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Does the Bible say anything about Esau and his descendants? Is Esau the ancestor of modern Turkey?

The Bible has indeed much to say about the descendants of Esau in our times. In this Q&A, we will discuss the history and the modern identity of Esau. In a subsequent Q&A, we will be addressing the future of Esau, as prophesied in the Scriptures.

Esau was the twin brother of Jacob. Due to the fact that he sold Jacob his birthright for some red stew, he became also known as “Edom,” which means “red” (Genesis 25:30). Later the name Idumea (Isaiah 34:5, Authorized Version; the New King James Bible says, “Edom”) was applied to some of the descendants of Esau or Edom. Herod the Great was an Idumean. (It was Herod who killed the male babies in Bethlehem and surrounding areas, from two years old and under, compare Matthew 2:16.)

Edom is also referred to as the land of Seir (Genesis 32:3). Edom, or at least the southern part of Edom, became known as Teman, who was Edom’s oldest grandson (Genesis 36:10-11). (One of Edom’s other grandsons was the fierce warrior Amalek, Genesis 36:12.)

The Easton Bible Dictionary informs us that Edom “extended from the head of the Gulf of Akabah, the Elanitic gulf, to the foot of the Dead Sea… and contained, among other cities, the rock-hewn Sela, generally known by the Greek name Petra [2 Kings 14:7, compare margin of the New King James Bible]. It is a wild and rugged region, traversed by fruitful valleys. [Edom’s] old capital was Bozrah (Isaiah 63:1). The early inhabitants of the land were Horites. They were destroyed by the Edomites (Deuteronomy 2:12), between whom and the kings of Israel and Judah there was frequent war [2 Chronicles 28:17].

“At the time of the Exodus they churlishly refused permission to the Israelites to pass through their land (Numbers 20:14-21), and ever afterwards maintained an attitude of hostility toward them. They were conquered by David (2 Samuel 8:14…), and afterwards by Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25:11, 12). But they regained again their independence, and in later years, during the decline of the Jewish kingdom (2 Kings 16:6), ‘Edomites’… made war against [the house of Judah]. They took part with the Chaldeans when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem, and afterwards they invaded and held possession of the south of Palestine as far as Hebron. [Biblica–The Bible Atlas, adds on page 308 that “Judah’s final destruction occurred when Edom enticed Judah to join in an anti-Babylonian coalition… but… Edom then participated with Babylon in the destruction of Jerusalem that followed.” As we will see in a subsequent Q&A, similar events will occur again in the near future.]

“At last, however, Edom fell under the growing Chaldean power (Jeremiah 27:3, 6)… After an existence as a people for above seventeen hundred years, they have utterly disappeared, and their language even is forgotten forever…”

But this last statement is not true. As we will see, the Bible contains many prophecies about the nation of Edom for the end time; therefore, descendants of Edom must exist today. They may not be living in the areas where they used to live, and they are not known today as Edomites, but they must exist somewhere. The Encyclopedia Britannica, 1959, states for instance under Edom that “many of the Edomites, pushed out of their former territory by the Nabataens, drifted westward across the Araba…”

We also need to note that many commentaries apply end-time prophecies regarding Edom to ancient times and claim that these prophecies were already fulfilled. This is a grievous mistake, precluding those authors from realizing what is announced to happen in the near future.

We read about an interesting “blessing” in Genesis 27:39-40, which Isaac gave to his son Esau, after he had been deceived to bless Jacob. It says that Esau or Edom would dwell “without” [as it should be rendered] the fatness of the earth and the dew of heaven [in comparison with the blessing which Isaac had given Jacob]; and that he would live by the sword and “serve” his brother (Jacob or Israel) [This last statement is actually a repeat of the prophecy pertaining to Jacob and Esau, which Rebekah received in Genesis 25:23].

Isaac also told Esau that in due time, he would break his brother’s yoke from his neck. Halley’s Bible Handbook claims that the Edomites “were subservient to Israel; and in time, they did throw off Israel’s yoke (II Kings 8:20-22).” Biblica—The Bible Atlas states on page 114 that “Herod the Idumean—better known as Herod the Great, the ruler who played a pivotal role in Jesus’ early life—murdered the royal family of Judea, including one of his own wives and a number of his children, and forged alliances with Rome. From that time on, Jewish tradition saw Rome as the embodiment of the continuing struggle between Jacob and Esau.”

While all of this may be partially true, we will see that Isaac’s prophecy for Esau is far more encompassing and applies also and foremost to more recent historical and even still future events. Edom is not just a symbolic reference to Rome or the modern Roman or Babylonian system in the end times, but a distinctively existing nation—which will however, to an extent and for a while, support modern Babylon in an attack against the state of Israel.

The Church of God has taught for over sixty years that many Edomites are today to be found in the modern nation of Turkey, and that biblical prophecies relating to modern Edom mainly address the Turkish people. (As an aside, the famous mountain of Ararat where Noah’s ark rested after the Flood, is situated in Turkey).

The following was stated in an article by The Plain Truth, dated 1966, titled, “Turkey in Prophecy”:

“Turkey can be identified by research in encyclopedias, or history books dealing with the subject, as the descendants of Esau… One of the grandsons of Esau was Teman (Genesis 36:11). Teman became a great leader among the peoples… As the Edomites began to expand…, portions of the land began to bear the name of Teman… much of the area… including … Turkestan… became known as the ‘Land of Temani’ (compare Genesis 36:34 [according to the Authorized Version; the New King James Bible says: “the land of the Temanites”)… Is it any wonder then that the indelible stamp of Teman, one of the leading dukes of ancient Edom, was carried down into modern history in the form of the ‘Ottoman’ Empire?”

The Ottoman Empire existed for about 400 years and ended with World War I. The Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia tells us that the Ottoman Empire or the “Turkish state was the dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean from the 16th to the 19th century. It was broken up at the end of World War I, and its Anatolian heartland became the modern Republic of Turkey.”

During its high days and years of conquest, the Ottoman Empire ruled over countries and areas such as Algeria, Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Arabia, Iraq, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Armenia, Georgia and the Crimea, and it even besieged Austria’s capitol, Vienna (in 1529). It had at that time broken the yoke of Jacob (including Jacob’s son Judah) from his neck.

The fact that the name of the Turkish Ottoman Empire is derived from or related to Teman is confirmed by other authors as well. For instance, the encyclopedia Wordnik states regarding Edom: “Edom is O’theman of the Bible, and O’theman of the Bible is Turkey.” Also, many claim that the name “Turk” is associated with “Turkestan,” where, as we recall, many of the Edomites and more precisely, the Temanites, had settled. We are also told by some that the Khazars called the Byzantium Emperor the “King of Edom.” (Note that the name Byzantium is ancient for Constantinople, which is today Turkey’s capitol Istanbul.)

Turkey did in fact live by the sword, as Isaac had told Esau, but, as we showed in the Current Events section of our last Update (Update No. 496), it has now advanced to a very prosperous country in the Middle East, manifesting more and more its (ongoing) independent status from the house of Judah—the Jews—and now also increasingly from the modern descendants of the ancient house of Israel—the USA and Great Britain. This means, then, that biblical prophetic references to Esau, Edom, Seir, Idumea and Bozrah refer mainly to the modern nation of Turkey.

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link