Canaan

With a few exceptions the Biblical writers seem to indicate by this name at the least, the whole of Western or cis-Jordanic Palestine. It extends from the desert of Sin in the south to.......

With a few exceptions the Biblical writers seem to indicate by this name at the least, the whole of Western or cis-Jordanic Palestine. It extends from the desert of Sin in the south to near Rohob and the entrance to Emath in the north (Numbers 13:3,18). A more accurate demarcation of the land of Canaan is in Numbers 34:3-12, and Ezekiel 47:15-20. For though the name does not occur in Ezechiel, the identity of the boundary lines is drawn there is not to be doubted. In either text the western boundary is formed by the Mediterranean, and the greater part of the eastern by the Dead sea and the lower course of the Jordan.

The southern frontier coincides with that of the territory of Juda (Joshua 15:1-4), whilst Cadesbarne (Ain Kedis), may be taken as the most southern point. From this of St. Jerome time found its way into Vulgate (Numbers 34:11) instead of the town of Ain. But though some of the border towns are not yet known with absolute certainty, we may take for granted nowadays that this northern boundary-line of Canaan must be drawn to the south of the Lebanon and Hermon and that it completely coincides with the northern frontier of the country conquered and inhabited by the Israelites, which, according to numerous quotations, stretched "from Dan to Bershabee" or "from the entering in of Emath unto the brook of Egypt." The northern part of the eastern boundary, however, seems to follow, not the upper course of the Jordan but the course of the Rukkad from Hasar-Enan (El-Hadr) to Ain (Ayun), so that here the whole of Western Jaulan still seems to be included in the land Canaan-not, however, the land of Galaad or the country in general beyond the Jordan to the south of the Jarmuk. All the places quoted above agree with this conception, and only twice does the name of the country Canaan occur in a more limited sense: first for the Phoenician coast (Isaiah 23:11), and secondly for the low land of the Philistines-both in a time when only these regions along the coast were still inhabited by Canaanites. We have already seen how the name was honoured even later still in Phoenicia itself. In Egypt name of the country seems to be used especially for the sea-coast; at the same time the name Canaanites is also applied to the inhabitants of the mountainous country behind it.

It is hard to decide which reading is the original one. Both show the descendants of Canaan settled in the Biblical "land of Canaan", i.e. the later "land of Israel". As a rule it is the pre-Israelite inhabitants of this "land of Canaan", taken collectively, who are indicated by this common name of Canaanites. Thus in the Pentateuch, especially in parts attributed to a Jahvistic source, as e.g. Genesis 12:6, 24:37, 38:2, 50:11. Elsewhere, however, chiefly in so-called Elohistic parts, the name of Amorrhites is used in the same general sense. And very often as many as six or seven or even eleven, different tribes or peoples are distinguished, one of which in particular bears the name of Canaanites. Thus e.g. Exodus 3:8: "The Canaanite, and Hethite, and Amorrhite and Pherezite, and Hevite, and Jebusite." Repeatedly (e.g. Joshua 3:10), the Gergesites, mentioned above (Genesis 10:16), are added; and in Genesis 15:19-21, we find "the Cineans and Cenezites, Cedmonites......the Raphaim also"; whilst in Numbers 14:25, the Amelectite; in A.V. Deuteronomy 2:23 and Joshua 13:3, the Avims; and in Joshua 11:21 (and elsewhere), the Enacims are named, leaving out other older, and probably trans-Jordanic, tribes like the Zuzim, the Emim, and the Chorreans (Genesis 14:5,6).

Of most of these tribes little or nothing is known. For Amorrhites see article under that title. The Hethites founded a mighty kingdom in Northern Syria, but it is uncertain whether their namesakes in the south of Palestine (Genesis 23:3, 26:34) had anything in common with them besides the name. About the Canaanites in a more limited sense we learn that they had their dwelling-place to the east and west of the mountains, i.e. along the coast of the Mediterranean and in the valley of the Jordan and the Araba to the south of the Dead Sea (Numbers 13:30, 14:25; Deuteronomy 1:7, 11:29; Joshua 5:1, 11:3, 13:3). So it is by this name that the Phoenicians are still called in Abd., 20; and the "Syrophenician" woman of Mark 7:26, is a Canaanite woman in Matth.,xv,22. It is not likely that all the various pre-Israelite tribes remained sharply distinguished from one another. "There are good reasons for believing that at a very early period the population of Palestine already presented a mixture of races, and that through intermarriage the dividing lines between these races became fainter in the course of time, until all sharp distinctions were obliterated. The problem of distinguishing between these various groups whom the Hebrews encountered upon setting in Palestine is at present incapable of solution." Still it does not seem too great a venture to distinguish two principal groups of tribes: the Amorrhites in the mountains and the Canaanites along the sea-coast and in the valley of the Jordan, and perhaps in the plain of Esdrelon (Joshua 17:12-18). On the other hand, when the Israelites under Josue penetrated into Canaan they found this mixed "Canaanite" or "Amorrhite" population, not bound together politically under one government but divided into more than thirty petty kingdoms (Joshua 12:7-14), a state of things which must have made the conquest considerably easier for them. This same system of cutting up the country into small parts obtained two or three centuries earlier, in the time of the Tell el-Amarna letters, which were for the greater part written by, or to a number of these city-kings - and apparently even earlier still in the days of Abraham (Genesis 14:2,8,18, 20:2). In this respect these letters contain a striking corroboration of the Biblical story. After the campaigns of Tothmes III in the sixteenth century B.C. all these small states acknowledged the supremacy of the Egyptian Pharaos and paid them tribute. After a time, however, this sovereignty must have gradually become more and more nominal, and in spite of the later campaigns of Seti I and Rames II against Hethites, it left no traces after the conquest by Josue.

The further particulars given by the Bible about the Canaanites are rather scanty. We read occasionally of their cities "great and walled up to the sky" (Deuteronomy 1:28; cf. Numbers 13:29); of their "chariots of iron" (Joshua 17:16): and repeatedly of their gods Baal and Moloch and their goddesses Astarte and Ashera; of their altars and their stone pillars (masseboth) and wooden posts (asherim), in connection with these altars, of their sacrifices of children and manifold forms of moral perversity; the abominations on account of which "the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants" (A.V. Leviticus 18:25), and which, in spite of the severe prohibition of the Law and the admonitions of the Prophets, found but too much imitation in Israel itself. Most of these particulars have of late received a splendid corroboration and explanation in archaeological discoveries, principally in consequence of the systematic excavations conducted in Palestine by W.H. Flinders Petrie and F.J. Bliss at Tell el-Hesy; by Bliss and M.R.A. Stewart Macalister at Tell Zakariya, Tell es-Safy, and Tell Jedeide; by Macalister at Teil Jezer; by E. Sellin at Thenac; by G. Schumacher at Tell el-Mutesallim-to all of which Sellin added in 1907 his labours at old Jericho.

Even before the tribes who are introduced to us as Canaanites in the Bible penetrated into Palestine (between 3000 and 2500 B.C.) there must have lived for many centuries an older population, dwelling there partly in caves, but also possessing their primitive "towns" surrounded by earthen walls. This period is characterized especially by stone instruments and very primitive earthenware. The Canaanite tribes who gradually took their place came from the north and were for a long time, if not under the supremacy, without a doubt under the manifold influence of Babylon. which Sellin added in 1907 his labours at old Jericho. In the fifteenth century B.C., when the country was already politically subject to Egypt, the kings of the Canaanite towns used in their correspondence, not only with the Pharaos but also between themselves, the Babylonian cuneiform characters, and - with the addition of a number of Canaanite words - the language of Babylon as well. Macalister (Pal. Expl. fund Quart. Stat. 1905, 323 sq.) and, quite lately, Sellin found some scanty evidence that the Old Hebrew or Phoenician characters were also known in those days. Civilization meanwhile, had made immense progress, as is evident from the rise of bronze and other metals - soon, too, of iron; from the building of dwelling-places, city stalls, towers, and strongholds; from the increasing number and value of objects of domestic and religious use; from the designs and fitting up of sanctuaries and burial caves; and from the richer variety of form, ornamentation, and painting in the products of the potter's art - though art does not appear to have enjoyed a continuous and even development.

When the Israelites (Numbers 13:29; Deuteronomy 1:28) speak in awe of "great cities", the hyperbole is nearly as great as in the expression "walled up to the sky", those explored have covered, at most, seven or eight hectares (about 19 acres), but the fortifications have been excellent. The walls of Jericho, built of burnt bricks, had a width of from three to twelve metres, i.e. from about 9 to 39 feet. If the ancient inhabitants offered their sacrifices in dish-like cups cut in the surface of the rocky ground, the Canaanites had their open-air temples, or Bamoth (high places), with altar, sacrificial pit, and stone pillars from about seven to nine feet high. At Gazer eight pillars were found, still standing, the smallest of which (about 5.5 feet high) seems to the oldest, and is perhaps the real emblem of the deity. Of the asherim, or wooden posts, only the stone bases seem to be left. Two large grottos situated under the sanctuary must also have played a part in this worship. But the most disgusting traces of this idolatry are the skeletons of infants - mostly new-born babes - sacrificed to the deity, which at Gazer were found buried in jars beneath the floor of the sanctuary, and elsewhere, especially at Mageddo, in its immediate neighbourhood. Several times the remains of these human victims, among which have been adults, were found beneath or in the foundations of houses and other buildings; a striking illustrations of the words of Joshua 6:26: "Cursed be the man before the Lord that shall raise up and build the city of Jericho. In [or with] his firstborn may be lay the foundation thereof, and in [or with] the last of his children set up its gates." The naturalistic character of this religion becomes especially evident in the numerous Astarte plaques, or statuettes, of divergent types, and likewise in the often occurring phallic emblems. Among these latter some class part of the baetylic stone pillars, and find in a few bulls' heads representations of Baal or Moloch. Some representations of Babylonian deities also occur, and, still more frequently, images from Egyptian mythology. The Astarte plaques likewise show Egyptian inspiration. In short, the Canaanite civilization seems continually to have felt the influence of both these nations. In pottery, moreover, Aegean-Phoenician art produced marked results from the beginning of the fourteenth century B.C. On the other hand, the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan, judging from the explorations made, opened no new period in so far as archaeology is concerned, so that the "Canaanite" period has been extended to about the ninth or eighth century B.C.

Indeed, the submission of the Canaanite was not made effectual nearby so soon as some chapters of the Book of Josue might lead us to expect. Particularly the places that have become best known to us through the excavations. Thenac, Mageddo, and Gazer, are among those that submitted to Israel only after a lapse of time (Joshua 17:11-13; Judges 1:27-29). Gazer even in the days of Solomon was still inhabited by Canaanites (1Kings 9:16). And in the same context (verses 20-21) we learn that Solomon, through forced statute laborer, subjugated "unto this day", the whole of the Canaanite population of his realm. Thus Canaan had become once and for all the servant of Shem. Afterwards Phoenicia with its colonies was subjugated by the Romans, sons of Japheth, and soon vanished altogether from the roll of nations.


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