Dictionary of Bible Names

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Idumea (Idumaea, Idumaean)
Bible Meaning: Red or Edom (Old Testament)
Name of region (New Testament)
Strong's Concordance #H123, #G2401

Idumea is the name given to the land controlled by the descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother, known as the Edomites (Genesis 25:30, 36:8). They, throughout their history, would have a troubled relationship with Israel.

The Edomites who would come to populate Idumea first lived in an area southeast, south and southwest of the Dead Sea with their capital being Bozrah. Sometime after Jerusalem's destruction in 586 B.C., however, the land they occupied was destroyed in fulfillment of prophecy (Malachi 1:1 - 4).

Seeking refuge, the Edomites migrated west and settled in former Judean territory roughly in and around the city of Hebron. The area they controlled was eventually referred to as Idumea, a part of which was incorporated into the Roman province of Judea in 6 A.D.

Beginning of a Dynasty

Around 72 B.C. Antipater I of Idumea, an Edomite whose ancestors converted to Judaism, produces a son named Herod. It is this son, later known as Herod the Great, who would ultimately begin a ruling dynasty that would last more than 125 years.

Map showing location of Idumea

Antipater, in 47 B.C., due to his support of the Roman Empire, was made the first procurator of Judea, Samaria and Galilee by Julius Caesar. Around this time his son Herod is also made the provincial governor of Galilee. In 40 B.C., just three years after his father's death by poisoning, Herod is given the title of King of Judea (King of the Jews) by the Roman Senate.

Revenge of Idumea

Herod's rebuilding of Jerusalem's temple provides the backdrop for many New Testament events, including the fulfillment of its destruction prophesied by Jesus (Matthew 24:1 - 2). A vain man given to impulsive rages, he commands the slaughtering of innocent male babies in Bethlehem in an attempt to murder Christ (Matthew 2:16 - 18).

After Herod dies c. 4 B.C., his son Herod Antipas is made Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. Antipas, on his birthday, beheads John the Baptist after his stepdaughter sexually excites him with a dance (Matthew 14, Mark 6). He is also the Herod who, after Jesus is arrested, mocks him (Luke 23:5 - 12).

Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, is made Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea in 39 A.D. after Antipas' death. Agrippa not only beheads the apostle James in 44 A.D., he also arrests Peter (Acts 12).

The Idumea line of rule finally ends with the death of Herod Agrippa II around 92 A.D.

Important Verses

Isaiah 34:1 - 2, 5 - 6
Come near, ye nations, to hear; and hearken, ye people: let the earth hear, and all that is therein; the world, and all things that come forth of it. For the indignation of the Lord is upon all nations, and his fury upon all their armies . . .

For my sword shall be bathed in heaven: behold, it shall come down upon Idumea, and upon the people of my curse, to judgment.

The sword of the Lord is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness, and with the blood of lambs and goats, with the fat of the kidneys of rams: for the Lord hath a sacrifice in Bozrah, and a great slaughter in the land of Idumea.

Ezekiel 35:1 - 2, 15
Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, set thy face against mount Seir, and prophesy against it . . .

As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee: thou shalt be desolate, O mount Seir, and all Idumea, even all of it: and they shall know that I am the Lord.

Ezekiel 36:4 - 5
Therefore, ye mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord God; Thus saith the Lord God to the mountains, and to the hills, to the rivers, and to the valleys, to the desolate wastes, and to the cities that are forsaken, which became a prey and derision to the residue of the heathen that are round about;

Therefore thus saith the Lord God: Surely in the fire of my jealousy have I spoken against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed my land into their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.

Additional Studies

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Series Notes
References are based on the
King James Bible translation (KJV).