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Reference: Canaanites


The descendants of Canaan. Their first habitation was in the land of Canaan, where they multiplied extremely, and by trade and war acquired great riches, and sent out colonies all over the islands and coasts of the Mediterranean. When the measure of their idolatries and abominations was completed, God delivered their country into the hands of the Israelites, who conquered it under Joshua. See the previous article. The following are the principal tribes mentioned.

1. The HIVITES dwelt in the northern part of the country, at the foot of mount Hermon, or Anti-Lebanon, according to Jos 11:3, where it is related that they, along with the united forces of northern Canaan, were defeated by Joshua. They were not, however, entirely driven out of their possessions, Jg 3:3; 2Sa 24:7; 1Ki 9:20. There were also Hivites in middle Palestine, Ge 34:2; Jos 19:1,7; 11:19.

2. The CANAANITES, in a restricted sense, inhabited partly the plains on the coast of the Mediterranean sea, Nu 13:29; Jos 11:3.

3. The GIRGASHITES dwelt between the Canaanites and the Jebusites; as may be inferred from the order in which they are mentioned in Jos 24:11.

4. The JEBUSITES had possession of the hill country around Jerusalem, and of that city itself, of which the ancient name was Jebus, Jos 15:8,63; 18:28. The Benjamites, to whom this region was allotted, did not drive out the Jebusites, Jg 1:21. David first captured the citadel of Jebus, 2Sa 5:6.

5. The AMORITES inhabited, in Abraham's time, the region south of Jerusalem, on the western side of the Dead sea, Ge 14:7. At a later period, they spread themselves out over all the mountainous country which forms the southeastern part of Canaan, and which was called from them the "mountain of the Amorites," and afterwards the "mountain of Judea,"

De 1:19-20; Nu 13:29; Jos 11:3. On the east side of the Jordan also they had, before the time of Moses, founded two kingdoms, that of Bashan in the north, and another, bounded at first by the Jabbok, in the south. But under Sihon they crossed the Jabbok, and took from the Ammonites and Moabites all the country between the Jabbok and the Arnon; so that this latter stream now became the southern boundary of the Amorites, Nu 21:13-14,16,26; 32:33,39; De 4:46-47; 31:4. This last tract the Israelites took possession of after their victory over Sihon. See AMORITES.

6. The HITTITES, or children of Heth, according to the report of the spies, Nu 1:29, dwelt among the Amorites in the mountainous district of the south, afterwards called the "mountain of Judah." In the time of Abraham they possessed Hebron; and the patriarch purchased from them the cave of Machpelah as a sepulchre, Ge 23; 25:9-10. After the Israelites entered Canaan, the Hittites seem to have moved farther northward. The country around Bethel is called "the land of the Hittites,"

Jg 1:26. See HITTITES.

7. The PERIZZITES were found in various parts of Canaan. The name signifies inhabitants of the plains, from their original abode. According to Ge 13:7, they dwelt with the Canaanites, between Bethel and Ai; and according to Ge 34:30, in the vicinity of Shechem. See PERIZZITES.

Besides these seven tribes, there were several others of the same parentage, dwelling north of Canaan. These were the Arkites, Arvadites, Hamathites, and Zemarites. There were also several other tribes of diverse origin within the bounds of Canaan, destroyed by the Israelites; such as the Anakim, the Amalekites, and the Rephaim of giants.

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the descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham. Migrating from their original home, they seem to have reached the Persian Gulf, and to have there sojourned for some time. They thence "spread to the west, across the mountain chain of Lebanon to the very edge of the Mediterranean Sea, occupying all the land which later became Palestine, also to the north-west as far as the mountain chain of Taurus. This group was very numerous, and broken up into a great many peoples, as we can judge from the list of nations (Ge 10), the 'sons of Canaan.'" Six different tribes are mentioned in Ex 3:8,17; 23:23; 33:2; 34:11. In Ex 13:5 the "Perizzites" are omitted. The "Girgashites" are mentioned in addition to the foregoing in De 7:1; Jos 3:10.

The "Canaanites," as distinguished from the Amalekites, the Anakim, and the Rephaim, were "dwellers in the lowlands" (Nu 13:29), the great plains and valleys, the richest and most important parts of Palestine. Tyre and Sidon, their famous cities, were the centres of great commercial activity; and hence the name "Canaanite" came to signify a "trader" or "merchant" (Job 41:6; Pr 31:24, lit. "Canaanites;" comp. Zep 1:11; Eze 17:4). The name "Canaanite" is also sometimes used to designate the non-Israelite inhabitants of the land in general (Ge 12:6; Nu 21:3; Jg 1:10).

The Israelites, when they were led to the Promised Land, were commanded utterly to destroy the descendants of Canaan then possessing it (Ex 23:23; Nu 33:52-53; De 20:16-17). This was to be done "by little and little," lest the beasts of the field should increase (Ex 23:29; De 7:22-23). The history of these wars of conquest is given in the Book of Joshua. The extermination of these tribes, however, was never fully carried out. Jerusalem was not taken till the time of David (2Sa 5:6-7). In the days of Solomon bond-service was exacted from the fragments of the tribes still remaining in the land (1Ki 9:20-21). Even after the return from captivity survivors of five of the Canaanitish tribes were still found in the land.

In the Tell-el-Amarna tablets Canaan is found under the forms of Kinakhna and Kinakhkhi. Under the name of Kanana the Canaanites appear on Egyptian monuments, wearing a coat of mail and helmet, and distinguished by the use of spear and javelin and the battle-axe. They were called Phoenicians by the Greeks and Poeni by the Romans. By race the Canaanites were Semitic. They were famous as merchants and seamen, as well as for their artistic skill. The chief object of their worship was the sun-god, who was addressed by the general name of Baal, "lord." Each locality had its special Baal, and the various local Baals were summed up under the name of Baalim, "lords."

Illustration: Types of the Ancient Races of Canaan

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A name given in the Jahwist document to the pre-Israelitish inhabitants of Palestine (e.g. Ge 24:3-7; 38:2; Ex 3:8,17; 13:5,11; 3/type/asv'>Nu 14:43,45; 21:1,3; Jg 1:1,5,17,23,29-30,33).

In this usage the Priestly Narrative document concurs, though the Elohist document generally calls them 'Amorites' (wh. see). The Elohist document (Nu 13:29) says that the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and the Amorites in the mountains. All the writers unite in calling Palestine the land of Canaan. Opinions differ as to whether the people were named from the land or the land from the people. The earliest usage in the el-Amarna tablets (where it is called Kina??i and Kina?ni) and in the Egyptian inscriptions of the XlXth dynasty, seems to confine the name to the low land of the coast (cf. IB Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek v. 50.41, 151.50; and M

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CANAANITES, the posterity of Canaan by his eleven sons, who are supposed to have settled in the land of Canaan, soon after the dispersion of Babel. Five of these are known to have dwelt in the land of Canaan; viz. Heth, Jebus, Hemor or Amor, Girgashi, and Hevi or Hivi; and these, together with their father Canaan, became the heads of so many nations. Sina or Sini was another son of Canaan, whose settlement is not so precisely ascertained; but some authors infer, from the affinity of the names, that the Desert of Sin, and Mount Sinai, were the places of his abode, and that they were so called from him. The Hittites inhabited the country about Hebron, as far as Beersheba, and the brook Besor, reckoned by Moses the southern limits of Canaan. The Jebusites dwelt near them on the north, as far as the city of Jebus, since called Jerusalem. The Amorites possessed the country on the east side of Jordan, between the river Arnon on the south-east, and Mount Gilead on the north, afterwards the lot of Reuben and Gad. The Girgashites lay next above the Amorites, on the east side of the Sea of Tiberias, and their land was afterward possessed by the half tribe of Manasseh. The Hivites dwelt northward, under Mount Libanus. The Perizzites, who make one of the seven nations of the Canaanites, are supposed, by Heylin and others, to be the descendants of Sina or Sini; and it is probable, since we do not read of their abode in cities, that they lived dispersed, and in tents, like the Sycthians, roving on both sides of the Jordan, on the hills and plains; and that they were called by that name from the Hebrew pharatz, which signifies "to disperse." The Canaanites dwelt in the midst of all, and were surrounded by the rest. This appears from the sacred writings to have been the respective situation of those seven nations, which are said to have been doomed to destruction for their idolatry and wickedness, when the Israelites first invaded their country. The learned have not absolutely determined whether the nations proceeding from Canaan's other six sons should be reckoned among the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. The prevalent opinion is, that they were not included. As to the customs, manners, arts, sciences, and language of the seven nations that inhabited the land of Canaan, they must, from the situation they severally occupied, have been very different. Those who inhabited the sea coast were merchants, and by reason of their commerce and wealth, scattered colonies over almost all the islands and maritime provinces of the Mediterranean. (See Phenicia.) The colonies which Cadmus carried to Thebes in Baeotia, and his brother Cilix into Cilicia, are said to have proceeded from the stock of Canaan. Sicily, Sardinia, Malta, Cyprus, Corfu, Majorca, Minorca, Gades, and Ebutris, are supposed to have been peopled by the Canaanites. The other Canaanites, whose situation was inland, were employed partly in pasturage, and partly in tillage, and they were also well skilled in the exercise of arms. Those who dwelt in the walled cities, and who had fixed abodes, cultivated the land; and those who wandered about, as the Perizzites seem to have done, grazed cattle: so that among the Canaanites, we discover the various classes of merchants, and, consequently, mariners; of artificers, soldiers, shepherds, and husbandmen. We learn, also, from their history, that they were all ready, however diversified by their occupations or local interests, to join in a common cause; that they were well appointed for war, both offensive and defensive; that their towns were well fortified; that they were sufficiently furnished with military weapons and warlike chariots; that they were daring, obstinate, and almost invincible; and that they were not destitute of craft and policy. Their language, we find, was well understood by Abraham, who was a Hebrew, for he conversed readily with them on all occasions; but as to their mode of writing, whether it was originally their own or borrowed from the Israelites, it is not so easy to determine. Their religion, at least in part, seems to have been preserved pure till the days of Abraham, who acknowledged Melchisedek to be priest of the most high God; and Melchisedek was, without doubt, a Canaanite, or, at least, dwelt at that time in Canaan in high esteem and veneration.

2. But we learn from the Scripture history, that the Hittites in particular were become degenerate in the time of Isaac and Rebekah; for they could not endure the thoughts of Jacob's marrying one of the daughters of Heth, as Esau had done. From this time, then, we may date the prevalence of those abominations which subjected them to the divine displeasure, and made them unworthy of the land which they possessed. In the days of Moses, they were become incorrigible idolaters; for he commands his people to destroy their altars, and break down their images, (statues or pillars,) and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire. And lest they should pervert the Israelites, the latter were strictly enjoined not to intermarry with them; but "to smite them, and utterly destroy them, nor show mercy upon them," De 7:1-5. They are accused of the cruel custom of sacrificing men, and are said to have made their seed pass through the fire to Moloch, Le 18:21. Their morals were as corrupt as their doctrine: adultery, bestiality of all sorts, profanation, incest, and all manner of uncleanness, are the sins laid to their charge. "The Canaanites," says Mr. Bryant, "as they were a sister tribe of the Mizraim, resembled them in their rites and religion. They held a heifer, or cow, in high veneration, agreeably to the customs of Egypt. Their chief deity was the sun, whom they worshipped, together with the Baalim, under the titles of Ourchol, Adonis, or Thamuz."

3. When the measure of the idolatries and abominations of the Canaanites was filled up, God delivered their country into the hands of the Israelites, who conquered it under Joshua. However, they resisted with obstinate valour, and kept Joshua employed six years from the time of his passing the river Jordan, and entering Canaan, in the year B.C. 1451, to the year B.C. 1445, the sabbatical year beginning from the autumnal equinox; when he made a division of the land among the tribes of Israel, and rested from his conquests. As God had commanded this people, long before, to be treated with rigour, see De 7:2, Joshua extirpated great numbers, and obliged the rest to fly, some of them into Africa, and others into Greece. Procopius says, they first retreated into Egypt, but advanced into Africa, where they built many cities, and spread themselves over those vast regions which reach to the straits, preserving their old language with little alteration. In the time of Athanasius, the Africans still said they were descended from the Canaanites; and when asked their origin, they answered, "Canani." It is agreed, that the Punic tongue was nearly the same as the Canaanitish or Hebrew.

4. On the rigorous treatment of the nations of Canaan by the Israelites, to which infidels have taken so many exceptions, the following remarks of Paley are a sufficient reply: The first thing to be observed is, that the nations of Canaan were destroyed for their wickedness. This is plain from Le 18:24, &c. Now the facts disclosed in this passage sufficiently testify, that the Canaanites were a wicked people; that detestable practices were general among them, and even habitual; that it was for these enormities the nations of Canaan were destroyed. It was not, as some have imagined, to make way for the Israelites; nor was it simply to make away with their idolatry; but it was because of the abominable crimes which usually accompanied the latter. And we may farther learn from the passage, that God's abhorrence of these crimes, and his indignation against them, are regulated by the rules of strict impartiality, since Moses solemnly warns the Israelites against falling into the like wicked courses, "that the land," says he, "cast not you out also, when you defile it, as it cast out the nations that were before you; for whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that

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