This third day of our field study to explore Jordan we learned about the Nabateans and the Edomites through visits to Petra and Bozrah.
Today was my favorite day of this trip exploring Jordan. Half the day was spent at Petra which was absolutely awesome. The canyons are breathtaking. The facades, with their carved sandstone faces are beautiful.
The city of Petra was an oasis for the Nabateans, from who Herod the Great was descended. These were the same people who built the city of Avdat, which I visited on the field study to the Negev. These people ran the spice route with their camel caravans. They were tough and very hardy. It was only with their help that anyone could make it across the vast deserts of southern Jordan from northern Mesopotamia to the Gulf of Aqaba.
The famous facades in Petra are primarily tombs, which led early explorers to suppose that Petra was a cemetery. However, there is a theatre and a very advanced water system throughout Petra. Do the dead need entertainment and water? It is now known that the Nabateans actually settled here. Petra was a major city. The lack of dwellings is because the buildings where they lived and worked were free standing structures which have been destroyed by years of desert climate as well as seismic activity.
Bozrah and the Edomites
The other two stops were at an overlook of the Wadi Dana, and at Bozrah. At Bozrah Dr. Wright discussed the kingdom of Edom. It is a bit mysterious, because all we know of them is from the Israelite account we have in the Bible. When they are portrayed in the Bible, they are only once allies, everywhere else they are enemies to be destroyed. So overall, the portrait that we see at first glance is negative. However, on closer examination one can pick out details about Edomite life from the Biblical account.
The Edomites were descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. The relationship between the kingdoms of Jacob/Israel and Esau/Edom was much like that of the two brothers. For the most part they tolerated one another. There were small battles between them in the Negev, but never all-out war. In 2 Kings 3 these two even join forces to put down Mesha, king of Moab, who is rebelling against Israel following Ahab’s death at Ramoth Gilead. All in all, these two kingdoms get along, but once Israel is destroyed and taken into exile Edom takes much of Israel’s land for itself. Because of this the prophets Ezekiel, Amos, and Obadiah curse Edom and prophesy its destruction.
“I will bring you down!” (Jeremiah 49:7-16)
From Isaiah 34 we learn that the Edomites raise bedouin-type animals that are “fat”, meaning the people are prosperous. In Isaiah 63 the Edomites are people with wine and crimson clothing. The high elevation of Bozrah, which is the capital of Edom, provides a good dew most nights and thereby provides enough moisture to raise grapes. The crimson clothing comes from the red juice of the vine. In Ezekiel 27 we find a list of countries that Edom trades with. This is all we currently have to go on.
No stele has been found which was inscribed by a king of the Edomites recording his deeds and the activities in his kingdom. It would be a great discovery if we found one.