Oases of the Arabian Desert

One of the most overlooked locations of biblical history is the desert region encompassing the oases of Dumah, Tema, Dedan, and Yathrib. While Dumah, Tema, and Dedan are mentioned by name only a few times in the Old Testament and Yathrib is not mentioned at all, the history of these cities often overlaps with biblical history at very significant points. All of these cities existed because of their roles as much needed oases along two very important trade routes through the Arabian Desert. The Incense Route stretched for over a thousand miles through forbidding desert, beginning in Sheba in southern Arabia and terminating at Gaza on the Mediterranean coast, where traders could find ready markets for Sheba’s prized incense and precious stones. Traders from Sheba could also reach the great civilizations of Babylon and Assyria by another route that turned northeast from the Incense Route at Dedan and passed through Tema and Dumah. Over time these critical desert oases grew very wealthy, and foreign rulers did not fail to take notice. Nabonidus, the last king of Babylon, eventually appointed Belshazzar to rule in his stead while he traveled to each of these cities to defeat them. Then for several years Nabonidus ruled over the these cities from Tema (see Jeremiah 49:28). Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel mention these desert cities in association with Edom (Isaiah 21; Jeremiah 25:23; 49:8; Ezekiel 25:13), and Tema is also mentioned in Job 6:19. Dedan is said to be among those who traded with Tyre (Ezekiel 27:20). Dumah is prophesied against by Isaiah (Isaiah 21); Tema is prophesied against by Isaiah and Jeremiah (Isaiah 21; Jeremiah 25); and Dedan is prophesied against by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (Isaiah 21; Jeremiah 25; 49:8; Ezekiel 25:13).

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