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Canaan was the name of a large and prosperous ancient country (at times independent, at others a tributary to Egypt) located in the Levant region of present-day Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel. It was also known as Phoenicia. The origin of the name 'Canaan' comes from various ancient texts and there is no scholarly consensus on precisely where the name originated nor what it meant.
According to the Bible, the land was named after a man called Canaan, the grandson of Noah (Genesis 10). Other theories cite 'Canaan' as derived from the Hurrian language for 'purple' and, as the Greeks knew the Canaanites as 'Phoenicians' (Greek for `purple') and as the Phoenicians worked in purple dye and so were called by the Greeks 'purple people', this explanation is the most probable. The theory has also been advanced that the name comes from the Hebrew root-verb kana which denotes order from chaos, a blending, or synchronous existence. Scholars J. Maxwell Miller and John H. Hayes claim no definitive meaning for the name citing ancient sources which used it simply as a place name:
The name 'Canaan' appears in various ancient texts from Egypt to Mesopotamia. In the Egyptian texts, Canaan seems to have been used as a designation for Egypt's Asiatic province. In the Bible, Canaan could refer to the whole of Palestine west of Jordan, the ideal inheritance of the Hebrews; but it could also refer to more restricted areas, especially the coastland of Palestine. Correspondingly, the biblical writers occasionally refer to the whole indigenous population of Palestine as `Canaanites' (thus interchangeably with 'Amorites'). On other occasions, they seem to distinguish the Canaanites and Amorites from other groups among the occupants of Palestine. (38)
The earliest habitation in the region was around the city of Jericho in the Paleolithic Age and this early rural community would then develop into the city which is the oldest urban center in the region (and, arguably, the world). Other cities developed during the Early Bronze Age but were abandoned, probably because of overpopulation, and the people returned to an agrarian lifestyle for a number of years. Cities again grew up during the Middle Bronze Age which saw the development of trade with other civilizations and, most notably, Egypt. Canaan (also referred to as Phoenicia at this time) continued to prosper until c. 1250 - c. 1150 BCE during the so-called Bronze Age Collapse. The biblical books of Joshua and Numbers attribute the destruction of Canaan to the Hebrew general Joshua and his conquest but this claim has been challenged by modern-day scholars.
Following the upheaval of c. 1150 BCE, however, the Hebrews (Israelites), to whom Joshua is said to have given the land, populated the region and established the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. These kingdoms lasted until the region was conquered in succession by the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, and the Roman Empire.
Culture & Religion
The indigenous people of the land of Canaan were never a unified ethnic group nor did they worship the same gods in the same way. The term 'Canaanites' is used to refer to people who lived in the land of Canaan but it is unknown whether these people all shared a common language or worldview. The Phoenicians, for example, were Canaanites but not all Canaanites were Phoenicians.
In religion, they worshipped many gods but, chief among them, the god El, the goddess Ashera (associated with Astarte) and her consort Baal, and Sumerian deities such as Utu-Shamash. Baal and Ashera are both considered initially vegetative/fertility deities who then took on more impressive attributes ascribed to Sumerian gods such as Enlil and Ninlil or Enki and Ninhursag. Other deities worshipped included a minor god named Yahweh who, according to recent scholarship, may have been the Canaanite god of metallurgy. Religious rites included human sacrifice (especially child sacrifice) in the understanding that the gods gave only the best to the people and so they should reciprocate by offering their best to the gods.
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There is no record of any king ruling a unified nation but only of men governing their own city-state & however much land around it they could hold.
Women could and did serve as priestesses, could own land, enter into contracts and initiate divorce, all of which mirrored the cultural values of Mesopotamia. Fertility cults were numerous and bread and grain offerings were made to Ashera and her various regional avatars for increased fertility and healthy children. Human sacrifice does not seem to have played any part in the fertility cults and, further, it is unknown under what conditions a community would sacrifice one of their own.
There is no record of any king ruling a unified nation but only of men governing their own city-state and however much land around it they could hold. Depending on the strength of a city's ruler, and that city's resources, a community would prosper or fail. By the 2nd millennium BCE, for example, Byblos was the great exporter of cedar from Mount Lebanon and of papyrus to Egypt and other nations and was able to thrive because of an efficient government administration and ample resources.
The region prospered through trade because of its location. It was the terminus, at Gaza, for the Incense Routes which wound up from the Kingdom of Saba in Arabia to then divide into diverse courses upwards throughout Mesopotamia and down through Egypt. It was also a nexus of trade between Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Libya. The Canaanite-Phoenicians were expert shipwrights and seamen and participated in trade directly, sharing their cultural values with other nationalities and importing other's values back to their own land.
The Canaanite-Phoenicians developed the first alphabetic writing system, further developed mathematical principles from Mesopotamia, were renowned in the ancient world for their skill in shipbuilding and navigating the seas, and have also been cited as the early source or inspiration for the mythology of the Greek gods. The alphabet, however, is considered their greatest achievement, as noted by scholar Marc van de Mieroop:
The role of the Phoenicians in the spread of the alphabet is their most renowned accomplishment. Having preserved the use of the script in the Dark Age after 1200, the Phoenicians inspired all the alphabetic writing systems of their neighbors. In the Near East, the Hebrew and Aramaic scripts derived from the Phoenician. Of major importance to Europe was the adoption of the Phoenician alphabet by the Greeks, either directly from Phoenicians or through intermediaries in Syria or Anatolia. The classical sources were clear about this debt: the Greeks called their letters Phoenician. (222)
The Canaanite-Phoenicians sailed across the sea as far away as Spain and as far north as modern-day Cornwall, England, and their cities grew, owing to their prosperous trade, into places of splendor and wealth. All of this came later, however, following their involvement in trade with other nations. In the beginning, the people of the land were nomads who most likely migrated to the region from Mesopotamia.
Human habitation was established in the region before 10,000 BCE, but the people led a nomadic existence with only seasonal settlements (such as the site of the later city of Jericho). During the Early Bronze Age (c. 3500 - c. 2000 BCE), however, permanent settlements were founded and the practice of animal husbandry, established earlier, was developed further. The people were primarily hunter-gatherers as the land proved largely inhospitable for agriculture. The Larousse Encyclopedia notes how Canaan was never favored by nature for the cultivation of crops:
The zone of the high hills between the Jordan and the coastal plain was dry and infertile. Many waves of people had, however, succeeded each other here. The hazards and uncertainties of growing crops explain why nomadism always prevailed in Canaan [at an early date]. (81)
These early people have been designated proto-Canaanites by modern-day scholars because they had not yet established an identifiable culture. They worked in stone but built no structures and had a religious belief system but what it consisted of is unknown. They developed trade with other nations, however, prior to 2000 BCE and the region was considered important enough to be absorbed into the Akkadian Empire by Sargon the Great (r. 2334-2279 BCE) around 2300 BCE.
During this time, urban centers arose and trade either increased or was initiated with other nations. The primary commodity seems to have been ceramics and assorted pottery. After the fall of Akkad to the Gutians, Elamites, and Amorites in c. 2083 BCE, this commerce stalled and the cities were abandoned. The people seem to have returned to a nomadic, agrarian, lifestyle for reasons which are unclear but, possibly, due to overuse of the resources around the cities and overpopulation.
Middle Bronze Age
During the Middle Bronze Age (c. 2000 - c. 1550 BCE), the people returned to city-building. Urbanization and trade flourished and an early version of the Phoenician alphabet was developed which would have a significant impact on other nations of the time and later history. At this time, however, cuneiform was still the written language of trade in the Near East and it has been established that Canaan developed especially strong contacts with the cities of Mesopotamia through trade agreements. Miller and Hayes note:
In terms of basic cultural patterns – language, literature, mythological and theological perspectives, and the like – there seems to have been a closer kinship with Mesopotamia than with Egypt. The closer geographical proximity of Egypt, on the other hand, meant that Egyptian influence, both political and cultural, was also a fairly constant feature. (33)
Trade had first been established between the Canaanite port city of Byblos and Egypt in c. 4000 BCE and, by 2000 BCE, Egypt was the region's most important business partner. Burial rituals in Canaan during the Middle Bronze Age mirrored both Egyptian burial and Mesopotamian tradition. The elite of the city-states were buried with elaborate grave goods in caves or tombs while infants and young children were buried in the home beneath the floor (a Mesopotamian practice). Archaeological and literary evidence shows that the city of Byblos grew especially wealthy through trade with Egypt but all of the city-states benefited from the arrangement.
Commerce between the nation of Egypt and the city-states of Canaan was interrupted by the arrival of the Semitic peoples known as the Hyksos in c. 1725 BCE. The identity of the Hyksos is still debated but they would establish trading colonies from Canaan in Lower Egypt and, ultimately, control that region until they were driven out by the Egyptian prince Ahmose I of Thebes in 1570 BCE.
The Middle Bronze Age is routinely acknowledged by scholars as a “golden age” for Canaan due to its prosperity.
Ahmose I pushed the Hyksos out of Egypt and pursued them through Canaan and up to Syria, leaving a swath of destruction in his wake. It seems, based on archaeological evidence and literary references of the time, that the Hyksos may have taken a stand at various Canaanite city-states during their flight, and Ahmose I was forced to reduce these by force. Prior to Ahmose I's purge of the Hyksos, Canaanite city-states were walled and well-fortified but evidence suggests widespread destruction around this time and later rebuilding.
Late Bronze Age
Ahmose I, in an effort to make sure no other foreign people ever gained a foothold in Egypt as the Hyksos had, created a buffer zone around his country and this initiated the age of the Egyptian Empire (c. 1570 - c. 1069 BCE). Canaan was absorbed into the empire following Ahmose I's return from subduing the Hyksos in Syria. Although the Middle Bronze Age is routinely acknowledged by scholars as a “golden age” for Canaan due to its prosperity, the region also flourished under the Egyptian Empire in the early stages of the Late Bronze Age (c. 1550-c.1200 BCE).
Great Egyptian monarchs such as Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE), Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE), Amenhotep III (1386-1353 BCE), and Ramesses the Great (1279-1213 BCE), to name only a few, all enriched the city-states of Canaan through trade and/or engaged in building projects in the region. Even so, during the reign of Thutmose III, the peace of the region was threatened by a diverse group of people referred to as the Habiru (also Abiru) who seem to have been a loose coalition of landless, nomadic outlaws. Although some scholars in the past have attempted to link the identity of the Habiru to the Hebrews, this claim has been rejected and it is now generally accepted that the Hebrews came to the region later.
Beginning in c. 1300 BCE, the entire region of the Near East was in turmoil as Assyrian, Hittite, and Egyptian rulers sought to control trade routes and conquer – or hold – territories. Around 1250 BCE some catastrophic event struck Canaan, demolishing cities and dislocating the populace, which the Bible attributes to an invasion led by the Israelite general Joshua (Book of Joshua and Book of Numbers). Although there is evidence of upheaval in the land, the archaeological evidence does not evenly match up with the biblical narrative and historians are generally cautious in accepting the conquest as historical fact. Even so, elements of the narratives of the biblical books are considered plausible in that some great upheaval occurred in the region c. 1150 BCE, aspects of which are interpreted as consistent with a military invasion.
The Biblical Narrative
According to the biblical narrative in the Book of Exodus, the patriarch Moses led his people, the Israelites, out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt and toward the 'promised land' of Canaan where their god had promised them they would live in peace in a "land flowing with milk and honey." The Book of Joshua, following the Exodus narrative, tells of the campaigns of the Israelite General Joshua in the land of Canaan subduing the populace with the help, and by command of, his god, most famously destroying the city of Jericho. Following the conquest, the land was divided among Joshua's people and, in time, the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were established.
Moses had been directed to lead his people to Canaan because, again according to the Bible, that had been their homeland prior to their move to Egypt. Abraham, the Patriarch had brought his tribe there, according to the Book of Genesis, from the region of Ur in Mesopotamia and, through his son Isaac and grandson Jacob (also known as Israel), established his people and developed a culture distinct from that of the Canaanites.
Jacob's youngest son Joseph, though a series of dramatic events, was imprisoned in Egypt but freed owing to his ability to rightly interpret the pharaoh's dreams and came to hold a position of power. He saved Egypt and the surrounding regions from famine through careful planting and storage of grain during the years when there was plenty and Jacob and his tribe came to Egypt for food. Afterwards, they stayed until, according to the Book of Exodus, they became “too plentiful” and, fearing their strength in numbers, the Egyptians enslaved them.
When the god of the Israelites freed them through the Ten Plagues orchestrated by Moses, they were to return to their homeland. The Bible then narrates the conquest and depopulation of the region as Joshua, dutifully following the dictates of his god Yahweh, emerges victorious and again establishes the Israelites in the land.
Israel & Judah
As noted, scholars date the invasion of the Israelites to about 1250 BCE and archaeological excavations in the region have confirmed some kind of disturbance in the region between c. 1250 and c. 1150 BCE which resulted in the destruction of Canaanite towns and cities. These ruins, however, do not always match the descriptions given in the Book of Joshua and, further, the Canaanites are regularly depicted as a unified people in the narrative when, actually, they were not.
Even so, the destruction of the cities and the absence of further development of the culture, indicate that some catastrophic event, or series of events, impacted the people of Canaan significantly. The time period in which General Joshua allegedly conquered the land of Canaan corresponds with a period of general upheaval in the ancient world from the destruction of Troy by the Achaeans to the fall of the Hittite Empire, the ruin of the great city of Ugarit and the harassment of coastal towns by the mysterious Sea Peoples. Whatever the cause, by c.1080 BCE, the Kingdom of Israel had been established with Saul (c. 1080-1010 BCE) as king.
Saul was followed by King David (c. 1035-970 BCE) and his son Solomon (c. 965-931 BCE) and, following Solomon's death, the kingdom split in two with Israel as the northern state and Judah the southern. In an effort to consolidate power in the region and unify their people, these kings (according to the Bible) emphasized belief in a single deity, Yahweh, creator of heaven and earth, and so initiated monotheistic belief in Canaan. Scholars continue to debate whether monotheism was the construct of the Jews of the United Monarchy of Israel or initiated by the so-called “heretic king” Akhenaten of Egypt (1353-1336 BCE). Sigmund Freud has famously advanced the theory that Moses was a priest of Akhenaten who brought Egyptian monotheism to Canaan following the exodus.
Israel was destroyed in the Assyrian invasion of 722 BCE after which, in keeping with Assyrian policy, the population was relocated to cities in Mesopotamia and other people brought to replace them in the region. The Assyrian Empire fell to a coalition led by Babylonians and Medes in 612 BCE and, afterwards, Judah was attacked by the Babylonians who sacked their capital city of Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Further military incursions by the Babylonians between 589-582 BCE destroyed the rest of the southern kingdom.
The Babylonians, in their turn, were conquered by the Persians under Cyrus the Great (d. 530 BCE) who allowed the Jews to return to their homeland in 538 BCE. There, during the era known as the Second Temple Period (c. 515 BCE - 70 CE) the clergy would revise their religious beliefs and canonize their scripture to establish Judaism as recognized in the modern day.
The empire Cyrus created was toppled by the armies under Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE) who introduced Hellenistic culture and beliefs to Canaan. Following Alexander, the Seleucids held the region until the Maccabean Revolt of c. 168 BCE, led by Judas Maccabeus, freed the region from occupation and established the Hasmonean Dynasty of the Jews. Although the Maccabean Revolt is traditionally characterized as a fight for religious freedom and autonomy, it is possible it was a civil war between Jewish factions who embraced the Hellenism of the Seleucid Empire and those who rejected it with the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes only involved as an ally of the Hellenistic Jews.
The Hasmonean Dynasty engaged in trade and occasional conflict with the wealthy Kingdom of Nabatea (in modern-day Jordan) which attracted the attention of Rome. In 63 BCE, the region was claimed by Pompey the Great during the late Roman Republic and, after Augustus Caesar came to power in 31 BCE, it was made part of the Roman Empire and known as Roman Judea. The Jewish-Roman Wars of 66-136 CE depopulated the region and the emperor Hadrian, grown weary of dealing with the Judeans, banished all Jews from the region after 136 CE and renamed it Syria-Palaestina. The diaspora which followed the wars and Hadrian's edict, after centuries of similar conflict in the region, finally obscured the identity of the original inhabitants of the land.
Whoever the ancient Canaanites were, their identity was lost in the successive invasions by foreign people interested in controlling an important hub of commerce. Whatever else Canaan may have been, a homeland to some and a 'promised land' to others, it was strategically located to facilitate trade. Control of the region, and the wealth it could generate, was therefore sought by numerous foreign powers. By the time the region was part of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire in the 4th century CE, the land known as Canaan was no more than a narrow territory at the edge of the Mediterranean Sea approximating modern-day Lebanon.
Canaan - History
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In the 1830s, tensions between supporters of slavery and abolitionists ran high all over the country. The small New England town of Canaan was no different. But here, in Canaan, there were residents who sacrificed their own money, reputation and safety in an attempt to provide higher education to young men and women regardless of race or color. The result of their earnest work was Noyes Academy, located next to the North Church on what we now call Canaan Street.
The Academy was named for Samuel Noyes, a Canaan farmer who first raised a significant amount of money to create the school which was located next to the North Church. George Kimball, Nathaniel Currier, and Nathaniel Peabody Rogers raised additional necessary funds to establish the school and then went further by lobbying the trustees to admit students of any color. The founders and trustees of the school believed all youth ought to have access to higher education. From the outset, it was understood that there needed to be a link between a college preparatory course of study, which the Noyes Academy offered, and admittance to a college for continued education. The location in Canaan for the school was due to its proximity to Dartmouth College, which had admitted African Americans by the early 1800s.
In July of 1834, Kimball, Currier, George Walworth and John H. Harris applied for and were granted a State charter for “the education of youth”. In September of that year the school trustees met and voted to allow students of all races to attend. It seemed that the first step toward equal opportunity education had been taken. Noyes Academy was the first upper level coed interracial school in the United States.
In late winter of 1835, black students began arriving at Noyes Academy. Once in Canaan, the students found families who welcomed them. A number of students lived with George Kimball’s family and at Nathaniel Currier’s house. There were 14 black students and 28 white students enrolled at Noyes.
In August 1834, when the school was first formed, some of the townspeople (perhaps 25% of the voters) objected to the idea of blacks being allowed to share a classroom with whites. Most of the town was supportive (or at least ambivalent to the idea) of the black students. The initial vote of the school’s incorporators was 49 in favor of offering integrated education and 2 against. At a meeting held later that summer, a vote of 70 residents, though, resulted in a motion opposing the integrated school or any school for blacks.
Editorials in widely available New Hampshire newspapers sowed fear in many in the community. There were three reasons given within New England for opposing the School. First, abolition of slavery would flood the labor market for work in the northern mills. The second reason was that it would encourage a civil war between the northern and southern states. A third was the belief that a school in Canaan created dangers of black men mixing with white women (after a black student and a white girl were seen walking arm-in-arm down the streets of Canaan) and the black students were known to interact socially with their hosts in the homes of abolitionists. This last argument was used by school opponents to create an emotional fear of the school in a community which had previously accepted the idea. While there were four or five hardened opponents, much of the ultimate violent opposition came from outside of Canaan.
Anti-abolitionist sentiment rose to a pitch on July 4, 1835, when a crowd of 70 men gathered in front of the school with torches, axes, clubs and a plan to destroy the school. Dr. Timothy Tilton, a town magistrate and trustee of the school, stepped between the school and the raging mob and threatened legal action if the men persisted in their violence. The protesters then arranged an official town meeting and took a vote, protecting themselves from legal action. A little more than 400 others, far in excess of the 300 total Canaan voters, joined the initial 70 protestors. Fueled by rum and passion, they returned to the school in full daylight on August 10, 1835 with oxen and chains.
Over two days they managed to move the building into the street and then dragged the school down the road to Canaan’s Meeting House where it was left as a splintered heap. The opponents included more than 100 volunteers from Enfield, Dorchester, Lyme and Hanover. Later, the Town’s legal counsel stated that the action of the demonstrators was illegal regardless of the town meeting vote, but the damage by the racist mob had been done. To quote Wallace’s history of Canaan, “There it stands, shattered, mutilated, inwardly beyond reparation almost, a monument of the folly of and infuriated malice of a basely deceived populace”. (Wallace, 1910)
The students were given hours to leave town. Several students Alexander Crummell, Henry Highland Garnet and Thomas Sydney, went directly to the Oneida Institute, near Utica, NY, where they were welcome. Although a school for men, Oneida Institute also accepted Julia Williams, one of the few black women who also attended Noyes. These individuals are known to us now because of their work in the abolitionist movement.
Three years later the remains of the school building was set on fire and burnt to the ground.
In 1839, the Union Academy (now home to Canaan’s Historical Museum) was built across from the Meeting House. Though styled after Noyes Academy in appearance, the new school was not integrated.
Noyes Academy wasn’t the only abolitionist activity in the town of Canaan., Years prior to Noyes Academy. at least three homes in town were known stops on the Underground Railroad, the tangled system of paths, hiding places and supporters for fleeing slaves on their dangerous journey to Canada. These included the Currier House on Canaan Street and George Kimball’s house (known as Twin Gables) on Prospect Hill Road. James Furbur, who lived across from the Kimball’s, hid escaping slaves in his large barns.
A number of students from the academy won deserved prominence as adults.
*Thomas Paul was one of the earliest black graduates of Dartmouth. He became a prominent Baptist minister who tied biblical teachings to social justice and the quest for equal acceptance of African American in society.
*Henry Highland Garnet continued his education at Oneida Institute and became a minister and abolitionist leader. He married Julia Williams, also an abolitionist and fellow student of Noyes Academy. He made an invited speech in the U.S. House of Representatives before being appointed ambassador to Liberia.
*Alexander Crummel became a pioneering Episcopalian priest. He lectured against slavery in England and studied for three years at Cambridge University, developing a movement supporting bonding in solidarity between all indigenous and diaspora people of African descent.
*Following his time at Noyes Academy, Thomas Sydney, a founder of the Philomathean Society, attended the Oneida Institute where he was distinguished for his scholarship.
*Rev. Richard S. Rust, DD, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was a white student who later helped found Wilberforce University, a college whose mission was to help educate former slaves. He worked to establish as many as 30 other colleges and institutions, mainly for teachers, with the idea of educating former slaves and their children.
“There are lessons to be learned from Noyes. My first observation is that there were many members of the Canaan community in 1835 that cared passionately about racial and gender equality and invested their time and money to make equality a reality.
The second is that fear of the unknown, (especially when stoked by false or misleading statements) can turn law-abiding citizens into an angry mob”.
The geographic area currently known as Israel was originally known in the Bible as Canaan, but known as Phoenicia later. The area was named after the cursed son of Ham, because that is where he eventually settled after leaving Africa.
Canaan (the person) was cursed by Noah, to become a servant to his brothers, which explains why he left “the land of Ham”, and moved to the Middle East.
Traditionally, church leaders teach that Canaan was a country of Middle Eastern descent, but in reality, it was an extension of Africa, as it was founded by Canaan, who was of from Africa. It is this area that God promised to Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. It is also the same place that Moses and Joshua would eventually conquer and claim for the Nation of Israel. However, before it’s conquest, it was populated by the following tribes:
The Tribes of Canaan – Genesis 10:19-20
- Sidon / Sidonians / Zidon / Zidonians
- Sons of Heth / Hittites
Make no mistake, these were African tribes that inhabited the land of Canaan, and because of that, anyone mixing with Canaanites prior to it’s conquest, would then have children that were part African as well. One such mixing occurred between Judah and Tamar, resulting in their son Pharez, an ancestor of King David.
The False Teaching of White Canaanites
The majority of Eurocentric Christian churches teach the false notion of a white or “Middle Eastern” Canaan, but Canaanite artwork tells a different story. Because ancient evidence consistently points to Israel and their neighbors being black, we’re often not shown images that reflect the truth, even when that truth is found in the Bible.
The teaching of a white or Middle Eastern Canaan is contradictory to the teaching that the descendants of Ham were all black. Both teachings cannot be believed simultaneously because they are mutually exclusive.
The Smoking Gun – Black Canaanites
While most modern Eurocentric Christians believe that Canaanites were either white or “Middle Eastern” and therefore lighter skinned, there are some major Eurocentric religions, such as Mormonism that teaches Canaanites were black. Mormonism accepts the book of Moses as official canon, which teaches the following:
“For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.” – The Book of Moses 7:8
Joseph Smith believed that blacks in America were actually Canaanites, and therefore their slavery was the will of God and anyone attempting to interfere was acting in opposition to God.
“As the fact is uncontrovertable, that the first mention we have of slavery is found in the holy bible…’And he said cursed be Canaan a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren’…the people who interfere the least with the decrees and purposes of God in this matter, will come under the least condemnation before him and those who are determined to pursue a course which shows an opposition and a feverish restlessness against the designs of the Lord, will learn, when perhaps it is too late for their own good, that God can do his own work without the aid of those who are not dictate by his counsel.” – Smith, Joseph (1836). Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate/Volume 2/Number 7/Letter to Oliver Cowdery from Joseph Smith, Jr. (Apr. 1836). pp. 290.
While the book of Moses isn’t scripture it does force Mormonism and those that believe in black Canaanites to come face to face with the truth. Israel mixed with the Canaanites:
“And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods.” – Judges 3:5-6
More specifically, Judah had three children by his first Canaanite wife and two children by the Canaanite Tamar. Three of the five sons survived and it is through them that the rest of the tribe of Judah would come.
“And Judah saw there a daughter of a certain Canaanite, whose name was Shuah and he took her, and went in unto her. And she conceived, and bare a son and he called his name Er. And she conceived again, and bare a son and she called his name Onan. And she yet again conceived, and bare a son and called his name Shelah: and he was at Chezib, when she bare him.” – Genesis 38:2-5
Judah and Tamar’s Sons
“And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez. And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.” – Genesis 38:29-30
There is no other conclusion that can be reached from the teaching of black Canaanites, but that Hebrews were also black based on their mixing in scripture.
The History of Ancient Canaan (Palestine)
y the 3rd millennium BCE, the southern Levant was a land of small, fortified towns and villages, ruled over by petty kings and chiefs. Indeed, by this time, most modern towns in the area had come into existence. A major trade route connecting Mesopotamia with Egypt (later known as the King’s Highway) ran south from Damascus through the Jordan valley. Urbanism, along with Bronze Age technology, had presumably arrived in this region via trade links with Mesopotamia. In any event, urban civilization began to flourish here not long after it had begun in Egypt.
Nomadism had also made its appearance, with pastoralist clans grazing their sheep on the eastern hill country and in the grasslands between the settled areas.
The Land of Canaan
In the later 3rd millennium, the towns of Canaan declined, many vanishing altogether. Pastoral nomadism became the dominant economy. This was at around the same time as the Amorites were moving into northern Syria, and it may well be that their close relatives, the Canaanites, who were either newcomers to the area or who had already lived in the eastern highlands for centuries, now expanded westward to the coast. Some indeed probably migrated further, bringing the Nile Delta in northern Egypt under their control. They appear in Egyptian history as the “Hyksos”.
In time, urban settlements reappeared amongst the Canaanites, and numerous small kingdoms. These fell under the dominance of Egypt during the early 2nd millennium BCE.
Sometime during this period the Canaanites developed a proto-alphabetic script. This may well have occured as a result of Egyptian cultural influences, with the Canaanites using Egyptian-style heiroglyphs to represent consonants. Only a few examples of this early script have been found, and it was probably not in common use. However, in centuries to come it would be taken over by the Phoenicians, refined and passed on to many other peoples. This early Canaanite script was thus the ancestor of all alphabets in the world today.
Egyptian power in Canaan was later contested as major states arose in northern Syria: first the Mitanni and then the Hittites. However, the dynamic pharaohs of New Kingdom Egypt successfully asserted their dominance in the area. Thereafter, apart from launching punitive campaigns from time to time to keep the petty Canaanite kings in line, the Egyptians adopted an “indirect rule” policy, using (semi-)loyal chiefs of tribes and rulers of city-states to protect their interests. The Armarna letters, a royal archive of Egypt containing over 350 diplomatic letters between the Egyptian king and foreign rulers, make clear that, to the many petty chiefs and kings of Canaan, the Pharaoh of Egypt was their overlord. These small states were constantly quarrelling amongst themselves, appealing to their Egyptian government to settled their disputes.
A Period of Upheaval
Egypt lost its dominating position in Canaan as general disorder overtook the Middle East in the later 2nd millennium BCE. The Canaanite city-states on the coast were subject to destructive attacks from the Sea Peoples, who had previously devastated the coasts of Asia Minor and other eastern Mediterranean. The northern Canaanite seaboard cities, for example Byblos, Tyre and Sidon, survived these attacks, and were soon flourished as never before as dynamic centres of maritime trade. These cities became known to history as the Phoenicians. To their south, however, the Canaanite cities were destroyed, allowing one group of the Sea Peoples to settle the area. These were the Philistines, and their five coastal cities, Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashkelon, Ekron and Gath, were to form a formidable confederacy in the area. The Philistines were the people in this part of the world with whom the Greeks and other Mediterranean peoples were most familiar. As a result, the whole of what had previously been Canaan became known as the land of the Philistines, or “Palestine”.
The Israelites Appear in History
In the eastern hill country, a group of other peoples closely related to the Canaanites had by now established themselves. These were (from north to south) the Ammonites, Moabites, and Edomites.
A fourth group, just to the west, were also establishing themselves in the eastern hill country. Closely related to the other groups, they had quite distinct cultural practices. One striking aspect of the archaeological record is their lack of pork remains, in marked contrast with finds from other parts of Palestine and there are also indications that circumcision was being practised. Clearly, here was a population practising at least some elements of the later Israelite religious culture.
Some modern scholars regard the monotheistic religion of the Israelites as having evolved gradually out of the beliefs and practices of the earlier peoples of Canaan. The fact that the Israelites were not strangers to the area is clear from their Hebrew language, which is a Canaanite dialect. However, the Israelites’ own records, which are found in today’s Jewish and Christian scriptures, point to an entirely external source for their highly distinctive religious faith. Given the radical gulf between Israelite practices (for example, circumcision and prohibitions against eating pork, sexualized worship and the sacrifice of babies), and those of other peoples of the area, it is hard not to give the Israelite account serious credence.
As time went by, and over a period of centuries, Israelite culture gradually spread from the eastern hill country into the coastal plains, as their population expanded. From then on, over a period of hundreds of years until the 6th century BCE, the Canaanites were progressively absorbed by the Israelites. This process of absorption had religious and cultural ramifications, and the Biblical records point to the continuing influence of the Canaanite polytheistic cults over several centuries. The tensions this created helped give rise to a major element within Israelite religious culture. This was the prophetic tradition, whereby religious figures called prophets continually called their people back to the worship of Yahweh alone.
The Kingdom of Israel
The Israelite’s own records suggest that until the end of the 1st millennium BCE they were dividd into a number of tribes which formed a loose confederacy. Military and religious leaders, known in the Bible as “judges”, appeared from time to time, recognized by more than one tribe, and in some cases perhaps by all of them, to deal with particular threats.
These threats of course came from the other peoples of the region. The Israelites were caught between, on the one hand, the Philistine city-states on the coastal plain, and on the other, the kingdoms of Edom, Moab and Ammon in the eastern hill country. According to the Bible, it was to deal more effectively with these peoples that the Israelites adopted a more centralised form of state structure when they transformed their tribal confederacy into a monarchy. The Bible records that the first king was Saul. He struggled to unite the tribes under his rule, and failing in this, was replaced (traditionally in 1007) by a new king, David.
David captured the Canaanite city-state of Jebus, and renamed it Jerusalem (“City of Peace”). He established it as his capital, and from there was able to unite the kingdom of Israel more firmly under his rule. David then expanded the Israelite kingdom’s borders by bringing neighbouring peoples, the Philistine cities and the kingdoms of Edom, Moab and Ammon, under his rule. He later pushed Israel’s borders northward to the Euphrates river by conquering the Aramaeans of Syria.
David’s son Solomon (c.965-928) centralised the worship of Yahweh in the new Temple he built in Jerusalem. He forged close alliances with powerful states such as the wealthy Phoenician city-state of Tyre. His foreign policy centred around the expansion of trade, and he is even said to have received a visit from the queen of the distant kingdom of Saba (“Sheba”), in southern Arabia.
Within the span of two generations, therefore, the Israelites had become a significant regional power. Probably at about this time, the Israelites adopted a version of the Phoenician alphabet for their own use this was ancestral to the modern Hebrew script.
The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
A centralised, unified state did not sit easily with the several Israelite tribes, however. After Solomon’s time, most of the Israelite tribes threw off their allegiance to the royal family in Jerusalem. Only the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin rallied behind David’s descendants and formed the smaller kingdom of Judah, with Jerusalem as its capital. The bulk of the tribes continued the kingdom of Israel under a different line of kings, and with a different capital, Samaria.
The family of David continued to reign in Judah until the end of its existence as an independent state the northern Kingdom of Israel experienced much greater political instability, under a succession of short-lived dynasties.
Prosperity and Prophets
Archaeological evidence shows that the first centuries of the 1st millennium BCE were times of prosperity for the region. Some modern scholars have ascribed this to an unusually benign period of climate. Whatever the cause, the growing wealth seems to have led (as is often the case) to a yawning gap between rich and poor, which, the kingdom of Israel in particular, may be reflected in the strident condemnation of the inequality in society by the Israelite prophets. The people of both Israel and Judah continued to worship the one God, but, especially in the northern kingdom, this monotheistic faith came increasingly under pressure from the polytheistic religions of the region. In reaction to this, prophets in both kingdoms called on the people and their rulers to remain faithful to their monotheistic faith. In so doing they developed a teaching which emphasised that the worship of God was inextricably intertwined with treating fellow human beings – especially the weaker members of society such as the poor, widows, orphans and foreigners – with justice and mercy. This kind of moral behaviour was emphasised to a degree never before recorded in human thought.
The northern kingdom of Israel starts appearing in non-Biblical records from at least by the second half of the 10th century, the southern kingdom of Judah somewhat later, from the mid-8th century onwards.
The Fall of the Kingdom of Israel
Assyrian King Ashurbanipal
The division of Israel into two kingdoms weakened them both. The Aramaeans quickly broke away from Israelite dominance, and their kingdom based on Damascus soon became one of Israel’s most powerful enemies. The Philistine city-states and the kingdoms of Edom, Moab and Ammon also regained their independence.
From the mid-8th century all the kingdoms of the region came under increasing threat from the expanding Assyrian empire. This culminated in the later 8th century: first the kingdom of Damascus, in 732, then the kingdom of Israel, in 722, were extinguished by the Assyrians. Their capitals were destroyed, and both Biblical and Assyrian sources speak of massive deportations of people from Damascus and Israel. Replacement settlers were brought in from other parts of the empire. Such population exchanges were an integral part of Assyrian imperial policy, as a way of breaking old centres of power.
According to an Assyrian inscription, the number of Israelites transported from their homeland amounted to just over 27,000. Even taking into account a large-scale emigration to the southern kingdom, the majority of the population were still presumably left in place. However, groups from other parts of the Assyrian empire were settled in the area by the Assyrian authorities. These apparently soon adopted the Israelite worship of Yahweh, perhaps modified in some details. They intermarried with the native inhabitants and became the ancestors of the Samaritans.
The territory of the old kingdom of Israel became the Assyrian province of Samaria. It seems to have been under a line of governors drawn from local families.
The other states of the area – the Philistine city-states and the kingdoms of Judah, Edom, Moab and Ammon – escaped the fate of Israel by becoming tributary states of Assyria. The Assyrian records show that these kingdoms were sometimes loyal, sometimes disloyal, to their Assyrian overlords. All these kingdoms rebelled against Assyria in about 701 BCE, but the anti-Assyrian alliance soon seems to have fallen apart in the face of a massive invasion by the Assyrian army under king Sennacherib. Most of the kingdoms hurriedly resumed their submission to Assyria, but Judah was slower to do so, and the Assyrians lay siege to Jerusalem. Judah survived the assault (miraculously, according to the Bible, but not without large-scale destruction round about, as the archaeological evidence shows). After this, the kings of Judah became vassals of the Assyrian king again, and were left in peace.
The destruction of the kingdom of Israel had a deep impact on the kingdom of Judah. A stream of refugees from Israel flooded into the kingdom, boosting its population. In the 7th century, Jerusalem expanded dramatically. However, Judah was now the only Israelite kingdom left, surrounded entirely by pagan peoples. Perhaps because of this, the rulers of Judah tended to emphasise the worship of Yahweh as a central part of their political programme. A state-sponsored religious reform movement culminated in the reign of king Josiah (reigned 641-609 BCE), which centred the religious life of Judah much more firmly on the Temple in Jerusalem, and called for a greater degree of obedience from the people to the faith’s teachings.
The Fall of the Kingdom of Judah
By this time, however, large-scale geopolitical developments were reshaping the political situation in the whole of the Middle East. The central event in this was the sudden collapse of Assyrian power in the decades after the 630s, in the face of multiple revolts by its subject peoples.
For a brief period, the kingdom of Judah benefited from the resulting vacuum of power in the Middle East by expanding its own borders to take in much of the old territory of Israel. However, a new regional superpower rapidly emerged, that of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. The struggle between the Babylonian empire and a resurgent Egypt for control of Syria and Palestine led, as a by-product, to the conquest of all the kingdoms of Palestine by Nebuchadnezzar in a series of campaigns between 597 and 582.
The Babylonian Period
Under the Babylonians, most Palestinian rulers remained in place, now as vassals of the king of Babylon. The exception was Judah, which, thanks to its repeated resistance to the Babylonians, experienced catastrophe. The kingdom was extinguished its political and religious elite were taken off to exile in Babylon the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and much of the city with it and the territory of the former kingdom, shorn of outlying districts (hived off to neighbouring kingdoms), was turned into the province of Judea, under governors appointed by the Babylonians. Jerusalem was stripped of any administrative status, with the town of Mizpah, to the north, being made the provincial capital.
Only a minority of the population were taken into exile in Babylon. Thousands more emigrated to Egypt, and from this time on communities of Jews began appearing in cities throughout the Middle East and beyond.
For those who remained in Judea, life was tough. The violent cycle of Jewish rebellion and Babylonian counter-measures had devastated many towns and villages, and had led to a significant drop in population and prosperity.
The Fall of the Kingdom of Israel: Sennacherib during his Babylonian war, relief from his palace in Nineveh
The towns and cities of Judah were now unwalled by Babylonian decree, and this made them vulnerable to attack from neighbours. The peoples of Edom, Moab and Ammon, themselves under pressure from Arab tribes migrating in from the eastern desert, settled territories previously belonging to the old kingdom of Judah.
With Judah’s religious, intellectual and political leaders now far away in Babylon, the major Jewish cultural developments of the period took place in this foreign city. Here, the leaders of the Jews (for that is now what we can properly call the people of Judah) had to come to terms with an immense trauma. The loss of their political independence was nothing compared to the challenge to their dearly-held beliefs.
Rather than let go of these, the Jews interpreted this catastrophe in the light of their faith. The fall of Judah came to be seen as divine punishment for the failure of the Israelite rulers and people to worship Yahweh to the exclusion of all other gods. The previous, widely-held, assumption that the God of Israel would protect his chosen people and David’s royal line for ever and under all circumstances, was drastically redefined so that the Jews began to look forward to a Messiah, a son of David, who would deliver the people and Jerusalem once and for all time from foreign oppression. The exiles embarked on the process of collecting and editing many of their writings and oral traditions, and it was at this time that the Jewish Bible (the Christian Old Testament) began to take shape. Large sections of the prophetical books were written at this time, with their hallmark being an increased emphasis on individual responsibility before God, and on personal morality and holiness.
The Persian Period
With the conquest of the Babylonian empire by Cyrus the Great, king of the Persians (in 539 BCE), Palestine passed from Babylonian to Persian control. The various native dynasties of the region remained in place, now as vassals of the Persians, but the province of Judea experienced significant change.
According to the Bible, one of Cyrus’ first acts was to require the Jewish exiles in Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. Judea was granted a large measure of self-rule, under the leadership of the Temple priesthood. A line of hereditary high priests acted as the Persian king’s governors of the satrapy of Syria.
Cyrus the Great with a Hemhem crown
The new situation was not at all to the liking of other elites within Palestine. The leaders of the provinces of Samaria, Ammon and probably others unsuccessfully opposed the attempts of the exiles to rebuild the Temple.
The Samaritans, who lived in and around Samaria (the former capital of the long-defunct kingdom of Israel) had reason to feel threatened by the returning exiles. The Samaritans followed a hybridized version of the Jewish religion, and because of this and their mixed ancestry, were not regarded as true Israelites by the returning Jews. For their part, the return of exiles who claimed to follow the pure Jewish faith represented a denigration of their own beliefs and practices. The Samaritans built their own temple to Yahweh at the town of Nablus, near Mt Gerizim, and the resulting hostility between the two groups would last for many centuries.
The territories of Israel’s historic neighbours the Edomites, Moabites and Ammonites were under intensifying pressure from Arab tribes, who were coming into the eastern hill country with their flocks. It is likely that the older populations were either absorbed into these incoming clans, or migrated westward to be absorbed into the Jewish population. Moab and Ammon now disappear from the historical record, while the Edomites shifted westwards, into territory that had traditionally belonged to the Israelites.
The Philistine city-states on the coast retained their autonomy under Persian rule. Their cultural distinctiveness had long since been submerged into the wider Aramaic culture of the region.
Within Judea itself, there is evidence of tensions between the returning exiles and the majority population. These seem to have been resolved in the course of several generations as the Jewish leaders successfully drew the majority back into the worship of Yahweh, centred on the Jerusalem Temple.
It was during this post-exile period that the Jewish scriptures began to take their final form. At the same time, however, the old Hebrew language was falling out of use for everyday life, being replaced by the lingua franca of the Middle East, Aramaic (Hebrew continued to be used by the Temple elite for religious purposes).
After Alexander the Great
The Persian empire was conquered by Alexander the Great in the 330 and 320s BCE. On Alexander’s death, his generals fought each other for control of portions of the empire, with Judea changing hands between them on numerous occasions in the space of just a few years. When comparative peace returned to the region, by around 300 BCE, Judea and its neighbours were under the control of Ptolemy, the ruler of Egypt. However, the Seleucids of Syria gained control of the region in 198.
There is very little evidence for how the localities were administered in Seleucid Palestine. However, it is likely that the Seleucids would have followed the Greek model and, for purposes of local government, divided most of the region amongst city-states. These would have had a large measure of self-rule under city councils composed of members of the local elites. The councils would have governed their cities along with a large area of countryside around them.
The old Philistine cities, now under Greek-style city councils, became centres of Hellenistic civilization. Inland, Hellenism was confined to some elements within the urban elites. The countryside remained largely Aramaic in language and culture. The main exception to this was the area which came to be known as the “Decapolis”. Here, ten cities, a few being ancient towns which had been Hellenised, but most newly-founded colonies with Greek (or Greek-speaking) populations, formed a bloc of territory on the east side of the river Jordan. The Hellenistic culture which they shared was in marked contrast to the traditional culture of the native population.
Initially, the Jews were left in peace by the Hellenistic rulers, and the district of Judea remained under the Temple priesthood. However, the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (174–163 BCE) tried to impose Hellenistic culture – including the Greek pagan religion – on them. He sacked Jerusalem, plundered the Temple, outlawed the worship of Yahweh in the Temple and set up a statue of the Greek high god Zeus near it. His actions of course inflamed the Jews, who rose in rebellion against the Seleucid regime (167).
Bust of Antiochus IV at the Altes Museum in Berlin
After a fierce struggle lasting more than 10 years, and assisted by rivalries within the Seleucid royal family, the rebels succeeded in gaining control of the province. Their leaders, the Maccabbees family, became the high priests in Jerusalem, and returned the Temple to Jewish worship. They governed the province under only loose supervision from the Seleucids. Little by little, taking advantage of repeated civil wars within the Seleucid kingdom, the Maccabbees (or Hasmoneans, as they were also called), established the Jewish territory as a fully independent state, with themselves as its kings.
The Hasmonean Kingdom
By this time, Seleucid power was in general decline throughout the whole of Syria, as constant civil wars destabilized the kingdom. In this situation, the Hasmonean kings expanded their borders drastically, annexing the neighbouring territories of Transjordan (including the ten Hellenized cities of the Decapolis), Samaria, Galilee and Edom (now called Idumaea). By the end of the 2nd century BCE, therefore, the Jewish state had regained something like the borders of ancient Israel at its height, under kings David and Solomon.
None of these areas had been part of a Jewish (or Israelite) state for hundreds of years. It seems that in some of the newly-annexed territories, the Jewish authorities gave their populations, or perhaps their ruling classes, a choice: convert to Judaism, or leave. This certainly happened in Idumaea. Some of the newly-Jewish families clearly prospered under their new masters: a generation later, an Idumaean called Antipater gained control of the Jewish state.
It is also likely that the conquests were followed by a colonization of some districts by Jews. Galilee seems to have been very sparsely inhabited for centuries, and archaeological evidence points to a marked increase in population from this time on. By the 1st century the region was overwhelmingly Jewish.
The Samaritans, already (in their own lights at least) adherents of the Jewish religion, remained as a distinct population after this time. Their temple, however, was destroyed by the Jews. The people of the Decapolis seem to have been allowed to follow their Hellinized way of life.
Despite the mass conversion to Judaism, and the Jewish immigration into Galilee and perhaps other territories, the newly added districts were regarded as somewhat “beyond the pale” by the Jews of Jerusalem and Judea. Their inhabitants were looked down on as not full Jews, their impure status betrayed by distinctive provincial accents.
The Coming of Rome
The Hasmonean dynasty
On the wider stage, a new power was increasingly making its presence felt in the region: Rome. The Hasmonean kingdom had been able to establish its independence partly through Rome’s friendship. Finally, in 63 BCE, a Roman army under the famous general, Pompey the Great, having first extinguished what remained of the Seleucid kingdom, marched into Judea.
Pompey left the local political arrangements he found in Palestine in place. One exception was that he liberated the ten Hellenized cities of the Decapolis from Jewish rule, restoring to them their own self-government.
Within Judea, Pompey installed a member of the Hasmonean family, called Hyrcanus, as ruler. One of Hyrcanus’ high officials was Antipater the Idumaean.
Whilst pushing the frontiers of their empire ever outwards, the Romans were also involved in their own repeated bouts of civil war during this period. The impact of these was soon felt in Judea – an impact intensified by the fact that the Jewish royal court was split into bitter rival factions. Violent struggles repeatedly rocked the state. Antipater was a master operator in this situation. Facing down Hyrcanus’ enemies, he manoeuvred himself into dominating the ruler. Antipater became a close friend of Pompey’s and with Pompey’s backing, Antipater was soon the effective master of Judea.
In 47 BCE, however, Pompey was defeated and killed by a rival Roman general, Julius Caesar. Antipater swiftly switched his allegiance to Caesar, and led troops to Caesar’s aid, helping him to establish his power in the region. For this, Caesar made Antipater a Roman citizen and appointed him governor of Judea.
The wheel of fortune turned, and Antipater was assassinated by a rival in 43 BCE and a coup brought his enemies to power in Judea. Judea’s new rulers were also hostile to Rome, and invited the Parthians, Rome’s great enemies, to occupy Judea. Antipater’s son, Herod, thereupon hurried to Rome, and persuaded the senate that he was the man they needed to be in charge of Judea – he would be loyal to Rome and further its interests in this unsettled region. The senate therefore appointed Herod King of the Jews. It took the Romans – supported by troops raised and led by Herod – three years of hard fighting to re-gain control of Judea. When they had done so they installed Herod as king.
Herod reigned over Judea until his death in 4 BCE. In doing so, he had to navigate the treacherous power politics back in Rome. He was at first a supporter to Julius Caesar’s old lieutenant, Mark Antony, the Roman commander in the East for many years. When Antony was defeated and killed in a civil war with his rival, Octavian, Herod had to win over the new master of the Roman world. This he accomplished with great aplomb. He soon had the confidence of Octavian (who would soon take the name Augustus and become the first of the Roman emperors).
Herod ruled Judea for 37 years. He taxed the people heavily, but he used his loyalty to the Romans to keep them at arm’s length. He enlarged and beautified the Temple in Jerusalem, making it a magnificent centre of the Jewish religion.
Many Jews, however, refused to recognize him as their legitimate king. He had sought to bolster his standing with the Jews by marrying a princess of the old Hasmonean royal family, but, in the last resort, he owed his throne to foreigners. He was not even regarded as a proper Jew. His family were from Idumaea, and were recent converts to Judaism. In his personal life, his religious observances were fitful he lived the life of a Graeco-Roman aristocrat rather than a pious Jew, and his hedonistic ways affronted his stricter subjects. In his official policies he also championed Hellenization, at least in some areas. he adopted the ancient city of Samaria as his capital and turned it into the Hellenistic city of Sebaste (which is Greek for Augusta), and its port was the new Hellenistic-style city of Caesaria Philippi.
Herod’s Family and Roman Governors
After Herod the Great’s death in 4 BCE, his kingdom was divided amongst his three sons. Ten years later, however, the largest of these kingdoms was made into the Roman province of Judea. In 41 CE, Herod’s grandson, Herod Agrippa, having inherited the remaining Herodian kingdoms, was given the Roman province as well. The old kingdom of Herod the Great was thus reconstituted.
Herod Agrippa died just three years later (44 CE). The Romans resumed direct control of most of his territories, with only a small area in the north going to the last of Herod’s line, Herod Agrippa II. On his death in 92 CE his kingdom too was incorporated into the Roman province.
Bust of Nero at the Capitoline Museum, Rome
By this time, a new religion was spreading outwards from Judea. From neither Biblical and extra-Biblical records (for example, the histories of the Jewish historian Josephus), is it easy to gauge exactly how widely the activities of Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples affected the populations of Judea and the surrounding territories. Political agitators seem to have made more of an impact amongst contemporaries. However, after Jesus’ execution by the Romans, his small band of followers claimed to have seen him alive again three days later, appearing to them on several occasions for about a month. These followers saw Jesus as the “Messiah”, long anticipated by the Jews however, his aim was to change hearts rather than rule states. His disciples were soon travelling the known world to spread their faith.
The new religion of Christianity, which Jesus’ followers founded and which gradually began to differentiate itself from traditional Judaism, had reached as far as the imperial capital within a few years, and within a generation of Jesus’ execution, Christianity had become prominent enough to attract a wave of persecution under the emperor Nero.
Two Great Revolts
In Judea itself, the Romans had encountered continual trouble in governing the province. A particular source of tension was the arrival of large numbers of Greek-speaking settlers from other parts of the empire and the consequent spread of Hellenistic culture in the area. Trouble between Jews and Hellenists was never very far away. This situation was more or less contained (albeit with the outbreak of a couple of localised rebellions, soon put down) for many years however, with the appointment of a Roman governor who had complete disregard for Jewish religious feelings, a fierce revolt flared up, in 66 CE. This soon engulfing the entire province, and became a major challenge to Rome’s hold on its eastern frontiers. The Roman army had to commit large numbers of troops to stamping it out. It was finally defeated in 73 CE, by which time much of Jerusalem and almost the entire Temple, the centre and focus of the Jewish faith, lay in ruins.
The Samaritan community, which had not participated in the revolt, suffered in the aftermath: a new Hellenistic colony, Neopolis (modern Noblus) was founded at their traditional religious centre of Mt Gerazim, as a boost to the Greek-speaking population in the area.
In 133, a second great Jewish revolt broke out, led by a charismatic leader called Simon Bar Kochba.
Bar Kokhba silver Shekel/tetradrachm. The text reads “To the freedom of Jerusalem”
This was sparked by the emperor Hadrian’s plan to establish a Roman colony on the old site of Jerusalem. The revolt involved bloodshed on a massive scale as the Romans systematically reimposed their authority (which they had achieved by 136). After this, the Jews were banned from living in in or near Jerusalem. Jerusalem itself was rebuilt as a Roman colony. Even the name “Judea” disappeared as a Roman administrative label, with the province now being called Syria Palaestina.
Palestine in the Later Roman Empire
The Roman attempt to keep the Jews out of their old homeland after the Bar Kochba revolt had never been wholly successful, and small Jewish communities gradually reappeared (if they had ever gone away). Indeed, their existence was recognized by the granting of certain privileges, such as exemption from the imperial cult and internal self-administration. Also, it was not long before they were granted the right to visit Jerusalem (Aelia Capitolina) on certain feast days.
In any case, the areas surrounding Judea, especially Galilee, had not been subject the ban, and the Jewish population had remained there unmolested and Samaria remained home to the Samaritan community.
In the mid-3rd century, Palestine was caught up in the disasters which beset the Roman frontier at that time. For several years, in the 260s and early 270s, the province was under the control of the separatist regime of Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, until restored to the empire by the emperor Aurelian in 272.
With the coming of Christian emperors to the throne after 324, Palestine’s status was transformed. As the location for the life and mission of Jesus of Nazareth, and the place where Christianity started, it began to receive lavish attention from the imperial family. Many fine churches were built. Aelia Capitolina came again to be called Jerusalem, and its bishop became one of the four or five most senior bishops – or patriarchs – of the Christian Church. Many of the earliest Christian monasteries outside Egypt were founded in Palestine, which became a major centre of Christian scholarship.
The area naturally attracted many Christian pilgrims. This contributed to the prosperity which Palestine experienced in the Later Roman Empire. Towns and cities thrived, farmland was extended by irrigation projects, and the population expanded.
In 351-2 the Jews of Galilee engaged in a short-lived revolt against the Roman authorities. This seems not to have affected their status in the long term, and in 438 Jews were allowed to return to live in Jerusalem itself. The Samaritans were not so fortunate. In the late 5th century they came under official pressure to convert to Christianity, which sparked a series of revolts and the inevitable reprisals.
Canaan - History
The land known as Canaan was situated in the territory of the southern Levant, which today encompasses Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, Jordan, and the southern portions of Syria and Lebanon. Throughout time, many names have been given to this area including Palestine, Eretz-Israel, Bilad es-Shem, the Holy Land and Djahy. The earliest known name for this area was "Canaan."
The inhabitants of Canaan were never ethnically or politically unified as a single nation. They did, however, share sufficient similarities in language and culture to be described together as "Canaanites."
Israel refers to both a people within Canaan and later to the political entity formed by those people. To the authors of the Bible, Canaan is the land which the tribes of Israel conquered after an Exodus from Egypt and the Canaanites are the people they disposed from this land. The Old Testament of the Bible (also known as Tanak) is principally concerned with the religious history of Israel in Canaan.
In addition to the stories of the Bible, archaeology has provided us with another perspective for viewing the cultures of Canaan and Ancient Israel. This perspective is built upon the social and historical context of the material remains which these peoples have left behind. Through studying these remains, we may better understand the cultures of the ancient Canaanites and Israelites.
Canaan lies in the extreme Northeast corner of Vermont. It borders Quebec, Canada and New Hampshire and consists of 18,700 acres of land. It was chartered by the state of Vermont to John Wheeler and forty-three associates on February 25, 1782. Early settlers included John Hugh, 1785, Samuel Beach, 1796, John Dunning, 1799, Nathan Beecher, 1802, and Samuel Weeks, 1804.
During the 1800’s, people began migrating to Canaan as it was strategically located on the border with Canada and New Hampshire. The boundary line between Vermont and New Hampshire was not finally established until 1934 and between Vermont and Canada until 1925. Until the lines were firmly drawn, a number of border skirmishes took place.
In 1880 Canaan’s population was 637. These early settlers lived difficult lives as articles not obtained from the wilderness, soil or lakes and rivers had to be transported from seaports great distances away. Many of these individuals lived “off the land” on family farms and relied on each other for moral support, social interactions and economic assistance.
Although Indians never settled in the area, they used it for hunting, fishing and travel. Early settlers had to be on guard at all times as many of these Indians were not friendly. As natural resources were plentiful many settlers relied on farming and logging to earn a living.
During the 1900’s many people immigrated to Canaan from Quebec, Canada. Today there are a number of French Canadian families living in the area and French is spoken at many social gatherings. This “French connection” enhances the cultural diversity of Canaan and benefits the local economy by promoting trade and commerce with Quebec, our neighbor to the North.
The town of Canaan consists of many subdivisions such as Beecher Falls, two miles North of the village Wallace Pond (also knows as Lake Wallis), five miles West South Canaan, four miles Southeast and Canaan Hill, five miles South. These communities were settled in the late 1800’s, had their own schools and post offices, which no longer exist, and contributed greatly to the growth and economy of the town.
Canaan - History
Map of the Canaanites
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Map of the Nations of Canaan Before the Israelite Invasion
The Old Testament mentions a lot about Canaan, the half of Palestine to the west of the Jordan. This name "Canaan" has been found in Egyptian inscriptions of the New Kingdom, and also in the Tell el-Amarna letters. The Canaanites mostly lived in the plains (the coastal strip and near the Jordan).
The Amorites lived in the hill country. Other tribes lived in Canaan: The Perizzites, Hivites, Hittites, Jebusites, Moabites, Edomites, Philistines and Girgashites. The Canaanites descended from Canaan, the son of Ham and father of Heth, thus they were a separate race from the Semites. The people were never known to be united and was divided into numerous city-states, dependent upon Egypt. There have been numerous discoveries and cuneiform inscriptions, especially in the Tell el-Amarna letters.
Deuteronomy 7:1 - When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou
Joshua 14:7-10 - "I was Forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadeshbarnea to spy out the land and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children's for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD my God. And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old."
The Canaanites in the 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 country.
1. In Ge 10:18-20 the seats of the Canaanite tribe are given as on the seashore and in the Jordan valley comp. Jos 11:3
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, Ge 12:6 Nu 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. Full Article
Joshua from Smith's Bible Dictionary
Joshua (saviour, or whose help is Jehovah). His name appears in the various forms of HOSHEA, OSHEA, JEHOSHUA, JESHUA and JESUS.
1. The son of Nun, of the tribe of Ephraim. 1Ch 7:27 (B.C. 1530-1420.) He was nearly forty years old when he shared in the hurried triumph of the exodus. He is mentioned first in connection with the fight against Amalek at Rephidim, when he was chosen by Moses to lead the Israelites. Ex 17:9 Soon afterward he was one of the twelve chiefs who were sent, Nu 13:17 to explore the land of Canaan, and one of the two, ch. Nu 14:6 who gave an encouraging report of their journey. Moses, shortly before his death, was directed, Nu 27:18 to invest Joshua with authority over the people. God himself gave Joshua a charge by the mouth of the dying lawgiver. De 31:14,23 Under the direction of God again renewed, Jos 1:1 Joshua assumed the command of the people at Shittim, sent spies into Jericho, crossed the Jordan, fortified a camp at Gilgal, circumcised the people, kept the passover, and was visited by the Captain of the Lord's host. A miracle made the fall of Jericho more terrible to the Canaanites. In the great battle of Beth-horon the Amorites were signally routed, and the south country was open to the Israelites. Joshua returned to the camp at Gilgal, master of half of Palestine. He defeated the Canaanites under Jabin king of Hazor. In six years, six tribes, with thirty-one petty chiefs, were conquered. Joshua, now stricken in years, proceeded to make the division of the conquered land. Timnath-serah in Mount Ephraim was assigned as Joshua's peculiar inheritance. After an interval of rest, Joshua convoked an assembly from all Israel. He delivered two solemn addresses, recorded in Jos 23:24 He died at the age of 110 years, and was buried in his own city, Timnath-serah. Full Article
The Bible Mentions "Canaanites" in many places:
Judges 1:33 - Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them.
Judges 1:27 - Neither did Manasseh drive out [the inhabitants of] Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.
Joshua 5:1 - And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which [were] on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which [were] by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.
Deuteronomy 7:1 - When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou
Joshua 17:18 - But the mountain shall be thine for it [is] a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, [and] though they [be] strong.
Exodus 13:5 - And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, which he sware unto thy fathers to give thee, a land flowing with milk and honey, that thou shalt keep this service in this month.
Exodus 3:8 - And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.
Nehemiah 9:8 - And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give [it, I say], to his seed, and hast performed thy words for thou [art] righteous:
Obediah 1:20 - And the captivity of this host of the children of Israel [shall possess] that of the Canaanites, [even] unto Zarephath and the captivity of Jerusalem, which [is] in Sepharad, shall possess the cities of the south.
Deuteronomy 1:7 - Turn you, and take your journey, and go to the mount of the Amorites, and unto all [the places] nigh thereunto, in the plain, in the hills, and in the vale, and in the south, and by the sea side, to the land of the Canaanites, and unto Lebanon, unto the great river, the river Euphrates.
Ezra 9:1 - Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, [doing] according to their abominations, [even] of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites.
Exodus 13:11 - And it shall be when the LORD shall bring thee into the land of the Canaanites, as he sware unto thee and to thy fathers, and shall give it thee,
Numbers 13:29 - The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south: and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites, dwell in the mountains: and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.
Nehemiah 9:24 - So the children went in and possessed the land, and thou subduedst before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gavest them into their hands, with their kings, and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they would.
Genesis 10:19 - And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha.
Exodus 3:17 - And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.
Genesis 50:11 - And when the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, saw the mourning in the floor of Atad, they said, This [is] a grievous mourning to the Egyptians: wherefore the name of it was called Abelmizraim, which [is] beyond Jordan.
Joshua 17:16 - And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, [both they] who [are] of Bethshean and her towns, and [they] who [are] of the valley of Jezreel.
Joshua 24:11 - And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites and I delivered them into your hand.
Judges 3:3 - [Namely], five lords of the Philistines, and all the Canaanites, and the Sidonians, and the Hivites that dwelt in mount Lebanon, from mount Baalhermon unto the entering in of Hamath.
Numbers 14:43 - For the Amalekites and the Canaanites [are] there before you, and ye shall fall by the sword: because ye are turned away from the LORD, therefore the LORD will not be with you.
Exodus 23:23 - For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.
Judges 1:10 - And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before [was] Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.
Judges 1:3 - And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.
Judges 1:30 - Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries.
Genesis 34:30 - And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I [being] few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.
Deuteronomy 20:17 - But thou shalt utterly destroy them [namely], the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:
1 Kings 9:16 - [For] Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up, and taken Gezer, and burnt it with fire, and slain the Canaanites that dwelt in the city, and given it [for] a present unto his daughter, Solomon's wife.
Joshua 12:8 - In the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites:
The Story of North Canaan
It is always tempting to begin the history of a town with its political organization. For Canaan, that would have begun in a New London, Connecticut courthouse on a cold Tuesday in January 1737/38 when the town was sold at auction as per the instructions of the General Assembly of the colony.
Samuel Lynde, Esqr, John Griswold and John Richards were charged by the Assembly to sell the “northwest town, bounding west by ye Ousatunnuck river,” in the largely unoccupied “western lands” of Connecticut . The land was to be disposed of “to the highest bider” at a minimum cost of £60 per right. Each of the 50 rights sold were to be of equal quantity and quality and to comprise at least 30 acres.
The sale proceeded briskly and it was not many months before settlers began to trickle into the new township, which had been named Canaan during a proprietors' meeting held February 22, 1738. The name was confirmed by an act of the legislature in 1739, at the same time the town was incorporated. The proprietors' meeting also designated a committee of three to lay out parcels and the highways in the fledgling town.
But to begin the history of Canaan with its sale by Connecticut Colony would be to ignore centuries of occupation by Native Americans and the settlement of Dutch pioneers who had already established homes along the Housatonic River on modern-day Belden Street. Comparatively little study has been done about the Indians who called Canaan home, but archaeological work done in Robbins Swamp in the 1980s uncovered evidence of occupation dating back 8000 years. Over the centuries, farmers have also turned up stone artifacts in their fields that point to regular occupation by Mohicans, Schaghticokes driven north from Kent, and possibly Tunxis Indians uprooted from the Simsbury area.
As for the Dutch, they were independent souls escaping the domination of the Patroons of New York State. Rather than remaining tenants on huge holdings held by Great Proprietors, they struck out into Indian land, purchasing tracts along the river from the Mohicans and establishing their homes.
Within 50 years of the English settlement of Canaan, virtually all the Indians had fled, moving further north to Stockbridge, Massachusetts where they became part of the mission settlement there, or moving westward. The Dutch were assimilated into the new community where their memory lingers on today in family names such as VanDeusen, Knickerbocker, Hollenbeck, Hoogeboom, and Dutcher.
With the coming of the English, settlement of the western town proceeded in earnest. Early population centers grew up in East Canaan , where industry developed along the Blackberry River, and in modern-day Falls Village, where the “Grate Falls” supplied abundant waterpower. Canaan had little iron of its own, but neighboring Salisbury began mining high-grade ore almost as soon as the town was settled. Salisbury's ore was refined and cast into many useful products in furnaces along Canaan's Blackberry River.
Samuel Forbes, who came to Canaan from Taunton, Massachusetts, was a renowned ironmaster who brought many innovations to the industry, establishing his own iron dynasty in the Northwest Corner. The iron industry thrived in Northwest Connecticut for almost 200 years, playing a major role in arming the Continental Army during the American Revolution and helping in the development of railroads in the 19th century. The last furnace in the region, located on the Blackberry near the site of Squire Forbes' earlier forge, did not go cold until 1923.
The Town of North Canaan, known locally as Canaan, did not separate from the parent town of Canaan until 1858. The Town of Canaan, known by many today as Falls Village, kept the original name, and confusion over the two municipal entities has plagued visitors and state officials ever since.
A less formal division between the two towns occurred with the formation of the Second Ecclesiastical District in 1769. The first meetinghouse, which served the entire town, was located on the present-day Sand Road, approximately equidistant between the population centers in the southern and eastern portions of the town. Despite this attempt at fairness, the distance for worshippers proved difficult and in 1769 worshippers in East Canaan received the right to form a new church there. The first church, built soon after the Second Ecclesiastical District was approved, was abandoned in 1822 when the present North Canaan Congregational Church was built about a quarter of a mile away.
In Falls Village, a new meetinghouse came in 1804 when a classical meetinghouse was built in South Canaan. Subsequently, additional churches of different denominations were constructed in the village of Canaan's business district and in Falls Village.
The current village of Canaan did not begin to develop until 1841 when the Housatonic Rail Road first chugged into town. The advent of the railroad brought people and trade into the area and a lively business district grew up around it. A hotel, the Warner House, was built in the 1840s to provide shelter for travelers and to act as a rail station. It served the growing town in that capacity until 1872 when the Canaan Union Depot was built across the street to serve the junction of the north-south and east-west rail lines. Until it was heavily damaged by fire in 2001, the depot had the distinction of being the oldest union depot in continuous use in the country. The depot is now being rebuilt to reflect its early glory.
As the iron industry faded, other industry developed. Lime quarries have been a major part of Canaan's economy for more than a century. Today, most of the mining is done by Mineral Technologies, which extracts product from a huge quarry located on Lower Road. Other mining operations include sand and gravel operations located throughout the town.
North Canaan has invited lighter industry within its borders as well and has a division of Becton Dickinson, as well as other firms such as Bicron, a maker of electronic components used in the automobile and aircraft industries.
During the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, the dairy industry was active in North Canaan. Farmers brought their milk to the railhead in the center of town where the Borden Milk Factory was located. Milk was processed at the plant and shipped twice a day to New York City. Most of the small farms are now gone, as is the Borden plant, but five dairy farms continue to operate in Canaan, the highest such concentration in Litchfield County. One farm, the Jacquier farm, has more than 1,000 animals, reflecting the national trend to “industrial” farming.
The 7 Tribes of Canaan
Locations of the seven Canaanite tribes
The seven tribes the Israelites were commanded to destroy were the Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and the Jebusites. Let’s do a quick rundown of who these tribes were and why God wanted them wiped out.
Though all the tribes of the area made up the land of Canaan, the tribe God orders to be destroyed lived along the western edge of the Jordan River and extended west to the Mediterranean Sea. Genesis 36:20 says that one of Esau’s wives was a Canaanite of the Horite tribe, so perhaps Esau married into his fate.
In addition to the other six tribes mentioned here, the Canaanites also included some familiar folks you’ve read about in the Bible: the Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, Arameans, and the Midianites.
The Hivites lived in the hilly region of Phoenicia, just north of the Canaanites. The Israelites eventually conquered and enslaved the Hivites and forced them to be water carriers and wood gatherers for God’s temple. Later, King Solomon used them as slaves in his building projects.
The Hivites banded together with other tribes and nations in rebellion to the Israelites, but the Lord made sure Joshua was victorious (Joshua 11:1-15).
The Hebrew meaning of Perizzites is “rural people.” They lived in the hilly forest country of central Israel and some parts of southern Israel. I haven’t any found any Biblical evidence about the history of the Perizzites, so they may have been just simple villagers from a blend of different backgrounds who assimilated into the Canaanite area.
But, what we do know is that some of the Perizzites who survived Joshua’s attacks were later enslaved by King Solomon (1 Kings 9:21). Then, after the Israelites returned from captivity in Babylon, they found the Perizzites getting rather chummy with the Hebrew priests and marrying Hebrew women (Ezra 9:1-2). Their behavior upset the local leaders a lot. They considered it an abomination and they feared more of God’s judgment. So, they complained to the scribe-priest Ezra who was chronicling the rebuilding of God’s temple at the time and asked him to pray for their nation. (Ezra 9:5-15).
The countryside of central Israel
Like the Perizzites, little is known about the Jebusites other than that they may be a subgroup of the Amorite tribe. The Bible is the only text that is known to mention them. However, it’s believed the Jebusites lived in the mountains surrounding Jerusalem and in what is now southern Lebanon.
God chose to destroy the Jebusites because of their king worshipped the Hurrian goddess idol Hebat, but they must have put up a good fight because some of them escaped. Some continued to live in Jerusalem until King David finally ended their rebellion and formally established the City of David, also known as Zion (2 Samuel 5:6-7).
Hittite Empire (shaded in blue)
Until the Israelites came along, the Hittites had quite an empire going on. Their territory covered the entire northeastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea in what is now Turkey and included parts of Upper Mesopotamia, shown in purple on this map.
Though the Israelites conquered the Hittite empire, the two nations were never enemies. In fact, over time, they had an active trade policy, and some of the Hittite men served in the Israeli army. The most famous Hittite-Israeli soldier was Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, who was considered one of King David’s “mighty men” (1 Chronicles 11:41).
Here again, not much is known about this Canaanite tribe other than their name comes from Gergesus, Noah’s great-grandson in Canaan’s lineage. They may have lived near the Sea of Galilee, according to archaeological findings.
What is known is they worshipped the pagan idols Baal and Ashtaroth, which included and promoted prostitution in the temple and forced children to walk through fire to prove their allegiance.
Babylon area in modern Iraq
For many years, the nomadic, very powerful Amorites were largely considered backward and primitive. Their chiefs commonly forced their way onto other nations’ lands just so their herds could graze.
Eventually, the Amorites settled down and created a nation that occupied parts of Syria and northwestern Mesopotamia, which is part of modern-day Jordan and western Iraq. Their biggest claim to fame was turning a small, sleepy, relatively unknown town into a hub of power known as Babylon.
These are the seven Canaanite tribes the Israelites were commanded to conquer so they could claim the Promised Land. The land was divided it into twelve parts, one for each Hebrew tribe, but it was collectively called Israel.
Land of Amorites in northwest Jordan
Canaan Dogs are named for the territory that is today Israel, Lebanon, and parts of bordering countries. For Israelites of biblical times, herds and flocks were at the heart of daily existence. Livestock was kept for food, leather, and wool, but also for use in the ritual sacrifices that were solemn custom for centuries. The many references to sheep and shepherds in Christian, Hebrew, and Muslim scripture attest to the centrality of pastoral life to ancient Semitic cultures.
Artifacts going back some 4,000 years bear inscriptions of dogs that look much like Canaans, but exactly when the breed was developed is one of those canine milestones that has vanished in the rearview mirror of history. We can assume that for thousands of years these dogs were shepherd’s assistants whose tasks included herding, droving, and guarding.
The turning point of the breed’s known history occurred in the year 70. It was then that the Romans, after decades of their uneasy occupation of Judea, destroyed Jerusalem and dispersed the Israelites across the Middle East and Mediterranean basin. With their owners gone and their flocks scattered, Canaan Dogs sought refuge in the Negev Desert, where they survived and, for the most part, lived undomesticated until the 20th century.
During the years leading to the foundation of the State of Israel, sentry dogs were needed to patrol isolated Jewish settlements and to train as K-9s for the fledgling Israeli army. Dr. Rudolphina Menzel, an Austrian cynologist living in Palestine, proposed the semi-wild dogs of the desert, on the assumption that only the fittest could survive such a hardscrabble existence. So began the redomestication of the Canaan Dog.
The desert dogs proved bright and highly trainable, and they were soon earning their feed as sentries, messengers, service dogs, and landmine detectors. After World War II, Menzel began the peacetime pursuit of breeding and training Canaans as guide dogs for the blind.
A breed that fended for itself for nearly 2,000 years, Canaan Dogs still retain the rugged self-reliance of desert dogs untouched by changing fashion since Abraham first led his flock into the land of Canaan.