1902 Encyclopedia > Canaan


CANAAN, a geographical name of archaic Hebrew origin, generally supposed to mean " depression," "lowland," and hence fitly applied to various low-lying districts of Syria, viz., Phoenicia (Isa. xxiii. 11 ; Josh. v. 1, where the LXX. has rrjs «Êoivi/ons), Philistia (Zeph. ii. 5), and the valley of the Jordan (as implied in Num. xiii. 29, cf. Josh. xi. 3). It is, however, also applied to the whole of the territory conquered by the Israelites on the west side of the Jordan (Gen. xi. 31, xii. 5 ; Num. xiii. 2, 17, Ac), the boundaries of which are given in Gen. xv. 18 as " the river of Egypt," (i.e., the Wâdy, or torrent-valley, el-Arish), and "the great river," the River Euphrates. Probably the Israelites found the name in use in the Jordan Valley, and, as a part of this was the first district they con-quered, extended it to their subsequent acquisitions. We have good parallels for this extension in the use of Argos for the whole of the Péloponnèse, and of Hellas for the mainland of Greece. Of course this theory implies that the original signification of the word had been forgotten as was so often the case with Hebrew proper names. The Phoenicians likewise accepted the name of Canaan. Hecatteus of Miletus (about 520 B.C.) knew Xvâ as a synonym for ^oiviK-q, and the same identification is found in Philo's Sanchoniathon (Müller's Fragmenta Hist. Grcec, TOI. i. p. 17, vol. iii. p. 369). St Augustine, too, says that the Punic peasants, when asked what they were, replied in Punic, Chanani (ed. Bened., vol. iii. col. 932), and on a coin of the date of Antiochus Epiphanes, Laodicea in the Lebanon district is called " a mother, or metropolis, in Canaan" (see inscription in Schröder, Die phbnizische Sprache, p. 275). It is remarkable that there is a trace, and no more, of the extended use of the word Canaan in Egyptian. The town nearest to Canaan, in the territory of the Shasu or Bedawfn (lit. Brigands, cf. Heb. shäsäh), was called Pa-Kanana (Brugsch, Histoire dl Egypte, p. 145).

An instance of the confusion produced by the different uses of the term Canaan is supplied by Gen. x. 15-18, where the list of Phoenician cities is interrupted by the five Palestinian nations, the Hittites, Jebusites, &c. As De Goeje has pointed out, the original writer of the Table of Nations understood Canaan in the sense of Phoenicia—he had probably used a Phoenician chart; the interpola-tor, in that of Palestine (Theologisch Tijdschrift, 1870, p. 241).

Why Canaan is placed among the descendants of Ham could only be shown by a chart of the world as known to the Phoenicians. Clearly there was a misunderstanding as to the coasts of the Red Sea.

Compare Movers, Die Phönizier, vol. ii. (1), pp. 4-6; Knobel, Die Völkertafel der Genesis, pp. 307-310 ; De Goeje, Over de Namen Phoenicie in Kanaan, Amst. 1870. (T. K. C.)

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