KENITES, in the Bible a tribe or clan of the south of Palestine, closely associated with the Amalekites, whose hostility towards Israel, however, it did not share. On this account Saul spared them when bidden by Yahweh to destroy Amalek; David, too, whilst living in Judah, .appears to have been on friendly terms with them (i Sam. xv. 6; xxx. 29). Moses himself married into a Kenite family (Judges i. 16), and the variant tradition would seem to show that the Kenites were only a branch of the Midianites (see JETHRO, MIDIAN). Jael, the slayer of Sisera (see DEBORAH), was the wife of Heber the Kenite, who lived near Kadesh in Naphtali; and the appearance of the clan in this locality may be explained from the nomadic habits of the tribe, or else as a result of the northward movement in which at least one other clan or tribe took part (see DAN). There is an obscure allusion to their destruction in an appendage to the oracles of Balaam (Num. xxiv. 21 seq., see G. B. Gray, Intern. Crit. Comm. p. 376); and with this, the only unfavourable reference to them, may perhaps be associated the curse of Cain. Although some connexion with the name of Cain is probable, it is difficult, however, to explain the curse (for one view, see LEVITES). More important is the prominent part played by the Kenite (or Midianite) father-in-law of Moses, whose help and counsel are related in Exod. xviii.; and if, as seems probable, the Rechabites (q.v.) were likewise of Kenite origin (i Chron. ii. 55), this obscure tribe had evidently an important part in shaping the religion of Israel.
See on this question, HEBREW RELIGION, and Budde, Religion of Israel to the Exile, vol. i. ; G. A. Barton, Semitic Origins, pp. 272 sqq.; L. B. Paton, Biblical World (1906, July and August). On the migration of the Kenites into Palestine (cf. Num. x. 29^ with Judges i. 16), see CALEB, GENESIS, JERAHMEEL, JUDAH. (S. A. C.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)