In yesterday’s post I quoted a brief outline of the variant meanings that have been assigned “Canaan” and “Canaanites” throughout supposedly biblical times. But there is much more to be said, or at least suggested. Niels Peter Lemche discusses these concepts in depth in The Canaanites and Their Land and here I lay out one of the many facets making up that book: — that Canaanites for the Bible’s authors really meant fellow Jews who stood apart as religious rivals.
After surveying in depth the historical references to whatever was truly Canaanite in the second and first millennia b.c.e. (and demonstrating how alien each historical reference is to anything about Canaan and the Canaanites in the Bible) Lemche addresses the treatment of the term in the various books of the Bible. In his concluding chapter he addresses conclusions that may be drawn – or rather postulates that may be aired — if we think of the historical books as being written in the late Persian or Hellenistic eras. (more…)
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The good news is that there was no military invasion of Canaan and no mass genocide of Canaanites by the Israelites under Joshua. God is off the hook on this one.
Israel Finkelstein, Professor of Archaeology at Tel Aviv University, writes in The Quest for the Historical Israel (2007):
The progress in archaeological and anthropological research between the 1960s and 1980s brought about the total demise of the military conquest theory. (p.53)
He sums up 5 strands of archaeological evidence against the biblical conquest story.
- Key sites in the Book of Joshua’s conquest account — such as Jericho, Ai, Gibeon, Heshbon, Arad — were either uninhabited or insignificant small villages during the time of the Late Bronze Age.
- The collapse of the Canaanite Late Bronze Age city system was a gradual process over several decades — according to new finds at Lachish and Aphek, and reevaluations of the evidence from the older studies at Megiddo and Hazor.
- The collapse of the Late Bronze Age Canaan was part of a wider phenomenon that embraced the entire eastern Mediterranean.
- Egypt’s control of Canaan through the Late Bronze and early Iron Ages was strong enough to have prevented the sort of invasion depicted in the Book of Joshua.
- The rise of villages in the central hill country of Palestine has been found to have been “just one phase in a long-term, repeated, and cyclic process” of an alternating nomad-settlement pattern of Palestine’s inhabitants. It was not a unique event signalling the influx of a new ethnic group.