According to Archibald Sayce (1915), the Horites have been identified with references in Egyptian inscriptions to Khar (formerly translated as Harri), which concern a southern region of Canaan. More recent scholarship has associated them with the Hurrians.
The rabbinical tradition in Genesis Rabbah 42:6 (300-500 CE) says they are called Horites because "they made themselves independent [free]", which assumes the name is cognate with ḥori meaning "free."
The Horites initially appear in the Torah as being members of a Canaanite coalition, who lived near the Sodom and Gomorrah. The coalition rebelled against Kedorlamer of Elam, who ruled them for twelve years. Kedorlamer attacked and subdued them in response (Genesis 14:1–12).
Later, according to Genesis 36, the Horites co-existed and inter-married with the family of Esau, grandson of Abraham through Isaac (Genesis 25:21–25). They were eventually brought under the rule of the descendants of Esau, also then known as Edom.
The ancestry of Seir the Horite is not specified. Some say Seir lived around the time of Terah, father of Abraham. He is also said to be a descendant of Hor who is supposed to have lived around the time of Reu and was a descendant of Hivi, son of Canaan son of Ham.
The pre-Edomite Horite chiefs, descendants of Seir, are listed in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 36:20–29) and 1 Chronicles (1 Chronicles 1:38–42). Two of these chiefs would appear to have been female - Timna and Oholibamah. Timna is infamous for being the progenitor of the Amalekites, the archenemy of the Israelites (Genesis 36:12).
The chiefs who descended from Esau are listed in Genesis 36:40–43.
At some time, certain of these leaders rose to the level of 'kings' over the other chiefs, and the Horite land became known as Edom rather than the land of Seir. One example of these kings is Jobab, son of Zerah, a son of Esau and his wife Basemath, who was Ishmael's daughter (Genesis 36:35). Another is a 'Temanite', Husham (Genesis 36:34), a descendant of Esau's son, Teman (Genesis 36:10,11).
None of these kings' sons became kings after their fathers died. Apparently, there was no familial royal line whereby sons of these post-Horite kings succeeded to the throne, but rather, some other system was in place by which kings were either chosen or won the right to rule (Genesis 36:31–39).
By the time governance of these peoples had been consolidated under kings instead of chiefs, Horites are no longer mentioned as such. According to Deuteronomy 2:22, the Edomites destroyed the Horites and settled in their land. German theologians Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch considered the Horites to be Rephaim, seeing that the verse directly compared their conquest with the Moabite and Ammonite conquest of the Rephaim.
- Horites at International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
- James Orr, "Horites", in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (1915) page 1421.
- Lawrence A. Sinclair (2000). "Horites". In David Noel Freedman (ed.). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. W.B. Eerdmans. p. 607. ISBN 978-0-8028-2400-4.
- the brackets are in the original text of the translation
- Freedman, H.; Simon, Maurice (1939). Midrash Rabbah, Translated into English. Vol. 1. p. 348.
note 6: Hori is derived from ḥeruth, freedom, and ḥori, free.
- "Deuteronomy 2: Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary". Biblehub.