The Canaanites were a people lived in what is now Lebanon and Israel, and parts of Syria and Jordan. They occupied what is now Israel at the time the Hebrews (Jews) arrived in the area. According to the Old testament they were annihilated in battle and driven out of Palestine by the Hebrews. The Canaanites worshipped a goddess named Astarte and her consort Baal. In the Bronze Age, the Canaanite culture flourished in this part of the Nahal Repha'im basin in which Jerusalem is located.
The Phoenicians, people of Ugarit, the Hebrews (Jews) and later the Arabs evolved from or interacted with the Canaanites, who were a Semitic tribe of the Middle East. The Canaanites were the earliest inhabitants of Lebanon according to written historical records. They were called Sidonians in the Bible. Sidon was one of their cities. Artifacts unearthed at Byblos have been dated to 5000 B.C. They were produced by Stone Age farmers and fishermen. They were repelled by Semitic tribes people who arrived as early as 3200 B.C.
Canaanites ousted the Hittites, invaders from present-day Turkey; overpowered the Ugarit people on the Syrian coast and drove southward until they stopped Ramasses III, the pharaoh of Egypt. The Canaanites also had encounters with the Hyksos, a people who conquered lower kingdom of Egypt; and the Assyrians.
Canaan, the coast and interior of the eastern Mediterranean, had many cities by 2400 B.C. but was not generally literate. According to the Bible, the ancient Canaanites, were idol worshipers who practiced human sacrifice and engaged in deviant sexual activity. They reportedly conducted human sacrifices in which children were immolated in front of their parents on stone altars, known as Tophets, dedicated to the mysterious dark god Molech. We have some idea what the Canaanites looked like. An Egyptian wall painting from 1900 B.C. depicts Canaanite dignitaries visiting the pharaoh. The Canaanites have Semitic facial features, and dark hair, which the women wear in long tresses and the men have styled in mushroom- shaped bundles on the tops of their heads. Both sexes wore bright red and yellow clothes---long dresses for women and kilts by the men.
The desolate Valley of Hinom, just south of the Old City in Jerusalem, is where the ancient Canaanites reportedly conducted human sacrifices in which children were immolated in front of their parents. Canaan objects, excavated by archaeologists include an 18.5-inch-long ivory horn with gold bands, circa 1400 B.C., unearthed at Megiddo in present-day Israel, and a vessel with the Egyptian hawk-god Hyksos, unearthed in Ashkelon.
Websites and Resources: Bible and Biblical History: Bible Gateway and the New International Version (NIV) of The Bible biblegateway.com ; King James Version of the Bible gutenberg.org/ebooks ; Bible History Online bible-history.com ; Biblical Archaeology Society biblicalarchaeology.org ; Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu ; Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) ccel.org ; Judaism Judaism101 jewfaq.org ; Aish.com aish.com ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; torah.org torah.org ; Chabad,org chabad.org/library/bible ; Religious Tolerance religioustolerance.org/judaism ; BBC - Religion: Judaism bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/judaism ; Encyclopædia Britannica, britannica.com/topic/Judaism; Jewish History: Jewish History Timeline jewishhistory.org.il/history ; Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Jewish History Resource Center dinur.org ; Center for Jewish History cjh.org ; Jewish History.org jewishhistory.org ; Christianity and Christians Wikipedia article Wikipedia ; Christianity.com christianity.com ; BBC - Religion: Christianity bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/christianity/ ; Christianity Today christianitytoday.com;
Achievements of the Canaanites
John R.Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote:“The Canaanites, or Bronze Age inhabitants, made a number of lasting contributions to ancient and modern society, such as specialized storage jars for the transportation of oil and wine, and musical instruments like the castenet. Their high art in working ivory as well as their skills in viticulture were prized in antiquity. Perhaps their most lasting contribution was the development of the alphabet from the proto-alphabetic script of Egyptian hieroglyphics. William Foxwell Albright and others have shown how a simplified syllabary of the Middle Bronze Age eventually was exported to the Greek and Roman worlds by the Phoenicians, northern coastal mariners of the Iron Age. |*|
The Canaanites are believed to have been the first people to possess an alphabet. A 13th century B.C. tablet with column of Canaanite words was found at Ashkelon. Believed to have used to teach scribes languages, the tablet appears to have contained other columns with other languages, perhaps the Semitic cuneiform language of Akkadian and another unrelated tongue, possibly Hurrian or Hittite.
Who Were the Canaanites
John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Who are the Canaanites? And where is Canaan precisely? Both questions prove to be more difficult to answer than one might first suspect. The land of Canaan seems an imprecise geographical term that is applied sometimes to the entire region of the Egyptian empire and at other times to Lower Retenu or Djahi, that is, southern Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and the Sinai. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania; James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]
Canaanites on the Egyptian
Book of Gates“The Canaanites were one of many groups that inhabited the area and in Hebrew Bible the word became the designated term for all the inhabitants of the region before the Israelites. There is still some debate on the words etymology. Does it mean lowlanders? Or does Canaan mean the Land of Purple, a probable reference to the dye used to color cloth? Scholars who opt for this second interpretation note that the Greeks referred to the coastal region of Phoenicia as the purple land. |*|
From what scholars have been able to ascertain, the Canaanites were a largely urban people that originated in eastern Syria, migrated southward along the Mediterranean lived mostly between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean in what is now Israel. They never were very strong or established an empire and in fact were often overrun by the great empires of Mesopotamia, Egypt and Anatolia. By around 1100 B.C. they had been absorbed into the Israelites. Some scholars say the Canaanites weren't annihilated like the Bible says – their descendants are the Lebanese.
Origin of the Canaanites
Abercrombie wrote: “The biblical term, Canaanite, identifies the people who lived in the land of Israel before the Israelites. Torah and the historical books present the idea that the Canaanites were not one ethnic group, but composed of a variety of different groups: the Perizzites, the Hittites, the Hivites. Generally archaeologists and biblical scholars mean the Bronze culture of Palestine when they use the term Canaanite. This culture of the Middle and Late Bronze Ages is viewed as stratified with individual city-states ruled by a monarch and warrior class who governed a large free serf class. Most scholars conclude, on some minimal evidence, that the upper classes were Hurrian, an Indo-European culture which invaded in Middle Bronze II. The lower classes are thought to be Amorite, an earlier invader in the Middle Bronze I. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]
Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The Hebrews entered a land with its own highly developed culture. During the Late Bronze and Early Iron Ages, Canaan was dotted with strong, walled, industrial and trade centers surrounded by orchards, vineyards, grain fields and pasture land. Wool and flax were woven and dyed with the rich purple obtained from the Murex shellfish. Wine, dried fruits, grain and milk products were also produced. Minerals from the Wadi Arabah were smelted and fashioned into ornaments, tools and weapons for sale and exchange. The rich lived in magnificent villas built around central courts; the poor dwelt in hovels massed together. Slaves captured in battle, and the poor who sold their families and themselves to meet debts, contributed to the power and wealth of the few. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]
Age of the Canaanaites
Phoenician mask ca. 1200-1000 B.C.: Jerusalem is a Canaanite city
ca. 1150-900 B.C.: Middle Babylonian period:
ca. 1106 B.C.: Deborah judges Israel.
ca. 1100 B.C.: The Philistines take over Gaza. They called it Philistia (from which the modern name Palestine is derived), and made it one of their civilization's most important cities.
ca. 1050-450 B.C.: Hebrew prophets (Samuel-Malachi) [Source: Jewish Virtual Library, UC Davis, Fordham University]
1500-1200 B.C.: Late Bronze Age
Canaan: a province of Egypt; dotted with powerful walled cities; city-state plan of government; extensive trade and industry; flourishing nature religion. Hebrews invade from the east (thirteenth-twelfth centuries). Philistines invade from the west and occupycoastal region (twelfth century).
EGYPT: weakened by war against Sea People unable to control Palestine
HITTITE nations collapses<=> [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]
1200-922 B.C. Early Iron Age
Philistines establish city-states; Hebrews struggle to hold territory: period of the Judges; war with Canaanites: battle of Taanach; battles with Moabites, Midianites, Amalekites, Philistines;an abortive attempt at Hebrew kingship; the tribe of Dan is forced to migrate; the war against Benjamin
ASSYRIA: Under Tiglath Pileser I holds Syria until I 100<=>
EGYPT: still weak<=>
John R.Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “The the early Middle Bronze Age period corresponds roughly to the First Intermediate Period in Ancient Egypt, a time of general disintegration of the Old Kingdom. Archaeologists generally disagree on the terminology for this period: EB-MB (Kathleen Kenyon), early Middle Bronze Age (William Foxwell Albright), Middle Canaanite I (Yohanan Aharoni), Early Bronze IV (William Dever and Eliezer Oren). Although consensus may be lacking on terminology, most archaeologists agree that there is a culture break with the earlier Early Bronze culture, and that this period represents a transition to a more urbanized material culture characteristic of the Middle Bronze II, Late Bronze and Iron Age. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]
“Many renowned biblical scholars, W. F. Albright, Nelson Glueck and E. A. Speiser, have linked the Patriarchs to the end of the early Middle Bronze Age and beginning of the late Middle Bronze Age based on three points: personal names, mode of life, and customs. Other scholars, however, have suggested later dates for the Patriarchal Age including the Late Bronze Age (Cyrus Gordon) and Iron Age (John Van Seters). Last, some scholars (particularly, Martin Noth and his students) find it difficult to determine any period for the Patriarchs. They suggest that the importance of the biblical texts are not necessarily their historicity, but how they function within the Israelite society of the Iron Age. “|*|
Canaanites in the Bible
Amos 9:7:"Are you not like the Ethiopians to me,
O people of Israel?" says the LORD.
"Did I not bring up Israel from the land of Egypt, and the Philistines from Caphtor and the Syrians from Kir? [Source: Dr. John R. Abercrombie, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, bu.edu |*|]
II Kings 3:4 Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder; and he had to deliver annually to the king of Israel a hundred thousand lambs, and the wool of a hundred thousand rams. [2 Kings 3:4-27 describes the campaign of the Kings of Judah and Israel against Mesha. The kings attack Moab from the south. The Mesha or Moabite Stone records the campaigns of Mesha to the north.]
Map of the Middle East in early Biblical Times
Canaan in the Bible
Genesis 10:19: And the territory of the Canaanites extended from Sidon, in the direction of Gerar, as far as Gaza, and in the direction of Sodom, Gomor'rah, Admah, and Zeboi'im, as far as Lasha. [Source: John R. Abercrombie, Boston University, bu.edu, Dr. John R. Abercrombie, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania]
Exodus 3:8: and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Per'izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites.
Exodus 3:17: and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Per'izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites, a land flowing with milk and honey."'
Exodus 13:5: And when the LORD brings you into the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites, which he swore to your fathers to give you, a land flowing with milk and honey, you shall keep this service in this month.
Exodus 23:23: When my angel goes before you, and brings you in to the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Per'izzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites, and I blot them out,
Exodus 33:2: And I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Per'izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites.
Exodus 34:11: Observe what I command you this day. Behold, I will drive out before you the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Per'izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites.
Deuteronomy 7:1: When the LORD your God brings you into the land which you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Gir'gashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Per'izzites, the Hivites, and the Jeb'usites, seven nations greater and mightier than yourselves,
Numbers 13:29: The Amal'ekites dwell in the land of the Negeb; the Hittites, the Jeb'usites, and the Amorites dwell in the hill country; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and along the Jordan."
II Samuel 24:7: and came to the fortress of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites; and they went out to the Negeb of Judah at Beer-sheba.
I Kings 9:16: (Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and captured Gezer and burnt it with fire, and had slain the Canaanites who dwelt in the city, and had given it as dowry to his daughter, Solomon's wife;
Ezra 9:1: After these things had been done, the officials approached me and said, "The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands with their abominations, from the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Per'izzites, the Jeb'usites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
4Ezra: 1:21: I divided fertile lands among you; I drove out the Canaanites, the Perizzites, and the Philistines before you. What more can I do for you? says the Lord.
Jdt 5:16: And they drove out before them the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Jebusites and the Shechemites and all the Gergesites, and lived there a long time.
Canaanites in the Book of Judges
Gerald A. Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “Literary information about this period is limited to the book of Judges, the third volume of the Deuteronomic history, which presents events within a somewhat stereotyped theological framework. When this theological structure is removed, a collection of early traditions reveals the chaos of the times. Numerous enemies threatened the loosely organized tribal structure; moral problems beset some communities; lack of organization afflicted all. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]
“The book of Judges is usually divided into three parts: Chapters 1:1-2:5 which was previously discussed; Chapters 2:6-16:31, containing traditions of the judges; and Chapters 17-21, a collection of tribal legends. The second section, most important for reconstruction of Hebrew life, reports that in time of crisis, leadership came from "judges" (Hebrew: shophet), men best described as governors13 or military heroes, rather than as those who preside over law cases. These leaders were men of power and authority, individuals empowered by God to deliver the people-charismatic personalities. Apart from Abimelech's abortive attempt to succeed his father (Judg. 9), no dynastic system appears to have developed, and the role of the judge when not delivering the people is not defined, although perhaps, as local leaders and chiefs, they did preside at the settling of disputes. Long terms of office ascribed to these men may reflect a protracted military struggle, an on-going office of protector-of-the-people conferred for life, or an artificial term of office designed by an editor. Attempts to formulate a chronology of leadership have proven fruitless, for the total of terms of office is 410 years - a period much too long for the interval between the invasion and the establishment of the monarchy. Events probably fall between the twelfth and the eleventh centuries.15 Leaders represent only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, Naphtali, Manasseh, Gilead, Zebulun and Dan. Enemies included Syrians (possibly), Moabites, Ammonites, Amalakites, Philistines, Canaanites, Midianites and Sidonians.<=>
“The Deuteronomic theology-of-history formula is summarized in Judg. 2:11-19, and reiterated in Judg. 3:12-15; 4:1-3; 6:1-2:<=>
Israel sins and is punished.
Israel cries to Yahweh for help.
Yahweh sends a deliverer, a judge, who saves the people.
Once rescued, the people sin again, and the whole process is repeated.<=>
“When this framework is removed, stories devoid of the theological concerns of the editors remain. The age of the stories and how long they circulated prior to being recorded cannot be determined, but they do appear to coincide with the archaeological evidence of turmoil during the settlement pcriod,16 although such evidence cannot be construed as substantiation for the historicity of the narratives in Judges. However, the archaeological evidence does warn against casual dismissal of the stories as being without historical content.<=>
After a report of Joshua's death (Judg. 2:6-10)17 which appears to have been written as an introduction to the narrative that follows, the gap between the death of Joshua and the time of the judges is bridged by an explanation that the reason all the enemy were not eliminated was to test Israel, and by an accounting of the adventures of Othniel who was introduced in Joshua 15:16 ff. The enemy is Cushanrishathaim, king of Aram-naharaim, usually translated "king of Mesopotamia." The name of the monarch is, as yet, unknown to scholars, and it has been proposed that it is artificial, meaning "Cushan of doublewickedness,18 or that it represents a tribe.19 It is possible that a place in Syria listed by Rameses III as Qusana-ruma represents the area from which the enemy came,20 although Edom and Aram have also been suggested.21 The story is so vague that it is often treated as a transitional legend, designed to introduce the traditions of the judges.<=>
Invasion of Canaan
Larue wrote in “Old Testament Life and Literature”: “The only written reports of the Hebrew invasion of Palestine are found in Joshua and in the first chapter of Judges, both of which are part of the Deuteronomic history, and in Num. 13; 21:1-3, a combination of materials from J, E and P sources. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]
“The general picture presented in the book of Joshua is that of a swift, complete conquest by invaders who were enabled, through Yahweh's miraculous intervention, to overcome the most powerful Canaanite fortress without difficulty, and who engaged in a program of massive annihilation of the Canaanite populace. Despite this picture numerous passages reveal that the conquest was not complete (cf. 13:2-6, 13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:12), and the impact of Canaanite life and thought through the period of the monarchy reveals the continuation of strong Canaanite elements within the culture.<=>
“The Deuteronomic interpretation of the invasion in terms of a holy war adds further problems to our efforts to understand what actually happened. Holy war was waged under the aegis of the deity. Battles were won not by might of human arms, but by divine action. The hosts of heaven assisted human soldiers who represented the family of worshipers, and battles were waged according to divine directions. Ritual purification was essential. Conquered peoples and properties came under the ban or herem and were "devoted" to the deity.<=>
Invasion of Canaan in Joshua
Larue wrote: “The Joshua story (Josh. 1-12, 23-24) opens with the Hebrews poised for attack on the eastern bank of the Jordan. Joshua, appointed by divine commission as the successor of Moses, sent spies into Jericho and, upon their return, made ritual preparations for the holy war. Sanctification rites were performed, for the people had to be a holy people (3:5). Miraculously, the Jordan River was crossed (ch. 3) and the purified people entered the land promised by Yahweh. The rite of circumcision was performed, signifying the uniting of all to Yahweh6 and Passover was observed. Assurance of success came with the appearance of the commander of Yahweh's armies. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]
“Through ritual acts, Jericho's walls collapsed and the city was taken and devoted to Yahweh. Violation of the herem by Achan interrupted the smooth annexation of the land at Ai, and it was not possible for the invasion to proceed harmoniously until he and all encompassed in the corporate body of his family were exterminated. Subsequently Ai fell. Gibeon, through a ruse, was spared destruction. A coalition of frightened monarchs from Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon attempted in vain to halt Joshua's progress. Next, the Hebrews moved through the Shephelah, then northward into Galilee, completing the conquest north and south. The conquered territory was divided among the Hebrew tribes. Joshua died after making a farewell speech and performing a covenant rite (which interrupts the sequence) at Shechem.<=>
“Archaeological research has provided only limited assistance for the reconstruction of the invasion history. Excavation at Jericho produced no evidence for the period of the Hebrew attack because erosion had washed away all remains7 but there is no reason to doubt the tradition that Jericho fell to the Hebrews. The problem of Ai mentioned earlier must remain unsolved. Of the cities of the southern coalition both Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) and Eglon (possibly Tell el-Hesi) have produced evidence of destruction in the thirteenth century; Hebron (Jebel er-Rumeide) is being excavated; Jarmuth (Khirbet Yarmuk) has not been explored; and Jerusalem, if it fell in the thirteenth century (cf. Josh. 15:63), was rebuilt and reoccupied so that it had to be reconquered when David came to the throne (II Sam. 5:6-9). Other sites, Bethel (Beitan), Tell Beit Mirsim (possibly Debir) and far to the north, Hazor (Tell el-Qedah) reveal thirteenth century destruction, supporting the thesis of a Hebrew invasion.<=>
Invasion of Canaan in Judges
Larue wrote: “Judg. 1:1-2:5 gives a different portrait of the invasion, which parallels certain parts of the account in the book of Joshua, but which omits any reference to the role of Joshua and simply announces his death in the opening verse. Battles for both southern and northern territories are reported, but individual tribes struggle for the territory allocated to them in Joshua, and the impression of united action by an amalgamation of all tribes is missing. It is possible that this account which may have taken written form as early as the tenth century, preserves a more factual record than the idealized Deuteronomic tradition, and probably was inserted into the Deuteronomic material at a very late date. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]
The separate tradition preserved in Num. 13 and 21:1-3 also omits any reference to Joshua, and records an invasion from the south under the leadership of Moses. In preparation for the attack, Moses sent out spies who penetrated as far north as Hebron and brought back glowing reports of the agricultural productivity of the land. A battle with the people Arad resulted in the destruction of that site. There is no tradition of settlement or of further invasion from the south.<=>
“Despite the fact that archaeological and biblical sources are inadequate for any detailed or precise formulation of how the invasion was accomplished, a number of hypotheses have been developed. One analysis finds three separate waves of invasion: one from the south by the Calebites and Kenizzites, both part of Judah; one encompassing Jericho and its environs by the Joseph tribes, led by Joshua; and a third in the Galilee area.9 Another theory suggests that there were two Hebrew invasions separated by 200 years: a northern invasion under Joshua during the fourteenth century in which the Ephraimite hills were seized (perhaps to be related to the Habiru problem of the El Amarna correspondence) and a southern invasion around 1200 B.C. involving the tribes of Judah, Levi and Simeon, as well as Kenites and Calebites and perhaps the Reubenites, with Reuben finally migrating to the area northeast of the Dead Sea. <=>
“Still another suggestion is that, prior to the thirteenth century, a number of Hebrews of the Leah tribes had united in an amphictyony centered in Shechem and that the Joseph tribes, under Joshua, invaded in the thirteenth century. The earlier occupation may have been a peaceful one, in contrast to the devastation wrought by Joshua's forces. The Shechem covenant (Josh. 24) marked the union of the Leah group and the newcomers.11 The recital of further hypotheses could add but little to this discussion. No single view can be embraced with full confidence. Perhaps it will be enough to say that in the light of present evidence, the entrance of the Hebrews into Canaan was marked in some instances by bloodshed and destruction and in others by peaceful settlement among Canaanite occupants; and, although the thirteenth-century date best fits the invasion, it is likely that movement into the land by Hebrew people had been going on for at least 200 years.<=>
Battle of Taanach (Megiddo of Megiddo)
Larue wrote: “The battle of Taanach has been recorded in two accounts in Judges: one in prose (ch. 4), the other in poetry (ch. 5). Of the two, the poetic form is undoubtedly older, representing a victory song from a cultic celebration of Yahweh's military triumphs, or, perhaps, a unit of folk literature, such as a minstrel's song recalling victory over the Canaanites. As early Hebrew poetry coming from a time close to the events described (possibly eleventh century), the poem is of great literary importance, for it permits penetration into the period of oral preservation of tradition. [Source: Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]
“The original poem begins in Judg. 5:4, the first two verses having been added later to provide a setting. The opening verses describe a theophany in terms of storm and earthquake as Yahweh comes from Seir in the mountains of Edom. The reference to Sinai, often treated as a late addition, may reflect the tradition that Sinai was in Edom. Troublous days are related in Verses 6 to 8. (The relationship of Shamgar ben Anath to the judge of the same name is not known.) Verse 8a defies accurate translation and Verses 9 and 10 are asides by the minstrels, expressing respect for the volunteer warriors. Deborah and Barak, Hebrew heroes, are called to lead against the foe, and tribal responses to the challenge are recorded. It is quite clear that whatever amphictyonic links may have existed were not compelling enough to make all groups participate. Ephraim, Machir (Manasseh), Zebulun and Naphtali joined the followers of Deborah and Barak. Reuben, Dan (at this time still on the seacoast) and Asher did not come.<=>
“In the battle fought at Taanach, near Megiddo, a tremendous rainstorm, interpreted by the Hebrews as an act of Yahweh, transformed the brook Kishon into a raging torrent. Canaanite chariots were trapped in the heavy mud and the tide of battle turned to favor Deborah and Barak. Meroz, an unknown group or location, is cursed for failure to help, and Jael, a Kenite woman, is blessed for the murder of the Canaanite general, Sisera, who sought sanctuary in her tent. As if death at the hand of a woman were not degrading enough, the singers added a taunt song, mocking the fruitless wait of Sisera's mother. Her pitiful attempts to reassure herself of her son's safety close the poem. The closing statement, a wish that all Yahweh's enemies might suffer Sisera's fate (v. 31), may have been added later.<=>
“The theological convictions are clear. Yahweh was the god of a specific people. Their wars were his wars and Yahweh fought for his own. Others had their own gods and enjoyed a similar relationships. Social relationships are also revealed. Individual tribes were free to decide whether or not to participate in specific battles, but it was expected that they would rally when the war-cry was sounded. This, together with lack of reference to the tribes of Simeon, Judah and Gad and the listing of the people of Meroz as though they belonged to the tribal federation, raises questions about the patterns of relationship between the tribes. Were they really united by amphictyonic bonds? How many and what tribes settled the land? Does the amphictyonic pattern truly reflect eleventh-century relationships? For these questions there are no sure answers.<=>
In Judges 4, “The prose version of the battle differs in significant details. Only two tribes, Zebulun and Naphtali, participate in the battle, there is no condemnation of tribes not involved, and Sisera's death is described differently. New details appear: the name of Deborah's husband, Lappidoth, the strength of Canaanite forces and the mustering place of the Hebrews at Mount Tabor. Behind the prose account, there may be an ancient oral tradition, but specific details must be treated with caution.”<=>
Climate Change Destroyed the Bible's Ancient Kingdoms, Study Finds
Between 1250 and 1100 B.C., all the great civilizations of the eastern Mediterranean – pharaonic Egypt, Mycenaean Greece and Crete, Ugarit in Syria and the large Canaanite city-states – were destroyed, paving the way for new peoples and kingdoms including the first Kingdom of Israel. In 2013, scientists from Israel and Germany provided evidence that a climate crisis — a long dry period that caused droughts, hunger and mass migration — was responsible this great upheaval. The findings of their three-year study was published the Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University. [Source: Nir Hasson, Haartz, October 25, 2013 ~~]
Nir Hasson wrote in Haartz: “The researchers drilled deep under the Kinneret, retrieving 18-meter strips of sediment from the bottom of the lake. From the sediment they extracted fossil pollen grains. "Pollen is the most enduring organic material in nature," says palynologist Dafna Langgut, who did the sampling work. According to Langgut, "Pollen was driven to the Kinneret by wind and streams, deposited in the lake and embedded in the underwater sediment. New sediment was added annually, creating anaerobic conditions that help preserve pollen particles. These particles tell us about the vegetation that grew near the lake and testify to the climatic conditions in the region." ~~
“Radiocarbon dating of the pollen revealed a period of severe droughts between c. 1250 and 1100 B.C. A sediment strip from the Dead Sea's western shore provided similar results. Langgut published the study with Prof. Israel Finkelstein of Tel Aviv University, Prof. Thomas Litt of the University of Bonn and Prof. Mordechai Stein of Hebrew University's Earth Sciences Institute. "The advantage of our study, compared to pollen investigations at other locations in the Middle East, is our unprecedented frequency of sampling - for about every 40 years," says Finkelstein. "Pollen is usually sampled for every several hundreds of years; this is logical when you're interested in prehistoric matters. Since we were interested in historical periods, we had to sample the pollen more frequently; otherwise a crisis such as the one at the end of the Bronze Age would have escaped our attention." That crisis lasted 150 years. ~~
“The research shows a chronological correlation between the pollen results and other records of climate crisis. At the end of the Bronze Age – c. 1250-1100 B.C. - many eastern Mediterranean cities were destroyed by fire. Meanwhile, ancient Near Eastern documents testify to severe droughts and famine in the same period – from the Hittite capital in Anatolia in the north to Ugarit on the Syrian coast, Afek in Israel and Egypt in the south. The scientists used a model proposed by Prof. Ronnie Ellenblum of Hebrew University, who studied documents that describe similar conditions of severe drought and famine in the 10th and 11th centuries C.E. He showed that in areas such as modern Turkey and northern Iran, a reduction in precipitation was accompanied by devastating cold spells that destroyed crops. ~~
“Langgut, Finkelstein and Litt say a similar process occurred at the end of the Bronze Age; severe cold spells destroyed crops in the north of the ancient Near East and a reduction in precipitation damaged agricultural output in the eastern steppe parts of the region. This led to droughts and famine and motivated "large groups of people to start moving to the south in search of food," says Egyptologist Shirly Ben-Dor Evian of Tel Aviv University.” ~~
John R.Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “The Canaanites, or Bronze Age inhabitants, made a number of lasting contributions to ancient and modern society, such as specialized storage jars for the transportation of oil and wine, and musical instruments like the castenet. Their high art in working ivory as well as their skills in viticulture were prized in antiquity. Many materials related to the Canaanites have been exhumed in the Bronze Age cemetery at Gibeon (el Jib) and the northern cemetery Beth Shan. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]
An “important point about the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1200 B.C.) concerns the egyptianization of this indigenous culture. Artifacts and building structures become more egyptian-like as one moves from the early Late Bronze into Late Bronze Age. Cultural practices also change to Egyptian fashion (e.g. burial practices). Such egyptianization may be due to the proximity of Egypt to Palestine as well as the ways in which Egypt exercised complete control over this region. (NOTE: Egyptianization of Nubia occurred during the same period and may speak to how Egypt influence native culture to adopt an egyptian life style.) As Albright and others may have rightly noted, Palestine proper remained generally loyal to Egypt throughout the Late Bronze Age, while Upper Retenu, modern Syria, did not. |*|
Canaanites buried 4,000 years ago were folded up with their arms and legs crossed and placed in burial pots, sometimes wearing a necklace made with gold, rock crystal and carnelian beads. The burial pot and the position of the dead, it is thought, was intended to replicate the position of a newborn in a womb ready to be reborn into the afterlife. At Ashkelon (see Below) Canaanite families placed corpses in burial chambers and kept them there until the flesh rotted off, a process that took several months, then they would bury the bones in recesses and corners of the chambers. Over time the remains of a lot of individuals could get crammed inside. At Ashkelon babies were buried with Egyptians scarabs, magical charms, suggesting, archaeologists say, that they were accorded the status of full-fledged adults.
The Canaanites are believed to have been the first people to possess an alphabet. A 13th century B.C. tablet with column of Canaanite words was found at Ashkelon. Believed to have used to teach scribes languages, the tablet appears to have contained other columns with other languages, perhaps the Semitic cuneiform language of Akkadian and another unrelated tongue, possibly Hurrian or Hittite.
Abercrombie wrote: “Perhaps their most lasting contribution was the development of the alphabet from the proto-alphabetic script of Egyptian hieroglyphics. William Foxwell Albright and others have shown how a simplified syllabary of the Middle Bronze Age eventually was exported to the Greek and Roman worlds by the Phoenicians, northern coastal mariners of the Iron Age.” |*|
Until the early 20th century, information about the Canaanite was drawn mainly from negative statements in the Bible. In 1928, a farmer digging in his field in northwest Syria — at a point along the seacoast to which the "finger" of Cyprus appears to be pointing — accidentally discovered an ancient tomb. The tomb was part of the Canaanite necropolis at Ras es-Shamra, a cemetery located in the area of the ancient city of Ugarit, a center of wealth and commerce from about 1450 to 1180 B.C. Excavations began in 1929 under the direction of Claude F. A. Schaeffer of France and have continued since with only a brief interruption during World War II. French excavators working at the site have discovered the remains of two temples, a palace, and private dwellings, as well as two libraries of ancient clay tablets written mainly in alphabetic Ugaritic, the major language of the city. Other texts were inscribed in Sumerian, Akkadian, and Hurrian. Translations of the Ugaritic literary texts provided the first insights into the religion of the Canaanites, known previously mainly from the pages of the Bible.[Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org \^/; Gerald A. Larue, “Old Testament Life and Literature,” 1968, infidels.org <=>]
Larue wrote: The necropolis of Ugarit is “known to scholars from references in the El Amarna texts. The city was destroyed in the fourteenth century B.C. by an earthquake and then rebuilt, only to fall in the twelfth century B.C. to the hoards of Sea People. It was never rebuilt and was ultimately forgotten. One of the excavator's most exciting discoveries was a temple dedicated to the god Ba'al with a nearby scribal school containing numerous tablets relating the myths of Ba'al written in a Semitic dialect but in a cuneiform script never before encountered. The language was deciphered and the myths translated, providing many parallels to Canaanite practices condemned in the Bible and making it possible to suggest that the religion of Ba'al as practiced in Ugarit was very much like that of the Canaanites of Palestine. <=>
The main Canaanite archaeological sites mentioned in the Bible are Megiddo, Hazor and Lachish They all have reamins from the Late Bronze Age (1570 - 1400 B.C.), including Late Bronze Age A (1400 - 1300 B.C.) and Late Bronze Age B (1300 - 1200 B.C.), Other sites include Baq'ah Valley Cave and the burial areas of Beth Shan, Beth Shemesh, Gibeon Tombs (el Jib) and Tell es-Sa'idiyeh Tombs. [Sources: John R. Abercrombie, University of Pennsylvania, James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), Princeton, Boston University, bu.edu/anep/MB.html |*|]
John R. Abercrombie of the University of Pennsylvania wrote: “Two points need to be made concerning the archaeological remains from this period. First, there is strong cultural continuity between the Middle and Late Bronze Age. The assigned break between the two periods is more a function of Egyptian chronological history than a change in material culture. No excavator or historian familiar with the remains has suggested otherwise. Also, it is important to note that there are scant archaeological remains in the first part of the Late Bronze Age. Many sites in the hill country and Negev were abandoned. Other sites, especially in the southern coastal region, are destroyed and only marginally reoccupied in Late Bronze I. |*|
“Images and related material are drawn from the excavations at Beth Shan, Beth Shemesh and Tell es-Sa'idiyeh. Complete ceramic forms and some of the fine objects were taken from specific tomb contexts: Beth Shan Tomb 42 (LB I), Gibeon Tomb 10 (LB IIA), Beth Shan Tombs 219 and 90 (LBIIB-Ir I), and Tell es-Sa'idiyeh cemetery (LBIIB-Ir I). The tombs together constitute less than half of the cited material below. Almost all the remaining artifacts, with the exception of one or two outstanding pieces from Beth Shemesh StatumIV, are from strata IX-VII Beth Shan, dated to fourteenth-thirteenth centuries. In particular, we focused on the material from the important Egyptian/Canaanite temple. Be aware that Beth Shan is a highly egyptianize site so that it better reflects the cultural mix of many large sites in the lowlands of southern Palestine (Tell el-Farah S, Tell el-Ajjul, Lachish and Megiddo) and the greater Jordan valley (Tell es-Sa'idiyeh and Deir Alla) than other inland or more northern sites (Hazor). |*|
Canaanite Sites in the Bible
I Kings 9:15-17: And this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the LORD and his own house and the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor and Megid'do and Gezer (Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up and captured Gezer and burnt it with fire, and had slain the Canaanites who dwelt in the city, and had given it as dowry to his daughter, Solomon's wife; so Solomon rebuilt Gezer) and Lower Beth-hor'on [Source: John R. Abercrombie, Boston University, bu.edu, Dr. John R. Abercrombie, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania]
Gezer (Tell Gezer): Judges 1:29: And E'phraim did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them. I Chronicles 14:16: And David did as God commanded him, and they smote the Philistine army from Gibeon to Gezer. II Samuel 5:25: And David did as the LORD commanded him, and smote the Philistines from Geba to Gezer.
Hazor (Tell Hazor) in the Bible: Joshua 11:10: And Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and smote its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. I Samuel 12:9 But they forgot the LORD their God; and he sold them into the hand of Sis'era, commander of the army of Jabin king of Hazor, and into the hand of the Philistines, and into the hand of the king of Moab; and they fought against them.
I Kings 9:15: And this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the LORD and his own house and the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor and Megid'do and Gezer. II Kings 15:29: In the days of Pekah king of Israel Tig'lath-pile'ser king of Assyria came and captured I'jon, A'bel-beth-ma'acah, Jan-o'ah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naph'tali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria.
Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir) in the Bible
2 Chronicles 11:7-10 He (Rehoboam) rebuilt Bethlehem, Etam, Tekoa, Beth-zur, Soco, Adullam, Gath, Mareshah, Ziph, Adoraim, Lachish, Azekah, Zorah, Aijalon, Hebron; [Source: John R. Abercrombie, Boston University, bu.edu, Dr. John R. Abercrombie, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania]
II Kings 18:14 And Hezeki'ah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, "I have done wrong; withdraw from me; whatever you impose on me I will bear." And the king of Assyria required of Hezeki'ah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.
II Kings 18:17 And the king of Assyria sent the Tartan, the Rab'saris, and the Rab'shakeh with a great army from Lachish to King Hezeki'ah at Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. When they arrived, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is on the highway to the Fuller's Field.
Isaiah 36:2 And the king of Assyria sent the Rab'shakeh from Lachish to King Hezeki'ah at Jerusalem, with a great army. And he stood by the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller's Field.
II Chronicles32:9 After this Sennach'erib king of Assyria, who was besieging Lachish with all his forces, sent his servants to Jerusalem to Hezeki'ah king of Judah and to all the people of Judah that were in Jerusalem, saying,
Jeremiah 34:7 when the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and against all the cities of Judah that were left, Lachish and Aze'kah; for these were the only fortified cities of Judah that remained. (see, Lachish Ostracon IV)
Megiddo (Tell Megiddo) in the Bible
Judges 1:27 Manas'seh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-she'an and its villages, or Ta'a-nach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megid'do and its villages; but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. [Source: John R. Abercrombie, Boston University, bu.edu, Dr. John R. Abercrombie, Department of Religious Studies, University of Pennsylvania]
Judges 5:19 "The kings came, they fought; then fought the kings of Canaan, at Ta'anach, by the waters of Megid'do; they got no spoils of silver.
I Kings 9:15 And this is the account of the forced labor which King Solomon levied to build the house of the LORD and his own house and the Millo and the wall of Jerusalem and Hazor and Megid'do and Gezer
[NOTE: Curious that Megiddo is not mentioned in this passage.] II Kings 15:29 In the days of Pekah king of Israel Tig'lath-pile'ser king of Assyria came and captured I'jon, A'bel-beth-ma'acah, Jan-o'ah, Kedesh, Hazor, Gilead, and Galilee, all the land of Naph'tali; and he carried the people captive to Assyria.
II Kings 23:29-30 In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphra'tes. King Josi'ah went to meet him; and Pharaoh Neco slew him at Megid'do, when he saw him. (30) And his servants carried him dead in a chariot from Megid'do, and brought him to Jerusalem, and buried him in his own tomb. And the people of the land took Jeho'ahaz the son of Josi'ah, and anointed him, and made him king in his father's stead.
Canaanites at Ashkelon
Canaanite Gate AshkelonAround 1850 B.C. Canaanites occupied the coastal settlement of Ashkelon, one of the largest and richest seaports in the Mediterranean in ancient times. Ashkelon was located in present-day Israel, 60 kilometers south of Tel Aviv, and dates back at least to 3500 B.C. Over the centuries it was occupied by Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Crusaders. Conquered by the Egyptians and Babylonians, it was probably visited by Samson, Goliath, Alexander the Great, Herod and Richard the Lion-hearted. The presence of all these cultures and historical periods means the site is rich archaeologically but also difficult and complex to sort through. [Source: Rick Gore, National Geographic January 2001]
Canaanite Gate Ashkelon Canaanite Ashkelon covered 60 hectares. The great wall that surrounded it when it was at its height was an arc over two kilometers long, with the sea on the other side. Just the ramparts of the wall---not the wall itself---were up to 16 meters high and 50 meters thick. The towered wall on top of it may have risen to a height of 35 meters. The Canaanites built a vaulted corridor with arched gateways in the city's mud-brick north wall. The site's excavation has been overseen by Harvard archaeologist Lawrence Stager since 1985.
The Canaanites occupied Ashkelon from 1850 until 1175 B.C. Sanger told National Geographic, “They came by the boatload . They had master craftsmen and a clear idea of what they wanted to build’big fortified cities. With plentiful supplies of fresh water, it was a major exporters of wine, olive oil, wheat and livestock. Studies of their teeth indicate they ate a lot sand in their food and their teeth wore down quickly."
Among the important finds made at Ashkelon were the oldest arched gateway ever found and a silver-plated bronze calf, a symbol of Baal, reminiscent of the huge golden calf mentioned in Exodus, found in 1990 by Harvard archaeologists. Ten centimeters tall and dated to 1600 B.C. the calf was found within its own shrine, a beehive-shaped pottery vessel. Baal was the Canaanites storm god. The statue is now on display in the Israel Museum.
At its height Canaanite Ashkelon was probably home to 15,000 people , quite a large number in ancient times. By comparison Babylon at that time might have had 30,000 residents. The Egyptians considered the Canaanites to be rivals and cursed the Ashkelon kings by writing their names on figurines and smashing them to magically destroy their power. Stager has suggested that the Canaanites perhaps were the Hyksos, mysterious people from the north that conquered the ancient Egyptians, based in the discovery of artifacts in Egypt from the Hyskso period that are identical with those found in Canaanite Ashkelon. Around 1550 B.C. the Egyptians expelled the Hyksos and dominated Ashkelon and Canaan.
Image Sources: Wikimedia, Commons, Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bible in Bildern, 1860
Text Sources: Internet Jewish History Sourcebook sourcebooks.fordham.edu “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “ Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); “Old Testament Life and Literature” by Gerald A. Larue, King James Version of the Bible, gutenberg.org, New International Version (NIV) of The Bible, biblegateway.com Complete Works of Josephus at Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL), translated by William Whiston, ccel.org , Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org “Encyclopedia of the World Cultures” edited by David Levinson (G.K. Hall & Company, New York, 1994); National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Times of London, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018