The word Edom means red or ruddy, like the reddish sandstone in the area southeast of the Dead Sea. The important route known as the King's Highway ran through Edom, connecting Damascus to the north with the Gulf of Aqabah to the south.
Esau was said to be the ancestor of the Edomites. Like the region itself, he was ruddy from birth (Genesis 25:25). In the time of Moses, the Israelites tried to pass through Edom on their way to Canaan, but the king of Edom refused to let them enter his realm, and they had to circle around to the east (Numbers 20:14-21). Saul and David fought and subdued Edom (1 Samuel 14:47; 2 Samuel 8:13-14). The prophets castigated Edom for its involvement in the slave trade (Amos 1:6, 9, 11) and for betraying and looting Judah (Obadiah 11-14).