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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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KENITES . A nomadic tribe, closely connected with the Amalekites (wh. see), and probably indeed a branch of them, but having friendly relations with Israel, and ultimately, it seems, at least in the main, absorbed in Judah. Hobab , Moses’ father-in-law ( Judges 1:16 ; Judges 4:11 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ), who had been invited by Moses and had doubtless accepted the invitation to he a guide to Israel in the wilderness ( Numbers 10:29-32 ), was a Kenite; and his descendants came up from Jericho with the tribe of Judah into the S. part of their territory (Arad is about 17 miles S. of Hebron), though afterwards, true to their Bedouin instincts, they roamed beyond the border and rejoined their kinsmen, the Amalekites, in the N. of the Sinaitic Peninsula ( Judges 1:16 ; read in this verse, with MSS of LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , ‘the Amalekite’ for ‘the people’ three letters have dropped out in the Heb.). When Saul, many years later, attacked the Amalekites, he bade the Kenites separate themselves from them, on the ground that they had shown kindness to Israel at the time of the Exodus ( 1 Samuel 15:6 , alluding doubtless to Hobab’s guidance, Numbers 10:29-32 ). In Judges 4:11 Heber the Kenite is mentioned as having separated himself from the main body of the tribe, and wandered northwards as far as the neighbourhood of Kedesh (near the Waters of Merom). From 1 Samuel 27:10 ; 1 Samuel 30:29 we learn that in the time of David there was a district in the S. of Judah inhabited by Kenites; it is possible also that Kinah , in the Negeb of Judah ( Joshua 15:22 ), and Kain in the hill-country ( Joshua 15:57 ), were Kenite settlements. The Rechabites , with whom the nomadic life had become a religious Institution ( Jeremiah 35:1-19 ), were Kenites ( 1 Chronicles 2:55 ). In Genesis 15:19 the Kenites are mentioned among the ten nations whose land was to be taken possession of by Israel; the reference is doubtless to the absorption of the Kenites in Judah. In Numbers 24:21 f. Balaam, with a play on the resemblance of the name to the Heb. kçn , ‘nest,’ declares that though their ‘nest’ is among the rocky crags (namely, in the S. of Judah), they would in the end be carried away captive by the Assyrians (‘ Kain ’ in Numbers 24:22 is the proper name of the tribe of which ‘Kenite’ Is the gentilic adj.; cf. Judges 4:11 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] . Observe here that the oracle on the Kenites follows closely upon that on the Amalekites).

The word kain means in Heb. a ‘spear’ ( 2 Samuel 21:16 ), and in Arab. [Note: Arabic.] an ‘iron-smith’; in Aram, also the word corresponding to ‘Kenite’ denotes a ‘metal-worker’; it has hence been conjectured (Sayce) that the ‘Kenites’ were a nomad tribe of smiths. There is, however, no support for this conjecture beyond the resemblance in the words.

S. R. Driver.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Kenites'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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