A title usually given to the Edomite and Horite tribal chiefs, the sons of Esau and the sons of Seir the Horite. (Ex. 15:15) In Hebrew the designation is ʼal·luphʹ, “chief,” “head of a family,” “leader of [a] thousand.” The ancient Edomite and Horite designation corresponds with the title “sheik” as used for tribal leaders among modern Bedouins. In some Bible translations such titles as “chief,” “chieftain” and “duke” are used instead of “sheik.”
Seven sheiks of the Horites are listed, all “sons of Seir.” (Gen. 36:20, 21, 29, 30) The sheiks of Edom were fourteen in number: seven grandsons from Esau’s firstborn Eliphaz the son of his wife Adah, four grandsons from his son Reuel the son of his wife Basemath, and three of his sons by his wife Oholibamah. (Gen. 36:15-19) The clans that developed from the sheiks came to bear their names as clan names.
At Genesis 36:40-43 and 1 Chronicles 1:51-54 a different listing is given of the “sheiks of Esau [Edom].” These may be later sheiks than those listed earlier. Some commentators, however, believe the names to be, not those of persons, but of the cities or regions where the various sheikdoms were centered. Following this view, the translation of the Jewish Publication Society reads: “the chief of Timna, the chief of Alvah,” and so forth.