The name given by the Greeks to the land of Edom, or mount Seir, which extended originally from the Dead sea to the Elanitic gulf of the Red sea, including a territory about on hundred miles long, and fifteen or twenty wide. Afterwards is extended more into the south of Judah, towards Hebron. A large part of it was occupied by the long chain of mountains lying between the great sandy valley El-Ghor and El-Arabah on the west, (see JORDAN,) and the Arabian Desert on the east. The northern part of this chain is now called Djebal, the ancient Gebal, which see; the remainder of the chain takes the name Jebel Shera. The whole chain is intersected with valleys and ravines, running down from the elevated desert on the east to the Arabah on the west. It contains traces of many towns and villages, long since destroyed, and many springs, and fertile valleys with tokens of its former productiveness, Genesis 27:39. But at this day, desolation reigns. The capital of East Idumaea was Bozra; but the chief capital of Edom was Petra, or Sela, that is, the rock, because it was excavated in part from a mountain. It is now called Wady Mousa, the valley of Moses. See SELA.
The original inhabitants of this country were called Horites, and were dispossessed by the Idumaeans of history, Genesis 14:6 36:21 Deuteronomy 12:2. The true Idumaeans, or Edomites, were, as their name implies, descendants of Edom, or Esau, elder brother of Jacob, Genesis 36:6-9. They were governed by dukes or princes, Genesis 36:15, and afterwards by their own kings, Genesis 36:31. Compare Exodus 15:15 Numbers 20:14. On the approach of the Israelites from Egypt to the western border of Edom, they were refused a peaceful passage through that country to Moab. See EXODUS. They were divinely charged, however, to preserve friendly relations with their "brother" Esau, Numbers 20:14-21 Deuteronomy 2:4-7 23:7. Yet, hostilities seemed inevitable. Saul was involved in war with them, 1 Samuel 14:47; but they continued independent till the time of David, who subdued them, in completion of Isaac’s prophecy, that Jacob should rule Esau, Genesis 27:29 2 Samuel 8:14 1 Kings 11:15 1 Chronicles 18:11-13. The Idumaeans bore their subjection with great impatience, and at the end of Solomon’s reign, Hadad, an Edomite prince who had been carried into Egypt during his childhood, returned into his own country, where he pronounced himself to be acknowledged king, 1 Kings 11:14-22. It is probable, however, that he reigned only in East Edom, 1 Kings 22:47 2 Chronicles 20:36; for Edom south of Judea continued subject to the kings of Judah till the reign of Jehoram, against who it rebelled, 2 Chronicles 21:8, in fulfillment of the second part of Isaac’s prophecy, Genesis 27:40. Amaziah king of Judah also discomfited the Edomites, killed 1,000 men, and cast 10,000 more from a precipice, 2 Kings 14:7 2 Chronicles 25:11,12. But these conquests were not permanent. When Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, the Idumaeans joined him, and encouraged him to raze the very foundation of the city; but their cruelty did not long continue unpunished. Many predictions of the prophets foreshadowed Edom’s real doom, Obadiah 1:1-21 Jeremiah 49:7 Ezekiel 25:17 Malachi 1:3,4. Five years after the taking of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar humbled all the states around Judea, particularly Idumaea, though he did not carry them captive; and subsequently John Hyrcanus drove them from Southern Judea, into which they had penetrated, entirely conquered them, and obliged them to receive circumcision and law. They continued subject to the later kings of Judea till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Josephus informs us that 20,000 of them were summoned to aid in the defense of that city, but gave themselves up to rapine and murder. Ultimately, the Idumaeans were supplanted and absorbed by the Nabathean, descendants of Nabaioth, a son of Ishmael. In the time of their prosperity, the Edomites were numerous and powerful, devoted to commerce by land and by sea, and also to agriculture and the raising of cattle, Numbers 20:17. But neither their strong rock-fortresses, Jeremiah 49:16, nor their gods, 2 Chronicles 25:20 could save that rich and salubrious country from becoming a desert, and a striking monument to the truth of prophecy.
These dictionary topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859. Public Domain, copy freely.
Rand, W. W. "Entry for 'IDUMEA'". "American Tract Society Bible Dictionary".