From Example Problems
Jump to: navigation, search

This article is about . For , see Canaan (disambiguation).

Canaan or Kná'an (Arabic کنعان, Kanʻān, Hebrew כְּנַעַן / כְּנָעַן, Kənáʻan / Kənāʻan; Septuagint Greek Χανααν, Khanaan) is an ancient term for a region roughly corresponding to present-day Israel, the West Bank, western Jordan, southern and coastal Syria and Lebanon continuing up until the border of modern Turkey.

Various Canaanite sites have been excavated by archaeologists, most notably the Canaanite town of Ugarit, which was rediscovered in 1928. Much of our modern knowledge about the Canaanites stems from excavation in this area.


In linguistic terms, Canaanite refers to the common ancestor of closely related Semitic languages including Hebrew, and Ugaritic, and was the first language to use a Semitic alphabet, from which the others derived their scripts; see Canaanite languages.

The name Canaan is of obscure origins but is extremely ancient; the first known references appear in the 3rd millennium BC. The Biblical explanation is that it derives from Canaan, the son of Ham whose offspring correspond to the names of Canaanite tribes in Gen. 10. (see below)

Since Egyptian (though not Hebrew) scribes consistently prefixed the article, we may suppose that it originally meant "the country of the Canaanites," just as the Hebrew phrase "the Lebanon" may originally have meant "the highlands of the Libnites"; and the name "Canaan" may also be connected with certain clan-names such as Achan, Akan, Jaakan, Anak (generally with the article prefixed), Kain, and Kenan.

Nowadays, Canaanite can describe anything pertaining to Canaan; especially its culture, its languages and its inhabitants.

Phoenician Canaan

Early on the Canaanites acquired fame as traders across a wide area beyond the Near East. There are occasional instances in the Hebrew Bible where "Canaanite" is used as a synonym for "merchant" - presumably indicating the aspect of Canaanite culture that the authors found most familiar. The term was derived from the place name, because so many merchants described themselves as Canaanites.

One of Canaan's most famous exports was a much sought-after purple dye, derived from two species of sea snails found along the east Mediterranean coast (Canaan also means purple), and worn proudly by figures from ancient kings to modern popes. After most of Canaan was conquered by Israel between ca. 1200 BC-1100 BC, the remnant, "Phoenicia", became a synonym for "Canaan" (both in the sense of the country, and the purple dye.)

Much later, in the 6th century BC, Hecataeus affirms that Phoenicia was formerly called χνα, a name that Philo of Byblos subsequently adopted into his mythology as his eponym for the Phoenicians: "Khna who was afterwards called Phoinix".

St. Augustine also mentions that one of the terms the seafaring Phoenicians called their homeland was "Canaan." This is further confirmed by coins of the city of Laodicea by the Lebanon, that bear the legend, "Of Laodicea, a metropolis in Canaan"; these coins are dated to the reign of Antiochus IV (175 BC - 164 BC) and his successors.

The first of many Canaanites who emigrated seaward finally settled in Carthage, and Augustine adds that the country people near Hippo, presumably Punic in origin, still called themselves Chanani in his day.

Canaan in Mesopotamian inscriptions

Canaan is mentioned in a document from the 18th century BC found in the ruins of Mari, a former Sumerian outpost in Syria. Apparently Canaan at this time existed as a distinct political entity (probably a loose confederation of city-states).

Soon after this, the great empire-builder and law-giver Hammurabi (1728 BC-1686 BC), first king of a united Babylonia, extended Babylonian influence over Canaan and Syria, and he may be identical with the Amraphel of Genesis.

Tablets found in the Mesopotamian city of Nuzi use the term Kinahnu ("Canaan") as a synonym for red or purple dye, apparently a renowned Canaanite export commodity. The dyes were likely named after their place of origin (much as "champagne" is both a product, and the name of the region where it is produced). The purple cloth of Tyre in Phoenicia was well known far and wide.

Egyptian Canaan

During the 2nd millennium BC the name Kan'an, favoured in Egyptian usage, was used for a province of the Egyptian empire bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, on the north by the Pass of Hamath in southern Lebanon, on the east by the Jordan Valley and on the south by a line extended from the Dead Sea to the Gaza area. This region corresponds closely to the description given in the Hebrew Bible, in Numbers 34.1–12.

At the end of what is referred to as the Middle Kingdom era of Egypt, and the event that actually caused its end, was a massive Asiatic invasion of Egypt. Around 1674 BC, the Semitic invaders, whom the Egyptians referred to as the "Hyksos", conquered Lower Egypt (northern Egypt), evidently leaving Canaan an ethnically diverse land.

Among the migrant tribes who settled in the region were the Amorites. In the Old Testament, we find Amorites mentioned in the Table of Peoples (Gen. 10:16-18a). Evidently, the Amorites played a significant role in the early history of Canaan. In Gen. 14:7 f., Josh. 10:5 f., Deut. 1:19 f., 27, 44, we find them located in the southern mountain country, while in Num. 21:13, Josh. 9:10, 24:8, 12, etc., we hear of two great Amorite kings residing at Heshbon and Ashtaroth, east of the Jordan. However, in other passages such as Gen. 15:16, 48:22, Josh. 24:15, Judg. 1:34, etc., the name Amorite is regarded as synonymous with "Canaanite" - only "Amorite" is never used for the population on the coast.

In Egyptian inscriptions Amar and Amurru are applied strictly to the mountain region east of Phoenicia, extending to the Orontes. Later on, Amurru became the Assyrian term for the interior of south as well as north Canaan.

In the centuries preceding the Hebrew invasion(s), Canaan and Syria became tributary to the Egyptian Pharoahs, although domination by the sovereign power was not so strong as to prevent frequent local rebellions. Under Thutmose III (1479 BC-1426 BC) and Amenhotep II (1427 BC-1400 BC), the pressure of a strong hand kept the Syrians and Canaanites sufficiently loyal. The reign of Amenhotep III, however, was not quite so tranquil for the Asiatic province. Turbulent chiefs began to seek their opportunities, though as a rule, could not find them without the help of a neighboring king. The boldest of the disaffected nobles was Aziru, son of Abd-Ashirta, a prince of Amurru, who even before the death of Amenhotep III, endeavoured to extend his power into the plain of Damascus. Akizzi, governor of Katna (near Hamath), reported this to the Pharaoh, who seems to have frustrated the attempt. In the next reign, however, both father and son caused infinite trouble to loyal servants of Egypt like Rib-Addi, governor of Gubla (Gebal).

Egyptian power in Canaan suffered a major setback when the Hittites (or Hatti) advanced into Syria in the reign of Amenhotep III, and became even more threatening in that of his successor, displacing the Amurru and prompting a resumption of Semitic migration. It is related that Abd-Ashirta, and his son Aziru, at first afraid of the Hittites, were afterwards clever enough to make a treaty with their king, and joining with other external powers, attacked the districts remaining loyal to Egypt. In vain did Rib-Addi send touching appeals for aid to the distant Pharaoh, who was far too engaged in his religious innovations to attend to such messages.

In the el Amarna letters(~1350 BC) sent by governors and princes of Canaan to their Egyptian overlord Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) in the 14th century BC - commonly known as the Tel-el-Amarna tablets - we find, beside Amar and Amurru (Amorites), the two forms Kinahhi and Kinahni, corresponding to Kena' and Kena'an respectively, and including Syria in its widest extent, as Eduard Meyer has shown. The letters are written in the official and diplomatic language Babylonian/Akkadian, though "Canaanitish" words and idioms are not wanting.

Seti I (ca. 1290 BC) is said to have conquered the Shasu, Arabian nomads living just south and east of the Dead Sea, from the fortress of Taru (Shtir?) to the "Ka-n-'-na", and Rameses III (ca. 1194 BC) is said to have built a temple to the god Amen in the "Ka-n-'-na". This geographic name probably meant all of western Syria and Canaan, with Raphia, "the (first) city of the Ka-n-'-na", on the southwest boundary toward the desert. Some archaeologists have proposed that Egyptian records of the 13th century BC are early written reports of a monotheistic belief in Yahweh noted among the nomadic Shasu. (See pages 128 and 236 of the book Who Were the Early Israelites? by archaeologist William G. Dever (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 2003). Evidently, belief in Yahweh displaced polytheistic beliefs that had arisen among the early Hebrews, during and after the reign of King Josiah (around 650 BC), according to that book, and also according to archaeologists Neil A. Silberman and colleagues, in The Bible Unearthed (Simon and Schuster, New York, 2001).

Most interesting is the mention of troublesome invaders called sometimes SA-GAS (a Babylonian ideogram meaning "robber"), and sometimes Habiri. These Habiri are believed by some to signify generally all the nomadic tribes known as "Hebrews", and particularly the early Israelites, who sought to appropriate the fertile region for themselves. The terms Habiri and the Assyrian form Habiru may also include other related peoples such as the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites.

In the El Amarna letters(~1350 BC), we meet with the Habiri in northern Syria. Itakkama wrote thus to the Pharaoh, "Behold, Namyawaza has surrendered all the cities of the king, my lord to the SA-GAS in the land of Kadesh and in Ubi. But I will go, and if thy gods and thy sun go before me, I will bring back the cities to the king, my lord, from the Habiri, to show myself subject to him; and I will expel the SA-GAS." Similarly Zimrida, king of Sidon, declared, "All my cities which the king has given into my hand, have come into the hand of the Habiri." Nor had Canaan any immunity from the Semitic invaders. The king of Jerusalem, Abdi-heba, reported to the Pharaoh, "If (Egyptian) troops come this year, lands and princes will remain to the king, my lord; but if troops come not, these lands and princes will not remain to the king, my lord." Abdi-heba's principle trouble arose from persons called Iilkili and the sons of Labaya, who are said to have entered into a treasonable league with the Habiri. Apparently this restless warrior found his death at the siege of Gina. All these princes, however, maligned each other in their letters to the Pharaoh, and protested their own innocence of traitorous intentions. Namyawaza, for instance, whom Itakkama (see above) accused of disloyalty, wrote thus to the Pharaoh, "Behold, I and my warriors and my chariots, together with my brethren and my SA-GAS, and my Suti ?9 are at the disposal of the (royal) troops to go whithersoever the king, my lord, commands"; El Amarna letter, EA 189. This petty prince, therefore, saw no harm in having a band of Semites for his garrison.

Biblical Canaanites

Ham discovered Noah naked while Noah was sleeping off some wine (Genesis 9:22). Because of this Noah cursed Ham's son Canaan to go into servitude not only to his Shemite and Japhethic cousins, but even to his Hamite brethren (Genesis 9:25).

In the so-called Table of Peoples in the tenth chapter of Genesis, Canaan is included among the four sons of Ham. It is generally agreed (apart from perhaps the most extreme minimalists) that Cush in 10:6 signifies Ethiopia, Mizraim (lit. two lands) is the Hebrew name for Upper and Lower Egypt, and Phut (Puti) a Libyan tribe. The name of their father, Ham, is often thought to be cognate with the old Egyptian name for Egypt, Kam-t (black), though this is more widely disputed. Some skeptics in the very early 1900s postulated that Cush, Mizraim, Put and Ham were all locations in northern Arabia, and suggested the name Canaan was therefore similarly of Arab origin. It is plausible that inscriptions in the Canaanite language incorporated some geographic and religious phrases that originated in Arabic.

The Canaanites are initially identified as divided into eleven tribes or areas: Sidon; Heth; Jebusites; Amorites; Girgasites; Hivites; Arkites; Sinites; Arvadites; Zemarites; Hamathites.

Canaanite populations are said to inhabit:

The Canaanites or Kna'anim (כנענים, Standard Hebrew Kənaʻani, Tiberian Hebrew Kənaʻanî) are said in Deuteronomy 7:1 to have been one of seven nations driven out before the Israelites. Other passages describe regional ethnic divisions, of which the Canaanites were the coastal component. The term "Canaanites" in this context corresponds exactly to "Phoenicians". The seven Canaanite nations mentioned are the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.

The Bible indicates that God cautioned the Israelites against the sexual depravities of the Canaanites and their fertility cult (Leviticus 18:27). Thus the land of the Canaanites (specifically the Amorites, Hivites, Hethites, Girgashites and Jebusites) was deemed suitable for conquest by the Israelites partly on moral grounds. Deuteronomy 20:16-17, one of the 613 mitzvot, prescribes that no inhabitants of the cities of six Canaanite nations, the same as mentioned in 7:1, minus the Girgashites, are to be left alive.

Further reading


External links

de:Kanaan es:Canaán fr:Canaan he:כנען nl:Kanaän ja:カナン pl:Kanaan pl:Języki kananejskie pt:Canaã simple:Canaan fi:Kanaaninmaa sv:Kanaan