Peter Parr

Friend or foe? A land of physical contrasts—containing both desert and formidable mountains—ancient Midian is remembered in contrasting ways in Israelite tradition. On the one hand, Moses sojourned in Midian after having slain an Egyptian (Exodus 2:15); he then married the daughter of Jethro, a Midianite priest (Exodus 2:21); Jethro later advised Moses on how most efficiently to dispense justice (Exodus 18:13–27). But the Bible also depicts the Midianites as arch enemies who led the Israelites into gross sin (Numbers 25 and 31). Frank Moore Cross credits the pro-Midianite position to the combined J and E strand of the Pentateuch, which he calls the Epic tradition, and assigns the anti-Midianite outlook to the Priestly component of the Pentateuch.