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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Canaan; Canaanite

Kena‛an (כְּנַעַן, Strong's #3667), “Canaan”; kena‛anı̂y (כְּנַעֲנִי, Strong's #3669), “Canaanite; merchant.” “Canaan” is used 9 times as the name of a person and 80 times as a place name. “Canaanite” occurs 72 times of the descendants of “Canaan,” the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. Most occurrences of these words are in Genesis through Judges, but they are scattered throughout the Old Testament.“Canaan” is first used of a person in Gen. 9:18: “… and Ham is the father of Canaan” (cf. Gen. 10:6). After a listing of the nations descended from “Canaan,” Gen. 10:18-19 adds: “… and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah,.…” “Canaan” is the land west of the Jordan, as in Num. 33:51: “When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan” (cf. Josh. 22:9- 11). At the call of God, Abram “… went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.… And the Canaanite was then in the land” (Gen. 12:5-6). Later God promised Abram: “Unto thy seed have I given this land, … [the land of] the Canaanites …” (Gen. 15:18-20; cf. Exod. 3:8, 17; Josh. 3:10).“Canaanite” is a general term for all the descendants of “Canaan”: “When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee … the Canaanites …” (Deut. 7:1). It is interchanged with Amorite in Gen. 15:16: “… for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full” (cf. Josh. 24:15, 18).

“Canaanite” is also used in the specific sense of one of the peoples of Canaan: “… and the Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan” (Num. 13:29; cf. Josh. 5:1; 2 Sam. 24:7). As these peoples were traders, “Canaanite” is a symbol for “merchant” in Prov. 31:24 and Job 41:6 and notably, in speaking of the sins of Israel, Hosea says, “He is a merchant, the balances of deceit are in his hand …” (Hos. 7:12; cf. Zeph. 1:11).

Gen. 9:25-27 stamps a theological significance on “Canaan” from the beginning: “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.… Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. And God shall enlarge Japheth … and Canaan shall be his servant.” Noah prophetically placed this curse on “Canaan” because his father had stared at Noah’s nakedness and reported it grossly to his brothers. Ham’s sin, deeply rooted in his youngest son, is observable in the Canaanites in the succeeding history. Leviticus 18 gives a long list of sexual perversions that were forbidden to Israel prefaced by the statement: “… and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do …” (Lev. 18:3). The list is followed by a warning: “Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you” (Lev. 18:24).

The command to destroy the “Canaanites” was very specific: “… thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them.… ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images.… For thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God …” (Deut. 7:2-6). But too often the house of David and Judah “built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree. And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel” (1 Kings 14:23-24; cf. 2 Kings 16:3-4; 21:1- 15). The nations were the “Canaanites”; thus “Canaanite” became synonymous with religious and moral perversions of every kind.

This fact is reflected in Zech. 14:21: “… and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.” A “Canaanite” was not permitted to enter the tabernacle or temple; no longer would one of God’s people who practiced the abominations of the “Canaanites” enter the house of the Lord.

This prophecy speaks of the last days and will be fulfilled in the New Jerusalem, according to Rev. 21:27: “And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie …” (cf. Rev. 22:15).

These two words occur in Acts 7:11 and 13:19 in the New Testament.

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Canaan; Canaanite'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/c/canaan-canaanite.html. 1940.

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