KEDAR (Heb. קֵדָר), a nomadic tribe or league of tribes in the Arabian Desert. Kedar is mentioned in Genesis 25:3 and I Chronicles 1:29 among "the sons of Ishmael," the latter being tribes of Arabs known from the eighth century B.C.E. onward in the desert tracts surrounding Palestine (see
). The mode of life of the Kedarites, as reflected in the Bible, was associated with the rearing of sheep and camels (Isa. 60:7; Jer. 49:28–29, 32; Ezek. 27:21), and with dwelling in tents (Jer. 49:29; Ps. 120:5; Song 1:5) and in unfortified villages and camps (Isa. 42:11; Jer. 49:31).
Biblical information on their locality and history is extremely scant, but many details about these are known from other sources, in particular from inscriptions of Assyrian kings. The earliest document which refers to the Kedarites is the inscription of Tiglath-Pileser III found in Iran (unpublished). In it they are mentioned together with other nations in the west of the Fertile Crescent who surrendered to the Assyrian king and whose rulers paid him tribute in 738 B.C.E. From parallel inscriptions of Ashurbanipal it is evident that Hazail, king of the Arabs, against whom Senacherib's army fought between 691 and 689 B.C.E. in the region of Duma (Jawf) in Wadi Sirḥān, and who surrendered to Esarhaddon, was the king of Kedar. Close to 652 B.C.E. the Kedarites under Uateʾ the son of Hazail, who broke his oath of allegiance to Ashurbanipal, raided the frontier regions on the western border of the Assyrian empire, but were repulsed and defeated by King Kamashtalta of Moab and by units of the Assyrian army stationed along the border from the Valley of Lebanon to Edom.
Another leader who took part in these raids and is likewise described as "king of Kedar" in the inscriptions of Ashurbanipal was Ammuladi(n). Following the defeat of Uateʾ the leadership of the Kedarites passed to Abiateʾ the son of Teʾri, who in 652 B.C.E. sent soldiers to Babylon to help Shamash-shum-ukin king of Babylonia in his war against his brother Ashurbanipal. In the period of the intensive military operations of the Assyrian army in Babylonia and Elam (652–646 B.C.E.), the Kedarites under Abiateʾ and Aamu sons of Teʾri were among other units of nomads that exerted pressure on the inhabited area along the frontier of the desert, from the region of Jebel Bishrī to the vicinity of Damascus. The grave situation resulting from the pressure of the nomads compelled the king of Assyria to launch an extensive campaign against them mostly in the desert and under difficult conditions (Ashurbanipal's ninth campaign). The information in Jeremiah 49:28ff. combined with that in the Babylonian Chronicle (BM 21946 rev. 9–10) shows that in 599 B.C.E. units of Nebuchadnezzar's army raided the encampments of the Kedarites in the western region of the Syrian desert.
With the ending of the political existence of the Transjordanian kingdoms in the first half of the sixth century B.C.E., the Kedarites together with other units of "the children of the east" penetrated to the settled country whose borders were breached. The dimensions of their expansion and the area of their operations in the west are attested by the votive inscription " זי קרב קיני בר גשם מלך קדר להנאלת" on a silver bowl originating from the temple of the Arab goddess Han-Ilat at Tell al-Maskhūṭa (in the neighborhood of Ismailia) at the eastern approach of Egypt. On the basis of paleographical and archaeological considerations, the bowl and the inscription have been dated to the fifth century B.C.E. Accordingly, some hold that Geshem king of Kedar is the Arab Geshem, Nehemiah's enemy (Neh. 2:19; 6:1ff.). However the data for this identification are inconclusive.
Later references to the Kedarites occur not only in inscriptions dating from the centuries close to the Common Era and found in a temple at Ma'īn in southern Arabia but also in
Pliny (Historia Naturalis, 5:65), who mentions them among the peoples of northern Arabia, alongside the Nabateans.
The wide dispersion of the Kedarites, extending as it did from the region of Duma (Jawf) in Wadi Sirḥān to Palmyrene and to the eastern port of the Nile Delta, lends probability to their having been a union of various sub-units. Evidence of the existence of such a social organization occurs in the inscriptions of Ashurbanipal, according to which Uate' son of Hazail and Ammuladi(n) flourished at the same time and in which both are referred to as "king of Kedar." Similarly Ezekiel 27:21 refers to "Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar."