("strife".) Abraham's son by Keturah (Ge 25:2). The race occupied the desert N. of Arabia, and southwards the E. of the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea; northwards, along the E. of Palestine. The oases of Sinai too were included in their "land," because they had pasturage stations there. As merchants passing through Palestine from Gilead to Egypt, they bought Joseph from his brethren (Ge 37:28). They are there called Ismaelites, though Ishmael was Hagar's son not Keturah's. (See ISMAELITES.) But being close neighbors, and related on their common father Abraham's side, and joined in caravans and commercial enterprises, Ishmael, the name of the more powerful tribe, was given as a general name for both and for several smaller associated tribes (compare Jg 8:1 with Jg 8:24). Moses fled to the land of Midian (Ex 2:15-16,21; 3:1), in the pastures near Horeb, and married a daughter of the priest of Midian.
They were joined with Moab in desiring Balsam to curse Israel (Nu 22:4,7; 25:6,15,17-18), and then in tempting Israel at Shittim to whoredom and idolatry with Baal Peor. So, by Jehovah's command, 1,000 warriors of every tribe, 12,000 in all, of Israel "vexed and smote" their five kings (Zur included, father of Cozbi the Midianite woman slain with Zimri by Phinehas in the act of sin) and Balaam the giver of the wicked counsel which brought Jehovah's wrath on Israel for the sin (Nu 31:2-17). Their males and any women that knew man carnally were slain, and their cities and castles burnt. Their inferior position as tributary dependents on Moab accounts for their omission from Balaam's prophecy. (On Israel's oppression by Midian (Judges 6-8), and deliverance, see GIDEON.)
A considerable time must have elapsed to admit of their recovery from the blow inflicted by Moses. Midian by its consanguinity was more likely to corrupt Israel than the abhorred Canaanites. The defeat by Gideon was so decisive that Midian never afterward appears in arms against Israel; symbolizing Messiah's, Israel's, and the church's final triumph over the world: Isa 9:4; Hab 3:7 "the curtains (tents) of Midian tremble." Though nomadic as the Bedouins they yet settled in the land of Moab, occupying Sihon's "cities" and "goodly castles," which they did not build (probably the more ancient ones in the Lejah are as old as Sihon and Midian), and retaining beeves, sheep, and asses, but not camels, which are needless and unhealthy in a settled state.
In their next raids on Palestine in Gideon's days they appear as nomads with countless camels. The "gold, silver, brass, iron, tin, and lead" (Nu 31:22) taken by Moses, along with the vast number of cattle and flocks, accord with the picture of their wealth in Judges (Jg 6:4-5; 8:21-26), partly pastoral, partly gold, and the metals obtained either by plunder or by traffic with Arabia. (See MINES.) Traces of the name Midian appear in Modiana E. of the Elanitic gulf, mentioned by Ptolemy (vi. 7). Also the Muzeiny Arabs W. of the gulf of Akabah. Moses' entreaty of Hobab illustrates their wandering habits. (See PARAN; KENITE.)
Mid'ian Midianites. Mid'ianites
Son of Abraham and Keturah, and his descendants. Ge 25:2-4. They were located far south, on the west of the Gulf of Akaba, and east of Mount Horeb. That they extended however much farther north is proved by the intercourse they had with the Israelites when in the land; unless, as some suppose, the term Midianites was not restricted to this tribe. Moses, when he fled from the king of Egypt, found shelter in Midian. Ex 2:15-22.
The next reference to them is where they joined with Moab in soliciting Balaam to curse Israel when on the border of the land; and it was with the Midianites that Israel committed fornication. Nu 22:4,7; 25:6-18. Moses was told to make war with them, and we read that the Israelites slew all the males, burnt all their cities and goodly castles, and afterwards put the women to death; on which occasion Balaam also was slain. Nu 31:1-18.
During the time of the judges, because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord, He 'delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years;' but when, being greatly oppressed, they cried unto the Lord, He raised up Gideon and there was a great slaughter of the Midianites, 'so that they lifted up their heads no more' against Israel. Nothing is recorded of them during the time of the kingdom. Nu 10:29; Judges 6
(strife), a son of Abraham and Keturah,
progenitor of the Midianites, or Arabians dwelling principally in the desert north of the peninsula of Arabia. Southward they extended along the eastern shore of the Gulf of Eyleh (Sinus AElaniticus); and northward they stretched along the eastern frontier of Palestine. The "land of Midian," the place to which Moses fled after having killed the Egyptian,
or the portion of it specially referred to, was probably the peninsula of Sinai. The influence of the Midianties on the Israelites was clearly most evil, and directly tended to lead them from the injunctions of Moses. The events at Shittim occasioned the injunction to vex Midian and smite them. After a lapse of some years, the Midianites appear again as the enemies of the Israelites, oppressing them for seven years, but are finally defeated with great slaughter by Gideon. [GIDEON] The Midianites are described as true Arabs, and possessed cattle and flocks and camels as the sand of the seashore for multitude. The spoil taken in the war of both Moses and of Gideon is remarkable.
We have here a wealthy Arab nation, living by plunder, delighting in finery; and, where forays were impossible, carrying ont he traffic southward into Arabia, the land of gold --if not naturally, by trade-- and across to Chaldea, or into the rich plains of Egypt.
MIDIAN, 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, Jos 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, Nu 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.