The Times: Scientists find evidence of the nation of Edom in the 11th century B.C.

‘Esau and Jacob’ by Matthias Stom, 1640’s. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
‘Esau and Jacob’ by Matthias Stom, 1640’s. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Last week (24 September) the Times published a story about a remarkable piece of detective work by the University of California, San Diego which seems to confirm the existence of the nation of Edom in the 11th century B.C., “before any king reigned over the Israelites” (Genesis 36:31).

The University’s work of “cyber-archaeology” compared the amount of copper left in slagheaps produced by copper mines across the region, now spanning parts of southern Jordan and Israel, which was once the land of Edom. This included the main production centres, sixty miles apart, at Timna and Faynan.

“According to the article in the Times, many historians in the past have dismissed the idea of a nation state of Edom as a myth.”

By doing so, the researchers were able to discover that copper mining techniques improved simultaneously across the region during the eleventh century, suggesting the rule of a strong, centralized authority. This, the researchers claim, would have been the kingdom of Edom.

According to the article in the Times, many historians in the past have dismissed the idea of a nation state of Edom as a myth.

In the biblical book of Genesis, the story of Jacob’s family and of his son Joseph (he of “technicolor dreamcoat” fame) is punctuated by a lengthy genealogy of Jacob’s brother Esau, the father of the Edomite nation.

Chapter 36 of Genesis tells us,

Then Esau took his wives, his sons, his daughters, and all the members of his household, his livestock, all his beasts, and all his property that he had acquired in the land of Canaan. He went into a land away from his brother Jacob. For their possessions were too great for them to dwell together. The land of their sojournings could not support them because of their livestock. So Esau settled in the hill country of Seir. (Esau is Edom.)
Genesis 36:6-8[1]

Farther on in the chapter, we are told,

These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites. Bela the son of Beor reigned in Edom, the name of his city being Dinhabah. Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his place.
Genesis 36:31-33[2]

And so on.

“These are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom, before any king reigned over the Israelites.”

Genesis 36:31

The account, manifestly written in the 10th century B.C. or later, describes Edom as having been a kingdom centuries before Israel became anything like such a centralized and organized entity. Unlike Edom, Israel first had to undergo its centuries-long sojourn in Egypt recorded towards the end of Genesis and in the book of Exodus.

The discovery of the nation-state of Edom is yet another reminder that, particularly in the field of archaeology, absence of evidence ≠ evidence of absence.

The Times article also lists other relatively recent archaeological discoveries which have confirmed events recorded in the Bible, including the discovery of a seal in Jerusalem apparently referring to the Nathan-Melech mentioned in 2 Kings 23:11.

 

 

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Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 


[1] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+36%3A6-8&version=ESVUK

[2] https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+36%3A31-33&version=ESVUK

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