Who Are the Canaanites?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, May 16, 2016 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

We have been writing through the first few chapters of the book of Judges for most of the last month and a half, but we’re taking a little break from that now to go into some history of some of the people groups we see in Judges and elsewhere in the Bible. We at Worldview Warriors always stress how important the context is to interpreting any passage of the Bible, and part of the context is knowing the people in that passage.

We read a lot in the Bible about the people of Israel as God’s chosen people. But what about all the other people groups we read about? Where did they come from? Where are they today? For the next few weeks, we’ll be covering various Old Testament people groups. Today, we’re looking at the Canaanites.

So where did the Canaanites come from? Well, we know that every person on earth at the time was wiped out by the Flood (Genesis 6:13), except for Noah and his three sons and all their wives. Noah’s sons were Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and we see in Genesis 10:6 that Ham had a son named Canaan. If we continue reading Genesis 10:6-20, we see that the sons of Canaan became the Canaanites, and they scattered and took up a large geographic area.

A little bit later in history, we see Canaanites living near the sea and the Jordan River in Numbers 13:29. This was the Promised Land that God had promised to give to Israel, but Israel couldn’t live there if the Canaanites were living there. We see in Exodus 23:23 that God will wipe out the Canaanites for them, and in Deuteronomy 20:16-17 God commands Israel to kill all of them, not leaving anything that breathes alive. Either way, Israel was supposed to take over the land of the Canaanites completely. The details of all of the battles that took place for this are in the book of Joshua.

The Canaanites did not worship the one true God. Even though they descended from Noah, somewhere along the line they developed their own pagan god, whom they named Baal. The name Baal is actually a Hebrew word meaning master or lord. We see a “showdown” between Baal and God with the prophet Elijah on Mt Carmel in 1 Kings 18, where Baal is clearly proven to be a false god.

So where are the Canaanites today? They were never fully wiped out by Israel, and they were later called the Phoenicians by the Greeks. The Canaanites / Phoenicians were famous as merchants, seamen, and artists, and they lived along the coastline of what is now Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, and Syria.

The next time you see something about Canaan in the Bible, you’ll know a bit more about those people and who they were. This knowledge will hopefully help you have a better understanding of the Bible as a whole, which is important for growing in our faith and knowledge of God and His plan.

[Note: Much of this material was taken from the Easton Dictionary of the Bible.]

This forum is meant to foster discussion and allow for differing viewpoints to be explored with equal and respectful consideration.  All comments are moderated and any foul language or threatening/abusive comments will not be approved.  Users who engage in threatening or abusive comments which are physically harmful in nature will be reported to the authorities.