An historical reconstruction of Edomite treaty betrayal in the sixth century B.C.E. based on Biblical, epigraphic, and archaeological data.
This study seeks to reconcile all relevant categories of data around a basic thesis of Edomite treaty betrayal of Judah in the sixth-century B.C.E. Preliminary discussions include the sixth century as the origin for the anti-Edom bias perceivable in many biblical texts, the biblical tradition of a kinship between Edom and Judah, historical-critical considerations of that tradition, the relationship of kinship language to ancient Near Eastern treaties, and the geopolitics and economic importance of the Edomite-Judahite border. The study argues that Edom had the logistical experience and geopolitical position by the early sixth century to capitalize on Judahite misfortune. Epigraphic and biblical evidence is presented in order to argue that by the time of the Babylonian assault on Judah in the tenth month (Tevet) of Zedekiah’s ninth year (December 588/January 587 B.C.E.), Edom had initiated and acted upon a clandestine treaty with Babylon to the detriment of Edom’s deceived and treaty-based ally, Judah. Edom both surprised Judah with hostility coordinated with the opening phases of the Babylonian assault and betrayed perceived, longstanding, and oftentimes cooperative kinship relations with Judah. The intended objective of Edomite economic and political expansion under Babylonian auspices may have been control of the Judahite Negev (particularly the Beersheba Valley). It is possible that clandestine Edomite betrayal facilitated the rapid fall of the Judahite Negev, which was evidently the first zone of military operations in support of the Babylonian enterprise against Judah to see its objectives completed.