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Bible Dictionaries

Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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A Midianite race, for Jethro the Kenite is called priest prince of Midian (Exodus 2:15-16; Exodus 4:19; Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11). The connection with Moses explains their continued alliance with Israel, accompanying them to Jericho "the city of palm trees" (Judges 1:16; compare 2 Chronicles 28:15), thence to the wilderness of Judah, where "they dwelt among the people" (Israel), realizing Moses' promise to Hobab, whose name appears slightly altered as that of a wady opposite Jericho (Numbers 10:32). (See HOBAB.) Hence Saul in a friendly spirit warned them to leave the Amalekites whom he was about to destroy (1 Samuel 15:6), and David sent presents to them, having previously pretended to Achish that he had invaded their southern border (1 Samuel 27:10; 1 Samuel 30:29). (See HEBER; HAZEZON TAMAR; RECHABITES; JEHONADAB.)

E. Wilton (Imperial Dictionary). suggests that Kenites is a religious rather than a gentilic term, meaning "a worshipper of the goddess Kain", one form of Ashtoreth or Astarte. This would account for God's denunciation of the Kenites by Balaam (Numbers 24:21-22 margin). Evidently the Kenites to be dispossessed by Israel (Genesis 15:19) were distinct from the Kenites to whom Hobab and Jethro belonged. The latter were of Midianite origin, sprung from Abraham and Keturah, occupying the region E. of Egypt and W. of Seir and the gulf of Akabah (Genesis 25:2); the former were Canaanites of the city Kain, which was taken by Judah (Joshua 15:57). The Canaanite Kenites Balaam denounces; or else more probably Balaam's prophecy is "Kain (the Midianite Kenites) shall not be exterminated until Asshur shall carry him away into captivity" (Keil).

Thus "strong is thy dwelling place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock," is figurative. The Kenites did not as Edom dwell in the rocks (Obadiah 1:3-4), but by leaving their nomadic life near Horeb to join Israel wandering in quest of a home the Kenite really placed his rest upon a safe rock, and would only be carried away when Assyria and Babylon took Israel and Judah; with the difference however that Judah should be restored, but the Kenites not so because they forfeited God's blessing by maintaining independence of Israel though intimately joined and by never entering inwardly into God's covenant of grace with Israel.

The connection of Midian and the Kenites appears in the name Kenney still attached to a wady in the midst of the Muzeiny or Midianites. Midian (and the Kenites) and Amalek were associated, as still are the Muzeiny and Aleikat (Amalek). The Muzeiny commit their flocks to women, as Jethro committed his to his daughters. The name Medinah betrays connection with Midian. The power of ingratiating themselves with their neighbours characterized the Kenites (Judges 4:17). Also the love of tent life, hospitality, the use of goat's milk whey, the employment of women in men's work, so that the sexes had free contact and yet the female part of the tent was inviolable (4, 5; Exodus 2:4; Numbers 25).

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Kenites'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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