MIDIAN was one of the peoples of North Arabia whom the Hebrews recognized as distant kinsmen, representing them as sons of Abraham's wife Keturah. The word Keturah means "incense "; thus the sons of Keturah are the "incense-men," not indeed inhabitants of the far south incense-land, but presumably the tribes whose caravans brought the incense to Palestine and the Mediterranean ports. So the Midianites appear in connexion with the gold and incense trade from Yemen(Isa. lx. 6), and with the trade between Egypt and Syria (Gen. xxxvii. 28, 36). At the time of the exodus the pastures of the Midianites, or of the branch of Midian to which Moses's father-in-law (Jethro or Raguel, or Hobab) belonged, lay near Mount Horeb (Exod. iii. 1); and Num. x. 29 n. implies that the tribe was at home in the desert of the wanderings. The Kenites, who, in spite of their connexion with Amalek (1 Sam. xv. 6), had friendly relations with Israel, and ultimately coalesced with the tribe of Judah, are represented in Judg. i. 16, iv. 11 as the kin of Moses's father-in-law.
relations to Israel.' The main body appear in Judg. vi. as have done in all ages when Palestine lacked a strong government. With their defeat by Gideon and another defeat by the Edomites in the field of Moab, probably about the same time (Gen. xxxvi. 35), the recorded history of Midian closes.
A place Midian is mentioned 1 Kings xi. 18, and in later times the name lingered in the district east of the Gulf of 'Akaba, where Eusebius knows a city Madian in the country of the Siracens and Ptolemy places Modiana. Still later Madyan was a station on the pilgrim route from Egypt to Mecca, the second beyond Aila (Elath). Here in the Middle Ages was shown the well from which Moses watered the flocks of Sho'aib (Jethro), and the place is still known as "the caves of Sho'aib." It has considerable ruins, which have been described. by Riippell (raison, 1829) and Burton (Land of Midian, 1879).