MAONITES (mā'ŏn-īts). There is confusion about these enemies of Israel. They are named with others who were defeated by the Lord (Judg.10.11-Judg.10.12). They were called Mehunim and may have been from Arabia. Their descendants were among the temple servants of Ezra’s day (Ezra.2.50). Doubtless they came from the Arabian peninsula and were called Maonites because they grew strong on the Maon Plain.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
ma’-on, ma’-on-its, ma-o’-nits (ma`on; Septuagint: Codex Vaticanus Maor, Maan; Codex Alexandrinus Maon):
(1) A town in the mountain of Judah named along with Carmel and Ziph (Jos 15:55). It appears again as the home of Nabal, the great flockmaster (1Sa 25:2). In the genealogical list of 1Ch 2, Maon stands as the "son" of Shammai and the "father" of Beth-zur (2:44,45). This evidently means that Shammai was the founder of Maon. About a mile South of el-Karmil, the ancient Carmel, lies Tell Ma`in. This may be confidently identified with Maon, the radicals of the names being the same. It suits the requirements of the narratives in other respects, being near to Carmel, while the surrounding wilderness is still used as the wide pasture land for multitudinous flocks. In this district, the wilderness of Maon, David was hiding when his whereabouts was betrayed to Saul by the men of Ziph (1Sa 23:24 f), and only a timely raid by the Philistines delivered him out of that monarch’s hands (1Sa 23:27 ).
(2) (Madiam): Maon is named along with the Zidonians and Amalek as having at some time, not mentioned, oppressed Israel (Jud 10:12). The Septuagint "Midian" has been accepted by some scholars as restoring the original text, since, otherwise, the Midianites remain unmentioned. But the Maonites are evidently identical with the Meunim of 1Ch 4:41 (Revised Version), the pastoral people destroyed by Hezekiah. In 2Ch 20:1 the King James Version, instead of "other beside the Ammonites" we must read "some of the Meunim," as associated with the Ammonites in the battle with Jehoshaphat. Against them also Uzziah was helped of God (2Ch 26:7). They are included among the inhabitants of Mt. Seir (2Ch 20:10,23), so that an Edomite tribe is intended. It is natural to connect them with Ma`an, a place on the great pilgrimage road, and now a station on the Damascus-Hejaz Railway, to the Southeast of Petra. It undoubtedly represents an ancient stronghold.
The Maonites appear in the lists of those who returned from exile (Ezr 2:50, the King James Version "Mehunim," the Revised Version (British and American) "Meunim"; Ne 7:52, "Meunim"). These may possibly be the descendants of prisoners taken in the wars of Jehoshaphat and Uzziah, to whom menial tasks may have been appointed in the temple services.