Te'ma (Heb. Teyma', תֵּימָא [in Job 6:19 more concisely Tema', תֵּמָא] = the Arab. teyma, "a deser-t" [but Gesen.=Teman, i.e. the South]; Sept. Θαιμάν, Vulg. Thema [but in Isaiah Auster]), the name of a person and of a tribe or district.
1. The ninth son of Ishmael (Ge 25:15; 1 Chronicles i,30). B.C. post 2020.
2. The tribe descended from him mentioned in Job 6:19, "The troops of Tema looked, the companies-of Sheba waited for them," and by Jeremiah (Jer 25:23), "Dedan, Tema, and Buz;" and also the land occupied by this tribe: "The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye traveling companies of Dedanim. The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled" (Isa 21:13-14).
The name and the tribe appear to have been known to classic writers. Ptolemy mentions the city of Themme (Θέμμη) among those of Arabia Deserta, and apparently in the centre of the country (Geogr. 5, 19). Pliny states that "to the Nabataei the ancients joined the Thimanei" (Hist. Nat. 6:32). It may be questioned, however, whether he refers to the Biblical Teman or Tema.
There can be little doubt that the Themme of Ptolemy is identical with the modern Teima, an Arab town of some five hundred inhabitants, situated on the western border of the province of Nejd. Wallin, who visited it in 1848, thus describes it: "Teima stands on a mass of crystalline limestone, very slightly raised above the surrounding level. Patches of sand, which have encroached upon the rock, are the only spots which can be cultivated. The inhabitants, however, have considerable date plantations, which yield a great variety of the fruit, of which one kind is esteemed the best flavored in all Arabia. Grain is also cultivated, especially oats of a remarkably good quality, but the produce is never sufficient for the wants of the inhabitants. The greater portion of the gardens are watered from a copious well in the middle of the village. The hydraulic contrivance by which water is raised for distribution through channels among the plantations is the same as is used through Mesopotamia as well as in Nejd, viz. a bucket of camel-skin hung to the end of a long lever moving upon an upright pole fixed in the ground" (Journal R. G. S. 20:332). Arab writers state of Teima that "it is a town in the Syrian desert, and that it is commanded by the castle called El- Ablalk [or El-Ablak el-Fard], of Es-Semawal [Samuel] Ibn-'Adiya the Jew, a contemporary of Imra-el-Keys" (A.D. cir. 550); but according to a tradition it was built by Solomon, which points at any rate to its antiquity (comp. El-Bekri, in Mardsid. 4:23). Wallin says no remains of the castle now exist, nor does even the name "live in the memory of the present inhabitants. A small ruined building, constructed of hewn stone, and half buried in sand and rubbish, appeared to me to be too inconsiderable to admit of its being identified with the celebrated old castle" (ut sup. p. 333). This fortress seems, like that of Dumat-el-Jendel, to be one of the strongholds that must have protected the caravan route along the northern frontier of Arabia- and they recall the passage following the enumeration of the sons of Ishmael; "These [are] the sons of Ishmael, and these [are] their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations" (Ge 25:16).
It seems probable that the ancient Arab tribe of BeniTeim of whom Abulfeda speaks (Hist. Anteislam. ed. Fleischer, p. 198), were connected with this place, and were the more recent representatives of the children of Tema. Forster would further identify the tribe of Tema with the Beni- Temim, who had their chief stations on the shores of the Persian Gulf; but his proof does not seem satisfactory (Geog. of Arabia, 1, 289 sq.). It is interesting to find memorials of the nation founded by this son of Ishmael, not merely referred to by classic and Arab geographers, but existing to the present day, in the very region where we naturally look for them (see D'Anville, Geog. Ancienne, 2, 250; Abulfeda, Descript. Arab. p. 6 sq.; Seetzen, in Zach, Monatl. Correspondenz, 18:374). Like other Arab tribes, the children of Tema had probably a nucleus at the town of Teima, while their pasture-grounds extended westward to the borders of Edom, and eastward to the Euphrates, just as those of the Beni Shummar do at the present time.