View Full Version : The Midianite–Kenite Hypothesis Revisited and the Origins of Judah

19th August 2011, 15:52
The Midianite-Kenite Hypothesis Revisited and the Origins of Judah
By Joseph Blenkinsop (http://jot.sagepub.com)

[Hebrew Font used "Hebrew (http://www.wendag.com/Computer/Hebrew.ttf)"]


The Kenite, or Midianite–Kenite, hypothesis about the origins of the cult of Yahweh first came into prominence in the late nineteenth century. It rests on four bases: an interpretation
of the biblical texts dealing with the Midianite connections of Moses, allusions in ancient poetic compositions to the original residence of Yahweh, Egyptian topographical texts from the fourteenth to the twelfth century, and Cain as the eponymous ancestor of the Kenites. This article discusses the implications of the hypothesis for the ethnic origins of Judah.

An Old Hypothesis Revived

Absolute beginnings in the history of hypotheses in Biblical Studies are generally difficult to track, but in the case of the Midianite–Kenite hypothesis, which argues for the pre-Israelite origins of the cult of Yahweh among proto-Arabian tribes east and west of the Arabah and the Gulf of Aqaba, the earliest formulation has been traced to a German scholar, F.W. Ghillany, writing in 1862, who published his theory under the pseudonym Richard von der Alm.1

Not all who subsequently adopted the theory were indebted to Ghillany’s work. Most, in fact, appear not to have been, but in any case it was accepted during the remaining years of
the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth century by German scholars of note including Eduard Meyer, Bernhard Stade, Karl Budde, and Hugo Gressmann.2

Max Weber did not deal with the hypothesis itself but noted succinctly that ‘it is certain that the ancient tradition neither considered Yahweh to be the original god of Israel, nor the god of Israel alone, nor to reside in Israel’.3

Among Anglophone scholars of that epoch who were persuaded by the hypothesis should be mentioned George Aaron Barton, Thomas Kelly Cheyne, and Henry Preserved Smith.4

As we move further into the nineteenth century, we see that it continued to be favoured as the most satisfactory explanation of the relevant biblical and non-biblical data by scholars of note including Gerhard von Rad, Martin Noth, Harold Rowley, A.H.J. Gunneweg, Manfred Weippert and Moshe Weinfeld.5

Among the dissident voices we should name Theophile James Meek, Frederick Winnett, Martin Buber and Roland de Vaux.6

The hypothesis is constructed on four bases: the narratives dealing with Moses’ family and his Midianite in-laws; poetic texts which are understood to refer to the original residence of Yahweh; Egyptian topographical texts from the fourteenth to the twelfth century BCE dealing with the Edomite region in which the name Yahweh appears; and an interpretation of Cain as the eponymous ancestor of the Kenites and the mark of Cain as signifying affiliation to the Yahwistic cult community.

We shall review these points briefly in turn.

Richard von der Alm, Theologische Briefe an die Gebildeten der deutschen Nation, I (Leipzig: Otto Wigand, 1862), pp. 320-22, 480-83. Heinrich Holzinger, Exodus (Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament; Tübingen: Mohr–Siebeck, 1900), pp. 13-14, seems to have been the first to provide this reference, but I have not yet succeeded in laying my hands on these ‘theological letters’ addressed to cultured Germans. The hypothesis was advanced independently of Ghillany by the Dutch scholar Cornelis P.Tiele, in Vergelijkende Geschiedenis van der Egyptische en Mesopotamische Godsdiensten, I (Amsterdam: Van Kampen, 1872), pp. 558-60.
Eduard Meyer, ‘Kritik der Berichte über die Eroberung Palaestinas’, ZAW 1 (1881), pp. 117-46 (137), and Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1967; originally published Halle: Max Neimeyer, 1906), pp. 66, 89-94, 389-99; Bernhard Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, I, in Wilhelm Oncken (ed.), Allgemeine Geschichte in Einzeldarstellungen (Berlin: G. Grote, 1887), pp. 130-31, and Biblische Theologie des Alten Testament, I (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1905), pp. 42-43. In ‘Beiträge zur Pentateuchkritik 1) Das Kainszeichen’, ZAW 14 (1894), pp. 250-318, Stade argued that the ‘mark of Cain’ referred to a tattoo or other sign identifying the Kenites as the original worshippers (Urverehrer) of the god Yahweh, a worship which they shared with the early Israelites. Especially influential was Karl Budde, The Religion of Israel to the Exile (New York: G.B. Putnam’s Sons, 1899), pp. 17-25. Paul Haupt, ‘Midian und Sinai’, ZDMG 63 (1909), pp. 506-30; Hugo Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1913), pp. 163, 434-45, 447-48; idem, Die Anfänge Israels (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2nd edn, 1922), pp. 87-89.
Max Weber, Ancient Judaism (New York: The Free Press, 1952 [1917–19]), p. 123.
G.A. Barton, A Sketch of Semitic Origins Social and Religious (London: Macmillan, 1902), pp. 275-87; T.K. Cheyne, ‘Kenites’, in Encyclopedia Biblica, II (London: A. & C. Black, 1901), cols. 2658-59; H.P. Smith, The Religion of Israel (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1914), pp. 50-51.
The hypothesis is thoroughly discussed and bibliographical references given to the time of writing by H.H. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua: Biblical Traditions in the Light of Archaeology (London: Oxford University Press, 4th edn, 1958), pp. 149-56, and From Moses to Qumran: Studies in the Old Testament (New York: Association Press, 1963), pp. 35-63. The basic premise of the hypothesis, the existence of a Midianite–pre-Israelite Yahweh cult, is accepted by G. von Rad, Theologie des Alten Testaments, I (Munich: C. Kaiser, 2nd edn, 1958), pp. 18-21, = Old Testament Theology, I (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1962), pp. 9-10, and by Martin Noth, ‘Der Gottesberg und die Midianiter’, in Überlieferungsgeschichte des Pentateuch (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1948), pp. 150-51, = A History of Pentateuchal Traditions (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice–Hall, 1972), pp. 136-41. Also A.H.J. Gunneweg, ‘Mose in Midian’, ZTK 61 (1964), p. 5; M. Weippert, Die Landnahme der israelitischen Stämme in der neueren wissenschaftlichen Diskussion (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967), pp. 105-106, = The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Palestine (London: SCM Press, 1971), pp. 105-106; M. Weinfeld, ‘The Tribal League at Sinai’ in P.D. Miller, P.D. Hanson, and S.D. McBride (eds.), Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), pp. 303-14.
T.J. Meek, Hebrew Origins (New York: Harper & Row, 1936), pp. 93-96; F.W. Winnett, The Mosaic Tradition (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1949), pp. 57-69; Martin Buber, Moses (New York: Harper & Row, 1946), pp. 94-98; R. de Vaux, ‘Sur l’Origine Kénite ou Madianite du Yahwisme’, Eretz Israel 9 (1969), pp. 28-32, who characterizes it as ‘une hypothèse indémontrable’.

19th August 2011, 17:25
Moses and his Midianite In-laws

What gave rise to the hypothesis in the first place was a historical-critical interpretation of those biblical texts which narrate how Moses, son of Levitical parents (Exod. 2.1-2), married a Midianite woman,1 and lived long enough in Midian to have two sons with her (Exod. 2.11-22). During this time he was in service with his father-in-law, a priest (perhaps the priest) of Midian, named both Reuel (Exod. 2.18) and Jethro (Exod. 3.1; 4.18). At a sacred spot, a ‘mountain of God’, situated beyond the normal pasturage of the Midianites but frequented by Midianites and no doubt other tribes,2 Moses received a revelation from a deity previously known to him only notionally if at all (Exod. 3.13),3 presumably a deity worshipped by Midianites, whose name was revealed to be Yahweh. At a later point in the narrative, Moses found himself once again at the ‘mountain of God’ where he was joined by the priest Jethro. At this meeting, which must have been prearranged, Moses did obeisance to Jethro (Exod. 18.7). They then proceeded to a tent. In view of what then transpired, it is probably a tent-shrine similar to the wilderness tent in which Joshua bin Nun officiated as oracle priest (Exod. 33.11). There Moses recounted the great deeds of Yahweh (Exod. 18.8), but it was Jethro the priest who pronounced the blessing on Yahweh and acclaimed this demonstration of the incomparability of his god. It was he too who then offered sacrifices to the deity in the presence of Moses, Aaron and Israelite elders (Exod. 18.9-12). The alternative reading of this passage is that, on hearing the account of the magnalia dei by Moses, Jethro acknowledged the superior power of the god of Moses to that of his own god, and thereupon became a convert to Yahwistic faith on the spot.4 From the use of the verb xql rather than a term explicitly denoting sacrifice (e.g. brq Hiphil, xbz) some commentators have also concluded that Jethro either simply prepared the sacrificial material or received a portion of the sacrificial food.5 This reading contradicts the most natural sense of the passage: Jethro is the principal actor; he initiates the action, and Aaron and the elders come and eat with him in the presence of Yahweh. The account makes it quite plain that, as von Rad put it, ‘Jethro was the host, and Moses and his people the guests’.6 Budde made the same point much earlier:

[The passage] has generally been interpreted to mean that Jethro, the heathen,
now recognizes the true God in Yahweh, the God of Israel, and does him
homage. The contrary, however, is the fact. He rather gives expression to his
proud joy that his God, Yahweh, the God of the Kenites, has proved himself
mightier than all other gods.7

Rather than Jethro’s conversion to Yahwism, therefore, we are witnessing ‘the first incorporation of the Israelite leaders into the worship of Yahweh’.8

Before going any further, something should be said about the fatherinlaw of Moses, identified with Reuel in Exod. 2.18, with Jethro in the rest of the Midianite narrative (Exod. 3.1; 4.18; 18.1-2, 5-6, 9-10, 12), and with Hobab in Num. 10.29 and Judg. 4.11.9 Several unsatisfactory attempts at harmonization have been made: that Hobab and Jethro are alternative names for the same person, namely, the son of Reuel, which requires that in Exod. 2.16 ‘father’ means ‘grandfather’ and in Exod. 2.18 ‘daughter’ means ‘granddaughter’;10 or that Ntx can have a broader connotation including ‘brother-in-law’, which would permit identifying Hobab/Jethro as Moses’ brother-in-law;11 or that ‘Reuel’ is a scribal insertion at Exod. 2.18 and Num. 10.29, a suggestion which smacks of desperation.12 Since clan names and place names have a much better chance of survival in the collective memory than personal names, the most probable—if partial—solution is that Reuel is the name of the clan or lineage to which Hobab belonged. In the Edomite lists Reuel is ‘son’ of Esau (Gen. 36.4,10) and is also the name attached to a group of confederate clans (36.13, 17 = 1 Chron. 1.35, 37). In the same lists Jithran (Nrty), a variation of Jethro (wrty), is the name of a Seirite-Horite clan (Gen. 36.26 = 1 Chron. 1.41), and another variation )rty or rty is attested as an Ishmaelite name (2 Sam. 17.25; 1 Chron. 2.17). Albright took this explanation a step further, perhaps a step too far, in concluding that the father-in-law and Midianite priest was indeed Jethro, and that Hobab was Moses’ son-in-law, a member of the Reuel clan, and a metal smith by profession.13

Yahweh’s Original Residence in Early Poems

That the worship of Yahweh originated among Kenites and related tribes which occupied and moved around in the vast, desolate and mountainous regions east and west of the Arabah and the Gulf of Aqaba is also insinuated in some fragments of old Hebrew Yahwistic poetry. The opening invocation to Yahweh in the Song of Deborah presents him as proceeding in triumph from Seir, the regions of Edom (Judg. 5.4). Seir comes to be synonymous with Edom,14 but it can have a more specific reference as designating a region west of the Arabah; for it is said to mark the southern limit of Joshua’s conquests west of the Jordan (Josh. 11.17; 12.7) and the southern boundary of Judah (Josh. 15.10). The original Edomite homeland was east of the Arabah, but after the formation of the kingdom, Edom expanded to take in territory to the west, in the process dispossessing
the aboriginal Horite (Hurrian-related?) inhabitants (Deut. 2.12, 22). These biblical data are confirmed by a probable reference to Seir (mātāti šēri) in the Amarna letters and in a topographical list of Rameses II in Amāra-West (‘the Shasu-land of Seir’).15 A much later composition (Isa. 63.1-6) also presents Yahweh as coming from Edom.

However, this opening invocation to Yahweh in the Song of Deborah, a variant of which appears in Ps. 68.8-9, also hails him as ‘The One of Sinai’, less literally ‘The Lord of Sinai’ (ynys hz), which suggests that Sinai is the original residence of Yahweh and is also closely associated with Seir.16 The connection is explicit in another poem with an ancient substratum, the Blessing of Moses:

Yahweh comes from Sinai
He dawns upon us from Seir. (Deut. 33.2)17

The rest of the verse is textually corrupt, perhaps deliberately scrambled, so that any reconstruction will be speculative. It reads as follows:

Nr)p rhm (ypwh
#dq tbbrm ht)w
wnl td#) wnymym

After ‘he shines forth from Mount Paran’ we would expect a matching place name, as in the previous stich, which provides some justification for finding, with a minor textual alteration, a reference to Meribath-Kadesh in the second line (cf. Deut. 32.51) parallel with Mt Paran.18 Since none of the many attempts to extract some meaning from the third line has won unqualified support, it may be permissible to suggest an emendation of td#) to tr#) with the old feminine ending, based on frequent confusion between daleth and resh.19 That Yahweh appears with his consort at his right hand is consistent with other indications in biblical and extra-biblical texts. Of particular relevance are those graffiti at Kuntillet Ajrud which refer to Yahweh of Teman and his Asherah,20 since, as we shall see, Teman is closely associated with Edom/Seir.

The proposed reading ‘Meribath-Kadesh’, parallel with Mt Paran, is consistent with the information, in the account of the spies sent to reconnoitre the land, that Kadesh, the staging area for the biblical conquest of Canaan, was situated in the wilderness of Paran (Num. 13.3, 26). In the Prayer of Habakkuk (Hab. 3.3), Mt Paran is parallel with Teman as the place from which Yahweh proceeds in triumph. Teman is a tribal name listed under the sub-group Eliphaz in the Edomite lists in Genesis 36 (vv. 11, 15, 42). It also stands for a region of Edom east of the Arabah and in the northern half of the kingdom (Gen. 36.34), but in prophetic comminations directed against Edom it serves as a synonym for Edom as a whole (Jer. 49.7, 20; Obad. 9).21 In the poetic texts we have surveyed we can therefore conclude that the point of departure for Yahweh’s triumphal going forth, and therefore his original residence among his devotees, is that part of Edom (Seir, Teman) which lay west of the Arabah. The precise location of both Mount Paran and the wilderness of Sinai is unknown, but Kadesh is probably Tell el-Qudeirat in the northern Sinai, adjacent to an oasis and to the most abundant spring in the Sinai,22 and we have seen that Num. 13.3 places Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran. It was somewhere in this region that the sanctuary of the deity Yahweh, frequented by the local semi-nomadic tribes, was
located.23 According to the biblical sources this was Kenite country. We are told that the Kenites accompanied the people of Judah (that is, the ancestors of the Judaeans) northward into the Judaean Negev and the Negev of Arad (Judg. 1.16). After separating out the Kenites from the Amalekites who shared territory with them, Saul defeated and pursued the latter from Havilah as far as Shur east of Egypt, which points to the same region (1 Sam. 15.6-7).

Zipporah (Exod. 2.21). The ‘Cushite woman’ (ty#kh h#)h) whom Moses is said to have married (Num. 12.1), not to be identified with Zipporah, was probably not Ethiopian or Sudanese but from Cushan (tribe or locality), parallel with the land of Midian in Hab. 3.7. If so, both wives of Moses would have been Midianite. See M. Noth, Das vierte Buch Mose. Numeri (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1966), p. 84, = Numbers: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1968), p. 94.
‘To Horeb’ (hbrx) has probably been added at Exod. 3.1, as also ‘at Horeb’ (brxb) at Exod. 17.6 and ‘Horeb’ (brx) at 1 Kgs 19.8, in order to identify ‘the mountain of God’ with the site of the covenant according to the Deuteronomists. See Martin Noth, Das zweite Buch Mose, Exodus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1959), p. 110, = Exodus: A Commentary (London: SCM Press, 1962), p. 140; idem, Überlieferungsgeschichte des Pentateuch, p. 150, = A History of Pentateuchal Traditions, p. 139 n. 398; Philip Hyatt, Exodus (NCB: Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), p. 181. On ‘the Mountain of God’ as an intertribal, extraterritorial holy site, see Z. Weisman, ‘The Mountain of God’, Tarbiz 47 (1978), pp. 107-19.
The uncertainty arises from the name Jochebed assigned to the mother of Moses in Priestly texts (Exod. 6.20; Num. 26.59). If this information is historically correct, and if the name is theophoric with a short form of the name Yahweh, it would indicate some degree of previous acquaintance with the Midianite deity of that name, and would help to explain why Moses sought sanctuary in Midian. But the formation of the name with Yahweh is quite uncertain, as pointed out by M. Noth, Die israelitischen Personennamen im Rahmen der gemeinsemitischen Namengebung (Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1980 [first published 1928]), p. 111.
E.g. R. de Vaux, ‘Sur l’Origine Kénite’, pp. 31-32; T.J. Meek, Hebrew Origins, pp. 94-95; Buber, Moses, pp. 95-96.
Buber, Moses, p. 141; A. Cody, ‘Exodus 18,12: Jethro Accepts a Covenant with the Israelites’, Bib 49 (1968), pp. 159-61.
Von Rad, Theologie des Alten Testament, I, p. 19, = Old Testament Theology, I, p. 9.
Budde, The Religion of Israel to the Exile, pp. 22-23.
Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua, p. 151.
In addition, practically all commentators accept that the name Hobab has been omitted from Judg. 1.16 where it mentions ‘the descendants of…the Kenite, father-in-law of Moses’.
Rashi; see J. Milgrom, Numbers (JPS Torah Commentary: Philadelphia and New York: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1990), pp. 78, 307 n. 39.
Julius Morgenstern, ‘The Oldest Document of the Hexateuch’, HUCA 4 (1927), pp. 1-138 (40), maintained that Ntx means ‘brother-in-law’ and not ‘father-in-law’, but
evidence for this is lacking.
B.W. Bacon, ‘JE in the Middle Books of the Pentateuch II’, JBL 10 (1891), pp. 111-12.
W.F. Albright, ‘Jethro, Hobab and Reuel in Early Hebrew Tradition’, CBQ 25 (1963), pp. 1-11, and Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (London: Athlone Press, 1968), pp. 33-37.
Gen. 32.4; Num. 24.18; Judg. 5.4. In the oracle against Edom in Ezek. 35, ‘Mt Seir’ is metonymic for Edom.
F.-M. Abel, Géographie de la Palestine, I (Paris: Gabalda, 1933), pp. 281-85, 389-91; J.R. Bartlett, ‘The Land of Seir and the Brotherhood of Edom’, JTS NS 20
(1969), pp. 1-20; M. Görg, ‘Zur Identität der “Seir-Länder”’, BN 46 (1989), pp. 7-12; E.A. Knauf, ‘Seir (Place)’, in ABD, V, pp. 1072-73; Diana V. Edelman (ed.), You Shall Not Abhor an Edomite for He Is Your Brother (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1995), pp. 5-11. For the Amarna reference (EA 288:26), see W.L. Moran, The Amarna Letters (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), p. 331, and Weinfeld, ‘The Tribal League at Sinai’, p. 304, and for the Egyptian list, see S. Ahituv, Canaanite Toponyms in Ancient Egyptian Documents (Jerusalem: Magnes Press; Leiden: Brill, 1984), p. 169.
Henrik Pfeiffer, Jahwes Kommen von Süden, Jdc 5; Hab 3; Dtn 33 und Ps 68 in ihrem literatur- und theologiegeschichtlichen Umfeld (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck &
Ruprecht, 2005), pp. 90-91, argues that ynys hz (Judg. 5.5) was inserted to refer the theophany to the theophany at the giving of the law in Exod. 19, and that the same designation in Ps. 68 (v. 9), which he dates to the Hellenistic period, depends on the insertion. He must therefore assign a late date to the reference to Yahweh’s coming from Sinai in Deut 33.2, in fact no earlier than the third century BCE (pp. 178-203, and especially pp. 202-203). Pfeiffer is a redactional maximalist and I find his arguments arbitrary and forced.
Reading wnl with LXX for MT wml.
A somewhat similar situation confronts us with the equally unintelligible Ps 68.18b, #dqb ynys Mb hwhy, where the original text may have been #dqb ynysm )b hwhy (adonay bā missinay beqādēš; ‘The Sovereign Lord comes from Sinai in Kadesh’).
The suggestion was made some time ago by H.S. Nyberg, ‘Deuteronomion 33:2-3’, ZDMG 92 (1938), pp. 320-44.
See Z. Meshel, ‘Teman, Horvat’, in NEAEHL, IV, pp. 1458-64.
R. de Vaux, ‘Téman, ville ou région d’Édom’, RB 76 (1969), pp. 378-85; E.A. Knauf-Belleri, ‘Edom: The Social and Economic History’, in Edelman (ed.), You Shall Not Abhor an Edomite, pp. 93-117 (100-101 n. 19); B. Rothenberg, ‘Teman’, in NEAEHL, IV, pp. 1184-203.
See R. Cohen, ‘Kadesh-Barnea’, in NEAEHL, III, pp. 843-47.
It is from a sanctuary, temple, or holy place that a deity ‘comes forth’ or ‘shines forth’, as in Ps. 50.2-3 where the same verbs occur as in Deut. 33.2 ((ypwh, )wb) with reference to Yahweh coming forth and shining forth from Zion, that is, the Jerusalem temple.

20th August 2011, 01:43
Egyptian Texts about the Shasu and the Land of Yahu

These conclusions from the biblical data are consistent with Egyptian texts from the New Kingdom dealing with beduin tribes both east and west of the Arabah. The strategic concern of the Egyptians was occasioned by the possibility of threat posed by these beduin to the military routes into Palestine and Syria and the trade routes to the copper mines of Timna and Punon. An inscription in a temple of Amon in Soleb, Nubia, from the reign of Amenhotep III (first half of the fourteenth century), lists several beduin (Shasu) territories including ‘the Shasu land of Yahu’. The name also occurs in a copy of the same list in the Amara West temple in Nubia from the reign of Rameses II (second half of thirteenth century), and both could go back to an even earlier prototype.1

There is broad agreement that the name corresponds to one of the forms of the name Yahweh, that it refers to a region in which the Shasu in question lived and moved around, and that either the deity could have taken the name of the region or the region could have taken its name from the deity worshipped by the beduin who lived there. One scholar who demurred was Roland de Vaux who characterized the view that a geographical name could serve as the name of a deity as ‘une pure hypothèse’.2 It is a hypothesis, true, but a strong one, and parallels are not lacking; Ashur, for example, served as the name of a city, a region and a deity. The Amara West list also contains the name Srr, probably
corresponding to Seir, and Samath, possibly related to the Kenite clan of the Shimeathites (1 Chron. 2.55).3 Here, too, the region in question, in the Sinai peninsula, is Kenite country.

Cain and the Kenites

The possibility has also been entertained that the biblical version of the history of early humanity has preserved, in the story of Cain and his line (Gen. 4.1-24), an echo of the role of the Kenites in the early history of Israel.4 Space permits only a summary treatment of this intriguing text. The name of the protagonist, Nyq, is also the name of the tribe (Num. 24.22; Judg. 4.11) and of a town in Judah close to Kenite country (Josh. 15.57). Cain’s destiny as a na-vanadnik, a wanderer on the face of the earth, is reminiscent of Egyptian attitudes to the Shasu beduins, including Kenites. On the basis of Arabic, Nabataean and Syriac cognates, the name is also taken to indicate the profession of metal smith, and a seventhgeneration descendant of Cain, Tubal-cain, is described as a maker of bronze and iron implements (Gen. 4.22).5

There is no need to choosebetween an individual and collective interpretation of the story of Cain. Like the author of the (in some respects parallel) story about Jacob and Esau, the author skilfully weaves together a realistic account of an individual’s fate, parallel to that of the man in Eden, with reflection in narrative form on the origins of Israel in contact with its immediate neighbors. In doing so, it seems that the author has taken over and adapted an ethnic saga about the Kenite tribe, since his narrative betrays evidence that this narrative was not originally intended as a sequel to Gen. 2.4–3.24.6

Of the many problems of interpretation which have exercised exegetes for centuries, the only one which concerns us for the present is the way the narrative represents Cain in relation to the deity. The story is immediately followed by a statement about the first invocation of the name of Yahweh with the birth of a son, Enosh, to Seth (4.26). The apparent contradiction between this statement and the first revelation of the name Yahweh to Moses at Sinai (Exod. 3.14-15) has been much discussed,7 but the contradiction with the preceding narrative is no less obvious. I take Gen. 4.26 (recording the birth of a son to Shem when people first began to invoke the name of Yahweh) to mark a decisively new stage in religious history with the beginning of the line which leads to Israel’s ancestors. But this history has a prehistory, a problematic prehistory in the view of the author and the tradition which he reproduces. Yahweh cooperated in the birth of Cain (4.1), Cain sacrificed to Yahweh but his sacrifice was not accepted (4.3), and Yahweh uprooted Cain from the arable land and sent him on his way as a bedu (4.11-12). Read at the social level, this sounds like a critical retrospect on a stage when Kenites were the original worshippers of the god Yahweh, from the writer’s perspective an imperfect and compromised stage. It seems in any case to imply acknowledgment that the Yahweh cult had a prehistory, and one associated with Israel’s southern neighbours, the Kenites.

A great deal has been written about ‘the mark of Cain’,8 much of which could have been left unwritten if the purpose of the sign, stated explicitly in Gen. 4.15, had been heeded: ‘Yahweh placed a sign on Cain so that no one who encountered him would kill him’. This indicates both that the sign (tw)) must be immediately visible, which therefore excludes several proposals including circumcision,9 and that the person who bears the sign is under the protection of the deity. The fact that the theme of blood vengeance is thematic in this short narrative, coming as it does at the beginning and end of the story (4.14, 23-24), implies further that the sign is to identify the one so marked as a member of a group (clan, phratry, tribe) protected from the blood feud. The religious aspect is implied in the fact that it is placed there by the deity, and that therefore the one marked is under the deity’s protection, has become, in a way, the property of the deity. This would be a normal corollary of a common, well-attested practice in antiquity. Herodotus (2.113) mentions holy marks or tattoos (stigmata i3era) which protected those who sought sanctuary at a temple of Heracles in Egypt, and Lucian (De dea syra 59) refers to Syrians who bore such stigmata on their wrist or neck. Practically all the allusions to markings or tattooings in the Hebrew Bible have a religious significance of some sort.10 Robertson Smith proposed the parallel of the tribal mark or shart which identified the bedu as belonging to a particular tribe and without which the institution of the blood feud could not have functioned.11 At the social level, therefore, Gen. 4.1-16 is speaking about the Kenites who, like Cain, their heros eponymos, bear the mark of their tribal affiliation under the seal and protection of their god Yahveh.

By way of postscript to this first section, we might note that Kenites and some groups closely associated with them appear to have been known as pervervid devotees of their god Yahweh. Together with Othniel and Jerahmeel, Caleb is a Kenizzite, ‘son’ of Kenaz (Num. 32.12; Josh. 14.6, 14; Judg. 3.9), and therefore closely related to the Kenites (cf. Gen. 36.15, 42; 1 Chron. 1.36, 53). In the narratives about the settlement in Canaan, Caleb is prominent for his religious zeal. He is the one who, after the initial reconnoitring of the land (Num. 13.6), urges immediate attack (13.30), and is approved of as possessing a different spirit (14.24) and is wholeheartedly devoted to Yahweh’s cause (Josh. 14.13-14).
12 His brother Othniel, one of the ‘Judges’, saved Israel after Yahweh’s spirit came upon him (Judg. 3.9). Jael, killer of Sisera, and for that reason declared to be ‘most blessed of women’, was one of the Kenites who migrated to the north and settled near Kedesh in Naphthali, perhaps Tell Abu Kudeis between Megiddo and Taanach (Judg. 4.17; 5.24). Elijah, who declared himself to be very zealous for Yahweh (1 Kgs 19.10), at a moment of crisis made a pilgrimage back to the mountain of God a fortyday journey south of Beersheba (1 Kgs 19.4-9). The Rechabites, of whom we first hear during the reign of Jehu, but who were certainly in existence much earlier, were fanatical Yahwists who rejected the culture of Canaan, even to the extent of living in tents and eschewing intoxicants (2 Kgs 10.15-17, 23; Jer. 35.1-19). They too, the Chronicler informs us, were of Kenite stock (1 Chron. 2.55). These examples tempt us to speculate as to what other expressions of what we might call Yahwistic primitivism, for which no obvious explanation is at hand, may be relics of the aboriginal, pre-Israelite Yahwism associated with the Kenites and related groups. This is not the place to pursue this enquiry further, but one example may be permitted. That Edomites and those with shaven temples who lived in the desert practised circumcision (Jer. 9.25) might suggest that the incident recorded in Exod. 4.24-26, in which the Midianite Zipporah’s timely intervention in circumcising her son saved the life of Moses, may be another relic of this primitive stage.13

A theological and hermeneutical footnote to this first section: Since we are dealing with an issue which may be thought to have serious implications for believing Jews and Christians, it may be helpful to remind ourselves that the biblical texts do not provide direct access to the nature, character, and activity of God. They present us with some aspects of what people at a given time thought about divine reality, and specifically about a deity or deities with whom they felt a special affinity, and how they expressed these thoughts and feelings in acts of public worship. These perceptions and expressions change and develop over time; they have a history which, ideally, can be documented. It is therefore possible, hence necessary, to write a history—and in the present instance a prehistory—of the God of the Bible. Whatever we may think of recent attempts to write such a history (Karen Armstrong, Jack Miles, Mark Smith inter alios et alias), theological reflection must in some way leave room for the historical dimension and the development of ideas with the passage of time.

For the original form and a more precise transcription, see Ahituv, Canaanite Toponyms, pp. 121-22. These texts have been frequently discussed; see especially R. Giveon, ‘Toponymes ouest-asiatiques à Soleb’, VT 14 (1964), pp. 244-45, 255; VT 15 (1965), pp. 239-55; idem, Les bédouins Shosu des documents Egyptiens (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1971), p. 27; M. Weippert, The Settlement of the Israelite Tribes in Palestine (London: SCM Press, 1971), pp. 105-106; S. Herrmann, A History of Israel in Old Testament Times (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975), pp. 75-77, 83; M. Görg, ‘Jahwe - ein Toponym’, BN 1 (1976), pp. 7-14; idem, Die Beziehungen zwischen dem Alten Israel und Ägypten von den Anfängen bis zum Exil (Darmstadt: Wissenschafliche Buchgesellschaft, 1997), pp. 157-60; Weinfeld, ‘The Tribal League at Sinai’, pp. 304-305; Donald B. Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 271-73.
De Vaux, ‘Sur l’Origine Kénite’, p. 30.
Redford, Egypt, Canaan, and Israel in Ancient Times, p. 272.
Henning Heyde, Kain der erster Jahwe-Verehrer (Stuttgart: Calwer, 1965), especially pp. 21-23, 32-34. See the bibliography in Claus Westermann, Genesis 1–11: A Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984 [original German publication 1974]), pp. 321-44.
The idea that the Kenites were itinerant coppersmiths, and that the designation is occupational rather than purely ethnic, has always had its supporters, including, conspicuously W.F. Albright, ‘Jethro, Hobab and Reuel’, pp. 8-9. Some objections are raised by I. Kalimi, ‘Three Assumptions about the Kenites’, ZAW 100 (1988), pp. 386-89.
For example, after the insistence on farming as the lot of the Man’s descendants we would not expect his son to raise livestock; and who were the potential killers Cain feared to encounter? See H. Gunkel, Genesis (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 3rd edn, 1910), pp. 42-43, = Genesis (trans. Mark E. Biddle; Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997), pp. 42-43.
It will suffice to refer to Westermann, Genesis 1–11, pp. 339-41, with abundant bibliography.
Westermann, Genesis 1–11, pp. 312-15.
As argued by H. Zeydner, ‘Kainszeichen, Keniter und Beschneidung’, ZAW 18 (1898), pp. 120-25.
E.g. Lev. 19.28; Deut. 6.8; 11.18; 1 Kgs 20.41; Isa. 44.6; Ezek. 9.4, 6; Zech. 13.6.
W. Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia (Oosterhout: Anthropological Publications, 2nd edn, 1966 [1907]), pp. 247-51.
On the Caleb traditions, see W. Beltz, Die Kaleb-Traditionen im Alten Testament (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1974), especially pp. 64-70 dealing with Calebite–Judahite
relations; L.E. Axelsson, The Lord Rose Up from Seir (Lund: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1987), pp. 79-80, 128-30, 159.
In his interpretation of this strange text, Gressmann concluded that circumcision must have been ‘eine Erfindung der Midianiter’; see his Die Anfänge Israels, p. 35.

21st August 2011, 18:26
Judah a Member of a Proto-Arabian Tribal League

The hypothesis about the Midianite–Kenite origins of the Yahweh cult has obvious implications for ethnic origins, specifically the origins of Judah, and raises the further question of how this cult came to be adopted by the early Israelite settlers in the central Palestinian highlands. On this last point some clues have been suggested—the northern branch of the Kenites (Judg. 4.11), the Elijah pilgrimage tradition, the Rechabites—but the issue calls for a much more thorough investigation than is possible in the present study. We have seen that the account of the meeting at the Mountain of God (Exod. 18) implies close affinity between Midianites, Kenites, and Judahites or, more precisely, between the Kenites, in all probability a Midianite lineage,1 and those who would later be known as Judahites or Judaeans. As several commentators have argued, the sacrifice and shared food probably indicate a pact or covenant which reinforced the bonds already in place between the participants.2 Kenites were involved with Judahites in the settlement of the Negev (Judg. 1.16),3 and even in the exodus from Egypt when, according to 1 Sam. 15.6-7, they showed dsx to the Israelites, a term which belongs to the vocabulary of covenant-making. The same conclusion is implied in the invitation of Moses to Hobab ben Reuel the Midianite to accompany Israel on its journey to Canaan (Num. 10.29-32). Moses’ marriage into a Midianite family suggests that relations of kinship and proximity already existed between Midianite Kenites and Hebrew Levites.4 The Baal Peor incident (Num. 25) is interesting in this respect, since the evident Tendenz of the Priestly author does not conceal what is, in effect, another Midianite–Israelite marriage alliance. The partners in this instance are Zimri, a Simeonite tribal leader ()y#n),5 and Cozbi, daughter of a Midianite tribal leader of at least equal status.6 It is not a casual liaison, as the Priestly author would have us think, but a marriage officially solemnized with significant implications for Midianite–Simeonite relations:
Zimri presents his bride-to-be to his fellow-kinsmen (Myx)) and the entire assembly (hd() and brings her to the tent, the same kind of sacred enclosure in which the covenant between Jethro and Moses was solemnized (Num. 25.6; Exod. 18.7).

We are dependent on biblical sources and the far from abundant and often debatable archaeological data7 for our knowledge of the settlement in the northern Sinai, the Negev and the southern highlands towards the end of Late Bronze and in the early Iron I period. These sources do not present a coherent account of what happened, but we can obtain from them at least a rough picture of tribes, related either by kinship or covenant or both, sometimes acting in concert and sometimes at odds with one other, which came to settle in this region eventually occupied by the Edomite and Judaean kingdoms. From the point of view of later developments the most important of these were Kenites and Judahites, but there were others. In one of the lists of indigenous peoples, and one only, the Kenites are listed first followed by the Kenizzites (Gen. 15.19). We are given little information about these Kenizzites,8 but their heros eponymos Kenaz bears the same name as that of an Edomite clan (Gen. 36.15, 42 = 1 Chron. 1.36, 53). Caleb the Kenizzite had a prominent role in the conquest narratives alongside Joshua (Num. 32.12; Josh. 14.6-15), and is said to have occupied the Hebron region as his fellow-Kenizzite Othniel (Judg. 3.9-11) occupied Debir (Kiriath-sepher) to the south (Josh. 15.17; Judg. 1.11-15). This was the same general area in which the Calebite Nabal with his wife Abigail, later married to David, possessed land (1 Sam. 25.1-3).

According to the Chronicler’s lists and ethnographic notices (1 Chron. 2.42), the Jerahmeelites were also related to Caleb and therefore to the Kenizzites, perhaps as a clan of the latter. They too settled in the same southern region. David deceived his overlord Achish into believing that he had raided the Negev of the Judahites, Jerahmeelites and Kenites (1 Sam. 27.10), and then made up for the lie by sharing the booty snatched from less fortunate tribes with the same peoples (1 Sam. 30.28 - 29). These tribal groups and sub-groups, and no doubt others not mentioned in the biblical record, were eventually incorporated into either the Edomite or the Judaean kingdom, and several of them feature in the Chronicler’s Judaean genealogical table (1 Chron. 2.9, 25-33; 4.13-15).9

The existence of a league or federation of tribes bound by ties of blood or covenanted oath and sharing a common cult is not explicitly attested but is a reasonable deduction from the information available to us.10 At an early stage of the discussion Stade proposed that Kenites and Israelites shared in a Kultgenossenschaft under the aegis of Yahweh, while Haupt, somewhat more adventurously, located the principal sanctuary of a Midianite–Edomite amphictyony into which Israel was initiated at Elat, which he took to be the site of biblical Sinai, with a secondary sanctuary at Kadesh in the Sinai peninsula.11 On the basis of the incident recorded in Numbers 25, discussed earlier, the important sanctuary of Baal Peor has also been thought to be a place of covenanting involving Simeonite Israelites, Midianites, and Moabites.12 The existence of a Midianite confederation consisting of five clans has been deduced from the five ‘sons’ of Midian in Gen. 25.4 and the corresponding five tribal sheiks in Josh. 13.21, which—since the number and names of members in the federation could vary over time—may have incorporated early Hebrew groups such as Judahites, Simeonites and Levites.13 In view of what we have seen about the original residence of Yahweh, reinforced by the concentration of early Israelite traditions in the northern Sinai, it seems that, if such a league existed, it would have been located in the region around the oasis of Kadesh Barnea, a conclusion which, while no more than probable, has a respectable scholarly pedigree behind it.14

In summary, therefore, we find several tribes—Kenites, Kenizzites, Calebites, Jerahmeelites, Judahites, Simeonites and Levites—moving into the northern Sinai and the Negev throughout the Late Bronze–Iron I period (Josh. 15.13-19; Judg. 1.10-20).15 It seems that these groups were linked by blood or covenant or both, that they frequented the same cult centres, and were under the aegis of the same deity, namely, Yahweh. The natural inference would be that Judah originated as one of these closely related proto-Arabian groups, originally a clan (hxp#m) rather than a tribe (h+m).16 Physical proximity does not necessarily entail ethnic proximity, but it is significant that Judah is described as living and moving in close proximity to Kenites and Jerahmeelites to the south of Palestine (Judg. 1.16; 1 Sam. 27.10; 30.26-31). The origin of the name ‘Judah’ (hdwhy) has long been disputed. A derivation from the verbal form hdy, ‘praise’, with the theophoric element Yahveh (Yahu, Yah) has been proposed but does not seem to have won much support.17 Since in biblical texts ‘Judah’ refers to a geographical or topographical feature, as in ‘the wilderness of Judah’ (Judg. 1.16), ‘the Negev of Judah’ (1 Sam. 27.10), and ‘the hill country of Judah’ (Josh. 11.21; 20.7; 21.11), a geographical or topographical reference, later applied to the tribe and tribal eponym, seems to be the preferred option.18 If Judah was, originally, one of this group of proto-Arabian lineages, the etymology would in any case probably not be Canaanite-Hebrew; and in fact an Arabic derivation, from the verbal stem whd (wahda) referring to a topographical feature, has been suggested, referring to a gorge or ravine.SUP]19[/SUP] But the etymology of the word remains sub iudice.

Kenites are not listed among the Midianite lineages in Gen. 25.1-4 (cf. 1 Chron. 1.32-33), but the number and names would have varied over time (e.g. Cushan is parallel with Midian in Hab. 3.7). That the Kenites were a Midianite sub-group, or at least were closely related to the Midianites, is a reasonable deduction from the ethnic identity of Moses’ father-in-law, the Midianite priest who is also described as a Kenite. Midianite territory lay east of the Gulf of Aqaba, but the Midianites ranged far and wide (e.g. in Moab, Gen. 36.35; Num. 22.4, 7; in the Jezreel Valley, Judg. 6–8) and were certainly familiar with the Sinai. Hanoch, one of the Midianite lineages (Gen. 25.4), is also the name of Cain’s son after whom a ‘city’ was named (Gen. 4.17-18).
F.C. Fensham, ‘Did a Treaty between the Israelites and the Kenites Exist?’, BASOR 175 (1964), pp. 51-54, points to the incident in which Saul spared the Kenites on account of their having manifested dsx to the Israelites as they were coming up from Egypt (1 Sam 15.6). See also A. Cody, ‘Exodus 18,12: Jethro accepts a covenant with the Israelites’, Bib 49 (1968), pp. 153-66, though I believe he was mistaken in concluding that Moses took the initiative in the proceedings, and Weinfeld, ‘The Tribal League at Sinai’, pp. 308-11, who notes the covenantal significance of ‘eating bread’ (cf. Gen. 31:43).
B. Mazar’s identification of the sanctuary discovered in the northwest corner of Tell Arad in 1963 as a Kenite holy place in which the Kenite descendants of Hobab functioned as priests is based on Judg. 1.16 not on archaeological data from the site. See his ‘The Sanctuary of Arad and the Family of Hobab the Kenite’, JNES 24 (1965), pp. 297-303. There are also issues about the date of this sanctuary, on which see D. Ussishkin, ‘The Date of the Judaean Shrine at Arad’, IEJ 38 (1988), pp. 142-57.
A fortiori, if the Cushite woman whom he is said to have married (Num. 12.1) was from Midianite Cushan (Hab. 3.7); see n. 7 above.
The Simeonites, closely linked with the Levites (Gen. 34.25-31; 49.5-7; Josh. 21.9-12), and later absorbed into Judah (Gen. 49.5-12; Josh. 19.1-9), were associated with Judah and the Kenites in the settlement of the Negev (Judg. 1.3, 16-17). According to the Chronicler (1 Chron. 4.42-43), they also maintained a presence in Edomite territory. Their lineages are listed in Exod. 6.15 and Num. 26.12-14.
The father of Cozbi (obviously a fictitious name meaning ‘Liar’) bears the same name as one of the Midianite ‘kings’, that is, tribal leaders, killed in Israel’s holy war against Midian (Num. 31.8; Josh. 13.21). This Zur is described as b)-tyb twm) #)r (Num. 25.15) and Nydm )y#n (25.18). If b)-tyb is not a gloss on the preceding phrase, Zur was the leader or sheik of a number of clans composed of individual households, therefore of high rank. Apart from Ps. 117.1, where the word is in masculine plural, hm) occurs elsewhere only at Gen. 25.16 with reference to Ishmaelite tribal sheiks.
Good summaries in the contributions of I. Beit Arieh, P. Bienkowski, and E.A. Knauf-Belleri to Edelman, You Shall Not Abhor an Edomite for He Is Your Brother.
See N. Glueck, ‘Kenites and Kenizzites’, PEQ 72 (1940), pp. 22-24 and, on the possibly Hurrian origin of the Kenizzites, J. Blenkinsopp, Gibeon and Israel (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1972), pp. 18, 113 n. 19.
On these southern tribes in general see E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme, 299-471 (die Südstämme); Martin Noth, Geschichte Israels (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2nd edn, 1954), = The History of Israel (London: A. & C. Black, 2nd edn,1960), pp. 56-58, 76-77.
On intertribal alliances among the early Arabs, see W. Robertson Smith, The Religion of the Semites: The Fundamental Institutions (New York: Schocken Books, 1972 [from 2nd edn, 1894]), pp. 314-20.
Stade, ‘Beiträge zur Pentateuchkritik 1) Das Kainszeichen’; Haupt, ‘Midian und Sinai’.
O. Eissfeldt, ‘Protektorat der Midianiter über ihre Nachbarn im letzten Viertel des 2. Jahrtausends v. Chr.’, JBL 87 (1968), pp. 383-93; G.E. Mendenhall, The Tenth Generation: The Origins of the Biblical Tradition (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973). On the place of the incident in Num. 25 in Pentateuchal tradition, see Noth, Überlieferungsgeschichte des Pentateuch, pp. 80-86, = A History of Pentateuchal Traditions, pp. 74-79.
W.J. Dumbrell, ‘Midian—A Land or a League?’, VT 25 (1975), pp. 323-37.
I am thinking especially of Martin Noth’s six-tribal amphictyony in his Das System der zwölf Stämme Israels (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1930), pp. 92-95 which, leaving aside the controversial amphictyonic terminology, has been widely accepted and is in accord with the thesis that a more complete and coherent Kadesh tradition has been displaced by the Sinai narrative from Exod. 19 to Num. 10; on which see J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel (New York: Meridian Books, 1957 [1883]), pp. 342-43; E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme, pp. 51-71; Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit, pp. 123-24, 438-39. The location of Sinai is discussed by R. de Vaux, Histoire ancienne d’Israël des origines à l’installation en Canaan (Paris: Gabalda, 1986), pp. 313-21, who rules out Kadesh, preferring a site in the southern Sinai Peninsula. For a good summary of the Kadesh traditions, see Murray Newman, The People of the Covenant (New York: Abingdon, 1962), pp. 72-101.
Inclusion of Amalekites would depend on emending M(h-t) b#yw Klyw to Klm(h-t) b#yw Klyw at Judg. 1.16 (‘The descendants of the Kenite [Hobab], father-in-law of Moses, went up from the City of Palms with the Judahites to the wilderness of Judah which is in the Negev of Arad, and they went and dwelt with the Amalekites’). The emendation is accepted by most commentators, and we hear of Kenites associated with Amalekites elsewhere (1 Sam. 15.4-9).
Cf. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme, p. 446, who describes more or less the same grouping of tribal units as Edomite or Edomite–Ishmaelite (‘Midianite’ would fit the thirteen-twelfth century better); see the section on ‘Juda und die Edomiter’, pp. 442-46.
This is the popular biblical derivation, as in Gen. 29.35 and 49.8. See W.F. Albright, ‘The Names “Israel” and “Juda” with an Excursus on the Etymology of tôdāh and tôrāh’, JBL 46 (1927), pp. 151-85, and compare A.R. Millard, ‘The Meaning of the Name Judah’, ZAW 86 (1974), pp. 216-20, who suggests a form with the hophal jussive of hdy, ‘May Yahveh be praised’, and presents some Akkadian parallels.
G.W. Ahlström, Who Were the Israelites? (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1986), pp. 42-43; H.J. Zobel, ‘Jehûdah’, in ThWAT, III (1976/1980), pp. 514-17; C.H.J. de Geus, ‘Judah (Place)’, in ABD, III, pp. 1033-35; B. Becking, ‘YEHUD’, in DDD (2nd edn, 1999), pp. 925-26. However, Albright, ‘The Names “Israel” and “Judah”’, pp. 151- 85, explained the name as a hypocoristic for yehūde ēl (‘May El be praised’) formed with Jussive of Hophal (hōdā II).
E. Lipiński, ‘L’étymologie de “Juda”’, VT 23 (1973), pp. 380-81. Therefore the expression hdwhy Cr) would mean ‘terre ravinée’.

21st August 2011, 23:09
The Edomite Connection

The genealogical and ethnographic Edomite lists in Genesis 36 and 1 Chronicles 1, while composed from the perspective of a time long after the dissolution of the Edomite kingdom, provide information relevant to this issue of ethnic origins. The lists do not mention Kenites, but give the names of four Edomite lineages under the name of Reuel (Gen. 36.13, 17; 1 Chron. 1.35, 37). They also list a tribe called Jitran—a variation of Jethro—under the name of Dishon (Gen. 36.26; 1 Chron. 1.41). Kenaz, eponymous ancestor of the Kenizzites, is listed as an Edomite lineage (Gen. 36.15, 18, 42; 1 Chron. 1.36, 53) together with Teman (Gen. 36.15, 34, 42) and Amalek (Gen. 36.12, 16). The well-known Levitical clans of Korah (Gen. 36.5, 14, 16; 1 Chron. 1.35) and Heman (Gen. 36.22) are also listed as Edomite,1 while the closely related Calebites and Jerahmeelites are represented as fully integrated into the Judaean family tree.2

The narrative traditions about Jacob–Israel and Esau–Edom leave us in no doubt that the origins and the destiny of Israel were also inextricably bound up with those of Edom. In the earliest reference to Edom, in Papyrus Anastasi VI 54-56 from the late thirteenth century, Edom, with the determinative ‘foreign hill country’, is a land and the people are tentdwelling
Shasu meaning ‘wanderers’ or ‘nomads’.3 The text does not say whether this Edomite hill country lay east or west of the Arabah, but it may be taken to designate the region which the individual Shasu tribes or clans associated with Edom inhabited. These included Judah, as we have seen, and there are several indications in the biblical texts which
support, or at least are consistent with, the Edomite origins of Judah, understanding ‘Edomite’ in the broader ethnic and geographical sense with reference to the situation in the transitional period between Late Bronze and Iron I. The most obvious of these indications is the theme of the brotherhood of Israel and Edom, often expressed in the narrative traditions (Gen. 25–35; Num. 20.14-17), in prophetic texts (Amos 1.11; Obad 10; Mal. 1.2-3), and in Deuteronomy (Deut. 2.2-8; 23.8-9). While Myx) can signify ‘covenant partners’,4 the emphasis in the biblical texts appears to be on brotherhood as close kinship, as sharing the same extended family.5 Commentators have also noticed that Edom is the only neighbour of Israel whose religion is not denounced and whose national deity is not rejected, indeed is not even mentioned in the biblical texts. The cult of the Edomite god Qos/Qaus is first attested directly in the Nabataean period, no earlier than the first century BCE, but it shows up indirectly as a theophoric element in the names of the Edomite kings Qosmalak and Qosgabri from the Neo-Assyrian period. The cult of this deity may be older than that,6 but if so it will either have coexisted with the cult of Yahweh or signified an alternative designation or attribute of one and the same deity. In any case, the Edomite–Seirite origins of
Yahweh are attested in the hymns discussed earlier (Judg. 5.4; Hab. 3.3; Deut. 33.2), in Isa. 63.1 (‘Who is this that comes from Edom?’), and in the inscriptions from Kuntillet Ajrud mentioned earlier which invoke the blessing of Yahweh of Teman. There is also a strong possibility that the name ‘Yahweh’ is itself of Northern Arabian origin, which is no more than we would expect if the Midianite–Kenite hypothesis about the origin of the cult of Yahweh is accepted.7

In view of the settlement of Judahites and Kenites in the Arad region (Judg. 1.16), it is worth noting that ‘sons of Qorah’ are listed among other functionaries on the base of a bowl in a room adjacent to the Arad sanctuary; see Y. Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions (Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1981), p. 80. Other Levites are associated with Libnah and Hebron (Num. 26.58). On the Edomite connections of the Korahite Levites, see J. Maxwell Miller, ‘The Korahites of Southern Judah’, CBQ 32 (1970), pp. 58-68; C.H.J. de Geus, The Tribes of Yahweh: An Investigation into Some Presuppositions of Martin Noth’s Amphictyony Hypothesis (Assen: Van Gorcum, 1976), pp. 97-108. The early history of the Levites calls for a separate study.
Caleb in 1 Chron. 2.18-19, 42-50; Jerahmeel his ‘brother’ in 1 Chron. 2.9, 25-33.
Giveon, Les bédouins Shosu des documents Egyptiens, pp. 131-34; J.R. Bartlett, Edom and the Edomites (JSOTSup, 77; Sheffield: JSOT, 1989), p. 77.
J. Priest, ‘The Covenant of Brothers’, JBL 84 (1965), pp. 400-406.
J. Bartlett, ‘The Brotherhood of Edom’, JSOT 4 (1977), pp. 2-27; idem, Edom and the Edomites, pp. 180-84. Irrespective of the dates assigned to the relevant biblical texts, always subject to debate, the conclusion reached by Bert Dicou, Edom, Israel’s Brother and Antagonist (JSOTSup, 169; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1994), pp. 180-81, that the brotherhood theme must be post-exilic, is incredible in view of the implacable hostility towards Edom after the fall of Jerusalem.
T.C. Vriezen, ‘The Edomite Deity Qaus’, OTS 14 (1965), pp. 330-53; Bartlett, Edom and the Edomites, pp. 200-207. The argument of M. Rose, ‘Yahweh in Israel - Qaus in Edom?’, JSOT 4 (1977), pp. 28-34, that this cult was in existence in Edom no earlier than the eighth or seventh century BCE is not provable, as Bartlett pointed out in his response, ‘Yahweh and Qaus: A Response to Martin Rose’, JSOT 5 (1978), pp. 29-38, but Rose’s further point that participation in a common Edomite–Israelite cult of Yahweh was the basis for brotherhood between the two peoples is defensible.
K. van der Toorn, ‘YAHWEH hwhy’, in DDD (2nd edn, 1999), pp. 910-19; E.A. Knauf, ‘Yahwe’, VT 34 (1984), pp. 467-72 who explains the name as a divine epithet (Beiname) formed with the Imperfect of the verbal stem hwy, meaning ‘to blow’ (the wind), a formation characteristic of pre-Islamic North Arabian.

21st August 2011, 23:24
Concluding Remarks

It should not be necessary to apologize for presenting these considerations about religious and ethnic origins as a hypothesis. In a sense, all our knowledge of the past is hypothetical and probabilistic, and the task of the historian is always that of coming up with a better hypothesis, one which provides a more complete and adequate explanation of the complex of data available than any other currently on offer. What therefore I have tried to do in this study is not just elevate a mere possibility—which no scholar to my knowledge has denied—into a serious probability, but to argue that this hypothesis provides the best explanation currently available of the relevant literary and archaeological data.

Before rounding off my investigation, a comment may be permitted inspired by the parallelism between the narrative about Cain and Abel (Gen. 4.1-26) and that of Esau–Edom and Jacob–Israel (Gen. 25.19–28.9; 32–33, with a shorter version in Gen. 36.6-8). In addition to describing credible if extraordinary individual histories, those of Cain and Abel and Esau and Jacob respectively, both narratives project unmistakable ethnic paradigms. Together with the lineages related to them, including Judah, the descendants of the eponymous Cain were closely linked with Edom, in the sense that they were components of the Edom attested in Egyptian records, preceding by several centuries the formation in the same region of the state of that name. The Cain story belongs to the prehistory of Esau as the Kenites belong to the prehistory of Israel, hence its location in the primeval history before the appearance of Israel on the scene. Esau–Edom and Jacob–Israel are twins (Gen. 25.24);1 the peoples they represent therefore originated as one family and were meant to remain such. The paradigmatic element of the narrative, which is transparently clear, takes in the historical destinies of Edom and Israel especially in the oracular utterances (Gen. 25.23; 27.27-29, 39-40). Both Ishmael and Esau are firstborn, Esau’s birth precedence corresponding to the chronological priority of the Edomite kingdom (Gen. 36.31). The southern
origin of both Isaac’s sons is insinuated by the territory of the father who is at home in the region to the south of Judah and never moves further north than Hebron, which is Calebite, and therefore Kenite, country. The characteristics attributed to Esau reflect the nature of the land his descendants will occupy (Gen. 25.25; cf. 27.39), and his typical pursuits - hunting in particular - reflect the occupations in which his descendants were known to engage.2

Esau’s marriages also entail affinity with ethnic groups known to inhabit the region on both sides of the Arabah prior to the formation of the Edomite state in the eighth century. His wives Jehudith and Basemath are of Hittite descent (Gen. 26.34) and Mahalath is Ishmaelite (Gen. 28.9). Genesis 36.1-3 has Adah instead of Basemath and Basemath instead of Mahalath, and adds—curiously—Oholibamah daughter of Anah son (MT daughter) of Zibeon the Hivite. However, in Gen. 36.20, 29 both Zibeon and Anah are Horite clan names and in 1 Chron. 1.38 Zibeon is a ‘son’ of Seir. However the ethnic terms ‘Hivite’ and ‘Horite’ are to be understood in this context, the connection of these personal and clan names with Edom is fully in evidence especially if, as seems likely, the author has substituted ‘Ishmaelites’ for ‘Midianites’.

It seems, finally, as if both narratives fit the pattern of a widespread myth of ethnic origins according to which two brothers quarrel, the quarrel ends either in fratricide or the ascendancy of one brother over the other, and the winner or survivor goes on to found the city or state in question. The pattern is only apparently ill-fitting in Genesis 4 since it is
Cain not Abel who goes on to build the first city and found the first family dynasty (Gen. 4.17). The closest parallel is the myth of Phoenician origins narrated by Philo Byblos and transmitted by Eusebius of Caesarea. The brothers Hypsouranios and Ousōos quarrelled, and the outcome was that Hypsouranios, who discovered how to make shelters out of reeds and rushes, became the founder of Tyre. Like Esau, Ousōos, the loser, was a hunter and covered his body with the hides of animals (cf. Gen. 25.25).3 Similar founding myths are told about Crete (Sarpedon and Minos—Her. I.173), Troy (Dardanus and Iasius—Aeneid III.167), Mycenae (Atreus and Thyestes—Euripides, Orestes), Athens (Lycus and
Aegeus—Her. I.173), and of course Rome (the twins Romulus and Remus—Livy I.vi-vii).4 If the hypothesis argued here is correct, it looks as if Edom and Israel played out their conjoined destinies at the origins of one and the same people existing in real time, while unconsciously fulfilling a widespread mythic pattern.

Siamese twins according to L. Waterman, ‘Jacob the Forgotten Supplanter’, AJSL 55 (1938), pp. 25-43, based on the description of Jacob as ‘heel holder’.
As the sword is the weapon for war (Gen. 27.40), so the bow is for hunting (27.3). The bow is closely associated with the Edomite–Idumaean deity Qos (Qaus), the etymology of whose name is Arabic qaus, meaning ‘bow’. See Bartlett, Edom and the Edomites, pp. 200-207; E.A. Knauf, ‘QÔS #wq’, in DDD (2nd edn, 1999), pp. 674-77.
The comparison was noted more than a century ago by T.K. Cheyne, ‘The Connection of Esau and Usōos’, ZAW 17 (1897), p. 189. For the text, see H.W. Attridge and
R.O. Oden, Philo of Byblos: The Phoenician History (Washington, D.C: Catholic Biblical Association, 1981), pp. 42-43.
Other examples in Westermann, Genesis 1–11, pp. 315-17. The mythic pattern is by no means confined to classical and biblical antiquity, but is found in Egypt (Seth and
Osiris), India (the Vedic myth of Nāsataya and Ásrin) and Africa. Stephen Taylor, in Caliban’s Shore (New York: Norton, 2004), pp. 95-96, records the case from East Africa of the founding of the Pondo people, descended from the Bantu, after the eponymous Pondo quarrelled with his brother Pondomise and led his people away to a new region.