Failure of Judah Part 6 of 8 (series: Lessons on Judges)
by John Lowe
Article 1.3: Kenite
KENITE, THE, and KENITES (smiths), They inhabited the rocky and desert region between southern Palestine and the mountains of Sinai, east of the Gulf of Akabah. They were a branch of the larger nation of Midian—from the fact that Jethro, who in Exodus (see 2:15, 16; 4:19, etc.) is represented as dwelling in the land of Midian, and as priest or prince of that nation, is in Judges (1:16; 4:11) as distinctly said to have been a Kenite. The important services rendered by the sheikh of the Kenites to Moses during a time of great pressure and difficulty were rewarded by the latter with a promise of firm friendship between the two peoples. They seem to have accompanied the Hebrews during their wanderings, Num. 24:21, 22; Judges 1:16; comp. 2 Chron. 28:15; but, the wanderings of Israel over, they forsook the neighborhood of the towns and betook themselves to freer air—to “the wilderness of Judah, which is to the south of Arad.” Judges 1:16. But one of the sheikhs of the tribe, Heber by name, had wandered north instead of south. Judges 4:11. The most remarkable development of this people is to be found in the sect or family of the Rechabites.
17 And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah.
18 Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.
In the eastern part of Simeon’s territory, they destroyed the Canaanites in Zephath, and they changed its name to Hormah. They added this city to some other cities close by, which they had destroyed some time ago 47(Num. 21:2, 3 ). And this perhaps was the complete fulfillment of the vow they made that they would utterly destroy these cities of the Canaanites in the south. In the western part, they took Gaza, Askelon, and Ekron, cities of the Philistines; they gained possession of these cities, but, since they didn’t destroy the inhabitants, the Philistines, in the long run took back the cities, and proved persistent enemies to the Israel of God.
The Kenites gained a settlement in the tribe of Judah, choosing it there rather than in any other tribe, because it was the strongest, and there they hoped to be safe and peaceful. These were the descendants of Jethro, who either went with Israel when Moses invited them 48(Num. 10:29 ) or met them about the same place when they came up from their wanderings in the wilderness thirty-eight years later. Then they went with them to Canaan, because Moses promised them that they would fare as Israel fared 49(Num. 10:32 ). At first, they had settled themselves in the city of palm-trees, that is, Jericho. But afterward, they relocated into the wilderness of Judah, either out of their fondness for that place or out of their affection for that tribe, which perhaps had been kind to them in a particular way. Judah showed respect for the Kenites, by allowing them to settle where they pleased; being a quiet people, who, wherever they were, were content with a little. They were not mistreated by Israel, and they did not mistreat anyone. Blessed are the meek, for thus they shall inherit the earth.
19 And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.
Strange! Were the iron chariots too strong for the Omnipotence of the Almighty? All of this verse is improperly translated. The first clause, The Lord was with Judah should terminate the 18th verse, and this gives the reason for the success of this tribe: The Lord was with Judah, and therefore he slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, etc., etc. Here then, we should place a period: the remaining part of the verse either refers to a different time, or to the rebellion of Judah against the Lord, which caused him to withdraw his support. Therefore the Lord was with Judah, and these were the effects of his protection, victory after victory; but afterwards, when the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Balaam, etc., God was no longer with them, and their enemies were left to be thorns in their side, as God himself had said would happen. This is the twist given to the verse by Jonathan ben Uzziel: "And the WORD of Jehovah was in the support of the house of Judah, and they extirpated the inhabitants of the mountains; but afterwards, WHEN THEY SINNED, they were not able to extirpate the inhabitants of the plain country, because they had chariots of iron." The war was made by the Lord, whose omnipotent aid would have ensured their success in every encounter, whether on the mountains or the plains, with foot soldiers or cavalry. It was distrust, the lack of a simple and firm reliance on the promise of God, that made them afraid of the iron chariots 50(see Jos 11:4-9 ).
They were now left to their own strength, and their adversaries prevailed against them.
20 And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.
And Hebron was given to Caleb; this whole transaction is explained by 51
Joshua 14: 12.
sons of Anak—Anak was an early inhabitant of central Canaan near Hebron, from whom came the entire group of unusually tall people called the Anakim 52
(Deut 2.10 ). They frightened the ten spies (53
Num. 13.33; Deut 9.2), but were finally driven out of the land by Caleb (54
Josh 14.12-15; 55
Canaanites: The term is sometimes used for all the inhabitants of Canaan without regard to racial origin. The area occupied by the Canaanites at this time is delineated in Judges 1.2
(Josh 19.9) “Out of the portion of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon: for the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them.”3
(Lev 21:16–24) “16And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 17Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. 18For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous, 19Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded, 20Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken; 21No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God. 22He shall eat the bread of his God, both of the most holy, and of the holy. 23Only he shall not go in unto the vail, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I the LORD do sanctify them. 24And Moses told it unto Aaron, and to his sons, and unto all the children of Israel.” Perfect animals were required for sacrifice. Also, a priest was to be without blemish in order to offer the bread of his God (vs. 17). Flat nose speaks of a deformed or mutilated face; superfluous speaks of other abnormal bodily parts. Various other features (vss. 19–21a) could disqualify one born to the priesthood from actually offering the sacrifices (vs. 21b), but he could eat of the priest’s portion (vs. 22).4
(vassals) dependent landholder in feudal society: somebody who gave loyalty and homage to a feudal lord and received the right to occupy the lord's land and be protected by him.5
(Genesis 14:18) “And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God.” Who was Melchizedek? Some have depicted him as a theophany (appearance of God Himself). This, however, is unlikely (see J. Borland, Christ in the Old Testament, pp. 164–174). His name most probably means my king is just. Several factors indicate this is not a theophany. First, the name Zedek is a dynastic title of Jebusite kings as mentioned in the Amarna letters and in the Bible in Joshua 10:1ff. Adoni-zedek in Joshua 10:1 was not a believer. A wicked king demonstrating God’s name is not an accurate guide to spirituality. Second, there is no precedent for theophanies having a permanent place of abode in the Old Testament, and Melchizedek is described as living in Salem. Third, Christ is called a priest after the order of Melchizedek in Psalm 110:4, which makes it preposterous to say He was a priest after His own order. Melchizedek was a believer in the most high God (Yahweh). This is interesting to note, for there were other believers in addition to our limited account in chapters 12–50 of Abram and his descendants. Abram gave tithes (ma˓asēr) something that is well attested elsewhere. Also, the tenth (ma˓asēr) is often, but not invariably, used for a sacred payment and compared with the mekes used for a levy on war spoils (Num 31:28). In Babylonian texts the tithe (es̆irtu, es̆rētu) is used for a levy paid on goods in transit (miksu)—and by the end of the first millennium it was used for a tax on field produce, which does not apply here. See CAD, s.v. “esáirtu,” 4:365 (Wiseman, Bibliotheca Sacra, July-Sept, 1977, pp. 235–236). Evidently, it was also a religious practice, even though the Old Testament does not say that God has yet commanded anyone to do so. Actually, Abram only tithed that which he took in the victory, the tenth of the spoils in Hebrews 7:4; thus, there is no indication this was a regular practice. By so doing, Abram revealed the superiority of Christ’s priesthood according to Hebrews 7:4–10, for Levi was in Abram when Abram tithed. Also, Abram was blessed by Melchizedek, indicating his superiority.