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Was there an ‘Idumean Yahwism’? Material and Biblical Evidence on Religion and Yahweh-Worship in Idumea

Prof. Benedikt Hensel (Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg)


The paper will investigate the region and later province of Idumea of the Persian and Hellenistic periods as a test-case of the question of religious and ethnic identities and the formation of cultural boundaries. Regarding the society and individuals living in Idumea, the past decade has seen some fine pioneering and groundwork to take a differentiated look at identity in Idumea. It has become evident that it is best to understand the region of the Negev, Idumea and the Arabah Valley as a cultural buffer and contact zone rather than speaking of classical political and cultural borders between Judah and Edom, or the region of Transjordan more generally. The recent findings from this region actually testify more to a mixture of certain cultural and religious traits. The central question of this paper will be: Within this multi-cultural setting, certain sources witness to the presence of – what is usually labelled – a “Judean community” or “Jewish” individuals within Idumea. The paper will discuss the phenomenon of “Idumean Yahwism” in the light of the material sources, as well as through analysis certain exilic and postexilic biblical traditions that might reflect the multi-facetted ethnic fluidity and “Yahwistic activities” in the Southern Negev region.

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