Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who Were the Canaanites?


Alice C. Linsley


Canaan became the father of Sidon his firstborn, and Heth and the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. (Gen. 10:15-18 NRSV)

The Bible passages that speak about “the Canaanites” reflect authors who lived well after the Patriarchal Period (2200-1800 BC). In the Canaan that Abraham knew, there were many peoples and castes living in settlements and in shrine cities such as Hazor. Egypt was the dominant political power and the socio-religious context of the Canaanites was Afro-Arabian, Kushite and Nilo-Saharan. This has been demonstrated by scientific analysis drawing on the disciplines of anthropology, linguistics, archaeology and molecular genetics.

In Genesis 10 the peoples who descend from Noah through his grandsons Sidon and Het (Heth) are said to be the original inhabitants. Noah was a Proto-Saharan chief living in the region of Lake Chad. He lived approximately 2490-2415 BC, when the Sahara experienced a wet period (Karl W. Butzer 1966). This is the period of the Old Kingdom, a time of great cultural and technological achievement.Two of his sons were Ham and Shem. The ruler-priest lines of Ham and Shem can be traced throughout the Bible. Their lines intermarried.

According to Genesis 9:20-26, Noah's curse fell upon the Canaanites. This transparent attempt to obfuscate the Kushite origins of Israel clearly entered the text long after the time of Moses the Horite. Noah's three sons were Shem, Ham and Japheth and their lines intermarried. Therefore, if Noah cursed his grandson Canaan, the curse fell upon all his descendants.



Israelites and Canaanites are related peoples

In II Chronicles 8:7 and I Kings 9:20 the term “Canaanite” is used to distinguish the Israelites from the other clans living in the land. However, it is clear that the Israelites were related to these Canaanite clans. The Canaanites were blood-related Afro-Arabian peoples whose ancestry can be traced back to the Nile Valley. They were ruled by chiefs who maintained mound-city shrines throughout the land of Canaan.

The Kushite peoples included Edomites, red and black Nubians, Nilotes, Egyptians, Sudra, Horites, and the Ainu. The Ainu are often regarded as the First Nation people who built Heliopolis and spread across the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion.

Migration routes of the Nilotic Proto-Saharans

Genesis 10 attempts to establish Canaan as the eponymous ancestor of the Canaanite clans who spread, according to Genesis 10:19, from "Sidon to Gerar near Gaza, and all the way to to Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim near Lesha."  All of the Canaanite clans named in Genesis are also listed as the original inhabitants of the land in Exodus 3:8; Deuteronomy 7:1; Joshua 3:10; 24:11 or in extant texts of the period.

Melchizededk, the high priest of Jerusalem, was a Jebusite.  He ministered to Abraham after the bloodshed between the kings. (Gen. 14)  The Jebusites were a Kushite people.

The Hivites were likely a Horite clan (Genesis 14:6).  It is not surprising then that Abraham the Horite was living among them and was buried among them at Machpelah.

The Arvadites (residents of Arvad) and Arkites (Gen. 10:15-18) were clans of royal scribes and related to the Amorites. During Abraham's time, the Amorites were centered in Engedi, a large oasis on the western shore of the Dead Sea bounded on the south by the Wadi Arnon.

The terms “Amorites” and "Canaanites" are synonymous in Genesis 15:15-16 and Joshua 24:15, 18. The Amorites were the Am-Ar, meaning the people/tribe/caste of Ar. They are called the Aro among the people living at the confluence of the Benue and Niger Rivers in Nigeria. Some migrated to this well-watered region before the time of Abraham. The Nigerian historian, Dr. Catherine Acholonu, claims that they were a caste of scribes.

The Amorites were living in Palestine as early as 2300 B.C., 260 years before the time of Abraham (c. 2039-1964). The first biblical ruler of this name is Ar-pacshad, who lived four generations after Noah. He was a descendant of both Ham and Shem.

Ar appears in the titles of many ancient rulers, including Ar-Shem, Arsames, Artix, and Araxes.  Ar also is found in the names of places, such as Wadi Arnon. Ar-non (originally Ar-nxn) means the Ar of Onn. Onn is another name for Heliopolis, the City of the Sun. Joseph married the daughter of the high priest of Heliopolis, a Horite shrine city.


A time of kingdom building

The rulers named in Genesis 4, 5. 10 and 11 controlled the major water systems of Lake Chad, the Nile, and the Tigris and Euphrates. The interconnected waterways were their roads. Noah would have been familiar with boats and likely had a fleet.

These ancient rulers imposed taxes on cargo that moved through their territories. They used the rivers to expand their kingdoms and to spread their Afro-Asiatic worldview. Nimrod is an example. His father was Kush, a ruler who controlled a vast region of the Upper Nile. Nimrod left the Nile region and built his kingdom along the Tigris in Mesopotamia (Gen. 10:8-12). He was a sent-away son. Most of the great heroes of the Old Testament were sent-away sons: Kain, Nimrod, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, etc.

Sent-away sons were the great kingdom builders of the ancient world. Genesis is one of the most significant sources of information about these ancient rulers.



The Kushite Connection

Noah's other grandson was Kush, the father of Nimrod.  From ancient Kush Abraham's ancestors spread far and wide as rulers in the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion. Genesis is the most reliable record of Horite rule.

Some scholars believe that "Canaan" is derived from an Aramaic word meaning “to be low.” William F. Albright suggested that "Canaan" originally meant “a merchant” because the people who lived there, called "Phoenicians" by the Greeks, were merchants.

The word kinah-hu, found in the Nuzi tablets, refers to the Canaanites and to the color red. This aligns with what is known about Abraham's Annu ancestors, who had a red skin tone. Some equate the word "Canaan" with the red purple dye used to make the garments of Tyrian rulers. However, it is more likely that kinah-hu relates to the Horites of Edom (red), to whom Abraham was related and from whom Moses descended.  This is substantiated by Joshua 15:21,22 which reports that, "The southernmost towns of the tribe of Judah in the Negev toward the boundary of Edom were: Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur, Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah..."

Kinah is related to the name Kenan. Genesis 5 lists Kenan as Cain's grandson by his un-named daughter. The name Kenan is a variant of Kain and Ghayin. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (2007) writes that ghayin lies behind the word kinah-hu at Nuzi.  In the Canaano-Akkadian, "hu" is a pronominal suffix.




To speak of Canaan as the eponymous ancestor of the Canaanites makes less sense than to speak of Kenan as their eponymous ancestor. Kenan lived six generations before Noah. That being the case, it is evident that the Canaanite or Kenanite people existed before Noah's time. Nor can it be argued that they were wiped out by a worldwide flood.

Consider the following population estimates by urban center between 2400 and 2200 BC, the time when Noah's flood would have occurred:

Memphis, Egypt - 32,000 inhabitants

Lagash, Iraq - 60,000 inhabitants
Mohenjo-daro, Pakistan - 40,000 inhabitants

Mari, Syria -50,000 inhabitants

Baodun settlements, China - Baodun is the largest settlement, covering an area of about 373 miles. There is no evidence of destruction by flooding though all six Baodun settlements straddled the Min River in central Sichuan province. The Min is a tributary of the upper Yangtze River.

There is no evidence that any of these peoples were wiped out by a worldwide flood The evidence simply does not support the interpretation that all the peoples of the earth were destroyed in a catastrophic global flood and that the earth was repopulated by Noah's descendants.

As a fascinating side note, the oldest known zoological collection was discovered during excavations at Nekhen (Hierakonpolis) in Sudan in 2009. This royal menagerie dates to about 3500 BC and included hippos, hartebeest, elephants, baboons and wildcats. The story of Noah preserving a collection of animals is based on historical reality.


Related reading: The Urheitmat of the Canaanite YScientific Verification of Genesis 10 DispersionPetra Reflects Horite BeliefsThe Peoples of Canaan; The Amorites: caste of royal scribes?; The Descendants of Noah; The Nioltic Origin of the AinuMoses and Abraham: Different Origins of Israel?; Jebusites: An Extant Biblical Tribe; The Edomites and the Color Red; Eden: A Well-Watered Region

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