Midian was an Arabian tribe mentioned throughout the Bible and the Qur’an. It is believed to have been located in the northwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula in what is now modern-day Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The Midianites were known to be specifically fond of the blue and purple dyes they exported to Egypt, while they also imported timber and other goods.
Midian is first mentioned in the book of Genesis, when Moses flee from Pharaoh’s chariot at the Nile River. His flight leads him to the desert region of Midian where he meets seven daughters of the Midianite priest, Jethro, who Moses later marries and has two sons with. It is in Midian where Moses receives the message from God, to take his people out of Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land.
Midian is seen in the Bible as the land and home of the descendants of Abraham and his wife, Keturah. Abraham’s son Ishmael married at least three of his half sisters, who were born to Keturah, making them Midianites.
One of the most famous Biblical figures associated with Midian is Elijah, who was considered a prophet and healer among the people of Midian. Elijah was known to have an intimate knowledge of the Midianite culture, language, and faith. He is believed to have taken refuge in several caves along the Mediterranean Sea between Edom and the eastern coast of the Red Sea.
The Midianites were also known to be skillful and resourceful merchants. They were renowned for their quality handmade dyes, which were exceptionally vibrant and were requested specifically in trade with Egypt. This indicated their prominence in trading networks throughout the region.
The Midianites were also skilled in falconry. This is evidenced by the appearance of a large flock of birds described in the Bible, which covered the sky in the area of Moab. This type of falconry is believed to have originated in the Middle East and likely was practiced in Midian.
The Bible also mentions several Midianite priests or leaders, including Jethro, who gives Moses his ideas on organizing the nation of Israel into twelve tribes. Another prominent figure was Balak, who attempted to have Moses killed on multiple occasions.
The Midianites were part of the Red Sea trade network, which also included the Egyptians, Edomites, Nabateans, and Bedouin tribes. This trade network was of great importance to the Midianites because of their strategic location between the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt.
History of Midian
The history of the Midianites goes back to at least the 7th century BC when their presence was already established in the region. The precise origin of the Midianites is uncertain, however there is evidence that they were a Semitic tribe.
It is possible that they migrated to the region in the middle of the first millennium BC, as part of a wave of West Semites who were settling in the Levant and Arabia. The majority of the Midianites likely came from the southern Levant, although there is evidence to suggest that some may have also descended from North Arabian tribes.
The Midianites are believed to have been a predominantly nomadic people, living in tents and relying on their trade networks for their livelihoods. They most likely ventured into the Arabian desert in search of new trading opportunities.
Their presence in the region is believed to have begun to decline during the Iron Age, when towns and cities began to form. The exact cause of this decline is unclear, however it is likely that the combination of fluctuating trade networks, diseases caused by poor sanitation, and the effects of indirect rule is what contributed to the Midianite’s gradual dissolution.
Religion in Midian
The religion practiced by the Midianites is believed to have been polytheistic, and they are known to have worshipped the gods Astarte, Shaddai and El. They are also believed to have been worshippers of Baal, the ancient Canaanite fertility god.
The Midianites also practised animal sacrifice and venerated oracles, a practice many experts consider an important part of their faith. They believed that their sacrifices and prayers, combined with the power of the Gods, could bring a safe, successful life.
Midian was home to many prophets and religious leaders in the ancient world, such as Elijah and Balaam. The Prophet Moses was also said to be fond of Midian, as he spent many of his early years there and received god’s call during his stay in Midian.
The Midianites were also associated with the ancient religion of shamanism, which may have been part of the original Midianite religion. The practice is believed to have originated in Mesopotamia, and it is possible that the Midianites adopted it from the surrounding cultures.
The shamanistic practice that was practiced by the Midianites is believed to have involved the use of drums and other musical instruments to reach an altered state of consciousness in order to access supernatural realms, gain knowledge, and perform spiritual and physical healing.
The End of Midian
The Midianites’ influence in the region began to decline after the establishment of the Babylonian and Persian empires in the late 6th century BC. As the empires grew, their influence on the small tribes and empires that formed the trade network, including Midian, weakened.
The destruction of the Midianites is believed to have occurred during the 5th century BC, when the Persian king Xerxes ordered a campaign of conquest, which included subjugating the Midianites. The destruction of Midian was also recorded in the Qur’an, where it is written that the Midianites were destroyed during the reign of an unspecified king.
Today, the region of Midian is mostly an inhospitable desert, however traces of the culture and religion of the Midianites can still be found in parts of Jordan and the region of Sinai in Egypt.
The Legacy of Midian
The legacy of Midian is still felt in the Middle East today, as the region is home to numerous churches and mosques which were built by the followers of various Abrahamic faiths to commemorate the lives of the Midianites.
The Midianites also left behind a rich literary tradition, which includes such famous works as the book of Exodus and the writings of the prophet Elijah.
The Midianites also left a lasting impact on the cultures and religions of the Middle East. Abrahamic faiths such as Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all have some connection to Midian and its people, each having adopted Midianite customs and ideas into their respective faiths.
The Midianites also left behind a legacy of faith healing, which was practiced by their shamans and prophets such as Elijah. This tradition is still practiced by many in the Middle East, as faith in the power of healing has remained strong throughout the region.
Archaeological Sites of Midian
Due to its importance in the ancient world, the region of Midian is home to many archaeological sites which provide valuable insight into the culture and religion of the Midianites.
The most important archaeological site in Midian is the renowned Mt. Horeb, also known as Mt. Sinai, where Moses is believed to have received the Ten Commandments. This site also includes tombs, monuments, and other architecture that reflect the religious significance of Midian during its time.
Other significant archaeological sites in Midian include the Nuweiba seaport, which dates back to the first millennium BC, and the Kenite village in Wadi Salit, which is believed to have been home to Moses and the Midianites when they fled from Pharaoh’s chariot.
The Umm al-Biyara Mountain is also of great archaeological importance, as it is the site of numerous shrines that serve as a reminder of the ancient faith of the Midianites.
Midian was a powerful tribe that left a significant mark on the history of the Middle East. Their influence can still be felt today, both in the culture and religion of the region and in the archaeological sites which testify to the former glory of this long-gone tribe.