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What Is the History of the Kenites in the Bible?

Who were the Kenites and what was their history?The Kenites were a group of nomads associated with the nation of Midian.  A major source of evidence for this belief is that Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, was both a priest of Midian (Ex. 2:16; 18:1, 12) and a Kenite (Judges 1:16; 4:11).  They generally lived near the Dead Sea area, to the southwest.  The name "Kenite" is apparently derived from the word in Hebrew for "metal worker" or "smith."  Hence, the Kenites likely long had a skill in metalworking despite being a nomadic people as well.  Their relationship with Israel was fundamentally more friendly than that of other nearby Canaanite or Amorite nations, including Midian itself generally.  (The Kenites are first mentioned in Genesis 15:18-19, where it says they lived in the land that was to be given to Abraham's descendants).  When Saul sought to attack the extremely hostile Amalekites, he gave a friendly warning to the Kenites living among them, which they quickly acted upon (I Sam. 15:5-6).  Correspondingly, Jethro gave wise advice to Moses about how to delegate his authority that he acted upon as he led Israel in the wilderness (see Ex. 18:1-12 generally).  The Kenites even would help out the Israelites in battle, such as when Heber the Kenite's wife, Jael, used a tent peg to kill Sisera, the general for the king of Hazor (Judges 4:2, 11, 17-22).  So the history of the Kenites is interesting since despite being Canaanite/Amorite people, they were on relatively friendly terms with Israel.This is just a brief historical summary about the Kenites.

Eric V. Snow


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