts seek to rewrite the prevailing narrative by destroying the old.

Evidence of an ancient and prosperous kingdom

Edom had a large copper ore zone with industrial scale copper production. Radiocarbon analysis of charred wood, grain and fruit in several sediment layers revealed two major phases of copper processing, first in the 12th and 11th centuries, and later in the 10th and 9th BC.

Dr. Thomas E. Levy stated, "Only a complex society such as a paramount chiefdom or primitive kingdom would have the organizational know-how to produce copper metal on such an industrial scale." 

In the early 2000's, led by Dr. Levy lead an archaeological survey that yielded earlier dates than had been assigned to the Edomite kingdom. The team uncovered scarabs, ceramics, metal arrowheads, hammers, grinding stones, and slag heaps.

Evidence was found of fortifications and over 100 building complexes. Khirbat en-Nahas, 30 miles north of Petra, was an ancient Edomite site. Khirbat en-Nahas means "ruins of copper" in Arabic. Nahash means serpent in Hebrew. As an adjective it means shining bright, like burnished copper. The ruins of Khirbat en-Nahas spread over 24 acres, and the fortifications enclose an area 240 by 240 feet.

Abraham's was a chief of Edom. His territory extended between the settlements of his two wives. Sarah resided in Hebron and Keturah resided in Beersheba.  

The Greeks called Edom "Idumea" which means "land of red people." Esau of Edom is described as red and hairy. King David, who had Edomite blood, is also described as red or ruddy.

No comments: