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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
kē´nı̄ts ( הקּני , ha - ḳēnı̄ , הקּיני , haḳēnı̄ ; in Numbers 24:22 and Judges 4:11 , קין , ḳāyin ; of οί Κεναῖοι , hoi Kenaı́oi , οί Κιναῖοι , hoi Kinaı́oi : A tribe of nomads named in association with various other peoples. They are first mentioned along with the Kadmonites and Kenizzites among the peoples whose land was promised to Abram (Genesis 15:19 ). Balaam, seeing them from the heights of Moab; puns upon their name, which resembles the Hebrew ḳēn , "a nest," prophesying their destruction although their nest was "set in the rock" - possibly a reference to Sela, the city. Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, is called "the priest of Midian" in Exodus 3:1; Exodus 18:1; but in Judges 1:16 he is described as a Kenite, showing a close relation between the Kenites and Midian. At the time of Sisera's overthrow, Heber, a Kenite, at "peace" with Jabin, king of Ha Zôr , pitched his tent far North of his ancestral seats (Judges 4:17 ). There were Kenites dwelling among the Amalekites in the time of Saul (1 Samuel 15:6 ). They were spared because they had "showed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt." David, in his answer to Achish, links the Kenites with the inhabitants of the South of Judah (1 Samuel 27:10 ). Among the ancestors of the tribe of Judah, the Chronicler includes the Kenite Hammath, the father of the Rechabites (1 Chronicles 2:55 ). These last continued to live in tents, practicing the ancient nomadic customs (Jeremiah 35:6 ff).
The word ḳēnı̄ in Aramaic means "smith." Professor Sayce thinks they may really have been a tribe of smiths, resembling "the gipsies of modern Europe, as well as the traveling tinkers or blacksmiths of the Middle Ages" ( HDB , under the word). This would account for their relations with the different peoples, among whom they would reside in pursuit of their calling.
In Josephus they appear as Kenetides, and in Ant ., IV, vii, 3 he calls them "the race of the Shechemites."
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Kenites'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/k/kenites.html. 1915.