Catholic Encyclopedia (1913)/Cinites

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(A.V. Kenites).

A tribe or family often mentioned in the Old Testament, personified as Qayin from which the nomen gentilicium Qeni is derived. In spite of several attempts at a solution, the origin both of the name and of the tribe is still obscure. Hobab the relative (brother-in-law?) of Moses was a Cinite (Judges, i, 16, iv, 11; as Hobab is also called a Madianite (Num., x, 29), it follows that the Cinites belonged to that nation. Judging from appearances, the Cinites were true worshippers of Yahweh. Some scholars, on the strength of Ex., xviii, go even so far as to assert that it was from them that the Israelites received a great portion of their monotheistic theology; the passage, however, deals directly and only with social organization. At any rate, the Rechabites, a clan of the Cinites [I Par. (A. V. I Chron.) ii, 55] were even ascetics and insisted on retaining the nomadic habits of the followers of Yahweh (Jer., xxxv), Though calamities were foretold for the Cinites by Balaam (Num, xxiv, 21 sqq.), they are always represented as being on friendly terms with the Israelites. Owing probably to their alliance with Moses and also to the bonds of a common religion, they befriended the Israelites during their wanderings in the desert [Num., x, 29-32, 1 K. (A.V. I Sam.) xv, 6] and joined them in their march on Chanaan (Judges, 1, 16). There is no intimation that there ever was any enmity between the two nations (cf. I K., xxvii, 10, xxx, 29). The Cinites dwelt south of Palestine with the Amalecites, as is evident from Num., xxiv, 21 sqq., I K., xv, 6, and probably from Judges, i, 16 if, instead of the Massoretic version, we use an alternate Hebrew reading -- a reading which is supported by several Greek manuscripts and by the Sahidic Coptic Version (cf. Ciasca, Fragm. Copto-Sahidica). One clan of the Cinites left the tribe and settled in the north under Haber, at the time of Barac and Debbera (Judges, iv, 11); Jahel, who slew Sisara, was the wife of Haber the Cinite (ibid., iv, 17 sqq., v, 24 sqq.). From the facts that we find the Cinites south and north, and that in Aramaic the root from which Qayin is derived implies the idea of a smith, Sayce (in Hastings, Dict. Bib., s.v. Kenites) draws the conclusion that the Cinites were a wandering guild of smiths. This view has against it the obvious meaning of the texts (see especially Gen., xv, 19). Apparently the Cinites shared in the Babylonian Exile and in the Restoration, but they do not appear any more as a distinct tribe and very likely were assimilated with the Jews.

R. BUTIN