KEDAR (kē'dêr, Heb. kēdhār, probably either mighty or dark)

One of the twelve sons of Ishmael, son of Abraham by Hagar (Gen.25.13). These sons were called “tribal rulers.” They helped originate the Arab peoples.The tribe that descended from Kedar and their territory. They were nomads for the most part (Ps.120.5; Song.1.5), raising sheep (Isa.60.7) but sometimes intruding into villages (Isa.42.11). The “doom of Kedar,” declared in Jer.49.28-Jer.49.33, tells us something of their desert civilization and also of their terror when they learned that Nebuchadnezzar was coming against them. Their territory was in the northern part of the Arabian Desert.

KEDAR ke’ dər (קֵדָ֥ר, LXX κηδάρ, prob. meaning dark, swarthy) A son of Ishmael; also a North Arabian tribe.

Importance in OT.

Extra-Biblical references to Kedar.

In view of the many Biblical references to the North-Arabian tribe of Kedar, it might seem strange that early Arab. lit. contains no reference to it. Arabic lit., however, does not begin to any extent until the rise of Islam in the seventh cent. a.d. Pre-Islamic North-Arab. material is extremely limited in quantity. Almost 1200 years intervened between the time of Nebuchadnezzar and the rise of Islam. In the nineteenth cent., new light came from the discovery of the annals of Ashurbanipal, the last great king of Assyria (668-c. 632 b.c.). The account of Ashurbanipal’s ninth campaign includes the record of an expedition against the people of Kedar, which was evidently a powerful factor in N Arabia, both in his reign and in that of his predecessor. More recently an Aram. inscr. from the fifth cent. b.c. has been found in Egypt, indicating that Geshem the Arabian (perhaps the same Geshem as is mentioned in Neh 2:19 and 6:1-6) was a king of Kedar, and that there were at that time Kedarites on the eastern border of Egypt, prob. stationed there as guards by the Persians. Thus the importance of Kedar in Biblical statements is attested by archeological discoveries.

After the blows inflicted by Ashurbanipal and Nebuchadnezzar the tribe prob. dwindled rapidly and in the course of a few centuries disappeared or was assimilated into other Arab. tribes. In constructing a genealogy of Mohammed the Islamic hagiographers traced his descent from Abraham and Ishmael through Kedar. See Children of the East.


M. Streck, Assurbanipal und die letzten assyrischen Könige bis zum Untergang Niniveh’s (1930); A. L. Oppenheim, tr., “the Babylonian and Assyrian Historical Texts,” in J. B. Pritchard, ed., ANET (3rd ed. 1969); I. Rabinowitz, “Aramaic Inscriptions of the Fifth Century B. C. E. from a North-Arab Shrine in Egypt,” JNES XV (1956) 1-9.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

The settlements of Kedar were probably in the Northwest of Arabia, not far from the borders of Palestine. Assyrian inscriptions have thrown light upon the history of the tribe. There Kedar is mentioned along with the Arabs and Nebaioth, which decides its identity with Kedar of the Old Testament, and there is found also an account of the conflicts between the tribe and King Assurbanipal (see Margoliouth in HDB).

Of the Ishmaelite tribes, Kedar must have been one of the most important, and thus in later times the name came to be applied to all the wild tribes of the desert. It is through Kedar (Arabic, keidar) that Muslim genealogists trace the descent of Mohammed from Ishmael.