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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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LAND OF, a country of the Midianites, derived its name and its inhabitants from Midian, the son of Abraham by Keturah. This country extended from the east of the land of Moab, on the east of the Dead Sea, southward, along the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea, stretching some way into Arabia. It farther passed to the south of the land of Edom, into the peninsula of Mount Sinai, where Moses met with the daughter of Jethro, the priest of Midian, whom he married. The Midianites, together with their neighbours, the Ishmaelites, were early engaged in the trade between the east and the west, as we find the party to whom Joseph was sold, carrying spices, the produce of the east, into Egypt; and, taking Gilead in their way, to add the celebrated and highly prized balm of that country to their merchandise. It appears that, at the time of the passage of the Israelites through the country of the Amorites, the Midianites had been subdued by that people, as the chiefs or kings of their five principal tribes are called dukes of Sihon, and dwelt in his country, Joshua 13:21 . It was at this time that the Midianites, alarmed at the numbers and the progress of the Israelites, united with the Moabites in sending into Syria for Balaam, the soothsayer; thinking to do that by incantation which they despaired of effecting by force. The result of this measure, the constraint imposed on Balaam to bless instead of to curse, and the subsequent defeat and slaughter of the Midianites, forms one of the most interesting narratives in the early history of the Jews, Numbers 22-25, 31. About two hundred years after this, the Midianites, having recovered their numbers and their strength, were permitted by God to distress the Israelites for the space of seven years, as a punishment for their relapse into idolatry. But at length their armies, "like grasshoppers for multitude, with camels out of number as sand by the sea side for multitude," which had encamped in the valley of Jezreel, were miraculously defeated by Gideon, Judges 6-8. The Midianites appear not to have survived this second discomfiture as a nation; but their remains became gradually incorporated with the Moabites and Arabians.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Midian'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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