According to the Hebrew Bible, the Kenites (or Cinites) were a nomadic clan in the ancient Levant, sent under Jethro a priest in the land of Midian.[1] They played an important role in the history of ancient Israel. The Kenites were coppersmiths and metalworkers.[1] Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, was a shepherd and a priest in the land of Midian. Judges 1:16 identifies that Moses had a father-in-law who was a Kenite, but it is not clear from the passage if this refers to the same Jethro who was the priest of Midian. Certain groups of Kenites settled among the Israelite population, including the descendants of Moses' brother-in-law.[2] though the Kenites descended from Rechab maintained a distinct, nomadic lifestyle for some time.

Moses apparently identified Jethro's concept of God, El Shaddai, with Yahweh, the Israelites' God.[1] According to the Kenite hypothesis, Yahweh was originally the tribal god of Jethro, borrowed and adapted by the Hebrews.[1][3]


"Kenite" or "Kainite" Strong's #7014, #7017 (use Older Strong's Concordance) derives from the Hebrew Kainim. See also Kna Judaism.

The name "Kenite or "Kainite" Strong's #7014, #7017 (use Older Strong's Concordance) may be derived from the name of someone named Cain, or vice versa (see Cain and Abel).

Alternatively, the name may be derived from the name of Kenan (Cainan), the son of Enos (and thus the grandson of Seth and the great-grandson of Adam), but this only appears in the newer Strong's Concordance not in the original.

In the Bible

The Bible mentions the Kenites as living in or around Canaan as early as the time of Abraham. (Genesis 15:18-21) At the Exodus Jethro and his clan inhabited the vicinity of Mount Sinai and Horeb. (Exodus 3:1) Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, was a Kenite (Judges 1:16) resident in the land of Midian. Judges 1:16 says that his descendants "went up from the City of Palms [ie Jericho] with the men of Judah to live among the people of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad."

However, in Exodus 3:1 Jethro is said to have been a "priest in the land of Midian" and a resident of Midian (Numbers 10:29). This has led many scholars to believe that the terms are intended (at least in parts of the Bible) to be used interchangeably, or that the Kenites formed a part of the Midianite tribal grouping. The Kenites journeyed with the Israelites to Canaan (Judges 1:16); and their encampment, apart from the latter's, was noticed by Balaam. (Numbers 24:21-22)

At a later period, some of the Kenites separated from their brethren in the south, and went to live in northern Canaan (Judges 4:11) where they lived in the time of King Saul. The kindness which they had shown to Israel in the wilderness was gratefully remembered. "Ye showed kindness to all the children of Israel, when they came up out of Egypt," said Saul to them (1 Samuel 15:6); and so not only were they spared by him, but David allowed them to share in the spoil that he took from the Amalekites. (1 Samuel 30:29)

Other well-known Kenites were Heber, the husband of Jael, and Rechab, the ancestor of the Rechabites.[4]

Critical view

According to the critical interpretation of the Biblical data, the Kenites were a clan settled on the southern border of Judah, originally more advanced in arts than the Hebrews, and from whom the latter learned much. They supposedly migrated from southern Asia. In the time of David the Kenites were finally settled among the tribe of Judah.[5] Their eponymous ancestor may have been Cain (Kain), to whose descendants the Jahwist in Genesis iv. attributes the invention of the art of working bronze and iron, the use of instruments of music, etc. Sayce has inferred[6] that the Kenites were a tribe of smiths—a view to which Jahwist's statements would lend support.

Jethro, priest of Midian, and father-in-law of Moses, is "said"[7] to have been a Kenite, but merely live in the land of Cannan and the Midianites. This may indicate that the Kenites originally formed part of the Midianite tribe or tribes, but the truth may also be obscured by the translation and traditions. The Bible may even describe an initiation of Moses and Aaron by Jethro into the worship of YHWH.[8] Several modern scholars believe, in consequence of this statement, that Yhwh was the deity of Jethro, and that from Jethro through the agency of Moses his worship passed to the Israelites. This view, first proposed by F. W. Ghillany, afterward independently by Cornelis Petrus Tiele, and more fully by Stade, has been more completely worked out by Karl Budde; and is accepted by H. Guthe, Gerrit Wildeboer, H. P. Smith, and G. A. Barton.[9]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible. Palo Alto: Mayfield. 1985.
  2. Catholic Encyclopedia
  3. "Some scholars, on the strength of Ex., xviii, go even so far as to assert that it was from Jethro that the Israelites received a great portion of their monotheistic theology." Catholic Encyclopedia
  4. "Cinites". 
  5. I Samuel 30:29; comp. ib. 27:10.
  6. in Sayce, A. H. (1899). "Kenites". in James Hastings. A Dictionary of the Bible. II. p. 834. 
  7. Judges 1:16.
  8. Exodus 28:12 et seq.
  9. George Aaron Barton (1859 - 1942), US Bible scholar and professor of Semitic languages. online


  • Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, i. 126 et seq., Berlin, 1889;
  • Moore, "Judges", in International Critical Commentary, pp. 51–55, New York, 1895;
  • Budde, Religion of Israel to the Exile, pp. 17–38, New York;
  • Barton, Semitic Origins, pp. 271–278, ib. 1902.

External links

For more information on who the Kenites are watch Shepherd's Chapel M-F 5:00am est on many TV stations. Also on satellite Galaxy 4 transponder 16 24 hours a day and on the internet Here it is often spoken about.

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Kenite. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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