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Copper in Edom

Posted Sunday, October 29, 2006 by Charlie Trimm
Categories: Archaeology  


Some of you may have seen this recently, but for the rest of you here is a review of an important archaeological find. How does a copper mine in Edom help to demonstrate the reliability of the Bible? Read on.

There recently was found a huge copper mine in modern Jordan, in what would have been ancient Edom. It was found in the lowlands, in the Arabah south of the Dead Sea, and not in the highlands with which Edom is usually associated. The site of Khirbat en-Nahas (Ruins of Copper in Arabic) was not recently discovered, but a major dig has been going on there for the past few years which has shown the extensive nature of the mining going on there. Some of the mines went 200 feet into the hillsides with air ducts dug 20 feet from the surface to provide ventilation. Present at the mines was a large fortress, the largest Iron Age fort in the region. It contained a four-chambered gate, similar to what was found at the Iron age sites of Beersheve and Megiddo. The radio-carbon date of the fortress was early Iron age: about 1000 BC. Then in about 850 or so the fort was converted to a building used for mining. There are dozens of buildings in the area which apparently housed workers at the copper mines. There are also thousands of pounds of black copper slag in the area. The earliest houses were in use by at least 1100.

So what does all this have to do with the Bible? The commonly accepted liberal view of Edom is that it was only nomadic at the time of the United Monarchy and that it became a kingdom only much later. But if there was a huge copper mine here at the time of the United Monarchy or just after it, then that implies that Edom was more highly organized than simply some nomads running around. A work of this kind implies a central organization. While it certainly does not prove that Edom was a kingdom, it does make the biblical account reasonable. In one further possible parallel, 2 Kings 8:20 mentions that the Edomites revolted against the rule of Judah about 850, so perhaps the changing of the fortress to a huge copper smelting operation reflects Edomite self-rule.

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