This past Wednesday, the weekly Bible study that I teach began a study on the book of Judges. Judges, is of course the great Old Testament "Who's Who List" of patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish faith (Deborah, Samson, Jephthah). Perhaps it is because of the relative heroic status of the rest of the figures of this book that I have always skipped over one of the most important references in the entire chronicle. I don't think I would be overstating it if I said that it is possible that the entire history of Jewish culture, thought, faith, and life owes itself to this unbeknownst group of people. I am talking, of course, about the Kenites...
Who were the Kenites?
The Bible tells us that; "The descendants of Moses' father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the men of Judah to live among the people of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad." (Judges 1:16).
Again...Who were the Kenites?
Biblical archeologists tell us the Kenites were a nomadic, "bedouin-like", traveling people who were expert at copper mining and metal work. Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, the father of Zipporah, was a Kenite. The fact that the Kenites are descendants of Jethro, a Midianite priest, may suggest that they were not entirely orthodox in their singular devotion to Yahweh as their one God. Their faith, while seminal in Moses' development at the time of his upbringing, wasn't exactly correct, as we would "correct" in our modern understanding of the word. The Kenites were not, as far as we know, flagrantly averse to Yahweh, or ardently opposed to his singularity. The Kenites were within the spectrum of faith, it's just that they weren't really spot on in all of their understandings.
Most importantly, the Kenites were the friends of the Israelites. They supported the Israelites in their expansion into the Holy Lands. Some scholars have even gone so far as to suggest that the Jewish people would not have been as successful in their wars against the Caananites if it had not been for the lessons that the Kenites taught the Israelites about how to mold metal, make swords, develop armor. The Kenites taught the Israelites how to work metal and smelt copper. The Kenites were a different people from the Israelites, and yet they were their friends. The Kenites were good neighbors, at a time in Israel's development when they most needed neighbors of any kind. In other words, they were very talented people, who didn't necessarily have it all together in terms of faith, or have all the answers of life worked out. They weren't perfect people. But Israel needed them and both people groups blessed each other through their mutual interaction and community.
We all need Kenites in our lives!
When Star and I first had the honor of starting Highlands Church we sent out letters to all of the people that we knew of to pray for us, or support us. Some 500 letters went out telling our friends and family asking them for their prayer or support in our attempt to start this new church. A few of the people who received the letters were not Christ followers - by any stretch of the imagination (though I hasten to add that they were not adherents to any other world religion or faith system, they just weren't strong believers). However, we asked those people who had faith to pray for us, and we asked those who did not to simply support us (as the Kenites did for the Israelites. While Star and I knew that many of our non-Christian friends did not understand all the nuances of faith, or have it "all figured out", we also felt that in some miraculous and transcendental way, God might accept their support as well. We felt that as we attempted something that was out of this world, in starting a new church, that the one God who had formed the universe and made all humans in his own image, might use the support of all of God's people.
We felt that the God who had helped the Israelites out through the Kenites, by their association and their connection with us, might listen to the prayers of our friends of faith, and see the support of those who didn't have it all worked out. And it would appear, after six years of this incredible church development, that we were right!
Who are the Kenites that God has given today - for support and friendship?
All for Now,