Tag Archives: Edom

Visualizing Isaiah 34: Judgment upon Edom

The judgment upon Edom is mentioned prominently in chapter 34 (verses 5, 6, 9; cf. the city of Bozrah, v. 6).

The most prominent place today within the ancient territory of Edom is Petra. Most people visit Petra to see the sculpted structures of the Nabateans. But the Nabateans came much later. The area was originally settled by the descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob (Israel).

Our first photo, showing the desolate nature of the area, was made from a higher spot where several tourist hotels are located. To the right of center you will be able to see the parking lot and some of the buildings associated with the operation of the national park of Petra.

Petra is located within this ancient territory of Edom. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Petra is located within this ancient territory of Edom. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Our next photo was made inside Petra, but our attention is drawn to the large, high, steep-sided, flattop mountain named Umm el-Biyarah. From this vantage the ancient Edomites felt impregnable.

Umm el-Biyarah, the ancient stronghold of Esau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Umm el-Biyarah, the ancient stronghold of Esau. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

For those who wish to see a more comprehensive discussion about Edom, I call your attention to the succinct discussion by J. Alec Motyer in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries.

Edom is presented as a case in point. Even though Esau himself had no capacity for sustained animosity (Gen. 33:4–16), it was with him that relations with Jacob were soured (Gen. 27:41) and by the time of Numbers 20:14–21 hostility had become an established pattern. Saul made war on Edom (1 Sam. 14:47). David became the only king to subdue and annex Edom (2 Sam. 8:14; cf. 1 Kgs 11:15–16). Edom rebelled against Solomon (1 Kgs 11:1–17, 23–25) and was still rebelling a century later (2 Kgs 8:20). Fifty years further on, there was still fighting (2 Kgs 14:7, 10), and at the fall of Jerusalem the bitter hostility of Edom became notorious (Ps. 137:7; Obad. 10–14). Consequently Amos’ accusation (1:11) of perpetual hatred is well founded. Jeremiah 49:7–22 shows that, even prior to Edom’s behaviour at Jerusalem’s fall, the idea of judgment on Edom was part of the prophetic worldview. Obadiah saw Edom as both a place and a symbol: meriting judgment in its own right but also picturing the judgment which would mark the Day of the Lord. He was not innovating: in Psalms 60:8; 83:6, Edom had already a symbolic place in the theme of hostility to Zion. Two factors make Edom specially fit to stand as a motif for the whole world in the final judgment: first, its ceaseless hostility to the Lord’s people, and secondly the fact that it was only to David that it ever really succumbed. Thus Ezekiel, foreseeing the coming David (34:23), moves immediately to the conquest of Edom (35:1–15). Isaiah stands in this same tradition by following his forecast of the King (ch. 33) with the rout of Edom in the final judgment (cf. 11:14; 63:1–6). Recollecting 29:22 and the establishing of the family of Jacob, the overthrow of Edom/Esau makes the End the exact fulfilment of the beginning (Gen. 25:23). The purposes of God according to election stand.

Society of Biblical Literature in Boston

The annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature is being held in Boston this year. I have been attending these meetings for many years. I come in order to hear a few of the many valuable, and some not so valuable, presentations by scholars who are presenting their latest research on some particular topic.  When I was still actively teaching I often attended sessions that were related to the courses I was teaching. Now I tend to go to what is of interest.

These meetings attract more than 5000 members, most of whom are teachers in some field relating to biblical studies.

One of my favorite topics is archaeology and how it relates to biblical history. Many of the leading archaeologists make presentations or read papers telling about the most recent excavations. This, of course, puts me far ahead of the curve if one is waiting to read the information in a magazine or a book. In fact, I observe that many presentations given at SBL will eventually be a chapter in a volume published by the author some years later.

Saturday I heard Thomas Levy and other colleagues from the University of California San Diego tell about the recent work in southern Jordan dealing with the ancient Edomites and copper mining in the area. Levy has discovered that copper mining was common in the area from the 10th century B.C. I have already reported on this discovery, with photos, here, with a related post about mining at Timna here. I hope you will take time to read those reports.

In the afternoon I attended a session on the Wall of Jerusalem in the Persian Period. I suspect that the person making room assignments has no idea about some of the presenters. The most controversial of the speakers here was Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University. He has been dubbed the father of minimalism. Actually he is currently the most prominent in a long line of those who devalue the biblical record. The room was full and overflowing. I sat on the floor in order to be able to see the screen and hear the speaker. The presentations by Ronny Reich, Alon de Groot,  and Wolfgang Zwickel were also informative. Evidence from the Persian period is limited, possibly because it was a significant but short period of biblical history. Here are some of the major events:

  • The Jews were allowed to return from Babylonian Exile in 536 B.C. because of the decree of Cyrus. Remember that only a remnant returned.
  • The temple was rebuilt in 520-516 B.C.
  • Ezra returned with a second group in 458 B.C.
  • Nehemiah returned to help rebuild the wall in 444 B.C.

The evidence presented regarding the number of inscriptions, pottery, jewelry, etc. from the Persian period indicated a small number of items in comparison to the much larger number from the Iron Age and the Hellenistic Age. This is really not surprising when we consider the the circumstances of the period, the possible reuse of materials by later builders, etc.

Everywhere one puts down a pick in Jerusalem there is evidence of earlier civilizations. Keep digging!

Before closing, let me add a little something Persian to this post. Here is a photo of the Cyrus Cylinder, now in the British Museum.

The Cyrus Cylinder. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Cyrus Cylinder. British Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

This document records that Cyrus allowed captive peoples to return to their homelands, build their temples and worship their gods. This is similar to the account given in 2 Chronicles 36 and Ezra 1 regarding the Judeans.

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia– in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah– the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying,  23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!'” (2 Chronicles 36:22-23)

The Death of Aaron on Mount Hor

When Aaron, Israel’s first High Priest, died his son Eleazar became the High Priest. The book of Numbers says that Aaron died on the mountain top of Mount Hor.

“Take Aaron and his son Eleazar and bring them up to Mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on his son Eleazar. So Aaron will be gathered to his people, and will die there.” So Moses did just as the LORD had commanded, and they went up to Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. After Moses had stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on his son Eleazar, Aaron died there on the mountain top. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. When all the congregation saw that Aaron had died, all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days.” (Numbers 20:25-29, NASB).

Deuteronomy records that Aaron died at Moserah (10:6), but it also records that he died on Mount Hor (32:50). We need not think of this as a discrepancy.

The best solution that can be posed to this problem so far is that Moserah is probably a larger area that included Mount Hor. Thus it would be quite correct to declare that Aaron’s death was either on Mount Hor (Num 20:22–29; 33:38–39; Deut 32:50) or Moserah (Deut 10:6). (Hard Sayings of the Bible, 166).

Mount Hor is identified traditionally with Jebel Nebi Harun in the territory of ancient Edom near Petra. From the area of the hotels above Petra one can see the white Moslem shrine marking the tomb of Aaron on the top of Mount Hor. This photo shows the monument in the distance. The mountains reflect the typical color of the area around Petra.

Mount Hor near Petra in Jordan. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.