Cain and the Kenites

by peacefulpete 7 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • peacefulpete

    I'm at work, so I'll be brief. The Kenites are mentioned many times in the OT, usually associated with a semi nomadic pastoral herding lifestyle and metal work, centered/originating in the south of Israel but found throughout the land as resources required. They are regarded as a branch of Midianites which is relevant for the introduction of Yahweh to Israel called the Kenite Hypothesis (another time). They lived among the Israelites and Judeans and shared the worship of Yahweh (likely among other gods). So well integrated were they that some were named as serving in David's military and of course we have the famous Jael the Kenite story I touched on in a recent thread about Shamgar. The historicity of these stories is not confirmed by this, only that the writers preserved stories and legends that included these Kenites as part of their culture, which is amazing actually.

    Anyway, to the point. Countless commentators have struggled with the rather odd handling of the Cain incident in Genesis. Not only does God not kill Cain but vows to protect him, avenging him 7 times (killing the family of his killer). He also pronounced a curse that he and his eponymous offspring will not be able to farm but have to raise animals and be wanderers. By now you may have picked up on the point. The Kenites are hypothesized to have understood themselves or the author of these legends understood them as descendants of Cain (Kain). The textual and linguistic links are pretty interesting and have been long recognized. But legends this ancient are difficult to dissect with any certainty. Why I bring this up is its bearing on the questions regarding the Cain story. If we accept the proposal that the Kenites were associated with Cain as their eponymous tribal founder, both the farming curse and the promised protection start making sense. The very purpose of these legends becomes clearer.

    This passage serves as an origin legend for these Kenite people living as nomadic herdsmen and metal workers among the Israelites. It might have offered an explanation for their lifestyle as well as ensured a measure of protection from locals who might otherwise have seen them as outsiders/enemies.

    This is brief and without a lot of references. If there is interest we can dive into it further.

  • peacefulpete

    Well, apparently no interest. Where are textual gold miners? This stuff is fascinating..

  • blondie

    peacefulpete, in this case, this is a road I have not traveled much. But I am starting.

    The WTS has said that none of Cain's descendants survived the flood since only Noah and his immediate family lived through it (unless one of the wives was a descendant of Cain). I never knew why god did not execute Cain then, not because there was no written law against it, murder, is a written law necessary to know that was wrong? The WTS uses this excuse to give Judah a pass regarding having sex with a temple prostitute, and if a widower has sex with a woman, that doesn't count because he is not married and there is no law yet against that. (reference Joseph)

    Notice this statement by the WTS

    At the time of Dinah’s violation by Shechem the Hivite, the family of Jacob was urged by Hamor, Shechem’s father, to enter into marriage alliances with that tribe. Though Jacob’s sons did not follow through with their apparent acceptance, they did take the Hivite women and children captive after avenging Dinah’s honor. (Ge 34:1-11, 29) Judah later married a Canaanite woman (Ge 38:2), and Joseph’s wife was an Egyptian. (Ge 41:50) Moses married Zipporah, a Midianite, evidently called a “Cushite” at Numbers 12:1. (Ex 2:16, 21) These marriages, however, were contracted before the giving of the Law and hence could not be considered a violation of its requirements.

    Back to the real topic,

    The identity of the Kenites in the bible is something I have only read in passing.

    1) that Moses married into a Kenite? family, Zipporah, who was not an Israelite. Which based on the strong view against married outside your religious group, was a no-no in my mind.

    2) the confusing discussion of the WTS as to Zipporah's ancestry, Midian, Cush, Kenite, ???

    Another question that comes to mind, does the bible or other outside source, identify the Kenites as worshippers of the Israelite god (thus Zipporah) (per the WTS).

    ----In the end, I realize how little outside history sources have to clear up my questions, only add to them. It does teach me not to accept the WTS explanation of history, even history in the bible which is biased in the first place. The WTS counts on the fact that its members are not likely to be interested in going too far into other sources, even chastising them at times for feeling they need something more than "food from Jehovah's table." I don't find many ex-jws that seem to want to go farther either.

    I do enjoy your posts, giving me something to look further into. But I am just beginning and it will take some time for me to catch up.


  • Vidiot
    peacefulpete - “...apparently no interest...”

    Yeah, most folks here have kinda moved past Genesis literalism, so detailed discussion of its historicity tends to be viewed as irrelevant.

  • peacefulpete

    Blondie.. It's becoming more and more evident the patchwork nature of the OT. Compilers often took other material and fairly faithfully reproduced it. So we have material from the north, the south and from various special interest groups like the priests. These disparate narratives were smooshed together by later redactors and at times this created doublets and contradictions. The 2 flood narratives, themselves were as a unit interjected into the existing JE narrative. Roughly chapters 6:5-9:18 and verse 28 and 10:32 when removed leave an unbroken narrative reappears with Noah having 3 sons and being the one to bring comfort from the toiling of the ground by inventing wine. Noah had taken on the role of a flood hero in some quarters and this story was dropped in the narrative at the mention of his name. This explains why the Kenites, Rephaim and other lines are still around after the flood and the 120 year lifespan contradiction. The redactor also has a chronological agenda requiring ridiculou lifespans so that the formulas worked. (another time).

  • blondie

    I have always wondered how the WTS came up with its interpretations, not by their "holy spirit inspired" utterances by by independent reasoning based on non-jw sources for sure. They also take whatever supports their thesis sometimes quoting their sources, sometimes just saying "one Bible scholar" with out naming them or the source of the material (almost always a non-jw person/source).

    I give you credit doing the research through such a maze of information.


  • peacefulpete

    Yeah, most folks here have kinda moved past Genesis literalism, so detailed discussion of its historicity tends to be viewed as irrelevant.

    You also can appreciate the Bible as a collection of legend and origin stories. It is rather fun shedding the literalist and moralist approach and come to see the book as a puzzle that took hundreds of years to assemble by people with different agendas. The Kenite presence in Palestine is quite historical. Their legends and stories no doubt strongly influenced the overall religio/political climate at an early stage of Israelite history as the J source seems to preserve. Like I alluded to it is deemed a viable hypothesis that the Kenite/Midianites introduced the Israelites to Yahweh. The legends quite often merely put a mythic spin on a kernel of historical fact. The Moses story says that Jethro/Reuel a Midianite priest introduced Moses to Yahweh when Moses lived with him for 40 years in Midian. The burning bush story was in Midian. The link to the made through geographical references and a comparison of Numb.10:29 and Judges 4:11.

    29Then Moses said to Hobab, son of his father-in-law Reuel the Midianite, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said: ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well, for the LORD has promised good things to Israel.”

    11Now Heber the Kenite had moved away from the Kenites, the descendants of Hobab the father-in-law of Moses, and had pitched his tent by the great tree of Zaanannim, which was near Kedesh.

    See how the Kenite and Midianite link is made? Many other links exist also.

    The link to Kain is explicit in Number 24

    21Next he saw the Kenites and lifted up an oracle, saying:

    “Your dwelling place is secure,

    and your nest is set in a cliff.

    22Yet Kain will be destroyed

    when Asshur takes you captive.”

    Kain is assumed by translators to be a place name from the which the Kenites originated. The linguistic link to the C/Kain character (or one of them) is provocative. The lists of genealogies we've been dancing around in Gen 4 (and disregarding the P doublet genealogy in chapt 5) include a section understood to have been an isolated block at verses 17-22 that served as the tribal Kenite genealogy. (The "song of the sword" vss 23,24 that follows is also an independent block of poem inserted here)

    All that sounds pretty convoluted, but it has wide acceptance for good reasons. Even the Jewish Encyclopedia describes this Kenite/Cain connection;

    The book as we have it is a quiltwork of stories and poems stitched together and only partly harmonized by a redactor. Editorial seams show in passages like I mentioned before Gen 9:28 and 10:32 where the redactor has felt compelled to emphasize the flood having happened. As an aside this also explains the tower of Babel story so soon after the flood, wink wink. The flood story/ies was added as a separate unit into the narrative.

    It really is fun, honest.

  • blondie

    It can be like untying the Gordian knot.

    Gordian knot. A complex knot tied by a Greek king. According to legend, whoever loosed it would rule all Asia. Alexander the Great, according to some accounts, undid the Gordian knot by cutting through it with his sword.

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