Monday, July 27, 2015

The Nations of Canaan

The people who lived in the Land of Canaan are often referred to as the Canaanites, but this was actually only the name of one of several nations of Canaan. Today’s Jewish Treat presents a brief introduction to each of the seven nations of Canaan listed in Deuteronomy 7:1: “When the Lord, your God, brings you into the land to which you are coming to possess it, He will cast away many nations from before you: the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivvites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and powerful that you.”

The Amorites consisted of several tribal settlements, as is mentioned in the Book of Joshua when it records the gathering of “the five kings of the Amorites” (10:5). According to Jewish tradition, the people were known for their large stature (two of their kings Og and Sichon are both referred to as giants) and their witchcraft, which is referred to in the Talmud, when it states: “All these are forbidden as Amorite practices” (Shabbat 67a).

The Canaanites were the largest group of people residing in the land. The Torah goes out its way to instruct the Israelites not to follow in the ways of the Canaanites, which, for the most part, focussed on the worship of the idol Baal. Long after the Israelites settled in the promised land, the Canaanites were like a plague to them and the two nations were frequently at war.

The Girgashites are listed as one of the seven nations of Canaan, but little else is mentioned of them. 

The Hittites are first mentioned in the Torah when Abraham buys Ma’arat Hamachpelah (burial cave) from Ephron the Hittite. Two generations later, Esau married Hittite women. The Hittites are mentioned several other times in the Torah, specifically as ethnic labels (e.g. Uriah).

The Hivites were, according to Genesis 34, the tribe of the residents of Shechem (whose prince kidnapped and raped Jacob’s daughter, Dinah). Mention of the Hivites in the rest of the Torah is minimal outside of their being one of the seven nations of Canaan, although it appears that their relationship with the Israelites was generally peaceful.

The Jebusites are Biblically significant because they were the original inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem.

The Perrizites are listed among the tribes already dwelling in the land of Canaan, but little else is mentioned of them. 

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