A people who dwelt west of the Dead sea, and extended themselves far into Arabia Petraea. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was a Kenite, and his family accompanied the Israelites, and settled with other Kenites in various parts of the Holy Land, Jg 1:16; 4:11; 1Sa 30:29; 1Ch 2:55. Heber and the Rechabites were their descendants. The Kenites of whom we read appear to have known and served Jehovah, and the whole tribe were friendly to the Hebrews. Saul spared them, when sent to destroy the Amalekites among whom they dwelt, Nu 24:20-21; 1Sa 15:6.
smiths, the name of a tribe inhabiting the desert lying between southern Palestine and the mountains of Sinai. Jethro was of this tribe (Jg 1:16). He is called a "Midianite" (Nu 10:29), and hence it is concluded that the Midianites and the Kenites were the same tribe. They were wandering smiths, "the gipsies and travelling tinkers of the old Oriental world. They formed an important guild in an age when the art of metallurgy was confined to a few" (Sayce's Races, etc.). They showed kindness to Israel in their journey through the wilderness. They accompanied them in their march as far as Jericho (Jg 1:16), and then returned to their old haunts among the Amalekites, in the desert to the south of Judah. They sustained afterwards friendly relations with the Israelites when settled in Canaan (Jg 4:11,17-21; 1Sa 27:10; 30:29). The Rechabites belonged to this tribe (1Ch 2:55) and in the days of Jeremiah (Jer 35:7-10) are referred to as following their nomad habits. Saul bade them depart from the Amalekites (1Sa 15:6) when, in obedience to the divine commission, he was about to "smite Amalek." And his reason is, "for ye showed kindness to all the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt." Thus "God is not unrighteous to forget the kindnesses shown to his people; but they shall be remembered another day, at the farthest in the great day, and recompensed in the resurrection of the just" (M. Henry's Commentary). They are mentioned for the last time in Scripture in 1Sa 27:10; comp. 1Sa 30:20.
A Midianite race, for Jethro the Kenite is called priest prince of Midian (Ex 2:15-16; 4:19; Jg 1:16; 4:11). The connection with Moses explains their continued alliance with Israel, accompanying them to Jericho "the city of palm trees" (Jg 1:16; compare 2Ch 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 (Nu 10:32). (See HOBAB.) Hence Saul in a friendly spirit warned them to leave the Amalekites whom he was about to destroy (1Sa 15:6), and David sent presents to them, having previously pretended to Achish that he had invaded their southern border (1Sa 27:10; 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 (Nu 24:21-22 margin). Evidently the Kenites to be dispossessed by Israel (Ge 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 (Ge 25:2); the former were Canaanites of the city Kain, which was taken by Judah (Jos 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 (Ob 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 (Jg 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; Ex 2:4; Numbers 25).
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 (Jg 1:16; 4:11 Revised Version margin), who had been invited by Moses
There seem to have been several different peoples called by this name, without any apparent link between them. Thus
1. There were some in the land when it was promised to Abraham. Ge 15:19.
2. Jethro, or Raguel, Moses' father-in-law, is called a Kenite, Jg 1:16, and is also called a Midianite. Nu 10:29. The Midianites sprung from Midian, the son of Abraham and Keturah, Ge 25:2; so these Kenites were probably a branch of the Midianites. The children of the Kenite, Moses' father-in-law, left Jericho, the city of palm trees, and went into the wilderness of Judah, which was to the south of Arad, and dwelt there. Jg 1:16 Apparently Heber the Kenite travelled north, and was neutral between Israel and their enemies; but Jael his wife smote Sisera in her tent. Jg 4:11,17; 5:24. Others remained in the far south, for when Saul was going to smite the Amalekites he warned the Kenites, for their own safety, to depart from among them, because they had befriended Israel when they came from Egypt. 1Sa 15:6. They were still in the neighbourhood when David feigned to have attacked them. He regarded them as friends, and sent presents to them. 1Sa 27:10; 30:29.
4. Descendants of Hemath, the father of the house of Rechab. 1Ch 2:55.
KENITES, people who dwelt westward of the Dead Sea, and extended themselves pretty far into Arabia Petraea: for Jethro, the priest of Midian, and father-in-law to Moses, was a Kenite, Jg 1:16; 1Ch 2:55; 1Sa 15:6. When Saul was sent to destroy the Amalekites, the Kenites, who had joined them, perhaps by compulsion, were ordered to depart from them, that they might not share in their fate; and the reason assigned was, that they "showed kindness to the children of Israel when they came up out of Egypt," 1Sa 15:6. Which, according to the margin of our Bible, is to be understood of the father-in- law of Moses and his family. From the story of Jethro, who is expressly said to be a Midianite, they appear to have retained the worship of the true God among them; for which, and their kindness to the Israelites when passing their country, they were spared in the general destruction of the nations bordering on Canaan. Of these Kenites were the Rechabites, the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and the Suchathites, mentioned in 1Ch 2:55, whose chief office was that of scribes. (See Rechabites.) Balaam, when invited by Balak, king of Moab, to curse Israel, stood upon a mountain, whence he addressed the Kenites, and said, "Strong is thy dwelling place, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock; nevertheless, the Kenite shall be wasted until Asher shall carry thee away captive," Nu 24:21-22. The Kenites dwelt in mountains and rocks almost inaccessible. They were conquered and carried into captivity, by Nebuchadnezzar. After Saul the Kenites are not mentioned; but they subsisted, being mingled among the Edomites and other nations of Arabia Petraea.