Easton's Bible Dictionary
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 ( Genesis
10 ), the 'sons of Canaan.'" Six different tribes are mentioned in Exodus
34:11 . In Exodus
13:5 the "Perizzites" are omitted. The "Girgashites" are mentioned in addition
to the foregoing in Deuteronomy
7:1 ; Joshua
The "Canaanites," as distinguished from the Amalekites, the Anakim, and the Rephaim,
were "dwellers in the lowlands" ( Numbers
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"
41:6 ; Proverbs
31:24 , lit. "Canaanites;" Compare Zephaniah
1:11 ; Ezekiel
17:4 ). The name "Canaanite" is also sometimes used to designate the non-Israelite
inhabitants of the land in general ( Genesis
12:6 ; Numbers
21:3 ; Judges
The Israelites, when they were led to the Promised Land, were commanded utterly
to destroy the descendants of Canaan then possessing it ( Exodus
23:23 ; Numbers
33:53 ; Deuteronomy
20:17 ). This was to be done "by little and little," lest the beasts of the
field should increase ( Exodus
23:29 ; Deuteronomy
7:23 ). 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 ( 2
Samuel 5:6 ,
5:7 ). In the days of Solomon bond-service was exacted from the fragments
of the tribes still remaining in the land ( 1
Kings 9:20 ,
9:21 ). 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."
Hitchcock's Dictionary of Bible Names
Smith's Bible Dictionary
a word used in two senses:
(1) A tribe which inhabited a particular locality of the land west of the Jordan
before the conquest; and (2) The people who inhabited generally the whole of that
In ( Genesis
10:18 - 20
) the seats of the Canaanite tribe are given as on the seashore and in the Jordan
valley; comp. ( Joshua
(2) Applied as a general name to the non-Israelite inhabitants of the land, as
we have already seen was the case with "Canaan." Instances of this are, ( Genesis
12:6 ; Numbers
21:3 ) The Canaanites were descendants of Canaan. Their language was very
similar to the Hebrew. The Canaanites were probably given to commerce; and thus
the name became probably in later times an occasional synonym for a merchant.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
ka'-nan, ka'-nan-its (kena'an; Chanaan):
Canaan is stated in Genesis 10:6 to have been a son of Ham and brother of Mizraim,
or Egypt. This indicates the Mosaic period when the conquerors of the XVIIIth
and XIXth Egyptian Dynasties made Canaan for a time a province of the Egyptian
empire. Under the Pharaoh Meneptah, at the time of the Exodus, it ceased to be
connected with Egypt, and the Egyptian garrisons in the South of the country were
expelled by the Philistines, who probably made themselves masters of the larger
portion of it, thus causing the name of Philistia or Palestine to become synonymous
with that of Canaan (see Zechariah 2:5). In the Tell el-Amarna Letters, Canaan
is written Kinakhna and Kinakhkhi. The latter form corresponds with the Greek
(Chna), a name given to Phoenicia (Hecat. Fragments 254; Eusebius, praep. Ev.,
In Numbers 13:29 the Canaanites are described as dwelling "by the sea, and along
by the side of the Jordan," i.e. in the lowlands of Palestine. The name was confined
to the country West of the Jordan (Numbers 33:51 ; Joshua 22:9), and was especially
applied to Phoenicia (Isaiah 23:11; compare Matthew 15:22). Hence, Sidon is called
the "firstborn" of Canaan (Genesis 10:15, though compare Judges 3:3), and the
Septuagint translates "Canaanites" by "Phoenicians" and "Canaan" by the "land
of the Phoenicians" (Exodus 16:35 ; Joshua 5:12). Kinakhkhi is used in the same
restricted sense in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, but it is also extended so as
to include Palestine generally. On the other hand, on the Egyptian monuments Seti
I calls a town in the extreme South of Palestine "the city of Pa-Kana'na" or "the
Canaan," which Conder identifies with the modern Khurbet Kenan near Hebron. As
in the Tell el-Amarna Letters, so in the Old Testament, Canaan is used in an extended
sense to denote the whole of Palestine West of the Jordan (Genesis 12:5 ; 23:2
,19 ; 28:1 ; 31:18 ; 35:6 ; 36:2 ; 37:1 ; 48:7 ; Exodus 15:15 ; Numbers 13:2 ;
Joshua 14:1 ; 21:2 ; Psalms 135:11). Thus, Jerusalem which had Amorite and Hittite
founders is stated to be of "the land of the Canaanite" (Ezekiel 16:3), and Isaiah
19:18 terms Hebrew, which was shared by the Israelites with the Phoenicians and,
apparently, also the Amorites, "the language of Caaan." Jabin is called "the king
of Canaan" in Judges 4:2 , 23 , 24; but whether the name is employed here in a
restricted or extended sense is uncertain.
2. Meaning of the Name:
As the Phoenicians were famous as traders, it has been supposed that the name
"Canaanite" is a synonym of "merchant" in certain passages of the Old Testament.
The pursuit of trade, however, was characteristic only of the maritime cities
of Phoenicia, not of the Canaanitish towns conquered the Israelites. In Isaiah
23:11 we should translate "Canaan" (as the Septuagint) instead of "merchant city"
(the King James Version); in Hosea 12:7 (8), "as, for Canaan" (Septuagint), instead
of "he is a merchant" (the King James Version); in Zechariah 1:11, "people of
Canaan" (Septuagint), instead of "merchant people" (the King James Version); on
the other hand, "Canaanite" seems to have acquired the sense of "merchant," as
"Chaldean" did of "astrologer," in Isaiah 23:8, and Proverbs 3:1:24, though probably
not in Zechariah 14:21, and Job 41:6 (Hebrew 40:30).
3. The Results of Recent Excavation:
Much light has been thrown upon the history of Canaan prior to the Israelite occupation
by recent excavation, supplemented by the monuments of Babylonia and Egypt. The
Palestine Exploration led the way by its excavations in 1890-92 at Tell el-Hesy,
which turned out to be the site of Lachish, first under Professor Flinders Petrie
and then under Dr. Bliss. Professor Petrie laid the foundations of Palestine archaeology
by fixing the chronological sequence of the Lachish pottery, and tracing the remains
of six successive cities, the fourth of which was that founded by the Israelites.
Between it and the preceding city was a layer of ashes, marking the period when
the town lay desolate and uninhabited. The excavations at Lachish were followed
by others at Tell es-Safi, the supposed site of Gath; at Tell Sandahanna, the
ancient Marissa, a mile South of Bet Jibrin, where interesting relics of the Greek
period were found, and at Jerusalem, where an attempt was made to trace the city
walls. Next to Lachish, the most fruitful excavations have been at Gezer, which
has been explored by Mr. Macalister with scientific thoroughness and skill, and
where a large necropolis has been discovered as well as the remains of seven successive
settlements, the last of which comes down to the Seleucid era, the third corresponding
with the first settlement at Lachish. The two first settlements go back to the
neolithic age. With the third the Semitic or "Amorite" period of Canaan begins;
bronze makes its appearance; high-places formed of monoliths are erected, and
inhumation of the dead is introduced, while the cities are surrounded with great
walls of stone. While Mr. Macalister has been working at Gezer, German and Austrian
expeditions under Dr. Schumacher have been excavating at Tell em-Mutesellim, the
site of Megiddo, and under Dr. Sellin first at Tell Taanak, the ancient Taanach,
and then at Jericho. At Taanach cuneiform tablets of the Mosaic age were found
in the house of the governor of the town; at Samaria and Gezer cuneiform tablets
have also been found, but they belong to the late Assyrian and Babylonian periods.
At Jericho, on the fiat roof of a house adjoining the wall of the Canaanitish
city, destroyed by the Israelites, a number of clay tablets were discovered laid
out to dry before being inscribed with cuneiform characters. Before the letters
were written and dispatched, however, the town, it seems, was captured and burnt.
An American expedition, under Dr. Reisner, is now exploring Sebastiyeh (Samaria),
where the ruins of Ahab's palace, with early Hebrew inscriptions, have been brought
to light, as well as a great city wall built in the age of Nebuchadrezzar.
(1) Stone Age.
The history of Canaan begins with the paleolithic age, paleolithic implements
having been found in the lowlands. Our first knowledge of its population dates
from the neolithic period. The neolithic inhabitants of Gezer were of short stature
(about 5 ft. 4 inches in height), and lived in caves--at least in the time of
the first prehistoric settlement--and burned their dead. Their sacred place was
a double cave with which cup-marks in the rock were connected, and their pottery
was rude; some of it was ornamented with streaks of red or black on a yellow or
red wash. In the time of the second settlement a rude stone wall was built around
the town. The debris of the two neolithic settlements is as much as 12 ft. in
depth, implying a long period of accumulation.
(2) Bronze Age.
The neolithic population was succeeded by one of Semitic type, which introduced
the use of metal, and buried its dead. The name of Amorite has been given to it,
this being the name under which the Semitic population of Canaan was known to
the Babylonians. Gezer was surrounded by a great wall of stone intersected by
brick towers; at Lachish the Amorite wall was of crude brick, nearly 29 ft. in
thickness (compare Deuteronomy 1:28). A "high-place" was erected at Gezer consisting
of 9 monoliths, running from North to South, and surrounded by a platform of large
stones. The second monolith has been polished by the kisses of the worshippers;
the seventh was brought from a distance. Under the pavement of the sanctuary lay
the bones of children, more rarely of adults, who had been sacrificed and sometimes
burnt, and the remains deposited in jars. Similar evidences of human sacrifice
were met with under the walls of houses both here and at Taanach and Megiddo.
In the Israelite strata the food-bowl and lamp for lighting the dead in the other
world are retained, but all trace of human sacrifice is gone. At Lachish in Israelite
times the bowl and lamp were filled with sand. The second "Amorite" city at Gezer
had a long existence. The high-place was enlarged, and an Egyptian of the age
of the XIIth Dynasty was buried within its precincts. Egyptian scarabs of the
XIIth and XIIIth Dynasties are now met with; these give place to scarabs of the
Hyksos period, and finally to those of the XVIIIth Dynasty (1600 BC). Hittite
painted pottery of Cappadocian type is also found in the later debris of the city
as well as seal-cylinders of the Babylonian pattern.
(3) A Babylonian Province.
Meanwhile Canaan had for a time formed part of the Babylonian empire. Gudea, viceroy
of Lagas under the kings of the Dynasty of Ur (2500 BC), had brought "limestone"
from the "land of the Amorites," alabaster from Mt. Lebanon, cedar-beams from
Amanus, and golddust from the desert between Palestine and Egypt. A cadastral
survey was drawn up about the same time by Uru-malik, "the governor of the land
of the Amorites," the name by which Syria and Canaan were known to the Babylonians,
and colonies of "Amorites" engaged in trade were settled in the cities of Babylonia.
After the fall of the Dynasty of Ur, Babylonia was itself conquered by the Amorites
who founded the dynasty to which Khammurabi, the Amraphel of Genesis 14:1, belonged
(see HAMMURABI). In an inscription found near Diarbekir the only title given to
Khammu-rabi is "king of the land of the Amorites." Babylonian now became the official,
literary and commercial language of Canaan, and schools were established there
in which the cuneiform script was taught. Canaanitish culture became wholly Babylonian;
even its theology and gods were derived from Babylonia. The famous legal code
of Khammu-rabi (see HAMMURABI, CODE OF) was enforced in Canaan as in other parts
of the empire, and traces of its provisions are found in Gen. Abram's adoption
of his slave Eliezer, Sarai's conduct to Hagar, and Rebekah's receipt of a dowry
from the father of the bridegroom are examples of this. So, too, the sale of the
cave of Machpelah was in accordance with the Babylonian legal forms of the Khammu-rabi
age. The petty kings of Canaan paid tribute to their Babylonian suzerain, and
Babylonian officials and "commerical travelers" (damgari) frequented the country.
(4) Jerusalem Founded.
We must ascribe to this period the foundation of Jerusalem, which bears a Babylonian
name (Uru-Salim, "the city of Salim"), and commanded the road to the naphtha springs
of the Dead-Sea. Bitumen was one of the most important articles of Babylonian
trade on account of its employment for building and lighting purposes, and seems
to have been a government monopoly. Hence, the rebellion of the Canaanitish princes
in the naphtha district (Genesis 14) was sufficiently serious to require a considerable
force for its suppression.
(5) The Hyksos.
The Amorite dynasty in Babylonia was overthrown by a Hittite invasion, and Babylonian
authority in Canaan came to an end, though the influence of Babylonian culture
continued undiminished. In the North the Hittites were dominant; in the South,
where Egyptian influence had been powerful since the age of the XIIth Dynasty,
the Hyksos conquest of Egypt united Palestine with the Delta. The Hyksos kings
bear Canaanitish names, and their invasion of Egypt probably formed part of that
general movement which led to the establishment of an "Amorite" dynasty in Babylonia.
Egypt now became an appanage of Canaan, with its capital, accordingly, near its
Asiatic frontier. One of the Hyksos kings bears the characteristically Canaanitish
name of Jacob-el, written in the same way as on Babylonian tablets of the age
of Khammu-rabi, and a place of the same name is mentioned by Thothmes III as existing
in southern Palestine
(6) Egyptian Conquest.
The Pharaohs of the XVIIIth Dynasty expelled the Hyksos and conquered Palestine
and Syria. For about 200 years Canaan was an Egyptian province. With the Egyptian
conquest the history of the second Amorite city at Gezer comes to an end. The
old wall was partially destroyed, doubtless by Thothmes III (about 1480 BC). A
third Amorite city now grew up, with a larger and stronger wall, 14 ft. thick.
The houses built on the site of the towers of the first wall were filled with
scarabs and other relics of the reign of Amon-hotep III (1440 BC). At Lachish
the ruins of the third city were full of similar remains, and among them was a
cuneiform tablet referring to a governor of Lachish mentioned in the Tell el-Amarna
Letters. At Taanach cuneiform tablets of the same age have been discovered, written
by Canaanites to one another but all in the Babylonian script and language.
(7) Tell el-Amarna Tablets.
In the Tell el-Amarna Letters we have a picture of Canaan at the moment when the
Asiatic empire of Egypt was breaking up through the religious and social troubles
that marked the reign of Amon-hotep IV. The Hittites were attacking it in the
North; in the South of Canaan the Khabiri or "confederate" bands of free-lances
were acquiring principalities for themselves. The petty kings and governors had
foreign troops in their pay with which they fought one against the other; and
their mercenaries readily transferred their allegiance from one paymaster to another,
or seized the city they were engaged to defend. Hittites, Mitannians from Mesopotamia,
and other foreigners appear as governors of the towns; the Egyptian government
was too weak to depose them and was content if they professed themselves loyal.
At times the Canaanitish princes intrigued with the Assyrians against their Egyptian
masters; at other times with the Mitannians of "Aram-Naharaim" or the Hittites
of Cappadocia. The troops sent by the Egyptian Pharaoh were insufficient to suppress
the rebellion, and the authority of the Egyptian commissioners grew less and less.
Eventually the king of the Amorites was compelled to pass openly over to the Hittite
king, and Canaan was lost to the Pharaohs.
5. The Israelite Invasion:
Gaza and the neighboring towns, however, still remained in their hands, and with
the recovery of Egyptian power under the XIXth Dynasty allowed Seti I to march
once more into Canaan and reduce it again to subjection. In spite of Hittite attacks
the country on both sides of the Jordan acknowledged the rule of Seti and his
son Ramses II, and in the 21st year of the latter Pharaoh the long war with the
Hittites came to an end, a treaty being made which fixed the Egyptian frontier
pretty much where the Israelite frontier afterward ran. A work, known as The Travels
of the Mohar, which satirizes the misadventures of a tourist in Canaan, gives
a picture of Canaan in the days of Ramses II. With the death of Ramses II Egyptian
rule in Palestine came finally to an end. The Philistines drove the Egyptian garrisons
from the cities which commanded the military road through Canaan, and the long
war with the Hittites exhausted the inland towns, so that they made but a feeble
resistance to the Israelites who assailed them shortly afterward. The Egyptians,
however, never relinquished their claim to be masters of Canaan, and when the
Philistines power had been overthrown by David we find the Egyptian king again
marching northward and capturing Gezer (1 Kings 9:16). Meanwhile the counry had
become to a large extent Israelite. In the earlier days of the Israelite invasion
the Canaanitish towns had been destroyed and the people massacred; later the two
peoples intermarried, and a mixed race was the result. The portraits accompanying
the names of the places taken by Shishak in southern Palestine have Amorite features,
and the modern fellahin of Palestine are Canaanite rather than Jewish in type.
Canaanitish culture was based on that of Babylonia, and begins with the introduction
of the use of copper and bronze. When Canaan became a Babylonian province, it
naturally shared in the civilization of the ruling power. The religious beliefs
and deities of Babylonia were superimposed upon those of the primitive Canaanite.
The local Baal or "lord" of the soil made way for the "lord of heaven," the Sun-god
of the Babylonians. The "high-place" gradually became a temple built after a Babylonian
fashion. The sacred stone, once the supreme object of Canaanitish worship, was
transformed into a Beth-el or shrine of an indwelling god. The gods and goddesses
of Babylonia migrated to Canaan; places received their names from Nebo or Nin-ip;
Hadad became Amurru "the Amorite god"; Ishtar passed into Ashtoreth, and Asirtu,
the female counterpart of Asir, the national god of Assyria, became Asherah, while
her sanctuary, which in Assyria was a temple, was identified in Canaan with the
old fetish of an upright stone or log. But human sacrifice, and more especially
the sacrifice of the firstborn son, of which we find few traces in Babylonia,
continued to be practiced with undiminished frequency until, as we learn from
the excavations, the Israelite conquest brought about its suppression. The human
victim is also absent from the later sacrificial tariffs of Carthage and Marseilles,
its place being taken in them by the ram. According to these tariffs the sacrifices
and offerings were of two kinds, the zau'at or sin offering and the shelem or
thank-offering. The sin offering was given wholly to the god; part of the thank-offering
would be taken by the offerer. Birds which were not allowed as a sin offering
might constitute a thank-offering. Besides the sacrifices, there were also offerings
of corn, wine, fruit and oil.
What primitive Canaanitish art was like may be seen from the rude sculptures in
the Wadi el-Kana near Tyre. Under Babylonian influence it rapidly developed. Among
the Canaanite spoil captured by Thothmes III were tables, chairs and staves of
cedar and ebony inlaid with gold or simply gilded, richly embroidered robes, chariots
chased with silver, iron tent poles studded with precious stones, "bowls with
goats' heads on them, and one with a lion's head, the workmanship of the land
of Zahi" (the Phoenician coast), iron armor with gold inlay, and rings of gold
and silver that were used as money. At Taanach, gold and silver ornaments have
been found of high artistic merit. To the Israelites, fresh from the desert, the
life of the wealthy Canaanite would have appeared luxurious in the extreme.
The position of Canaan made it the meeting-place of the commercial routes of the
ancient world. The fleets of the Phoenician cities are celebrated in the Tell
el-Amarna Letters, and it is probable that they were already engaged in the purple
trade. The inland towns of Canaan depended not only on agriculture but also on
a carrying trade: caravans as well as "commercial travelers" (damgari) came to
them from Cappadocia, Babylonia and Egypt. Bronze, silver, lead, and painted ware
were brought from Asia Minor, together with horses; naphtha was exported to Babylonia
in return for embroidered stuffs; copper came from Cyprus, richly chased vessels
of the precious metals from Crete and corn from Egypt. Baltic amber has been found
at Lachish, where a furnace with iron slag, discovered in the third Amorite city,
shows that the native iron was worked before the age of the Israelite conquest.
The manufacture of glass goes back to the same epoch. As far back as 2500 BC,
alabaster and limestone had been sent to Babylonia from the quarries of the Lebanon.
9. Art of Writing:
Long before the age of Abraham the Babylonian seal-cylinder had become known and
been imitated in Syria and Canaan. But it was not until Canaan had been made a
Babylonian province under the Khammu-rabi dynasty that the cuneiform system of
writing was introduced together with the Babylonian language and literature. Henceforward,
schools were established and libraries or archive-chambers formed where the foreign
language and its complicated syllabary could be taught and stored. In the Mosaic
age the Taanach tablets show that the inhabitants of a small country town could
correspond with one another on local matters in the foreign language and script,
and two of the Tell el-Amarna letters are from a Canaanitish lady. The official
notices of the name by which each year was known in Babylonia were sent to Canaan
as to other provinces of the Babylonian empire in the cuneiform script; one of
these, dated in the reign of Khammurabi's successor, has been found in the Lebanon.
H. Vincent, Canaan d'apres l'exploration recente, 1907; G. A. Smith, Historical
Geography of the Holy Land, 1894; Publications of the Palestine Exploration Fund;
E. Sellin, Tell Ta'annek and Eine Nachlese auf dem Tell Ta'annek, 1904-5; Schumacher,
Tell Mutesellim, 1909; Thiersch, Die neueren Ausgrabungen in Palestina, 1908.
A. H. Sayce
bible commentary, bible history, bible reference, bible study, canaan, canaanite, define, merchant, sidon, tribe, tyre