Canaan (//; Northwest Semitic knaʿn; Phoenician: 𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍; biblical Hebrew: כנען / knaʿn; Masoretic: כְּנָעַן / Kənáʿan) was, during the late 2nd millennium BC, a region in the Ancient Near East, which as described in the Bible roughly corresponds to theLevant, i.e. modern-day Lebanon, Israel, the western part of Jordan and southwestern Syria.
The name is used commonly in the Hebrew Bible, with particular definition in references Genesis 10 and Numbers 34, where the "Land of Canaan" extends from Lebanon southward to the "Brook of Egypt" and eastward to the Jordan River Valley. References to Canaan in the Bible are usually backward looking, referring to a region that had become something else (e.g. theLand of Israel), and references to Canaanites commonly describe them as a people who had been annihilated.
Archaeological attestation of the name Canaan in Ancient Near Eastern sources is almost exclusively during the period in which the region was a colony of the New Kingdom of Egypt, with usage of the name almost disappearing following the Late Bronze Age collapse. The references suggest that during this period the term was familiar to the region's neighbors on all sides, although it has been disputed to what extent such references provide a coherent description of its location and boundaries, and regarding whether the inhabitants used the term to describe themselves. The Amarna Letters and other cuneiform documents use Kinaḫḫu, while other sources of the Egyptian New Kingdom mention numerous military campaigns conducted in Ka-na-na.
The name "Canaanites" is attested, many centuries later, as the endonym of the people later known to the Ancient Greeks from c.500 BC as Phoenicians, and following the emigration of Canaanite speakers to Carthage, was also used as a self-designation by the Punics. This mirrors later usage in later books of the Hebrew Bible, such as at the end of the Book of Zechariah, where it is thought to refer to a class of merchants or to non-monotheistic worshippers in Israel or neighbouring Sidon and Tyre, as well as in its single independent usage in the New Testament, where it is used as a synonym for Syrophoenician.
Canaan was of significant geopolitical importance in the Late Bronze Age Amarna period as the area where the spheres of interestof the Egyptian, Hittite, and Assyrian Empires converged. Much of the modern knowledge about Canaan stems from archaeological excavation in this area at sites such as Tel Hazor, Tel Megiddo and Gezer. Canaanite culture apparently developed in situ from the Circum-Arabian Nomadic Pastoral Complex, which in turn developed from a fusion of Near Eastern Harifian hunter gatherers with Pre-Pottery Neolithic B (PPNB) farming cultures, practicing animal domestication, during the 6200 BC climatic crisis. The Late Bronze Age state of Ugarit (at Ras Shamra in Syria) is considered quintessentially Canaanite archaeologically, even though its Ugaritic language does not belong to the Canaanite groupproper.
Linguistically, the Canaanite languages form a group within the Northwest Semitic languages; its best-known member today is the Hebrew language, being mostly known from Iron Age epigraphy. Other Canaanite languages are Phoenician, Ammonite, Moabite, and Edomite.
In biblical usage, the name was confined to the country west of the Jordan, the Canaanites being described as dwelling "by the sea, and along by the side of the Jordan" (Numbers 33:51; Joshua 22:9), and was especially identified with Phoenicia (Isaiah 23:11). The Philistines, while an integral part of the Canaanite milieu, do not seem to have been ethnic Canaanites, and were listed in the Table of Nations as descendants of Misraim; the Arameans, Moabites, Ammonites, Midianites and Edomites were also considered fellow descendants of Shem or Abraham, and distinct from generic Canaanites/Amorites. "Heth", representing the Hittites, is a son of Canaan. The later Hittites spoke an Indo-European language (called Nesili), but their predecessors the Hattians had spoken a little-known language (Hattili), of uncertain affinities.
The Horites formerly of Mount Seir were implied to be Canaanite (Hivite), although unusually there is no direct confirmation of this in the narrative. The Hurrians based in Northern Mesopotamia, who spoke a language isolate, were initially regarded by Bible scholars as akin to the Horites, though this is no longer the case.
The biblical narrative makes a point of the renaming of the "Land of Canaan" to the "Land of Israel" as marking the Israelite conquest of the Promised Land.
Canaan and the Canaanites are mentioned some 160 times in the Hebrew Bible, mostly in the Pentateuch and the books of Joshua andJudges.
Canaan first appears as one of Noah's grandsons during the narrative known as the Curse of Ham, in which Canaan is cursed with perpetual slavery because his father Ham had "looked upon" the drunk and naked Noah.
God later promises the land of Canaan to Abraham, and eventually delivers it to descendants of Abraham, the Israelites. The biblical history has become increasingly problematic as the archaeological and textual evidence supports the idea that the early Israelites were in fact themselves Canaanites.
The Hebrew Bible lists borders for the land of Canaan. Numbers 34:2 includes the phrase "the land of Canaan as defined by its borders." The borders are then delineated in Numbers 34:3–12. The term "Canaanites" in biblical Hebrew is applied especially to the inhabitants of the lower regions, along the sea coast and on the shores of Jordan, as opposed to the inhabitants of the mountainous regions. By the time of the Second Temple, "Canaanite" in Hebrew had come to be not an ethnic designation, so much as a general synonym for "merchant", as it is interpreted in, for example, Job 40:30, or Proverbs 31:24.
John N. Oswalt notes that "Canaan consists of the land west of the Jordan and is distinguished from the area east of the Jordan." Oswalt then goes on to say that in Scripture Canaan "takes on a theological character" as "the land which is God's gift" and "the place of abundance".
The Hebrew Bible describes the Israelite conquest of Canaan in the "Former Prophets" (Nevi'im Rishonim [נביאים ראשונים] ), viz. the books of Joshua, Judges, 1st & 2nd Samuel, 1st & 2nd Kings. These five books of the Old Testament canon give the narrative of the Israelites after the death of Moses and Joshua leading them into Canaan. In 586 BC, the Israelites in turn lost the land to the Babylonians. These narratives of the Former Prophets are also "part of a larger work, called the Deuteronomistic History".
The part of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible often called the Table of Nations describes the Canaanites as being descended from an ancestor called Canaan, the son of Ham and grandson of Noah (Hebrew: כְּנַעַן, Knaan), saying (Genesis 10:15–19):
The Sidon whom the Table identifies as the firstborn son of Canaan has the same name as that of the coastal city of Sidon, in Lebanon. This city dominated the Phoenician coast, and may have enjoyed hegemony over a number of ethnic groups, who are said to belong to the "Land of Canaan".
Similarly, Canaanite populations are said to have inhabited:
- the Mediterranean coastlands (Joshua 5:1), including Lebanon corresponding to Phoenicia (Isaiah 23:11) and the Gaza Strip corresponding to Philistia (Zephania 2:5).
- the Jordan Valley (Joshua 11:3, Numbers 13:29, Genesis 13:12).
The Canaanites (Hebrew: כנענים, Modern Kna'anim Tiberian Kənaʻănîm) are said to have been one of seven regional ethnic divisions or "nations" driven out by the Israelites followingThe Exodus. Specifically, the other nations include the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites (Deuteronomy 7:1).
According to the Book of Jubilees, the Israelite conquest of Canaan is attributed to Canaan's steadfast refusal to join his elder brothers in Ham's allotment beyond the Nile, and instead "squatting" on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, within the inheritance delineated for Shem. Canaan thus incurs a further curse from Noah for disobeying the agreed apportionment of land.
One of the 613 mitzvot (precisely n. 596) prescribes that no inhabitants of the cities of six Canaanite nations, the same as mentioned in 7:1, minus the Girgashites, were to be left alive.
While the Hebrew Bible contrasts the Canaanites ethnically from the Ancient Israelites, modern scholars Jonathan Tubb and Mark Smith have theorized the kingdoms of Israel and Judah to be a subset of Canaanite culture, based on their archaeological and linguistic interpretations.
During the 2nd millennium BC, Ancient Egyptian texts use the term Canaan to refer to an Egyptian-ruled colony, whose boundaries generally corroborate the definition of Canaan found in the Hebrew Bible, bounded to the west by the Mediterranean Sea, to the north in the vicinity of Hamath in Syria, to the east by the Jordan Valley, and to the south by a line extended from the Dead Sea to around Gaza. Nevertheless, the Egyptian and Hebrewuses of the term are not identical: the Egyptian texts also identify the coastal city of Qadesh in north west Syria near Turkey as part of the "Land of Canaan", so that the Egyptian usage seems to refer to the entire Levantine coast of the Mediterranean Sea, making it a synonym of another Egyptian term for this coastland, Retenu.
Lebanon, in northern Canaan, bordered by the Litani river to the watershed of the Orontes river, was known by the Egyptians as upper Retjenu. In Egyptian campaign accounts, the term Djahi was used to refer to the watershed of the Jordan river. Many earlier Egyptian sources also mention numerous military campaigns conducted in Ka-na-na, just inside Asia.
- Amenhotep II inscriptions: Canaanites are included in a list of prisoners of war
- Three topographical lists
- Papyrus Anastasi I 27,1" refers to the route from Sile to Gaza "the [foreign countries] of the end of the land of Canaan"
- Merneptah Stele
- Papyrus Anastasi IIIA 5-6 and Papyrus Anastasi IV 16,4 refer to "Canaanite slaves from Hurru"
- Papyrus Harris After the collapse of the Levant under the so-called "Peoples of the Sea" Ramesses III (ca. 1194 BC) is said to have built a temple to the god Amen to receive tribute from the southern Levant. This was described as being built in Pa-Canaan, a geographical reference whose meaning is disputed, with suggestions that it may refer to the city of Gaza or to the entire Egyptian-occupied territory in the south west corner of the Near East.
Padiiset's Statue is the last known Egyptian reference to Canaan, a small statuette labelled "Envoy of the Canaan and of Palestine, Pa-di-Eset, the son of Apy". It is more than 300 years after the preceding known inscription.
During the period from c.900-330 BCE, the dominant empires of the Neo-Assyrians and Achaemenid Persians make no mention of Canaan.
The Greek term "Phoenicia" is first attested in the first two works of Western literature, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. It does not occur in the Hebrew Bible, but occurs three times in the New Testament in the Book of Acts. In the 6th century BC, Hecataeus of Miletus 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". Quoting fragments attributed to Sanchuniathon, he relates that Byblos, Berytus and Tyre were among the first cities ever built, under the rule of the mythical Cronus, and credits the inhabitants with developing fishing, hunting, agriculture, shipbuilding and writing.
Coins of the city of Beirut / Laodicea bear the legend, "Of Laodicea, a metropolis in Canaan"; these coins are dated to the reign of Antiochus IV (175–164 BC) and his successors until 123BC.
Saint Augustine also mentions that one of the terms the seafaring Phoenicians called their homeland was "Canaan". Augustine also records that the rustic people of Hippo in North Africa retained the Punic self-designation Chanani.
The Greeks also popularized the term Palestine for roughly the region of Canaan, excluding Phoenicia, with Herodotus' first recorded use of Palaistinê, ca. 480 BC. From 110 BC, the Hasmoneans extended their authority over much of the region, creating a Judean-Samaritan-Idumaean-Ituraean-Galilean alliance. The Judean (Jewish, see Ioudaioi) control over the wider area resulted in it also becoming known as Judaea, a term that had previously only referred to the smaller region of the Judean Mountains, the allotment of the Tribe of Judah and heartland of the former Kingdom of Judah. Between 73–63 BCE, the Roman Republic extended its influence into the region in the Third Mithridatic War, conquering Judea in 63 BCE, and splitting the former Hasmonean Kingdom into five districts. Around 130–135 CE, as a result of the suppression of the Bar Kochba revolt, the province of Iudaea was joined with Galilee to form new province of Syria Palaestina. There is circumstantial evidence linking Hadrian with the name change, although the precise date is not certain, and the interpretation of some scholars that the name change may have been intended "to complete the dissociation with Judaea" is disputed. The region of former Canaan continued to be known to all parties as Palestine from 133 until 1948 with the establishment of the modern State of Israel.
By the Early Iron Age, the southern Levant came to be dominated by the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, besides the Philistinecity-states on the Mediterranean coast, and the kingdoms of Moab, Ammon and Aram-Damascus east of the Jordan River, andEdom to the south. The northern Levant was divided into various petty kingdoms, the so-called Syro-Hittite states and the Phoenician city-states.
The entire region (including all Phoenician/Canaanite and Aramean states, together with Israel, Philistia and Samarra) was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire during the 10th and 9th centuries BC, and would remain so for three hundred years until the end of the 7th century BC. Assyrian emperor-kings such as Ashurnasirpal, Adad-nirari II, Sargon II, Tiglath-Pileser III,Esarhaddon, Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal came to dominate Canaanite affairs. The Egyptians, then under a Nubian Dynasty, made a failed attempt to regain a foothold in the region, but were vanquished by the Assyrians, leading to an Assyrian invasion and conquest of Egypt and the destruction of the Kushite Empire. The Kingdom of Judah was forced to pay tribute to Assyria. Between 616 and 605 BC the Assyrian Empire collapsed due to a series of bitter internal civil wars, followed by an attack by an alliance of Babylonians, Medes and Persians and the Scythians. The Babylonians inherited the western part of the empire of their Assyrian brethren, including all the lands in Canaan and Syria, together with Israel and Judah. They successfully defeated the Egyptians, who had belatedly attempted to aid their former masters, the Assyrians, and then remained in the region in an attempt to regain a foothold in the Near East. The Babylonian Empire itself collapsed in 539 BC, and Canaan fell to the Persians and became a part of the Achaemenid Empire. It remained so until in 332 BC it was conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, later to fall to Rome in the late 2nd century BC, and then Byzantium, until the Arab Islamic invasion and conquest of the 7th century AD.
Canaan included what today are Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories, northwestern Jordan, and some western areas of Syria. According to archaeologist Jonathan N. Tubb, "Ammonites, Moabites, Israelites and Phoenicians undoubtedly achieved their own cultural identities, and yet ethnically they were all Canaanites", "the same people who settled in farming villages in the region in the 8th millennium BC."
There is uncertainty about whether the name Canaan refers to a specific Semitic ethnic group wherever they live, the homeland of this ethnic group, or a region under the control of this ethnic group, or perhaps any of the three.
Canaanite civilization was a response to long periods of stable climate interrupted by short periods of climate change. During these periods, Canaanites profited from their intermediary position between the ancient civilizations of the Middle East —Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia (Sumer, Akkad, Assyria, Babylonia), the Hittites, and Minoan Crete — to become city states of merchant princes along the coast, with small kingdoms specializing in agricultural products in the interior. This polarity, between coastal towns and agrarian hinterland, was illustrated in Canaanite mythology by the struggle between the storm god, variously called Teshub (Hurrian) or Ba'al Hadad (Semitic Amorite/Aramean) and Ya'a, Yaw, Yahu or Yam, god of the sea and rivers. Early Canaanite civilization was characterized by small walled market towns, surrounded by peasant farmers growing a range of local horticultural products, along with commercial growing of olives, grapes for wine, and pistachios, surrounded by extensive grain cropping, predominantly wheat and barley. Harvest in early summer was a season when transhumance nomadism was practiced — shepherds staying with their flocks during the wet season and returning to graze them on the harvested stubble, closer to water supplies in the summer. Evidence of this cycle of agriculture is found in the Gezer calendar and in the biblical cycle of the year.
Periods of rapid climate change generally saw a collapse of this mixed Mediterranean farming system; commercial production was replaced with subsistence agricultural foodstuffs; and transhumance pastoralism became a year-round nomadic pastoral activity, whilst tribal groups wandered in a circular pattern north to the Euphrates, or south to the Egyptian delta with their flocks. Occasionally, tribal chieftains would emerge, raiding enemy settlements and rewarding loyal followers from the spoils or by tariffs levied on merchants. Should the cities band together and retaliate, a neighbouring state intervene or should the chieftain suffer a reversal of fortune, allies would fall away or inter-tribal feuding would return. It has been suggested that the Patriarchal tales of the Bible reflect such social forms. During the periods of the collapse of Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia and the First Intermediate Period of Egypt, the Hyksos invasions and the end of the Middle Bronze Age in Assyria and Babylonia, and the Late Bronze Age collapse, trade through the Canaanite area would dwindle, as Egypt, Babylonia, and to a lesser degree Assyria, withdrew into their isolation. When the climates stabilized, trade would resume firstly along the coast in the area of the Philistine and Phoenician cities. As markets redeveloped, new trade routes that would avoid the heavy tariffs of the coast would develop from Kadesh Barnea, throughHebron, Lachish, Jerusalem, Bethel, Samaria, Shechem, Shiloh through Galilee to Jezreel, Hazor and Megiddo. Secondary Canaanite cities would develop in this region. Further economic development would see the creation of a third trade route from Eilath, Timna, Edom (Seir), Moab, Ammon and thence to the Aramean states of Damascus and Palmyra. Earlier states (for example the Philistines and Tyrians in the case of Judah and Israel, for the second route, and Judah and Israel for the third route) tried generally unsuccessfully to control the interior trade.
Eventually, the prosperity of this trade would attract more powerful regional neighbours, such as Ancient Egypt, Assyria, the Babylonians, Persians, Ancient Greeks and Romans, who would control the Canaanites politically, levying tribute, taxes and tariffs. Often in such periods, thorough overgrazing would result in a climatic collapse and a repeat of the cycle (e.g. PPNB, Ghassulian, Uruk, and the Bronze Age cycles already mentioned). The fall of later Canaanite civilization occurred with the incorporation of the area into the Greco-Roman world (as Iudaea province), and after Byzantine times, into the Muslim Arab and proto-Muslim Umayyad Caliphate. Western Aramaic, one of the two lingua francas of Canaanite civilization, is still spoken in a number of small Syrian villages, whilst Phoenician Canaanite disappeared as a spoken language in about 100 AD. A separate Akkadian-infused Eastern Aramaic is still spoken by the existing Assyrians of Iraq, Iran, northeast Syria and southeast Turkey.
Tel Kabri contains the remains of a Canaanite city from the Middle Bronze Age (2000–1550 B.C.). The city, the most important of the cities in the Western Galilee during that period, had a palace at its center. Tel Kabri is the only Canaanite city that can be excavated in its entirety because after the city was abandoned, no other city was built over its remains. It is notable because the predominant extra-Canaanite cultural influence is Minoan; Minoan-style frescoes decorate the palace.[