Teman In The Bible

Teman is the name of a city mentioned in the Book of Genesis 30:14, which describes the whereabouts of Rachel (Jacob’s daughter and his second wife) and her father Laban. It lies to the east of Israel.

The Bible. Jewish scripture. The word of God.  The Sacred Scriptures . . . . . and so forth.  Teman isn’t a name that you’re likely to hear thrown around in Christianity, if you’ve ever heard it at all.  So what is the significance of this tribe that few people seem to know about?

Teman, in the Bible, was the town of Shema. Shema was a wicked man who led the men of Edom in the days before Moses and Joshua. The Temanites were descended from Abihail son of Esau and his wife Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. (Genesis 36:11)

Teman was a city in what is now modern Yemen. References to Teman are found in Genesis 36:34, Numbers 20:1, 1 Chronicles 1:35 and Job 6:19. It is used as the metonymy for an individual coming from the city of Teman. Teman was founded by a son of Esau named Eliphaz.

Teman In The Bible

Name of a town or tribe in the northern part of Edom (Jer 49:20; Ezek 25:13). One suggestion for the location of Teman is modern Tawilan, about three m. E of Petra. Excavations at Tawilan indicate a large Edomite fortification. The abundance of Early Iron I-II (1200-600 b.c.) pottery suggests that the site was quite important, possibly the largest city in the central area of Edom. The area around Tawilan is well-watered, fertile, and served as the meeting place of significant trade routes in ancient as well as in modern times. According to Genesis 36:34, Husham, the Temanite, ruled as king in Edom before there were kings in Israel.

The inhabitants of Teman were noted for their wisdom (Jer 49:7; Obad 8ff.). The nature and content of this wisdom are unknown. Eliphaz, one of Job’s comforters, was a Temanite (Job 2:11f.). One of the chieftains in Edom was Teman (Gen 36:42).

Many of the prophets included Teman in their oracles against Edom (Jer 49:20; Ezek 25:13; Amos 1:12; Obad 9), and all declared that Teman would be destroyed. Teman and Dedan, opposite boundary cities, are usually mentioned together in the oracles. Habakkuk 3:3 refers to a vision in which he saw God coming from the region of Sinai and marching toward Edom as He did in the Exodus (Deut 33:2). In the OT the word teman in ordinary use merely meant “south” as a direction.

Teman In The Bible

Habakkuk 3 consists of a hymn of praise to God. Verse 3 begins a section that says, “God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran.” What exactly does this mean? What is the significance of God’s coming from Teman?

When Habakkuk states, “God came from Teman,” he speaks of God as appearing out of the East; that is, He is shining over His people like the rising sun. God breaks the darkness and initiates a new day. Teman was a city or region in southern Edom, to the east of Israel (Genesis 36:11, 15, 34, 42; 1 Chronicles 1:36, 45, 53; Jeremiah 49:7; Ezekiel 25:13; Amos 1:12; Obadiah 1:9). Teman was also the home of one of Job’s friends (Job 22:1; 42:7, 9). Likewise, Mount Paran, a mountain opposite of Teman (Deuteronomy 33:2-4), was also east of Israel (Genesis 21:21).

The next verses in Habakkuk 3 emphasize this theme: “His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth. His splendor was like the sunrise” (verses 3b-4). Here we are told explicitly that God’s coming from Teman is like the rising of the sun.

The “splendor” referred to in verse 3 is from the Hebrew word hod, associated with kingly authority (Numbers 27:20; 1 Chronicles 29:25). In this context, God’s splendor is His glory as the sovereign King, reigning over all creation and for all time.

The language in Habakkuk 3 is strikingly similar to God’s appearance at Mount Sinai. At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses blesses the Israelites one final time: “The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand” (Deuteronomy 33:2). Habakkuk’s use of similar phrases connects his song of praise with Moses’ blessing. Habakkuk praises God’s sovereign power and ability to provide a “second exodus” for His people—not from Egypt but from Babylon.

Habakkuk 3:3 marks a shift in Habakkuk’s hymn from request to praise. He notes God’s power in bringing the Jewish people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Because the Lord had accomplished this great work in the past, Habakkuk was confident He would deliver His people from Babylon and bring them back to their homeland once again. After the darkness of captivity, God would be the sunrise of freedom and hope.

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