Se'ir (Heb. Sei'r', שֵׂעַיר, hairy [i.e. rough, by a play upon the name of Esau, see Ge 25:25]; Sept. Σηερί, v.r. in No. 1 Σηθίρ, in No. 3 Α᾿σσάρ), the name of a man and of two mountains.
1. A phylarch or chief of the Horim, who were the former inhabitants of the country afterwards possessed by the Edomites (Ge 26:20-21; 1Ch 1:38). B.C. ante 1960. The region doubtless derived its name from him (comp. Josephus, Σαείρα, Ant. 2, 1,1).
2. MOUNT SEIR (הִר שֵׂעַיר, Ge 14:6 sq.), or LAND OF SEIR (אֶרֶוֹ שֵׂעַיר, 32:3; 36:30), was the original name of the mountain ridge extending along the east side of the valley of Arabah, from the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf. The name (==" the shaggy") was probably in the first instance derived from Seir the Horite, who appears to have been the chief of the aboriginal inhabitants (36:20), and then, secondarily, by a paronomasia frequent in such cases, from the rough aspect of the whole country. The view from Aaron's tomb on Hor, in the center of Mount Seir, is enough to show the appropriateness of the appellation. The sharp and serrated ridges, the jagged rocks and cliffs, the straggling bushes and stunted trees, give the whole scene a sternness and ruggedness almost unparalleled. In the Samaritan Pentateuch, instead of שעיר, the name, גבלה is used; and in the Jerusalem Targum, in place of "Mount Seir" we find טורא דגבלא, Mount Gabla. The word Gabla signifies "mountain," and is thus descriptive of the region (Reland, Paloest. p. 83). The name Gebala, or Gebalene, was applied to this province by Josephus, and also by Eusebius and Jerome (Josephus, Ant. 2, 1, 2; Onomast. s.v. "Idumaea"). The northern section of Mount Seir, as far as Petra, is still called Jebal, the Arabic form of Gebal. The Mount Seir of the Bible extended much farther south than the modern province, as is shown by the words of De 2:1-8. In fact, its boundaries are there defined with tolerable exactness. It had the Arabah on the west (ver. 1 and 8); it extended as far south as the head of the Gulf of Akabah (ver. 8); its eastern border ran along the base of the mountain range where the plateau of Arabia begins. Its northern border is not so accurately determined. The land of Israel, as described by Joshua, extended from "the Mount Halak that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baal Gad" (Jos 11:17). As no part of Edom was given to Israel, Mount Halak must have been upon its northern border. Now there is a line of "naked" (halak signified "naked") white hills or cliffs which runs across the great valley about eight miles south of the Dead Sea, forming the division between the Arabah proper and the deep Ghor north of it. The view of these cliffs, from the shore of the Dead Sea, is very striking. They appear as a line of hills shutting in the valley, and extending up to the mountains of Seir. The impression left by them on the mind of the writer was that this is the very "Mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir" (Robinson, Bib. Res. 2, 113, etc.; see Keil on Joshua 11:17). The northern border of the modern district of Jebal is Wady el- Ahsy, which falls into the Ghor a few miles farther north (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 401).
In De 33:2, Seir appears to be connected with Sinai and Paran; but a careful consideration of that difficult passage proves. that the connection is not a geographical one. Moses there only sums up the several glorious manifestations of the divine majesty to the Israelites, without regard either to time or place (comp. Jg 5:4-5).
Mount Seir was originally inhabited by the Horites, or "troglodytes," who were doubtless the excavators of those singular rock dwellings found in such numbers in the ravines and cliffs around Petra. They were dispossessed, and apparently annihilated, by the posterity of Esau, who "dwelt in their stead" (De 2:12). The history of Seir thus early merges into that of Edom. Though the country was afterwards called. Edom, yet the older name, Seir, did not pass away: it is frequently mentioned in the subsequent history of the Israelites (1Ch 4:42; 2Ch 20:10). Mount Seir is the subject of a terrible prophetic curse pronounced by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 35), which seems now to be literally fulfilled: "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, O Mount Seir, I am against thee, and I will make thee most desolate. I will lay thy cities waste,... . when the whole earth rejoiceth I will make thee desolate... . I will make thee perpetual desolations, and thy cities shall not return, and ye shall know that I am the Lord." The southern part of this range now bears the appellation esh-Sherah, which seems no other than a modification of the ancient name. In modern times these mountains were first visited and described by Burckhardt (Syria, p. 40), but they have often since been visited by other travelers, among whom Dr. Robinson has perhaps furnished the best description of them (Bib. Res. 2, 551, 552). At the base of the chain are low hills of limestone or argillaceous rock; then lofty masses of porphyry, which constitute the body of the mountain; above these is sandstone broken into irregular ridges and grotesque groups of cliffs; and again, farther back, and higher than all, are long elevated ridges of limestone without precipices. Beyond all these stretches off indefinitely the high plateau of the great eastern desert. The height of the porphyry cliffs is estimated by Dr: Robinson at about 2000 feet above the Arabah (the great valley between the Dead Sea and Elanitic Gulf); the elevation of Wady Musa above the same is perhaps 2000 or 2200 feet; while the limestone ridges farther back probably do not fall short of 3000 feet. The whole breadth of the mountainous tract between the Arabah and the eastern desert above does not exceed fifteen or twenty geographical miles. These mountains are quite different in character from those which front them on the other (west) side of the Arabah. The latter seem to be not more than two thirds as high as the former, and are wholly desert and sterile; while those on the east appear to enjoy a sufficiency of rain, and are covered with tufts of herbs and occasional trees. The valleys are also full of trees and shrubs and flowers, the eastern and higher parts being extensively cultivated, and yielding good crops. The general appearance of the soil is not unlike that around Hebron, though the face of the country is very different. It is, indeed, the region of which Isaac said to his son Esau, "Behold, thy dwelling shall be [far] from the fatness of the earth, and the dew of heaven from above" (Ge 27:39). SEE IDUMEA.
3. An entirely different mountain from the foregoing formed one of the landmarks on the north boundary of the territory of Judah (Jos 15:10 only). It lay westward of Kirjath-jearim, and between it and Beth- shemesh. If Kuriet el-Enab be the former, and Ain-shems the latter of these two, then Mount Seir cannot fail to be the ridge which lies between the Wady Aly and the Wady Ghurab (Robinson, Bib. Res. 3, 155). A village called Saris stands on the southern side of this ridge, which Tobler (Dritte Wanderung, p. 203) and Schwarz (Palest. p. 97) with great probability identify with Seir, notwithstanding considerable difference in the names. The Sa'irah, on the south of the Wady Surar (Robinson, 1st ed. 2, 364), is nearer in orthography, but not so suitable in position.
It is possibly the Σωρής, which, in the Alex. MS., is one of the eleven names inserted by the Sept. in Jos 15:59. The neighboring names agree. In the Vat. MS. it is Ε᾿ωβής How the name of Seir came to be located so far to the north of the main seats of the Seirites we have no means of knowing. Perhaps, like other names occurring in the tribe of Benjamin, it is a monument of an incursion by the Edomites which has escaped record. See OPHNI, etc. But it is more probable that it derived its name from some peculiarity in the form or appearance of the spot. Dr. Robinson (3, 155), apparently without intending any allusion to the name of Seir, speaks of the "rugged points which composed the main ridge" of the mountain in question. Such is the meaning of the Hebrew word Seir. Whether there is any connection between this mountain and Seirath (q.v.), or has-Seirah, is not so clear. The name is not a common one, and it is not unlikely that it may have been attached to the more northern continuation of the hills of Judah which ran up into Benjamin — or, as it was then called, Mount Ephraim.