🔼The name Meunites in the Bible
The Meunites (or according to the more traditional translations: the Meunim) are one or more rather mysterious peoples. It's not clear whether multiple tribes or groups of people were collectively known after a kind of nickname, or whether the various Meunites descended from various patriarchs named Meuni or Maon (or something like that), or perhaps came from a town or country named Maon. According to Judges 10:12, the Israelites were oppressed or else vexed by "Maon," which is mentioned along a small group of more familiar arch-enemies of Israel, among whom the Amalekites. But where reports of conflicts with these other enemies abound in the Bible, a war with Maon isn't anywhere mentioned.
In 1 Chronicles 4:41, we read how in the days of king Hezekiah of Judah, a contingent of Simeonites marched upon the "entrance of Gedor," which was formerly inhabited by Hamites, killed all the people there including the Meunites (spelled here מעינים), and settled in their lands. After this Meunite massacre, the Simeonites marched on to Mount Seir and did the same thing there to the last of the Amalekites (1 Chronicles 4:42-43).
Later, during the reign of king Jehoshaphat of Judah, perhaps the same and perhaps another group called Meunites, joined the Ammonites and the Moabites in a war against Israel (2 Chronicles 20:1). When Jehoshaphat prays to YHWH and reflects on the invasion, he doesn't mention the Meunites but speaks of Mount Seir (2 Chronicles 20:10; also see 20:22-23).
Later still, during the reign of king Uzziah of Judah, the Meunites were still around and causing trouble, although at that time they appear to have aligned themselves with Arabs and Philistines (2 Chronicles 26:7).
An obviously other group of Meunites is mentioned by both Ezra and Nehemiah. These Meunites are descendants of a man named Meunim and are Israelites, even part of the honored guild of the Nethinim (temple servants). These Meunites returned from the Babylonian exile as part of the second wave, led by Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:50, Nehemiah 7:52).
🔼Etymology of the name Meunites
Whether the Meunites come from Maon isn't clear, and neither is any etymological connection between the two. But to an audience that wasn't much concerned with technical issues relating to formal etymology, the names Meunites and Maon are obviously kindred. The name Maon is identical and the name Meunites is similar to the noun מעון (ma'on), meaning refuge or habitation, from the unused root עון ('wn):
None of the credible sources we routinely consult proposes a translation of the name Meunites, but since the name Maon is commonly translated with Habitation, the Meunites would be The People Of Habitation.
Here at Abarim Publications we like to believe that the name Meunites isn't an actual ethnonym, but rather the Biblical word for The Indigenous Population.