From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

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.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

A Midianite race, for Jethro the Kenite is called priest prince of Midian ( Exodus 2:15-16;  Exodus 4:19;  Judges 1:16;  Judges 4:11). The connection with Moses explains their continued alliance with Israel, accompanying them to Jericho "the city of palm trees" ( Judges 1:16; compare  2 Chronicles 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 ( Numbers 10:32). (See Hobab .) Hence Saul in a friendly spirit warned them to leave the Amalekites whom he was about to destroy ( 1 Samuel 15:6), and David sent presents to them, having previously pretended to Achish that he had invaded their southern border ( 1 Samuel 27:10;  1 Samuel 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 ( Numbers 24:21-22 margin). Evidently the Kenites to be dispossessed by Israel ( Genesis 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 ( Genesis 25:2); the former were Canaanites of the city Kain, which was taken by Judah ( Joshua 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 ( Obadiah 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 ( Judges 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;  Exodus 2:4; Numbers 25).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

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.   Genesis 15:19 .

2. Jethro, or Raguel, Moses' father-in-law, is called a Kenite,   Judges 1:16 , and is also called a Midianite.  Numbers 10:29 . The Midianites sprung from Midian, the son of Abraham and Keturah,  Genesis 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.  Judges 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.   Judges 4:11,17;  Judges 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.  1 Samuel 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.  1 Samuel 27:10;  1 Samuel 30:29 .

3. There were Kenites whom Balaam saw dwelling in the rocks, and who were to be carried away by Asshur.   Numbers 24:21,22 . These may have been a remnant of the Kenites mentioned in  Genesis 15:19 .

4. Descendants of Hemath, the father of the house of Rechab.   1 Chronicles 2:55 .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

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,  Judges 1:16;  1 Chronicles 2:55;  1 Samuel 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,"  1 Samuel 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  1 Chronicles 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,"  Numbers 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.

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

 Genesis 15:19 Numbers 24:21-22 Exodus 3:1 Judges 1:16

The Kenites lived among the Amalekites during the time of Saul. The Kenites “showed kindness” to Israel during the time of the Exodus ( 1 Samuel 15:6 ). The chronicler includes the Kenite, Hemath, the father of the Rechabites, as one of the ancestors of the tribe of Judah ( 1 Chronicles 2:55 ). No mention is made of the Kenites in the late history of Israel suggesting to many scholars that they disappeared or lost their identity shortly after 1000 B.C.

The word Kenite is probably related to an Aramaic word that means “smith.” Some scholars think the traveling blacksmiths of the Middle Ages resembled the Kenites. This would account for their relations with different peoples. In addition to their nomadic character, the biblical evidence also indicates that the Kenites were never completely absorbed by another people but maintained a separate existence throughout their history. See Moses , Jethro; Cain; Amalekites; Midianites.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

The name Kenites usually refers to that tribal group within the Midianite people to which Moses’ in-laws belonged. This group had apparently mingled with the ancient Kenite people (who were among the early inhabitants of Canaan) and so were referred to as both Kenites and Midianites ( Genesis 15:19;  Exodus 2:15-21;  Judges 1:16;  Judges 4:11). The Israelites allowed the Kenite in-laws of Moses, and their descendants, to live among them in Canaan, and at times showed a special concern for them ( Judges 1:16;  1 Samuel 15:6;  1 Samuel 30:26-29;  1 Chronicles 2:55;  Nehemiah 3:14).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

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,  Judges 1:16;  4:11;  1 Samuel 30:29;  1 Chronicles 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,  Numbers 24:20,21;  1 Samuel 15:6 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Judges 1:16 Numbers 10:29 Judges 1:16 Judges 4:11,17-21 1 Samuel 27:10 30:29 1 Chronicles 2:55 Jeremiah 35:7-10 1 Samuel 15:6 1 Samuel 27:10

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [9]

A people that dwelt with the Amalekites: so called from Kanah, a possession. Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was of this people. ( 1 Samuel 15:6)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [10]

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."

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [11]


Ke´nites, a tribe of Midianites dwelling among the Amalekites (; comp. ), or occupying in semi-nomadic life the same region with the latter people in Arabia Petræa. When Saul was sent to destroy the Amalekites, the Kenites, who had joined them, perhaps upon compulsion, were ordered to depart from them that they might not share their fate; and the reason assigned was, that they 'shewed kindness to the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt.' This kindness is supposed to have been that which Jethro and his family showed to Moses, as well as to the Israelites themselves, in consequence of which the whole tribe appears to have been treated with consideration, while the family of Jethro itself accompanied the Israelites into Palestine, where they continued to lead a nomad life, occupying there a position similar to that of the Tartar tribes in Persia at the present day. To this family belonged Heber, the husband of that Jael who slew Sisera, and who is hence called 'Heber the Kenite' . At a later age other families of Kenites are mentioned as resident in Palestine, among whom were the Rechabites ; but it is not clear whether these were subdivisions of the increasing descendants of Jethro, as seems most likely, or families which availed themselves of the friendly-dispositions of the Israelites towards the tribe to settle in the country. It appears that, whatever was the general condition of the Midianites, the tribe of the Kenites possessed a knowledge of the true God in the time of Jethro [HOBAB]; and that those families which settled in Palestine did not afterwards lose that knowledge, but increased it, is clear from the passages which have been cited [[[Midianites; Rechabites]]]