- In ancient times, a general name given to the peoples who dwelled in the region of Palestine and spoke Semitic languages. The term Canaan sometimes denoted Phoenicia, home of the famous trading people, and some passages of the Hebrew OldTestament use the term Canaanite as a synonym for merchant. An eighteenth-century b.c. Mesopotamian document found in the ruins of Mari, located on the Euphrates near the Syrian desert, mentions canaan, which at the time may have consisted of a loose alliance of local Palestinian city-states. A century later the Hyksos, a people who invaded Egypt and took over the northern part of that country, seem to have come from canaan, although they may not have originated there. After the Hyksos invasion, Amorites, who are mentioned in the Old Testament (Joshua 9.10, 10.5; Numbers 21.13), settled in the area of canaan. After the Egyptians expelled the Hittites and began building an empire in the 1500s and 1400s b.c., Egypt controlled canaan. The Egyptians hotly contested the area with the Hittites in the great Battle of Kadesh in Syria in 1274 b.c. In the centuries that followed that conflict, the early Hebrews became prominent in Palestine. The writers of the Old Testament sometimes used the term Canaanite to refer to one of a group of peoples they displaced, as in this passage:When the Lord your god brings you into the land you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, [and] the canaanites . . . then you must utterly destroy them. (Deuteronomy 7.1)Whoever the canaanites were at this historical juncture, as the first millennium b.c. progressed they, the Hebrews, and other Palestinian peoples fell under the control of a series of Mesopotamian peoples, including the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Persians.See also: Amorites; Israel; Palestine; Phoenicians
Ancient Mesopotamia dictioary. Don Nardo Robert B. Kebric. 2015.