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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 1:16, 4:11; as Hobab is also called a Madianite (Numbers 10:29), 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 Exodus 18, 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 (1 Chronicles 2:55) were even ascetics and insisted on retaining the nomadic habits of the followers of Yahweh (Jeremiah 35), Though calamities were foretold for the Cinites by Balaam (Numbers 24:21 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 (Numbers 10:29-32, 1 Samuel 15:6) 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. 1 Samuel 27:10, 30:29). The Cinites dwelt south of Palestine with the Amalecites, as is evident from Numbers 24:21 sqq., 1 Samuel 15:6, and probably from Judges 1:16 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 Debbora (Judges 4:11); Jahel, who slew Sisara, was the wife of Haber the Cinite (Judges 4:17 sqq. and 5:24 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 Genesis 15:19). 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.

About this page

APA citation. Butin, R. (1908). Cinites. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Butin, Romain. "Cinites." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Joseph P. Thomas.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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