Midian (/ˈmɪdiən/; Hebrew: מִדְיָן Miḏyān [mid.jaːn]; Arabic: مَـدْيَـن‎, Madyan; Greek: Μαδιάμ, Madiam)[1] is a geographical place mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and Quran. William G. Dever states that biblical Midian was in the "northwest Arabian Peninsula, on the east shore of the Gulf of Aqaba on the Red Sea", an area which he notes was "never extensively settled until the 8th–7th century B.C."[2]

According to the Book of Genesis, the Midianites were the descendants of Midian, who was a son of Abraham and his wife Keturah: "Abraham took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bare him Zimran, and Jokshan, and Medan, and Midian, and Ishbak, and Shuah" (Genesis 25:1–2, King James Version).[3]


Arabic: مَدْيَن‎, romanizedMadyan
Greek: Μαδιάμ, translit. Madiam
Hebrew: מִדְיָן‎, romanizedMiḏyān

Land or tribal league?

Al Haql R01
Haql on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba between the Syrian region and Arabian and Sinai Peninsulas, with the Midian Mountains in the background

Some scholars have suggested that 'Midian' does not refer to geographic places or a specific tribe[4][5], but to a confederation or 'league' of tribes brought together as a collective for worship purposes. Paul Haupt first made this suggestion in 1909,[6] describing Midian as a 'cultic collective' (Kultgenossenschaft) or an 'amphictyony', meaning 'an association (Bund) of different tribes in the vicinity of a sanctuary'. Elath, on the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba was suggested as the location of the first shrine, with a second sanctuary located at Kadesh.

Later writers have questioned the identified sanctuary locations but supported the thesis of a Midianite league. George Mendenhall suggested that the Midianites were a non-Semitic confederate group,[7] and William Dumbrell maintained the same case:

We believe that Haupt's proposal is to be adopted, and that Midian, rather than depicting a land, is a general term for an amorphous league of the Late Bronze Age, of wide geographical range, who, after a series of reverses, the most prominent of which are recorded in Judges 6–7, largely disappeared from the historical scene...[8]


It is uncertain which deities the Midianites worshipped. Through their apparent religio-political connection with the Moabites[9] they are thought to have worshipped a multitude, including Baal-peor and the Queen of Heaven, Ashteroth. According to Karel van der Toorn, "By the 14th century BC, before the cult of Yahweh had reached Israel, groups of Edomites and Midianites worshipped Yahweh as their god."[10]

An Egyptian temple of Hathor at Timna continued to be used during the Midianite occupation of the site (terminal Late Bronze Age / Early Iron Age); the Midianites transformed the Hathor mining temple into a desert tent-shrine. In addition to the discovery of post-holes, large quantities of red and yellow decayed cloth with beads woven into it, along with numerous copper rings/wire used to suspend the curtains, were found all along two walls of the shrine. Beno Rothenberg,[11] the excavator of the site, suggested that the Midianites were making offerings to Hathor, especially since a large number of Midianite votive vessels (25%) were discovered in the shrine. However, whether Hathor or some other deity was the object of devotion during this period is difficult to ascertain. A small bronze snake with gilded head was also discovered in the naos of the Timna mining shrine, along with a hoard of metal objects that included a small bronze figurine of a bearded male god, which according to Rothenberg was Midianite in origin. Michael Homan observes that the Midianite tent-shrine at Timna is one of the closest parallels to the biblical Tabernacle.[12]

In the Bible

Figures Five Kings of Midian Slain by Israel
Five kings of Midian slain by Israel (illustration from the 1728 Figures de la Bible)

Midian was the son of Abraham.[13] Abraham's great grandson Joseph, after being thrown into a pit by his brothers, was sold to either Midianites or Ishmaelites.[14]

Moses spent 40 years in voluntary exile in Midian after killing an Egyptian.[15] There, he married Zipporah, the daughter of Midianite priest Jethro[16] (also known as Reuel). Jethro advised Moses on establishing a system of delegated legal decision-making.[17] Moses asked Hobab, the son of Reuel, to accompany the Israelites travelling towards the promised land because of his local knowledge, but Hobab preferred to return to his homeland.[18]

During the Baal-Peor episode, when Moabite women seduced Israelite men, Zimri, the son of a Simeonite chief, got involved with a Midianite woman called Cozbi. The couple were speared by Phinehas[19] and war against Midian followed.[20] Some commentators, for example the Pulpit Commentary and Gill's Exposition of the Bible, have noted that God's command focused on attacking the Midianites and not the Moabites,[21] and similarly Moses in Deuteronomy directed that the Israelites should not harass the Moabites.[22] At least one modern day movement, the Phineas Priesthood, has interpreted this story as a prohibition against miscegenation, despite the Midianites being closely related to the Israelites as descendants of Abraham, and Moses being married to a Midianite.

During the time of the Judges, Israel was oppressed by Midian for seven years[23] until Gideon defeated Midian's armies.[24] Isaiah speaks of camels from Midian and Ephah coming to "cover your land", along with the gold and frankincense from Sheba.[25] This passage, taken by the Gospel of Matthew as a foreshadowing of the Magi's gifts to the infant Jesus, has been incorporated into the Christmas liturgy.

In the Quran

Shuaib Caves in Al-Bada'a, region of Tabuk in northwestern Saudi Arabia

The people of Midian are mentioned extensively in the Quran. The word 'Madyan' appears 10 times in it. The people are also called ʾaṣḥabu l-ʾaykah (Arabic: أَصْحَابُ ٱلْأَيْكَة‎, lit. 'Companions of the Wood').[26][27][28][29]

Surah 9 (Al-Tawbah), verse 70 says "Has not the story reached them of those before them? – The people of Nūḥ (Noah), ʿĀd and Thamud, the people of Ibrahim (Abraham), the dwellers [literally, comrades] of Madyan (Midian) and the cities overthrown [i.e. the people to whom Lūt (Lot) preached], to them came their Messengers with clear proofs. So it was not Allah who wronged them, but they used to wrong themselves."

In Surah 7 (Al-ʾAʿrāf), Madyan is mentioned as one of several peoples who were warned by prophets to repent lest judgment fall on them. The story of Madyan is the last, coming after that of Lot preaching to his people (referring to the destruction of the Cities of the Plain). Madyan was warned by the prophet Shuʿaib to repent of using false weights and measures and lying in wait along the road. But they rejected Shuʿayb, and consequently were destroyed by a tremor (rajfa, v. 91). Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his commentary (1934) writes, "The fate of the Madyan people is described in the same terms as that of the Thamūd in verse 78 above. An earthquake seized them by night, and they were buried in their own homes, no longer to vex Allah's earth. But a supplementary detail is mentioned in [Quran] 26:189, 'the punishment of a day of overshadowing gloom,' which may be understood to mean a shower of ashes and cinders accompanying a volcanic eruption. Thus a day of terror drove them into their homes, and the earthquake finished them."[30] A number of scholars have proposed that the biblical description of devouring fire on Mount Sinai refers to an erupting volcano in the land of biblical Midian identified as Hala-'l Badr in northwestern Saudi Arabia.


Midianite pottery, also called Qurayyah Painted Ware (QPW), is found at numerous sites stretching from the southern Levant to NW Saudi Arabia, the Hejaz; Qurayyah in NW Saudi Arabia is thought to be its original location of manufacture.[31] The pottery is bichrome / polychrome style and it dates as early as the 13th century BC; its many geometric, human, and animal motifs are painted in browns and dark reds on a pinkish-tan slip. "Midianite" pottery is found in its largest quantities at metallurgical sites in the southern Levant, especially Timna.[32] Because of the Mycenaean motifs on Midianite pottery, some scholars including George Mendenhall,[33] Peter Parr,[34] and Beno Rothenberg[35] have suggested that the Midianites were originally Sea Peoples who migrated from the Aegean region and imposed themselves on a pre-existing Semitic stratum. The question of the origin of the Midianites still remains open.

See also


  1. ^ Also Μαδιανίτης for "Midianite".
  2. ^ Dever, William G. Who were the Early Israelites and Where Did They Come From? William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (24 May 2006) ISBN 978-0-8028-4416-3 p. 34
  3. ^ http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%2025:1-2&version=KJV
  4. ^ William J. Dumbrell, Midian: A Land or a League?, Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 25, Fasc. 2, No. 2a. Jubilee Number (May, 1975), pp. 323–37
  5. ^ Bromiley Geoffrey W. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996. ISBN 978-0-8028-3783-7. p. 350.
  6. ^ Paul Haupt, Midian und Sinai, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 63, 1909, p. 56, available online in German at http://menadoc.bibliothek.uni-halle.de/dmg/periodical/pageview/55820, quoted in Dumbrell accessed 1 August 2015
  7. ^ The Incident at Beth Baal Peor, The Tenth Generation, 1973
  8. ^ William J. Dumbrell, Midian: A Land or a League?, Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 25, Fasc. 2, No. 2a. Jubilee Number (May, 1975), p. 32
  9. ^ Numbers 22:4, 7
  10. ^ Karel van der Toorn, Family Religion in Babylonia, Ugarit, and Israel: Continuity and Change in the Forms of Religious Life (Leiden: E. J. Brill), p. 283.
  11. ^ Beno Rothenberg, Timna: Valley of the Biblical Copper Mines (London: Thames and Hudson, 1972).
  12. ^ Michael M. Homan, To Your Tents, O Israel!: The Terminology, Function, Form, and Symbolism of the Tents in the Bible and the Ancient Near East, Culture and History of the Ancient Near East, Vol. 12 (Brill: 2002), p. 118
  13. ^ Genesis 25:1–2
  14. ^ Genesis 37:28
  15. ^ Exodus 2:11–15
  16. ^ Exodus 2:21
  17. ^ Exodus 18
  18. ^ Numbers 10:29–31
  19. ^ Numbers 25:6–8, 14–15
  20. ^ Numbers 25:17 and Numbers 31:1
  21. ^ Pulpit Commentary and Gill's Exposition of the Bible, http://biblehub.com/numbers/25-17.htm accessed 1 July 2015
  22. ^ Deuteronomy 2:9
  23. ^ (Judges 6:1–6)
  24. ^ Judges 6:7–9
  25. ^ Isaiah 60:6
  26. ^ Quran %3Averse%3D78 15 :78–79
  27. ^ Quran %3Averse%3D176 26 :176–189
  28. ^ Quran %3Averse%3D13 38 :13–15
  29. ^ Quran %3Averse%3D12 50 :12–14
  30. ^ Ali, Abdullah Yusuf. The Holy Quran – English Translation of the Meaning and Commentary. King Fahd Holy Qur-an Printing Complex. Retrieved 4 March 2017.
  31. ^ B. Rothenberg and J.Glass, "The Midianite Pottery," in Midian, Moab, and Edom: The History and Archaeology of the Late Bronze and Iron Age Jordan and North-West Arabia, JSOT Supplement Series 24, ed. John F.A. Sawyer and David J.A. Clines (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983), pp. 65–124.
  32. ^ Tebes, "Pottery Makers and Premodern Exchange in the Fringes of Egypt: An Approximation to the Distribution of Iron Age Midianite Pottery," Buried History 43 (2007), pp. 11–26.
  33. ^ George Mendenhall, "Qurayya and the Midianites," in Studies in the History of Arabia, Vol. 3, ed. A. R. Al-Ansary (Riyadh: King Saud University), pp. 137–45
  34. ^ Peter J. Parr, "Further Reflections on Late Second Millennium Settlement in North West Arabia," in Retrieving the Past: Essays on Archaeologial Research and Methodology, ed. J. D. Seger (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1996), pp. 213–18.
  35. ^ Rothenberg, "Egyptian Chariots, Midianites from Hijaz/ Midian (Northwest Arabia) and Amalekites from the Negev in the Timna Mines: Rock drawings in the Ancient Copper Mines of the Arabah – new aspects of the region’s history II," Institute for Archaeo-Metallurgical Studies, newsletter no. 23 (2003), p. 12.

Further reading

  • Clines, David and John Sawyer, eds. "Midian, Moab and Edom: The History and Archaeology of Late Bronze and Iron Age Jordan and North-West Arabia". Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series, No. 24. Sheffield Academic Press, 1983.

External links


Sūrat aṭ-Ṭūr (Arabic: سورة الطور‎, "The Mount") is the 52nd chapter of the Quran with 49 ayat. The surah that opens with the oath of the Islamic divine character swearing by the Mount of Sinai, where the Torah was revealed to Moses. It takes its name from "the mount" (ṭūr) mentioned in Ayah#1. The surah which addresses many of the arguments put to the Prophet by the disbelievers of Mecca (ayah#29 ff.). The bliss that will be enjoyed by the believers is contrasted to the torments of Hell, and the Prophet is urged to bide his time, to continue to deliver his message, and to wait with confidence for God's judgement. God swears by, among other things, Mount Sinai, that the Day of Judgement is inevitable.

Cabal (novella)

Cabal is a 1988 horror novel by the British author Clive Barker. It was originally published in the United States as part of a collection comprising a novel and several short stories from Barker's sixth and final volume of the Books of Blood.

The book was adapted into the film Nightbreed in 1990, written and directed by Barker himself, starring Craig Sheffer and David Cronenberg.


Gideon () or Gedeon, also named Jerubbaal, and Jerubbesheth, was a military leader, judge and prophet whose calling and victory over the Midianites are recounted in chapters 6 to 8 of the Book of Judges in the Hebrew Bible.Gideon was the son of Joash, from the Abiezrite clan in the tribe of Manasseh and lived in Ephra (Ophrah). As a leader of the Israelites, he won a decisive victory over a Midianite army despite a vast numerical disadvantage, leading a troop of 300 'valiant' men.

Heresy of Peor

The heresy of Peor is an event related in the Torah at Numbers 25:1–15. Later biblical references to the event occur in Numbers 25:18 and 31:16, Deuteronomy 4:3, Joshua 22:17, Hosea 9:10; Psalm 106:28. Another reference is found in the New Testament, 1 Corinthians 10:8 and Revelation 2:14.

Jabal Umm Hayfā'

Jabal Umm Hayfā' is a mountain located in the Madiyan Mountains of northwest Saudi Arabia, near the Jordan border, above the Gulf of Aqaba, and is located in Tabūk, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the tallest mountains in the Arabian Peninsula.

Jabal `Umayyid

Jabal `Umayyid is a mountain located in the Madiyan Mountains of northwest Saudi Arabia, near the Jordan border, above the Gulf of Aqaba, and is located in Tabūk, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the tallest mountains in the Arabian Peninsula.

Jabal an Nukhaylah

Jabal an Nukhaylah is a mountain located in the Madiyan Mountains of northwest Saudi Arabia, near the Jordan border, above the Gulf of Aqaba, and is located in Tabūk, Saudi Arabia.

Jethro (biblical figure)

In the Hebrew Bible, Jethro (; Hebrew: יִתְרוֹ, Standard Yitro Tiberian Yiṯerô; "His Excellence/Posterity"; Arabic: شعيب Shuʿayb) or Reuel was Moses' father-in-law, a Kenite shepherd and priest of Midian. In Exodus, Moses' father-in-law is initially referred to as "Reuel" (Exodus 2:18) but then as "Jethro" (Exodus 3:1). He was the father of Hobab in the Book of Numbers 10:29. He is also revered as the spiritual founder and chief prophet in his own right of the Druze religion and is considered an ancestor of all Druze.


According to the Hebrew Bible, the Kenites (; Hebrew: קינים Qînîm, Hebrew pronunciation: [qeˈnim]) were a nomadic clan in the ancient Levant. The Kenites were coppersmiths and metalworkers. They played an important role in the history of ancient Israel. One of the most recognized Kenites is Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, who was a shepherd and a priest in the land of Midian. Judges 1:16 says that Moses had a father-in-law who was a Kenite, but it is not clear from the passage if this refers to Jethro. Certain groups of Kenites settled among the Israelite population, including the descendants of Moses' brother-in-law, although the Kenites descended from Rechab maintained a distinct, nomadic lifestyle for some time.

Kenite is a rendition of Hebrew קֵינִי Qeyniy. According to Gesenius, the name is derived from the name Cain (קַיִן Qayin). According to A. H. Sayce, the name ‘Kenite’ or Qéní, is identical to an Aramaic word meaning a smith, which in its turn is a cognate of Hebrew Qayin, with the meaning ‘a lance’.According to the Kenite hypothesis, Yahweh was historically a Midian deity, and the association of Moses' father-in-law with Midian reflects the historical adoption of the Midianite cult by the Hebrews. Moses apparently identified Jethro's concept of God, Yahweh, with the Israelites' God El Shaddai.


Keturah (Hebrew: קְטוּרָה, Ktura, possibly meaning "incense") was a concubine and wife of the Biblical patriarch Abraham. According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham married Keturah after the death of his first wife, Sarah. Abraham and Keturah had six sons.One modern commentator on the Hebrew Bible has called Keturah "the most ignored significant person in the Torah". The medieval Jewish commentator Rashi, and some previous rabbinical commentators, related a traditional belief that Keturah was the same person as Hagar, although this idea cannot be found in the biblical text.The biblical traditions concerning Abraham and related characters are regarded as non-historical by some scholars.

Midian, Kansas

Midian is an unincorporated community in Butler County, Kansas, in the United States.

Midian, son of Abraham

According to the Hebrew Bible, Midian (Hebrew: מִדְיָן Miḏyān) is the fourth son of Abraham by Keturah, the woman Abraham married after Sarah's death. His brothers are Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Ishbak and Shuah.

Josephus records that "Abraham contrived to settle them in colonies; and they took possession of Troglodytis and the country of Arabia the Happy, as far as it reaches to the Red Sea."He is generally considered ancestral to the Midianite people found in later portions of the Hebrew scriptures.

Midian (album)

Midian is the fourth studio album by English extreme metal band Cradle of Filth. It was released on 30 October 2000, through Music for Nations. The album marks the return of guitarist Paul Allender to the band, as well as the introduction of drummer Adrian Erlandsson (At the Gates, The Haunted) and keyboard player Martin Powell (My Dying Bride, Anathema).

Midian Mountains

The Midian Mountains (Arabic: جِبَال مَدْيَن‎, romanized: Jibāl Madyan) are a mountain range in northwestern Saudi Arabia. They are considered to be either contiguous with the Hijaz Mountains to the south, or a part of them. The Hijaz are themselves treated as part of the Sarawat range, sensu lato.

Mount Sinai

Mount Sinai (Arabic: طُوْر سِيْنَاء‎, romanized: Ṭūr Sīnāʾ or Egyptian Arabic: جَبَل مُوسَىٰ‎, romanized: Jabal Mūsā, lit. 'Mountain of Moses'; Hebrew: הַר סִינַי, Har Sinai; Classical Syriac: ܛܘܪܐ ܕܣܝܢܝ‎ ; Greek: Όρος Σινάι; Latin: Mons Sinai), also known as "Mount Horeb" or Gabal Mūsā (Egyptian Arabic: جَبَل مُوْسَى‎, lit. 'Mountain of Moses'), is a mountain in the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt that is a possible location of the biblical Mount Sinai, which is considered a holy site by the Abrahamic religions. Mount Sinai is mentioned many times in the Book of Exodus and other books of the Bible, and the Quran. According to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition, the biblical Mount Sinai was the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments.


Nightbreed (also Night Breed on publicity material, or Clive Barker's Nightbreed) is a 1990 American dark fantasy horror film written and directed by Clive Barker, based on his 1988 novella Cabal, and starring Craig Sheffer, Anne Bobby, David Cronenberg, Charles Haid, Hugh Quarshie, and Doug Bradley. The film features an unstable mental patient who is falsely led to believe by his doctor that he is a serial killer. Tracked down by the police, his doctor, and his girlfriend Lori, Boone eventually finds refuge in an abandoned cemetery called Midian among a "tribe" of monsters and outcasts known as the "Nightbreed" where they hide from humanity.

At the time of its release, the film was a commercial and critical failure. In several interviews, Barker protested that the film company tried to sell it as a standard slasher film, and that the powers-that-be had no real working knowledge of Nightbreed's story. Since its initial theatrical release, Nightbreed has achieved cult status.Over time, Barker expressed disappointment with the final cut approved by the studio and always longed for the recovery of the reels so the film might be re-edited. In 2014 a director's cut was finally released by Scream Factory.


According to the Hebrew Bible, Phinehas or Phineas (; Hebrew: פִּנְחָס, Modern: Pinəḥas, Tiberian: Pineḥās) was a priest during the Israelites' Exodus journey, the grandson of Aaron and son of Eleazar, the High Priests (Exodus 6:25). He distinguished himself as a youth at Shittim with his zeal against the Heresy of Peor. He was displeased with the immorality with which the Moabites and Midianites had successfully tempted the Israelites (Numbers 25:1–9) to inter-marry and to worship Baal-peor, so he personally executed an Israelite man and a Midianite woman while they were together in the man's tent, running a javelin or spear through the man and the belly of the woman, bringing to an end the plague sent by God to punish the Israelites for sexually intermingling with the Midianites.

Phinehas is commended for having stopped Israel's fall to idolatrous practices brought in by Midianite women, as well as for stopping the desecration of God's sanctuary. After the entry to the land of Israel and the death of his father, he was appointed the third High Priest of Israel, and served at the sanctuary of Bethel (Judges 20:28). He is commemorated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church on September 2.


Shuaib (Arabic pronunciation: [ʃuʕajb]), Shoaib or Shuʿayb (Arabic: شُـعَـيْـب‎, šuʿayb, meaning "who shows the right path"), was an ancient Midianite Nabi (Prophet), sometimes identified with the Biblical Jethro. He is mentioned in the Quran a total of 11 times. He is believed to have lived after Ibrahim (Abraham), and Muslims believe that he was sent as a prophet to a community: the Midianites, who are also known as the Aṣ-ḥāb al-Aykah ("Companions of the Wood"), since they used to worship a large tree. To the people, Shuʿayb proclaimed the faith of Islam and warned the people to end their fraudulent ways. When they did not repent, Allāh (God) destroyed the community. Shuʿayb is understood by Muslims to have been one of the few Arabian prophets mentioned by name in the Qur'an, the others being Saleh, Hud, and Muhammad. It is said that he was known by Muslims as "the eloquent preacher amongst the prophets", because he was, according to tradition, granted talent and eloquence in his language.


Zur occurs five times in the King James Bible as the name of various people and a state.

The first mention is in Numbers 25:15. This is the pericope where Numbers 25:1 tells us that Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab:And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.The second mention is Numbers 31:8-31:9. Here, the nation of Israel is warring against the Midianites, and a body-count is given:And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.

And the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods.The third mention is a recapitulation of the second, at the pericope of Joshua's death-scene, Joshua 13:21:And all the cities of the plain, and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses smote with the princes of Midian, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur , and Hur, and Reba, which were dukes of Sihon, dwelling in the country.The fourth mention is in the begats at 1 Chronicles 8:30:And his firstborn son Abdon, and Zur, and Kish, and Baal, and NadabThe fifth mention is about the servers at the temple, 1 Chronicles 9:35-9:36:And in Gibeon dwelt the father of Gibeon, Jehiel, whose wife's name was Maachah:

And his firstborn son Abdon, then Zur, and Kish, and Baal, and Ner, and Nadab.

People and things in the Quran

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