The Kenites (1 Samuel 27)

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The Kenites are listed among the nations of the land promised to Abraham (Genesis 15:19-21, cf. Judges 1:16). The root of “Kenite” (“smith”) may include a connection to metalworking activities. The Kenites were generally located in the southeastern regions of Israel (Judges 1:16, 1 Samuel 27:10, 30:29). However, being pastoral nomads, some Kenites could be found as far north as the Jezreel Valley (Judges 4:11, 17) or as far south as the Sinai region (Exodus 3:1, Judges 1:16). A postexilic source indicates that several Kenite households took on the scribal profession as well (1 Chronicles 2:55).

The Kenites’ kinship to Moses through his Midianite father-in-law (Judges 1:16) appears to have set a positive tone in Israelite-Kenite relations. During the judges period Jeal’s loyalty and her “nailing” of Sisera (picture above) were celebrated in the Song of Deborah (Judges 5:24-27, cf. 4:17-22). The Kenites apparently avoided direct involvement in the conflicts between Israel and Midian (Numbers 31, Judges 6-7), although Balaam briefly mentioned them in a judgement oracle (Numbers 24:21-22). The bond remained strong during the united monarchy, when both Saul and David went out of their way to spare the Kenites when attacking the Amalekites (cf. 1 Samuel 15:6, 30:26-31). Attesting to their fluid connections, some Kenite families were also included in the Recabite family tree (1 Chronicles 2:55, cf. Nehemiah 3:14, Jeremiah 35:1-11).


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