(Heb., usually in the sing., and with the art., hak-Kenaani', הִכּנִעֲנַי, i.e. accurately according to Hebrew usage [Gesenius, Hebrews Gram. § 107], "the Canaanite;" but in the Auth. Vers., with few exceptions, rendered as plural, and therefore indistinguishafbie from כּנִעֲנַים, Kenaanim', which also, but unfrequently, occurs; Sept. generally Χαναναῖος [or Χαναναῖοι]; but Φοίνιξ, Ex 6:30; comp. Jos 5:1; Vulg. Chananeus), properly a designation of the descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham and grandson of Noah, inhabitants of the land of Canaan and the adjoining districts. SEE CANAAN.

I. Component Tribes. —

1. These are most frequently enumerated in the formula used in the command and statement of their extermination by the Israelites, which, however, assumes the following different shapes:

(1.) Six nations: the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. This is the usual form, and, with some variation in the order of the names, it is found in Ex 3:8,17; Ex 23:23; Ex 33:2; Ex 34:11; De 20:17; Jos 9:1; Jos 12:8; Jg 3:5. In Ex 13:5, the same names are given with the omission of the Perizzites.

(2.) With the addition of the Girgashites, making up the mystic number seven (De 7:1; Jos 3:10; Jos 24:1). The Girgashites are retained and the Hivites omitted in Ne 9:8 (comp. Ezr 9:1).

(3.) In Ex 23:28, we find the Canaanite, the Hittite, and the Hivite.

(4.) The list often nations in Ge 15:19-21 (where the Kenites, the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites are added), includes some on the east of Jordan, and probably some on the south of Palestine.

(5.) In 1Ki 9:20, the Canaanites are omitted from the list.

2. Besides these there were several tribes of the Canaanites who lived beyond the borders of the Promised Land northward. These were the Arkites, Sinites,Arvvadites, Zemarites, and Hamathites (Ge 10:17-18), with whom, of course, the Israelites had no concern. There were also other tribes of Canaanitish origin (or possibly other names given to some of those already mentioned), who were dispossessed by the Israelites. The chief of these were the Amalekites, the Anakites, and the Rephaim (or "giants," as they are frequently called in our translation). See each of these, as well as the foregoing, in their alphabetical place.

II. Geographical Distribution. — In this respect the term "Canaanite" is used in two senses, a limited and a wide application.

1. For the tribe of "the Canaanites" only the dwellers in the lowland, i.e. "who dwelt by the sea and by the coasts of Jordan" (Nu 13:29). The whole of the country west of Jordan might, as we have seen, be in some sense called a "lowland" as compared with the loftier and more extended tracts on the east; but there was a part of this western country which was still more emphatically a "lowland."

(a.) There were the plains lying between the shore of the Mediterranean and the foot of the hills of Benjamin, Judah, and Ephraim the Shephelah, or plain of Philistia, on the south; that of Sharon, between Jaffa and Carmel; the great plain of Esdraelon, in the rear of the bay of Akka; and, lastly, the plain of Phoenicia, containing Tyre, Sidon, and all the other cities of that nation.

(b.) But separated entirely from these was the still lower region of the Jordan Valley, or Arabah (q.v.), the modern Ghor, a region which extended in length from the sea of Cinneroth (Gennesareth) to the south of the Dead Sea about 120 miles, with a width of from 8 to 14. The climate of these sunken regions, especially of thee valley of the Jordan, is so peculiar, that it is natural to find them the special possession of one tribe. "Amalek" — so runs one of the earliest and most precise statements in the ancient records of Scripture — "Amalek dwells in the land of the south; and the Hittite, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanite dwells by the sea, and by the side of Jordan" (Nu 13:29). This describes the division of the country a few years only before the conquest. But there had been little or no variation for centuries. In the notice which purports to be the earliest of all, the seats of the Canaanite tribe — as distinguished from the sister tribes of Zidon, the Hittites, Amorites, and the other descendants of Canaan — are given as on the sea — shore from Zidon to Gaza, and in the Jordan Valley to Sodom, Gomorrah, and Lasha (afterward Callirrhoe), on the shore of the present Dead Sea (Ge 10:18-20). In Jos 11:3, at a time when the Israelites were actually in the western country, this is expressed more broadly. "The Canaanite on the east and the west" is carefully distinguished from the Amorite who held "the mountain" in the center of the country. In Jos 13:2-3, we are told with more detail that "all the 'circles' (גּלַילוֹת) of the Philistines . . . from Sihor (? the Wady el-Arish) unto Ekron northward, is counted to the Canaanite." Later still, the Canaanites are still dwelling in the upper part of the Jordan Valley-Bethshean; the plain of Esdraelon-Taanach, Ibleam, and Megiddo; the plain of Sharon- Dor; and also on the plain of Phoenicia-Accho and Zidon. Here were collected the chariots which formed a prominent part of their armies (Jg 1:19; Jg 4:3; Jos 17:16), and which could indeed be driven nowhere but in these level lowlands (Stanley, Sinai and Palest. p. 134).

The plains which thus appear to have been in possession of the Canaanites, specially so called, were not only of great extent; they were also the richest and most important parts of the country, and it is not unlikely that this was one of the reasons why —

2. The name "Canaanite" is also applied as a general name for 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, where the name is applied to dwellers in the south, who in 13:29, are called Amalekites; Jg 1:10, with which comp. Ge 14:13; Ge 13:18, and Jos 10:5, where Hebron, the highest land in Palestine, is stated to be Amorite; and Ge 13:12, where the "land of Canaan" is distinguished from the very Jordan Valley itself. See also Ge 24:3,37; comp. 28:2, 6; Ex 13:11; comp. 5. But in many of its occurrences it is difficult to know in which category to place the word. Thus, in Ge 1; Ge 11: if the floor of Atad was at Bethhogla, close to the west side of the Jordan, "the Canaanites" must be intended in the narrower and stricter sense; but the expression "inhabitants of the land" appears as if intended to be more general. Again, in Ge 10:18-19, where some believe the tribe to be intended, Gesenius takes it to apply to the whole of the Canaanite nations. But in these and other similar instances, allowance must surely be made for the different dates at which the various records thus compared were composed; and, besides this, it is difficult to estimate how accurate a knowledge the Israelites may have possessed of a set of petty nations, from whom they had been entirely removed for four hundred years, and with whom they were now again brought into contact only that they might exterminate them as soon as possible. Again, before we can solve such questions, we ought also to know more than we do of the usages and circumstances of people who differed not only from ourselves, but also possibly in a material degree from the Orientals of the present day. The tribe who possessed the ancient city of Hebron, besides being, as shown above, called interchangeably Canaanites and Amorites, are in a third passage (Genesis 23) called the children of Heth, or Hittites (comp, also 27:46, with 28:1, 6). The Canaanites who were dwelling in the land of the south when the Israelites made their attack on it may have been driven to these higher and more barren grounds by some other tribes, possibly by the Philistines who displaced the Avites, also dwellers in the low country (De 2:23). See Kurtz, Hist. of the Old Covenant, vol. 1, § 45.

3. History of the Canaanitish Race. — The Israelites were delivered from Egypt under Moses, in order that they might take possession of the land which God had promised to their fathers. This country was then inhabited by the descendants of Canaan, as described above. These nations, and especially the six or seven so frequently mentioned by name, the Israelites were commanded to dispossess and utterly to destroy (Ex 23:23; Nu 33:53; De 20:16-17). The destruction, however, was not to be accomplished at once. The promise on the part of God was that he would "put out those nations by little and little," and the command to the Israelites corresponded with it; the reason given being "lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee" (Ex 23:29; De 7:22).

The destructive war commenced with an attack on the Israelites by Arad, king of the Canaanites, which issued in the destruction of several cities in the extreme south of Palestine, to which the name of Hormah was given (Nu 21:1-3). The Israelites, however, did not follow up this victory, which was simply the consequence of an unprovoked assault on them; but turning back, and compassing the land of Edom, they attempted to pass through the country on the other side of the Jordan, inhabited by a tribe of the Amorites. Their passage being refused, and an attack made on them by Sihon, king of the Amorites, they not only forced their way through his land, but destroyed its inhabitants, and, proceeding onward toward the adjoining kingdom of Bashan, they in like manner destroyed the inhabitants of that district, and slew Og, their king, who was the last of the Rephaim, or giants (Deuteronomy in, 11). The tract of which they thus became possessed was subsequently allotted to the tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh. SEE EXODE.

After the death of Moses, the Israelites crossed the Jordan, and, under the conduct of Joshua, took possession of the greater part of the Promised Land, and destroyed its inhabitants.. Several cities, however, still held out, particularly Jebus, afterward Jerusalem, which was not taken till the time of David (2Sa 5:6), and Sidon, which seems never to have yielded to the tribe of Asher, to whom it was nominally allotted (Jg 1:31). Scattered portions also of the Canaanitish nations escaped,, and were frequently strong enough to harass, though not to dispossess, the Israelites. The inhabitants of Gibeon, a tribe of the Hivites, made peace by stratagem, and thus escaped the destruction of their fellow-countrymen. Individuals from among the Canaanites seem, in later times, to have united themselves, in some way, to the Israelites, and not only to have lived in peace, but to have been capable of holding places of honor and power: thus Uriah, one of David's captains, was a Hittite (1Ch 11:41). In the time of Solomon, when the kingdom had attained its highest glory and greatest power, all the remnants of these nations were made tributary, and bond- service was exacted from them (1Ki 9:20). The Girgashites seem to have been either wholly destroyed or absorbed in other tribes. We find no mention of them subsequent to the book of Joshua; and the opinion that the Gergesenes, or Gadarenes, in the time of our Lord, were their descendants, has little evidence, except the similarity of names, to support it (Rosenmüller, Scholia in Genesis 10:16; Reland, Palcestina, 1:27, p. 138). The Anakites were completely destroyed by Joshua except in three cities, Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod (Jos 11:21-23); and the powerful nation of the Amalekites, many times defeated and continually harassing the Israelites, were at last totally destroyed by the tribe of Simeon (1Ch 4:43). Even after the return of the Jews from the Babylonian captivity there were survivors of five of the Canaanitish nations, with whom alliances had been made by the Jews, contrary to the commands which had been given them. Some of the Canaanites, according to ancient tradition (see D'Herbelot, Biblioth. Orient. s.v. Falasthin), left the land of Canaan on the approach of Joshua, and emigrated to the coast of Africa (to Armenia, according to Ritter, Erdk. 7:585).. Procopius (De Bello Vandalico, 2:10) relates that there were in Numidia, at Tigisis (Tingis), two columns, on which were inscribed, in Phoenician characters, "We are those who fled from the face of Joshua, the robber, the son of Naue." (See Bochart, Phaleg, 1:24; Michaelis, Laws of Moses, art. 31, vol. i, p. 176, Smith's transl.; Bachiene, I, 2, I sq.; Michaelis, Spicileg. 1:166 sq.; Hamelsveld, 3:31 sq.) SEE PHOENICIA.

4. Characteristics. — Beyond their chariots (see above) we have no clew to any manners or customs of the Canaanites. Like the Phoenicians, they were probably given to commerce, and thus the name doubtless became in later times an occasional synonym for a merchant (Job 41:6; Pr 31:24; comp. Isa 23:8,11; Ho 12:2; Zep 1:11. See Kenrick, Phoenicia, p. 232). Under the name Kanr'ma they appear on the Egyptian monuments, distinguished by a coat of mail and helmet, and the use of spears, javelins, and a battle-axe similar to that of Egypt (Wilkinson, 1:403, abridgm.).

Of the language of the Canaanites little can be said. On the one hand, being — if the genealogy of Genesis 10 be rightly understood — Hamites, there could be no affinity between their language and that of the Israelites who were descendants of Shem. On the other is the fact that Abram and Jacob, shortly after their entrance to the country, seem able to hold converse with them, and also that the names of Canaanite persons and places which we possess are translatable into Hebrew. Such are Melchizedek, Hamor, Shechem, Sisera, Ephrath, and also a great number of the names of places. (For an examination of this interesting but obscure subject, see Gesenius, Hebr. Spr. p. 223-225.) SEE CANAAN, LANGUAGE OF.

The "Nethinim," or servants of the Temple, seem to have originated in the dedication of captives taken in war from the petty states surrounding the Israelites. SEE NETHINIM. If this was the case, and if they were maintained in number from similar sources, there must be many non- Israelite names in the lists of their families which we possess in Ezr 2:43-54; Ne 7:46-56. Several of the names in these catalogues, such as Sisera, Mehunim, Nephushim, are the same as those which we know to be foreign, and doubtless others would be found on examination. The Gibeonites especially were native Canaanites, who, although reduced to a state of serfdom, were allowed to exist among the Israelites. SEE GIBEONITE.

5. Conquest of Canaan. — The arbitrary and forcible invasion of the land of Canaan by the Israelites, the violent and absolute dispossession of its inhabitants by them, and the appropriation of their property -above all, the avowed purpose and actual warfare of utter extermination on their part respecting those who had never misused them, against whom they could neither exhibit nor pretend to any such claim as is acknowledged as a cause of hostility or right to the soil among civilized nations, has given grave offense to modern rationalists, and occasioned no little difficulty to pious believers in the economy of the Old Testament. The example has even been pleaded in' justification of the shameful outrages committed by Christians upon the North-American Indians, as it was by the Spaniards in their savage campaigns against the peaceful and highly cultivated Mexicans and Peruvians; nor can it be doubted that the relentless spirit evinced in the sanguinary history of the Exode was largely reflected in the stern and martial zeal of Cromwell and the Puritans. Without attempting to vindicate all the details of the war under Joshua, which in some instances (e.g. in the circumstances attending the punishment of Achan [q.v.], who, by reason of his complicity with the Canaanites in respect to the ban against them; was regarded as a traitor, and dealt with summarily, as by a court-martial, or rather by "lynch-law") appears to have transcended even the rigorous programme contemplated in its inception, although it probably went no farther in severity than the rude judgment of those charged with or engaged in the execution of the scheme deemed needful for the ends in view, we are yet called upon to investigate the grounds upon which the measure, as a whole, has been defended or may be justified; and this is the more imperative, inasmuch as the warfare and occupation themselves were not simply suffered while in progress, or passed over as unavoidable after their occurrence, but positively, repeatedly, and strictly enjoined, with all their essential features of so-called atrocity or injustice, by special divine command, accompanied by the most awful sanctions direct from heaven itself. The question properly relates to two somewhat distinct points: 1. The right of the Israelites to the territory itself, and, 2. The morality of warfare in which no quarter was to be given, and no property of the enemy to be spared; the consideration of these, however, is so connected, both in the similarity of the objections and the common ground of vindication, that we may most conveniently treat them together.

"Many have asserted, in order to alleviate the difficulty, that an allotment of the world was made by Noah to his three sons, and that by this allotment the Land of Promise fell to the share of Shem; that the descendants of Ham were therefore usurpers and interlopers, and that, on this ground, the Israelites, as the descendants of Shem, had the right to dispossess them. This explanation is as old as Epiphanius, who thus answered the objection of the Manicheans. Others justify the war on the ground that the Canaanites were the first aggressors — a justification which applies only to the territory on the other side of the Jordan. Michaelis, to whom we must refer for a lengthened investigation of the subject (Laws of Moses, § 29, vol. 1, p. 111-179, Smith's transl.), dissatisfied with these and other attempted apologies, asserts that the Israelites had a right to the land of Canaan as the common pasture-land of their herdsmen, in consequence of the undisturbed possession and appropriation of it from the time of Abraham till the departure of Jacob into Egypt; that this claim had never been relinquished, and was well known to the Canaanites, and that therefore the Israelites only took possession of that which belonged to them. The same hypothesis is maintained by Jahn (Hebrew Commonwealth, ch. ii, § x, Stowe's transl.). In the Fragments attached to Taylor's edition of Calmet's Dictionary (4:95, 96) another ground of justification is sought in the supposed identity of race of the Egyptian dynasty under which the Israelites were oppressed with the tribes that overran Canaan, so that the destruction of the latter was merely an act of retributive justice for the injuries which their compatriots in Egypt had inflicted on the Israelites. To all these and similar attempts to justify, on the ground of lrgal right, the forcible occupation of the land by the Israelites, and the extermination (at least to a great extent) of the existing occupants, it is to be objected that no such reason as any of these is hinted at in the sacred record. The right to carry on a war of extermination is there rested simply on the divine command to do so. That the Israelites were instruments in God's hand is a lesson not only continually impressed on their minds by the teaching of Moses, but enforced by their defeat whenever they relied on their own strength. That there may have been grounds of justification, on the plea of human or legal sight, ought not, indeed, to be denied; but it is, we imagine, quite clear, from the numerous attempts to find what these grounds were, that they are not stated in the Old Testament; and to seek for them as though they were necessary to the justification of the Israelites, seems to be an abandonment of the high ground on which alone their justification can be 'safely rested — the express command of God.

"It may be said that this is only shifting the difficulty, and that just in proportion as we exculpate the Israelites from the charges of robbery and murder, in their making war without legal ground, we lower the character of the Being whose commands they obeyed, and throw doubt on those commands being really given by God. This has indeed been a favorite objection of infidels to the divine authority of the Old Testament. Such objectors would do well to consider whether God has not an absolute right to dispose of men as he sees fit, and whether an exterminating war, from which there was at least an opportunity of escape by flight, is at all more opposed to our notions of justice than a destroying flood, or earthquake, or pestilence. Again, whether the fact of making a chosen nation of His worshippers the instrument of punishing those whose wickedness was notoriously great, did not much more impressively vindicate his character as the only God, who 'will not give his glory to another, nor his praise to graven images,' than if the punishment had been brought about by natural causes. Such considerations as these must, we apprehend, silence those who complain of injustice done to the Canaanites. But then it is objected further that such an arrangement is fraught with evil to those who are made the instruments of punishment, and, as an example, is peculiarly liable to be abused by all who have the power to persecute. As to the first of these objections, it must be remembered that the conduct of the war was never put into the hands of the Israelites; that they were continually reminded that it was for the wickedness of those nations that they were driven outs and, above all, that they themselves would be exposed to similar punishment if they were seduced into idolatry, an evil to which' they were especially prone. As to the example, it can apply to no case where there is not an equally clear expression of God's will. A person without such a commission has no more right to plead the example of the Israelites in justification of his exterminating or even harassing those whom he imagines to be God's enemies, than to plead the example of Moses in justification of his promulgating a new law purporting to come from God. In a word, the justification of the Israelites, as it appears to us, is to be sought in this alone, that they were clearly commissioned by God to accomplish this work of judgment, thus at once giving public testimony to, and receiving an awful impression of His power and authority, so as in some measure to check the outrageous idolatry into which almost the whole world had sunk." See Kitto, Pict. Hist. of the Jews, 1:336 sq.; also Daily Bible Illustr. 2:235 sq.; Bp. Sherlock, Works, v; Drew, Script. Studies, p. 122 sq.; Paley, Sermons, p. 429; Mill, Sermons (1845), p. 117; Simeon, Wlorksi-' 596; Scott, The Extirpation of the Canaanites (Sermons, 1:293 sq.); Pitman, Destruction of the Canaanites (Easter Serm. 1:481 sq.); Bp. Mants, Extermination of the Canaanites (Sermons, in, 135 sq.); Benjoin, Vindication, etc. (Lond. 1797); Stiebritz, De justitia belli adv. Cananitas (Hal. 1759); Robert, Causa belli Israelitici adv. Cananceos (Marb. 1778); Nonne, De justitit armorium Israelitarum adv. Cananceos (Brem. 1755); Schubert, Dejustitia belli in Cananaos (Greifsw. 1767); Hengstenberg, Authenticity of the Pentateuch, 2:387 sq.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Verse reference tagging and popups powered by VerseClick™.