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What the scriptures say about
MIDIANITES, MIDIAN
Also see: Abraham (Midian's father with Keturah), Ishmaelites, Moab

References:
Easton's Bible Dictionary | Smith's Bible Dictionary | International Standard Bible Encyclopedia | Thompson Chain Reference

MIDIANITE in scriptures [BibleGateway Search]   Site search: FreeFind

Select Cross Reference Bible links
Genesis 37:28 (with Ishmaelites)
Numbers 10:29 (Moses's father-in-law), 25:6-18 (later enemies of Israel), 31 (vengeance upon)
Acts 7:29 (Moses in Midian)


MIDIANITE [Easton's Bible Dictionary]

An Arabian tribe descended from Midian. They inhabited principally the desert north of the peninsula of Arabia. The peninsula of Sinai was the pasture-ground for their flocks. They were virtually the rulers of Arabia, being the dominant tribe. Like all Arabians, they were a nomad people. They early engaged in commercial pursuits. It was to one of their caravans that Joseph was sold (Genesis 37:28,36).

The next notice of them is in connection with Moses' flight from Egypt (Exodus 2:15-21). Here in Midian Moses became the servant and afterwards the son-in-law of Reuel or Jethro, the priest.

After the Exodus, the Midianites were friendly to the Israelites so long as they traversed only their outlying pasture-ground on the west of the Arabah; but when, having passed the southern end of Edom, they entered into the land of Midian proper, they joined with Balak, the king of Moab, in a conspiracy against them (Numbers 22:4-7). Balaam, who had been sent for to curse Israel, having utterly failed to do so, was dismissed by the king of Moab; nevertheless he still tarried among the Midianites, and induced them to enter into correspondence with the Israelites, so as to bring them into association with them in the licentious orgies connected with the worship of Baal-Peor. This crafty counsel prevailed. The Israelites took part in the heathen festival, and so brought upon themselves a curse indeed. Their apostasy brought upon them a severe punishment. A plague broke out amongst them, and more than twenty-four thousand of the people perished (Numbers 25:9).

But the Midianites were not to be left unpunished. A terrible vengeance was denounced against them. A thousand warriors from each tribe, under the leadership of Phinehas, went forth against them. The Midianites were utterly routed. Their cities were consumed by fire, five of their kings were put to death, and the whole nation was destroyed (Joshua 13:21,22). Balaam also perished by the sword, receiving the "wages of his unrighteousness" (Numbers 31:8; 2Pet 2:15). The whole of the country on the east of Jordan, now conquered by the Israelites (see SIHON; OG), was divided between the two tribes of Reuben and Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh.

Some two hundred and fifty years after this the Midianites had regained their ancient power, and in confederation with the Amalekites and the "children of the east" they made war against their old enemies the Israelites, whom for seven years they oppressed and held in subjection. They were at length assailed by Gideon in that ever-memorable battle in the great plain of Esdraelon, and utterly destroyed (Judges 7). Frequent allusions are afterwards made to this great victory (Psalms 83:10,12; Isaiah 9:4; 10:6). They now wholly pass away from the page of history both sacred and profane.


MIDIAN [Smith's Bible Dictionary]

Mid’ian (strife), a son of Abraham and Keturah, (Genesis 25:2; 1 Chronicles 1:32)
progenitor of the Midianites, or Arabians
dwelling principally in the desert north of the peninsula of Arabia.

Southward they extended along the eastern shore of the Gulf of Eyleh (Sinus AElaniticus ); and northward they stretched along the eastern frontier of Palestine. The "land of Midian," the place to which Moses fled after having killed the Egyptian, (Exodus 2:15,21) or the portion of it specially referred to, was probably the peninsula of Sinai. The influence of the Midianties on the Israelites was clearly most evil, and directly tended to lead them from the injunctions of Moses. The events at Shittim occasioned the injunction to vex Midian and smite them. After a lapse of some years, the Midianites appear again as the enemies of the Israelites, oppressing them for seven years, but are finally defeated with great slaughter by Gideon. [GIDEON] The Midianites are described as true Arabs, and possessed cattle and flocks and camels as the sand of the seashore for multitude. The spoil taken in the war of both Moses and of Gideon is remarkable. (Numbers 31:22; Judges 8:21,24-26) We have here a wealthy Arab nation, living by plunder, delighting in finery; and, where forays were impossible, carrying ont he traffic southward into Arabia, the land of gold -- if not naturally, by trade -- and across to Chaldea, or into the rich plains of Egypt.


MIDIAN, MIDIANITE [International Standard Bible Encyclopedia]

mid'-i-an, mid'-i-an-its (midhyan, midhyanim; Madiam, Madienaioi):

1. The Seed of Abraham to the Time of the Judges:

Midian was a son of Abraham by his concubine Keturah.
To him were born 5 sons, Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abida and Eldaah (Genesis 25:2,4; 1 Chronicles 1:32 f).

Bearing gifts from Abraham, he and his brothers, each with his own household, moved off from Isaac into "the east country" (Genesis 25:6). The first recorded incident in the history of the tribe is a defeat suffered "in the field of Moab" at the hands of Hadad, king of Edom. Of this nothing beyond the fact is known (Genesis 36:35; 1 Chronicles 1:46). The Midianites next appear as merchantmen traveling from Gilead to Egypt, with "spicery and balm and myrrh," with no prejudice against a turn of slave-dealing (Genesis 37:25 ff). Moses, on fleeing from Egypt, found refuge in the land of Midian, and became son-in-law of Jethro, the priest of Midian (Exodus 2:15,21). In Midian Moses received his commission to Israel in Egypt (Exodus 4:19). A Midianite, familiar with the desert, acted as guide ("instead of eyes") to the children of Israel in their wilderness wanderings (Numbers 10:29 ff). The friendly relations between Israel and Midian, which seem to have prevailed at first, had been ruptured, and we find the elders of Midian acting with those of Moab in calling Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 22:4-7). Because of the grievous sin into which they had seduced Israel on the shrewd advice of Balaam, a war of vengeance was made against the Midianites in which five of their chiefs perished; the males were ruthlessly slain, and Balaam also was put to death (Numbers 25:15,17; 31:2 ff). We next hear of Midian as oppressing Israel for 7 years. Along with the Amalekites and the children of the East they swarmed across the Jordan, and their multitudinous beasts swept up the produce of the earth. Overwhelming disaster befell this horde at the onset of Gideon's chosen men. In the battle and pursuit "there fell a hundred and twenty thousand men that drew sword"; their kings, Zebah and Zalmunna, and their princes, Oreb and Zeeb, sharing the common fate (Judges 6--Judges 8). Echoes of this glorious victory -- "the day of Midian" -- are heard in later literature (Psalms 83:9; Isaiah 9:4; 10:26; Habakkuk 3:7).

2. The Kenite Branch:
The Kenites appear to have been a branch of the Midianites. Jethro could hardly have attained the dignity of the priesthood in Midian had he been of alien blood (Judges 1:16). See KENITES. Again, the tribesmen are named indifferently Ishmaelites and Midianites (Genesis 37:25,28,36; Judges 8:22,24). They must therefore have stood in close relations with the descendants of Hagar's son.
3. Modern Arabs:
The representations of Midian in Scripture are consistent with what we know of the immemorial ways of Arabian tribes, now engaged in pastoral pursuits, again as carriers of merchandise, and yet again as freebooters. Such tribes often roam through wide circles. They appear not to have practiced circumcision (Exodus 4:25), which is now practically universal among the Arabs. The men wore golden ornaments, as do the modern nomads (Judges 8:24 ff).
4. Historical References:
The name of "Midian" is not found in Egyptian or Assyrian documents. Delitzsch (Wo lag das Paradies? 304) suggests that Ephah (Genesis 25:4) may be identical with Chayapa of the cuneiform inscriptions. If this is correct the references point to the existence of this Midianite tribe in the North of el-Chijaz in the times of Tiglath-pileser and Sargon (745-705 BC). Isaiah speaks of Midian and Ephah apparently as separate tribes, whose dromedaries bear gold and frankincense to Zion (60:6); but he gives no hint of the districts they occupied. The tribe of Ghifar, found in the neighborhood of Medina in Mohammed's day, Knobel would identify with Epher, another of Midian's sons.
5. Territory:
No boundaries can now be assigned to "the land of Midian." It included territory on the West as well as on the East of the Gulf of `Aqaba (Exodus 4:19). It lay between Edom and Paran (1 Kings 11:18). In the time of the Judges their district seems to have extended northward to the East of Gilead (1 Kings 8:10).

A trace of the ancient name is found in that of Madyah, a place mentioned by the Arabic geographers, with a plentiful supply of water, now called Maghair Sho`aib. It lies East of the Gulf of `Aqaba, some miles from the coast, almost opposite the point of the Sinaitic peninsula. The name Sho`aib, given by Mohammed to Jethro, may here be due to ancient Midianite tradition.

W. Ewing


MIDIAN [Thompson Chain Reference]
Son of Abraham and Keturah

    Genesis 25:2
    Exodus 18:1
    Numbers 22:4
    Numbers 31:3
    Judges 6:1
    Judges 7:8
    Judges 8:28

Land of

    Exodus 2:15
    1 Kings 11:18
    Isaiah 60:6
    Habakkuk 3:7 

MIDIANITES

   (descendants of Midian)
    Genesis 37:28
    Genesis 37:36
    Numbers 31:2
    Judges 6:7
    Judges 7:1
    Judges 7:25