Kenites: Some Good, Some Bad

Kenites, Jael

The Kenite Jael murdered Sisera, from Newworldencyclopedia.org

Bible References: The story of the Kenites is scattered through several books in the Bible: Genesis 15:18-19; Numbers 24:22-23; Numbers 10:29-32; Judges 1:16; Judges 4:11-24; 1 Samuel 27:10 and 30:29.cxvbn

Heart of the Story: The Kenites was a non-Israelite loosely knit people. Some of their members aligned themselves with Israel while other actively opposed them. In turn, the Israelites allowed the allied Kenites to live in their lands and share in God’s bounty. 

Story Line:  The Kenites were a nomadic people who were both condemned and praised in the Bible. The first time the Kenites were mentioned (Genesis 15:18-19), God made a covenant with Abram giving him the land from the Nile River to the Euphrates River. The Kenites lived in this area given to Abram.  When the Israelites made their final march north from the Sinai Peninsula to Jericho, the Moabites opposed them. The Moabite king hired a well-known seer, Balaam, to prophecy against the Israelites. When Balaam saw Kenites among the Moab coalition, he prophesied that although the Kenites made their home in rocky areas and felt secure, Assyria would take them captive (Numbers 24:22-23).

Some Kenites were strong supporters of the Israelites. Jethro, Moses’ father in law was a Kenite as was his son Hobab. After building the Tabernacle, the Israelites move northward to the Promised Land. Moses implored Hobab to be their scout. Hobab was familiar with the land the Israelites would pass through.  He knew the best places to camp and where water was located in the desert areas. Moses promised that if Hobab came with them, the Israelites would share with him whatever the Lord gave them Apparently, Hobab and his family agreed to travel with  the Israelites; Judges 1:16 recorded that descendants of Moses’ father–in-law traveled with Judah and lived with them in the Negev Desert near Arad

About 200 years after the Israelites entered the Promised Land, the Kenite Heber left the Arad area and moved to the hill country of Naphtali. The Kenites were metal workers. Heber worked for King Jabin of Hazor and helped build the 900 chariots in Jabin’s army. With the assistance of these chariots, Sisera, Jabin was commander, oppressed the Israelites for 20 years.God raised the judge Deborah to the Israelites from Jabin’s cruelty. When the Israelite army routed Sisera’s army, he fled to Heber’s camp. Heber wasn’t home; however, his wife Jael went out to meet Sisera. She invited him to rest in her tent where Sisera drank milk and fell into an exhausted sleep. Jael killed Sisera by driving a tent peg through his temple.

The Israelites kept the promise that Moses made of peace and mutual aid to the Kenites. Early in King Saul’s reign, God ordered him to destroy the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:1-6). Both the Amalekites and Kenites lived in the southern Negev Desert. King Saul warned the Kenites to leave the land so Israelites would not kill them along with the Amalekites. The reason that Saul gave for sparing the Kenites was because they showed kindness to the Israelites when they came up out of Egypt. 

When David was on the run from King Saul, he became a Philistine vassal. David told the Philistines that he was attacking Judah and the Kenites in southern Israel. In reality David raided Judah’s enemies and sent gifts from his spoils to both Judah and the Kenites. David saw the Kenites as allies of Judah.

Conclusion: Just as the tribe of Kenite had disparate members – those who supported and those who opposed God’s people—so extended families today are composed of individuals who follow and those who are indifferent to God. The story of the Kenite Heber and his wife Jael demonstrate that even in immediate families, one member may worship God and another actively oppose him.

Reflection: Being from a Christian family or clan does not ensure a right relationship with God. Each individual must make a personal decision to follow God.

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth 3/14.

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