Descendants of Midian, a nomade race in Arabia, numerous, and rich in flocks, herds, and camels, Isaiah 60:6. The original and appropriate district of the Midianites seems to have been on the east side of the Elantic branch of the Red Sea, where the Arabian geographers place the city Midian, Acts 7:29. But they appear to have spread themselves northward, probably along the desert east of Mount Seir, to the vicinity of the Moabites; and on the other side, also, they covered a territory extending to the neighborhood of Mount Sinai. See Exodus 3:1 18:1 Numbers 22:25,31 Judges 6:1-8:35. In Genesis 25:2,4, compared with Genesis 25:12-18, they are distinguished from the descendants of Ishmael, though elsewhere we find the two people intimately associated, so that they are called now by one name and now by the other. See Genesis 37:25, compared with Genesis 37:36. Their capital city was called Midian, and its remains were to be seen in the time of Jerome and Eusebius. It was situated on the Arnon, south of the city Ar, or Areopolis.
The Midianites were idolaters, and often led Israel astray to worship their gods. They also not infrequently rendered the Hebrews tributary, and oppressed them. See Numbers 22:1-41 25:1-18 31:1-54. Often when the Israelites had sown, and their harvest was nearly ready to be gathered in, the Midianites and Amalekites, children of the eastern desert, came down like locusts in countless swarms, with their cattle and tents and camels, to devour and carry off the fruits of the ground, and not only rob but destroy their owners. And often did the Jews, lacking the strength or the faith or the leadership necessary for effectual resistance, seek refuge in mountain-dens and caverns till the invaders retired. Gideon was their deliverer in one such period of oppression, Judges 6:7. The modern Ishmaelites still follow the ancient practice, and their violent incursions, robberies, and murders might be described in the same terms that were used with reference to their fathers by the historians of old.