8th September 2017

The Canaanites 

“When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labour but never drove them out completely.
Judges 1:28 (NIVUK)

When we read the stories of the invasion of Canaan under Joshua, it’s interesting to note that, despite the intent of the Israelites, not all the local people were destroyed or chased out. In the verse above, the writer of Judges tells us that the Canaanites were never driven out completely.

One puzzle that has baffled both historians and archaeologists is: what happened to this remnant of the Canaanites? Is there any trace of them left? What about the Canaanite woman whose faith is commended by Jesus in Matthew 15:28? Could she really have been a descendant of the people who were the original inhabitants of the land that flowed with milk and honey?

This year a team of geneticists and archaeologists has been excavating five ancient Canaanite graves in Sidon in Lebanon. Sidon is mentioned in the Bible as being part of Israel’s conquest ambitions – “As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you” (Joshua 13:6).

The graves involved go back to 1900 years to 1550 BC, before the time of Moses. DNA testing of the excavated bones were compared to a genome analysis of 99 Lebanese people living in the modern area of Sidon. The result shows that the Lebanese shared over 90% of their ancestry with the grave samples. In other words, Canaanites had survived the conquest, and some of their descendants are alive and well in Lebanon!

Such findings lend credibility to the authenticity and historicity of Biblical settings. 

Father, we love the Bible and thank you for all the stories in it that inspire and inform us. In Jesus’ name.

Study by James Henderson


About the Author:
James Henderson is the National Ministry Leader for Grace Communion International in the UK and Ireland.

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