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Edom and the Edomites.

This compact book compiles archaeological and textual studies on Edom and the Edomites into a history of the ancient land and people of southeastern Palestine. This work is necessary and welcome, but unfortunately John R. Bartlett's effort is somewhat disappointing.

The book begins with a chapter on the modern West's discovery and exploration of Edom. "The Land of Edom," the second chapter, describes topography, transportation routes, and settlements. Particular emphasis is placed on explaining biblical references to Edomite place names. The third chapter examines the prehistory of Edom and lists discoveries from the Middle Pleistocene to the end of the Middle Bronze Age. The history proper begins with chapter four, which examines the area during the Late Bronze and early Iron ages and continues through chapter nine, which treats Edom in the Persian period. Throughout, Bartlett strives to correlate biblical references with archaeological and textual data. Topics discussed include David's military exploits against Edom, Solomon's adversary Hadad, Edom's independence during the divided monarchy, and its vassalage under the Assyrians. The book ends with three chapters examining Edom in more ahistorical terms: chapter ten, "Edom and Judah," treats the biblical view of Edom; chapter eleven deals with religion; and chapter twelve lists and briefly discusses inscriptions.

There are two maps, bibliographies of books and articles, and indexes of authors, personal names, and place names. The maps are poor; they employ the awkward method of identifying sites with numbered dots while listing names in a separate key. Highways are indicated by solid lines but are neither named nor cross-referenced to the discussion of transportation routes. Few topographical features are indicated. The maps contain just four contour lines (-300, 0, 900, and 1500 m) and depict only the major wadis (Hasa, Fidan, and Musa) but without labels. These maps cannot be used to supplement the discussion of environmental features in the main text and are only marginally useful for understanding relationships between sites. A fold-out map would have served the purpose more effectively.

The bibliographies are not complete. The final publication of Burton MacDonald's survey of the Wadi el Hasa (The Wadi el Hasa Archaeological Survey 1979-1983, West-Central Jordan [London, Ont.: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1988]) is not included, although the preliminary reports are. In addition, the references to Harlan in the text (pp. 62-64) have no corresponding entry in the bibliography.

Edom and the Edomites is a history of biblical kings and battles rather than a social history or an ethnohistory written from the Edomite point of view. The primary historical resource is the Bible. Though Bartlett includes the results of archaeological surveys and excavations, he maintains that this data does not provide enough additional information to understand completely the origins of the Edomites, the geographical boundaries of Edom, or the relationship of the Edomites to Israelites and Nabateans (p. 7). This is disappointing, for these are precisely the topics about which we would like to know more.

Overall, Bartlett's approach to the history of Edom and the Edomites is cautious. He rigorously sticks to the presentation of information and does not allow his own point of view to overlay the evidence. Yet this generates the weakest point of the book: its lack of original synthesis. Its strength lies in its collection of data. Future histories of Edom and the Edomites must begin here, where Bartlett leaves off.
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Author:MacKay, D. Bruce
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1992
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