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American Tract Society Bible Dictionary

Canaan

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1. The son of Ham, and grandson of Noah, Genesis 9:18 . His numerous posterity seem to have occupied Zidon first, and thence spread into Syria and Canaan, Genesis 10:15-19 1 Chronicles 1:13-16 . The Jews believe that he was implicated with his father in the dishonor done to Noah, Genesis 9:20-27 , which was the occasion of the curse under which he and his posterity suffered, Joshua 9:23,27 2 Chronicles 8:7,8 2 . The land peopled by Canaan and his posterity, and afterwards given to the Hebrews. This country has at different periods been called by various names, either from its inhabitants or some circumstances connected with its history. (1.) "The land of Canaan," from Canaan, the son of Ham, who divided it among his sons, each of whom became the head of a numerous tribe, and ultimately of a distinct people, Genesis 10:15-20 11:31 . This did not at first include any land east of the Jordan. (2.) "The land of Promise," Hebrews 11:9 , from the promise given to Abraham, that his posterity should possess it, Genesis 12:7 13:15 . These being termed Hebrews, Genesis 40:15 ; and (4.) "The land of Israel," from the Israelites, or posterity of Jacob, having settled there. This name is of frequent occurrence in the Old Testament. It comprehends all that tract of ground on each side of the Jordan, which God gave for an inheritance to the Hebrews. At a later age, this term was often restricted to the territory of the ten tribes, Ezekiel 27:17 . (5.) "The land of Judah." This at first comprised only the region which was allotted to the tribe of Judah. After the separation of the ten tribes, the land which belonged to Judah and Benjamin, who formed a separate kingdom, was distinguished by the appellation of "the land of Judah," or Judea; which latter name the whole country retained during the existence of the second temple, and under the dominion of the Romans. (6.) "The Holy Land." This name appears to have been used by the Hebrews after the Babylonish captivity, Zechariah 2:13 . (7.) "Palestine," Exodus 15:14 , a name derived from the Philistines, who migrated from Egypt, and having expelled the aboriginal inhabitants, settled on the borders of the Mediterranean. Their name was subsequently given to the whole country, though they in fact possessed only a small part of it. By heathen writers, the Holy Land has been variously termed Palestine, Syria, and Phoenicia.

Canaan was bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, north by mount Lebanon and Syria, east by Arabia Deserta; and south by Edom and the desert of Zin and Paran. Its extreme length was about one hundred and eighty miles, and its average width about sixty-five. Its general form and dimensions Coleman has well compared to those of the state of New Hampshire. At the period of David, vast tributary regions were for a time annexed to the Holy Land. These included the bordering nations on the east, far into Arabia Deserta; thence north to Tipsah on the Euphrates, with all Syria between Lebanon and the Euphrates. On the south it included Edom, and reached the Red sea at Ezion-geber.

The land of Canaan has been variously divided. Under Joshua it was apportioned out to the twelve tribes. Under Rehoboam it was divided into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. It afterwards fell into the hands of the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Syrians, and the Romans. During the time of our Savior, it was under the dominion of the last-mentioned people, and was divided into five provinces: Galilee, Samaria, Judea, Peraea, and Idumaea. Peraea was again divided into seven cantons; Abilene, Trachonitis, Iturea, Gaulonitis, Batanaea, Peraea, and Decapolis. At present, Palestine is subject to the sultan of Turkey, under whom the pashas of Acre and Gaza govern the seacoast and the pasha of Damascus the interior of the country.

The surface of the land of Canaan is beautifully diversified with mountains and plains, rivers and valleys. The principal mountains are Lebanon, Carmel, Tabor, Gilead, Herman, the mount of Olives, etc. The plain of the Mediterranean, of Esdraelon, and of Jericho, are celebrated as the scenes of many important events. The chief streams are the Jordan, the Arnon, the Sihor, the Jabbok, and the Kishon. The lake of Tiberias or Sea of Galilee, and lake Merom. These are elsewhere described, each in its own place.

The general features of the country may here be briefly described. The northern boundary is at the lofty mountains of Lebanon and Hermon, some peaks of which are ten thousand feet high. Around the base of mount Hermon are the various sources of the Jordan. This river, passing through lake Merom and the sea of Galilee, flows south with innumerable windings into the Dead sea. Its valley is deeply sunk, and from its source to the Dead sea it has a descent of two thousand feet. The country between the Jordan valley and the Mediterranean Sea is in general an elevated tableland, broken up by many hills and by numerous deep valleys through which the wintry torrents flow into Jordan and the sea. The tableland of Galilee may be nine hundred or one thousand feet above the Mediterranean. In lower Galilee we find the great and beautiful plain of Esdraelon, extending from mount Carmel and Acre on the west to Tabor and Gilboa, and even to the Jordan on the east. From this plain the land again rises towards the south; mount Gerizim being 2,300 feet, Jerusalem 2,400, and Hebron 2,600 above the sea. On the seacoast, below mount Carmel, a fertile plain is found; towards the south it becomes gradually wider, and expands at last into the great dessert of Paran. From this plain of the seacoast the ascent to the high land of the interior is by a succession of natural terraces; while the descent to the Jordan, the Dead Sea, and Edom, is abrupt and precipitous. The country beyond the Jordan is mountainous; a rich grazing land, with many fertile valleys. Still farther east is the high and desolate plateau of Arabia Deserta.

The soil and climate of Canaan were highly favorable. The heat was not extreme in the deep riverbeds, and on the seacoast; and the climate was in general mild and healthful. The variations of sunshine, clouds, and rain, which with us extend throughout the year, are in Palestine confined chiefly to the winter or rainy season. The autumnal rains usually commence in the latter part of October, and soon after the first showers wheat and barley are sowed. Rain falls more heavily in December; and continues, though with less frequency, until April. From May to October no rain falls. The cold of winter is not severe, and the ground does not freeze. Snows a foot or more deep sometimes occur, and there are frequent hailstorms in winter. The barley harvest is about a fortnight earlier than the wheat, and both are earlier than the wheat, and both are earlier in the plains than on the high land; altogether the grain harvest extends from April to June. In this month and October the heat is great; the ground becomes dry up; and all nature, animate and inanimate, looks forward with longing for the return of the rainy season.

The soil of Canaan was highly productive. The prevailing rock is a chalky limestone, abounding in caverns. It readily formed, and was covered with, a rich mould, which produced, in the various elevations and climates so remarkably grouped together in that small region of the world, an unequalled variety of the fruits of the ground. Olives, figs, vines, and pomegranates grew in abundance; the hills were clothed with flocks and herds, and the valleys were covered with corn. The land of promise was currently described as "flowing with milk and honey." Yet the glowing description given by Moses, Deuteronomy 8:7-9 , and the statements of history as to the vast population formerly occupying it, are in striking contrast with its present aspect of barrenness and desolation. The curse brought down by the unbelief of the Jews still blights their unhappy land. Long ages of warfare and misrule have despoiled and depopulated it. Its hills, once terraced to the summit, and covered with luxuriant grain, vines, olives, and figs, are now bare rocks. Its early and latter rains, once preserved in reservoirs, and conducted by winding channels to water the ground in the season of drought, now flow off unheeded to the sea. The land, stripped of its forests, lies open to the sun-which now scorches where it once fertilized. And yet some parts of Palestine still show an astonishing fertility; and wherever the soil is cultivated, it yields a hundred fold. Indian corn grows there eleven feet high, and grapes are still produced that almost rival the clusters of Eshcol. Intelligent travellers agree in confirming the statements of Scripture as to its ancient fertility. See HEBREWS , JUDEA .

CONQUEST OF CANAAN. Various arguments have been adduced to justify the conquest of Canaan, and the extermination of its inhabitants by the Israelites; as, that the land had been allotted to Shem and his sons after the flood, and the sons of Ham were usurpers; that they first assaulted to the Jews; that Abraham had taken possession of the land ages before; that the Canaanites were akin to the Egyptians, and implicated in their guilt and punishment as oppressors of the Hebrews. Whatever justice there may be in any of these reasons, they are not those which the Bible assigns. The only true warrant of the Jews was, the special command of the Lord of all. They were impressively taught that the wickedness of those nations was the reason of their punishment, which the forbearance of God had long delayed, and which was designed as a warning to them and all mankind against idolatry and its kindred sins. It was these sins the Jews were to abhor and exterminate; they were to act as agents of God's justice, and not for the gratification of their own avarice, anger, or lust, the spoil and the captives being all devoted to destruction. The narrative of the conquest is given in Numbers 1:1-4:49 Joshua 1:1-24:33 Judges 1:1-36 . The Canaanites were not wholly destroyed. Many of them escaped to other lands; and fragments of almost all the nations remained in Judea, subject to the Israelites, but snares to their feet and thorns in their sides. It must be observed also, that full notice was previously given them to quit their forfeited possessions; a solemn writ of ejectment had been issued by the great Proprietor, and if they resisted, they incurred the consequences.

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Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of the topics are from American Tract Society Bible Dictionary published in 1859.

Bibliography Information
Rand, W. W. Entry for 'Canaan'. American Tract Society Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/ats/c/canaan.html. 1859.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, October 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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