Phoenicia, Phoenician was an ancient civilization centered in the north of ancient Canaan, with its heartland along the coastal regions of modern day Lebanon, Syria, and northern Israel. Phoenician civilization was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean during the period 1550 BC to 300 BC. The Phoenicians often traded by means of a galley, a man-powered sailing vessel, and are credited with the invention of the bireme.
It is uncertain to what extent the Phoenicians viewed themselves as a single ethnicity. Their civilization was organized in city-states, similar to ancient Greece. Each city-state was an independent unit politically, and they could come into conflict and one city could be dominated by another city-state, although they would collaborate in leagues or alliances. Though ancient boundaries of such city-centered cultures fluctuated, the city of Tyre seems to have been the southernmost. Sarepta (modern day Sarafand) between Sidon and Tyre is the most thoroughly excavated city of the Phoenician homeland.
The Phoenicians were the first state-level society to make extensive use of the alphabet. The Phoenician phonetic alphabet is generally believed to be the ancestor of almost all modern alphabets, although it did not contain any vowels (these were added later by the Greeks). Phoenicians spoke the Phoenician language, which belongs to the group of Canaanite languages in the Semitic language family. Through their maritime trade, the Phoenicians spread the use of the alphabet to North Africa and Europe, where it was adopted by the Greeks, who later passed it on to the Etruscans, who transmitted it to the Romans. In addition to their many inscriptions, the Phoenicians were believed to have left numerous other types of written sources, but most have not survived. Evangelical Preparation by Eusebius of Caesarea quotes extensively from Philo of Byblos and Sanchuniathon.
Origins: 3000-1200 BC
In terms of archaeology, language, and religion, there is little to set the Phoenicians apart as markedly different from other cultures of Canaan. As Canaanites, they were unique in their remarkable seafaring achievements. In the Amarna tablets of the 14th century BC, they call themselves Kenaani or Kinaani (Canaanites), although these letters predate the invasion of the Sea Peoples by over a century. Much later, in the 6th century BC, Hecataeus of Miletus writes that Phoenicia was formerly called χνα, a name Philo of Byblos later adopted into his mythology as his eponym for the Phoenicians: "Khna who was afterwards called Phoinix". Egyptian seafaring expeditions had already been made to Byblos to bring back "cedars of Lebanon" as early as the third millennium BC.
High point: 1200–800 BC
Fernand Braudel remarked in The Perspective of the World that Phoenicia was an early example of a "world-economy" surrounded by empires. The high point of Phoenician culture and seapower is usually placed ca. 1200–800 BC.
Many of the most important Phoenician settlements had been established long before this: Byblos, Tyre, Sidon, Simyra, Arwad, and Berytus, all appear in the Amarna tablets. Archeology has identified cultural elements of the Phoenician zenith as early as the third millennium BC.
The league of independent city-state ports, with others on the islands and along other coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, was ideally suited for trade between the Levant area, rich in natural resources, and the rest of the ancient world. During the early Iron Age, in around 1200 BC an unknown event occurred, historically associated with the appearance of the Sea Peoples from the north. They weakened and destroyed the Egyptians and the Hittites respectively. In the resulting power vacuum, a number of Phoenician cities rose as significant maritime powers.
The societies rested on three power-bases: the king; the temple and its priests; and councils of elders. Byblos first became the predominant center from where the Phoenicians dominated the Mediterranean and Erythraean (Red) Sea routes. It was here that the first inscription in the Phoenician alphabet was found, on the sarcophagus of Ahiram (ca. 1200 BC). Later, Tyre gained in power. One of its kings, the priest Ithobaal (887-856 BC) ruled Phoenicia as far north as Beirut, and part of Cyprus. Carthage was founded in 814 BC under Pygmalion of Tyre (820-774 BC). The collection of city-states constituting Phoenicia came to be characterized by outsiders and the Phoenicians as Sidonia or Tyria. Phoenicians and Canaanites alike were called Zidonians or Tyrians, as one Phoenician city came to prominence after another.
Decline: 539-65 BC
Cyrus the Great conquered Phoenicia in 539 BC. The Persians divided Phoenicia into four vassal kingdoms: Sidon, Tyre, Arwad, and Byblos. They prospered, furnishing fleets for the Persian kings. Phoenician influence declined after this. It is likely that much of the Phoenician population migrated to Carthage and other colonies following the Persian conquest. In 350 or 345 BC a rebellion in Sidon led by Tennes was crushed by Artaxerxes III. Its destruction was described by Diodorus Siculus.
Alexander the Great took Tyre in 332 BC after the Siege of Tyre. Alexander was exceptionally harsh to Tyre, executing 2,000 of the leading citizens, but he maintained the king in power. He gained control of the other cities peacefully: the ruler of Aradus submitted; the king of Sidon was overthrown. The rise of Hellenistic Greece gradually ousted the remnants of Phoenicia's former dominance over the Eastern Mediterranean trade routes. Phoenician culture disappeared entirely in the motherland. Carthage continued to flourish in North Africa. It oversaw the mining of iron and precious metals from Iberia, and used its considerable naval power and mercenary armies to protect commercial interests. Rome finally destroyed it in 146 BC, at the end of the Punic Wars.
Following Alexander, the Phoenician homeland was controlled by a succession of Hellenistic rulers: Laomedon (323 BC), Ptolemy I (320), Antigonus II (315), Demetrius (301), and Seleucus (296). Between 286 and 197 BC, Phoenicia (except for Aradus) fell to the Ptolemies of Egypt, who installed the high priests of Astarte as vassal rulers in Sidon (Eshmunazar I, Tabnit, Eshmunazar II).
In 197 BC, Phoenicia along with Syria reverted to the Seleucids. The region became increasingly Hellenized, although Tyre became autonomous in 126 BC, followed by Sidon in 111. Syria, including Phoenicia, were seized by king Tigranes the Great of Armenia from 82 until 69 BC, when he was defeated by Lucullus. In 65 BC Pompey finally incorporated the territory as part of the Roman province of Syria.
In the 21st century, genetic studies have shown many men among current Maltese people to have lines of direct descent from Phoenicians.
Influence in the Mediterranean region
Phoenician culture had a huge effect upon the cultures of the Mediterranean basin in the early Iron Age, and had also been affected in reverse. For example, in Phoenicia, the tripartite division between Baal, Mot and Yam seems to have been influenced by the Greek division between Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. Phoenician temples in various Mediterranean ports sacred to Phoenician Melkart, during the classical period, were recognized as sacred to Hercules. Stories like the Rape of Europa, and the coming of Cadmus also draw upon Phoenician influence.
The recovery of the Mediterranean economy after the late Bronze Age collapse, seems to have been largely due to the work of Phoenician traders and merchant princes, who re-established long distance trade between Egypt and Mesopotamia in the 10th century BC. The Ionian revolution was, at least in legend, led by philosophers such as Thales of Miletus or Pythagoras, both of whom had Phoenician fathers. Phoenician motifs are also present in the Orientalising period of Greek art, and Phoenicians also played a formative role in Etruscan civilisation in Tuscany.
There are many countries and cities around the world that derive their names from the Phoenician Language. Below is a list with the respective meanings:
* Altiburus: City in Algeria, SW of Carthage. From Phoenician: "Iltabrush"
* Bosa: City in Sardinia: From Phoenician "Bis'en"
* Cádiz: City in Spain: From Phoenician "Gadir"
* Dhali (Idalion): City in Central Cyprus: From Phoenician "Idyal"
* Erice: City in Sicily: From Phoenician "Eryx"
* Malta: Island in the Mediterranean: From Phoenician "Malat" ('refuge')
* Marion: City in West Cyprus: From Phoenician "Aymar"
* Oed Dekri: City in Algeria: From Phoenician: "Idiqra"
* Spain: From Phoenician: "I-Shaphan", meaning "Land of Hyraxes". Later Latinized as "Hispania"
The Phoenician alphabet developed from the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, which was created sometime between the 18th and 17th Centuries BC. The earliest known inscriptions in Phoenician come from Byblos and date back to the 1000 BC.
Notable Features - The Phoenician alphabet consists of 22 letters, many of which have a number of different forms, and does not indicate vowel sounds. The names of the letters are the same as those used in Hebrew.
The Phoenicians were a people that lived in the northern part of Canaan. Most of what is known about them comes from the Bible, other ancient civilizations, and ruins of their cities and ships.
Two different groups formed the Phoenician civilization. The first was the Canaanites, who came from the desert south and east of Canaan. The Caananites were nomadic herders who wandered from pasture to pasture. The other group was the Philistines, who came from the eastern Mediterranean Sea area, near Greece. The Philstines were traders and shipbuilders.
By the end of 1200 B.C., the Phoenicians had built cities and and towns in Canaan, a narrow strip of land between the mountains and the sea.There was not enough land to grow food, so the Phoenicians made their living from the sea.
The mountains near Phoenicia had dense cedar forests. The Phoenicians used this wood to build ships. They started as coastal traders. In time, they controlled Mediterranean trade. They traded cedar logs, cloth,glass trinkets, and perfume for gold and other metals. Many Phoenician ships were also workshops, because sailors who were also artisans brought their materials on board the ships.
Phoenician sailors and explorers plotted their courses their courses using the stars as guides. They travelled where no one else dared to go. They brought Middle Eastern culture to unexplored areas of the western Mediterranean. Some think the Phoenicians sailed around the Cape of Good Hope to India, and reached America 2000 years before Columbus and 1500 years before the Viking Leif Erickson.
From their business dealings, Phoenicians learned the value of making peace. They used this to keep peace with their larger, more powerful neighbors, Greece and Egypt. They signed treaties, in which they promised to supply free shipment of goods in exchange for guaranteed Phoenician independence.
Phoenicia never became a united country. Mountains separated one group of Phoenicians from another. Phoenicia was a collection of independent city-states, the largest of which were Tyre, Byblos, Beirut, Carthage, and Sidon.
Though all citizens of all city-states spoke the same language of all city-states spoke the same language, they did not always get along well. The search for more profit led to jealousy and fighting among city-states. Only people from other civilizations called them Phoenicians.
Most Phoenician city-states had walls around them. Inside, it was very crowded. The streets were narrow and the buildings were close together. Outside the walls of the city was the port. This was the center of activity. Goods from other civilizations were kept in warehouses until they were sold at the market of were shipped overseas.
Phoenician cities were cloth-dyeing centers. The Phoenicians made an expensive purple dye that was in high demand. In fact, the name "Phoenician" means "of purple merchants."
The Phoenicians believed in many gods who were closely tied into nature. Since they thought gods met people only on hills and under trees, they worshiped only in these places at first. the temples that they built later had an entrance hall, a main hall, and a holy of holiest, the most sacred room in the temple. Priests at stone altars made the sacrifices. The Phoenicians believed in life after death. They placed the bodies in clay urns, but later mummified them.
Some Phoenician traders and sailors set up trading posts along the coast of North Africa. The most famous of these cities was Carthage, founded in 814 B. C. in present day Tunisia. Carthage quickly became a power, but was later conquered by Rome and was absorbed into the Roman Republic.
Source from: Phoenicia
Further information: Canaanite religion
History: Time Line
Alternate information 1: View Zone
Alternate information 2: Miltiade
Alternate information 3: Think Quest
The Quest for The Phoenicians - Part 1
The Quest for The Phoenicians - Part 2
The Quest for The Phoenicians - Part 3
The Quest for The Phoenicians - Part 4
The Quest for The Phoenicians - Part 5
The Quest for The Phoenicians - Part 6
Phoenicia Expedition - Part 1
Phoenicia Expedition - Part 2
Phoenicia Expedition - Part 3
Phoenicia Expedition - Part 4
Phoenicia Expedition - Part 5
Phoenicia Expedition - Part 6
Phoenicia Expedition - Part 7
Phoenicia Expedition - Part 8
Canaan is an ancient term for a region roughly corresponding to present-day Israel/Palestine including the West Bank, western Jordan, southern and coastal Syria and Lebanon continuing up until the border of modern Turkey.
Various Canaanite sites have been excavated by archaeologists, most notably the Canaanite town of Ugarit, which was rediscovered in 1928. Much of our modern knowledge about the Canaanites stems from excavation in this area.
In linguistic terms, Canaanite refers to the common ancestor of closely related Semitic languages including Hebrew, and Ugaritic, and was the first language to use a Semitic alphabet, from which the others derived their scripts; see Canaanite languages.
The name Canaan is of obscure origins but is extremely ancient; the first known references appear in the 3rd millennium BC. The Biblical explanation is that it derives from Canaan, the son of Ham and the grandson of Noah, whose offspring correspond to the names of Canaanite tribes in Gen. 10.
Nowadays, Canaanite can describe anything pertaining to Canaan; especially its culture, its languages and its inhabitants.
The Canaanites were the inhabitants of Palestine at the time
the Israelites, led by Joshua, entered the Promised Land.
Wall relief from Egypt reveals an image of an ancient Canaanite
The Bible reveals that Canaan was the fourth son of Ham and brother of Mizraim, who is Egypt. It was Canaan, the grandson of Noah who Noah had cursed in Genesis 9:25. The descendants of Canaan are listed in Genesis 10:15-19. The Canaanites actually became a general term for "all the inhabitants" of the land of ancient Israel, and especially to the tribe who dwelt west of the Dead Sea and had conquered the whole area east of the Jordan River.
The Canaanites worshipped Baal, and his wife Ashteroth, fertility deities. There religion involved temple prostitution, human sacrifice and orgies. These cursed people were eventually annihilated, for the most part, by the Israelites. The Lord commanded Israel to utterly destroy them, but they fell short. The Philistines became a deadly enemy throughout Israel's history.
The discovery of the Tell el-Amarna Letters reveal the name of Canaan (Kinakhna). The Greeks later identified this same name (Chna) with the Phoenicians. This wall relief discovery of an ancient Canaanite is important in the study of Biblical Archaeology. It confirms the Biblical account of the people know and the Canaanites. Many high places of Baal and Ashteroth have been excavated revealing their religious practices and child sacrifice.
The chief of the pantheon and father of the gods worshipped by the Canaanites of Israel was El, who is portrayed here in gold-covered bronze. Excavated at Megiddo, Israel, it dates to 1400-1200 B.C.
Athirat as Sea Goddess with Hathor headdress and El
Central to the Semitic notion of deity is El, the old fatherly creator god and his consort, Athirat or Asherah. "Both were primordial beings, they had been there always." El, whose name simply meant 'god' was the creator and procreator, overseer of conception, who sired the gods, thus being also called 'Bull El' in continuity with the ancient bull god of fertility. Asherah and El thus form a creation hieros-gamos of male and female, representing the bull and the earth goddess we see emerging from the ancient continuum at Catal Huyuk. El is supposed to have gone out to sea and asked two Goddesses, one presumably being Athirat and the other possibly Anath to choose between being his spouses and being his daughters. They chose the former. Their offspring are Shaher and Shalem, the morning and evening stars, from which Lucifer, the light-bearer, takes his name.
Many of the archetypes we now perceive in Yahweh have their origin in El. He is an original creator god - the 'Creator of Created things', which definitely includes fertility, but may also include the creation of Heaven and Earth as with the Mesopotamian Marduk and Tiamat, whose own mythology may be partly derived from the older Canaanite myths.
El was the proberbial old man who is both a father and judge. He was a kingly and kindly figure, benevolent but not uninvolved. He was the god of decrees and the father of the reigning king. "It was his responsibility to ensure that equilibrium was preserved among all the conflicting and competing powers within it." He thus was respected by the other Gods - "Your decree El is wise, your wisdom is everlasting." "It was not for nothing that El was called 'the kindly and compassionate' - a design strangely reminiscent of 'Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate' in Islam. Not that El was inccapable of anger: transgressions in the community ... could provoke him - and then he would prompt neighbouring powers to invade and conquer. To avert such calamities the king had to perform rites of expiation and offer sacrifices" (Cohn 1993 119)
Athirat as Sea Goddess with Hathor headdress and El
Asherah, the Semitic name of the Great Goddess, whose origin differs from Astarte, was "in wisdom the Mistress of the Gods", called by the Sumerians Ashnan "the strength of all things", a "kindly and beautiful maiden."
The Canaanites called her "She who gives birth to the Gods" and as the "Lady who traverses the Sea" she is Goddess of both the Sea and Moon. In the Old Testament she is identified with her sacred groves.
Although Canaanite mythology varies from city to city, the discovery of extensive records at Ras Shamra of the city of Ugarit, gives us a uniquely detailed view of Canaanite Gods and Goddesses, dating from the author Elimelek around 1370 BC.
Kings traditionally ruled as intermediaries of the Gods in maintaining the fertility of the land.Despite siring the Gods and Goddesses, El and Asherah, no longer remain the only key players in the cosmic drama. As with Sumerian and many other mythologies a cosmic struggle for supremacy arises in which mortal combat occurs.
This weaves themes both of maintaining the cosmic order against the turbulent waters of chaos and the barren season of death and of combat associated with new deities arising from social and political change.
In the Canaanite myth, a new and possibly Akkadian outsider, whose name is Ba'al Haddad or Lord enters the situation in hated competition with Asherah and her children by El. He is a young, warlike god of wind and thunderstorms and thus fertility itself.
Unlike El, he is not judicious, frequently figuring in situations from which he must be saved. In this respect he displays a significant parallel to Dumuzi (Tammuz) among the Mesopotamians, which will prove to be of significance. He also has the hideous attribute of devouring his own children, consistent with infanticide practices of several semitic patron gods.
Initially Ba'al and Anat are members of El's court. Ba'al attacks El by surprise and castrates him, assuming the power of his fertility. In effect, Ba'al becomes the central intermediary of paternal cosmic order ... "it is Ba'al's responsibility to ensure El's benevolent intention is realized", but he does not replace the primal creative power of El.
El, who loves all the Gods, now calls on his children as chaos gods to avenge his displacement. His son Yamm, Lord of the Sea and the mythical ocean of chaos lying beyond the ordered world, terrorizes the gods into giving up Baal. But Ba'al refuses and conquers Yamm, Ba'al now emerging as the God who overcomes the waters of chaos.
Mot, the next offspring, who is Lord of the Underworld and the barren season then defeats Ba'al, enraging Ba'al's consort Anath, who ironically in the Ugarit form of the myth enters the fray as a Death Goddess upholding the paternal order.
When Mot refuses to revive Ba'al, Anath kills and dismembers him, scattering his remains over the land. Baal, now revived, undertakes a full-scale war against all the other gods, who are now referred to as the "Sons of Asherah," and is victorious.
The death of Mot is conceived in a seven year cycle as representing the end of seven years of drought and famine.In her role of Goddess of War and Death , Anath's lust for blood is unbounded: "Anat kills the people living in valleys, in cities and on the seashore and in the land of sunrise, until the cut off heads of soldiers were reaching to her belt and she was wading up to her waist in blood.
Violently she smites and gloats, Anat cuts them down and gazes; her liver exhaults in mirth ... for she plunges her knees in the blood of soldiers, her loins in the gore of warriors, till she has had her fill of slaughtering in the house, of cleaving among the tables."
After which, she, the Progenetress of Nations washed her hands of the blood of the slain, in dew and rain supplied by her brother Ba'al." (Walker 29, Cohn 1993 126)
Anath was fertilized by the blood of men, rather than semen, because her worship dated all the way back to the neolithic, when fatherhood was unknown and blood was considered the only substance which could transmit life.
Hecatombs of  men seem to have been sacrificed to Anath when her image was reddened with rouge and henna for the occasion. Like the Lady of the Serpent Skirt, Anath hung the shorn penises of her victims on her goatskin apron or aegis." "Anath's capacity to curse and kill made even the Heavenly Father afraid of her.
When El seemed reluctant to do her bidding, she threatened to smash his head and cover his grey hair and beard with gore. He hastily gave her everything she asked, saying 'Whoever hinders thee will be crushed' " (Walker 30).
In the mythical cycle, "Mot too is [now] revived and once again challenges Baal to single combat. In the midst of the fighting, however, the sun-goddess, Spsi (Shapash), intervenes, advising Mot that no further combat is needed because El is now on the side of Baal.
El, always patriarchal and judicious, has discerned that Baal in his defeat and resurrection has manifested a new form of order; as a patriarchal deity El must uphold this new order. The decree is made that Baal will rule during the seasons of fertility and Mot during the seasons of sterility and drought." There are many implications of this mythical cycle that underly the events of the Bible and overshadow and cast the die for the Christian heritage.
Grollier Multimedia Encyclopedia 1993
Mythical Beginnings and the Evolution of God
The earliest reliable historical records of the Jews date from around 1200 BC in unfortified villages in hill country far from Canaanite coastal cities. These may have been immigrants from Edom and Moab. The term Hapiru in Egyptian or Hibri (Hebrew) means "the people from beyond" those living on the fringes of society. It is a social rather than an ethnic tern. Rameses II (1304-1237) coopted Hapiru to work on his new capital. Some of these may have migrated in a way mythically described in Exodus.
The Pentateuch, the first five chapters of the Old Testament are unfortunately a collection which was edited between 600 and 100 BC to fit the beliefs and experiences of the current authors, so one can only take them as a figurative account. A variety of ages are given for four original authors listed as J (Jahweh) 9th cent, E (Elohim) 8th cent, D (Dueteronomy) 7th, and 5th century. All these dates are historically long after the events, however the juxtaposed accounts of these disparate authors gives an underlying account of changing attitudes to generation, sacrifice and deity.
The early ages of the Old Testament, before about 1200 BC, including Noah. who has a clear precedent in Sumerian Utnapishtim, illustrated below, Abraham, Jacob and even Moses must thus be regarded as mythical.
Disturbed by the sounds of mankind, the gods, led by Enlil, set forth a deluge. Enki (or Ea) saves the world by warning Ziusudra (Utnapishtim), a dedicated king constantly seeking divine revelations in dreams or incantations, to make an ark and to "make every kind of living creature go up into the ship". The flood frightens even the Gods.
The Godess Inanna (Ishtar) laments for man, sending lightning and the coveneant of the rainbow against Enlil. "With regard to the return from exile, Lysimachus (360-281 BC) also mentions an Egyptian expulsion of Hapiru after the outbreak of a disfiguring disease. Tacitus (56-115 AD) mentions that one Moyses led such a band and "warned them not to look for any relief from god or man, but to trust themselves, taking for their heaven-sent leader that man who should first help them to be quit of their present misery".
He records that they successfully displaced another people and founded a city and temple. (Walker 676)Nevertheless these early writings do reveal a great deal about the transition that occurred early in the founding history of the twelve tribes of Israel. In addition to this involving evolution and change in their ideas of deity, this also emerged from a dynamic tension during a transition between matrilinieal and patrilineal lines of generation, which underly the evolution of paternal diety.
Briffault (v1 372) comments, the Jewish rabbis themselves, at a comparatively late date acknowledged that the four matriarchs Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah had occupied a more important position than the three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. According to Robertson Smith the tribe of Levi was originally metronymous (matrilineal), being the tribe of Leah.
Early on the Canaanites acquired fame as traders across a wide area beyond the Near East. There are occasional instances in the Hebrew Bible where "Canaanite" is used as a synonym for "merchant" - presumably indicating the aspect of Canaanite culture that the authors found most familiar. The term was derived from the place name, because so many merchants described themselves as Canaanites.
One of Canaan's most famous exports was a much sought-after purple dye, derived from two species of sea snails found along the east Mediterranean coast (Canaan also means purple), and worn proudly by figures from ancient kings to modern popes. After most of Canaan was conquered by Israel between ca. 1200 BC-1100 BC, the remnant, "Phoenicia", became a synonym for "Canaan" (both in the sense of the country, and the purple dye.)
Much later, in the 6th century BC, Hecataeus affirms that Philo of Byblos subsequently adopted into his mythology as his eponym for the Phoenicians: "Khna who was afterwards called Phoinix".
St. Augustine also mentions that one of the terms the seafaring Phoenicians called their homeland was "Canaan." This is further confirmed by coins of the city of Laodicea by the Lebanon, that bear the legend, "Of Laodicea, a metropolis in Canaan"; these coins are dated to the reign of Antiochus IV (175 BC - 164 BC) and his successors.
The first of many Canaanites who emigrated seaward finally settled in Carthage, and St. Augustine adds that the country people near Hippo, presumably Punic in origin, still called themselves Chanani in his day.
Canaan is mentioned in a document from the 18th century BC found in the ruins of Mari, a former Sumerian outpost in Syria. Apparently Canaan at this time existed as a distinct political entity (probably a loose confederation of city-states).
Soon after this, the great empire-builder and law-giver Hammurabi (1728 BC-1686 BC), first king of a united Babylonia, extended Babylonian influence over Canaan and Syria, and he may be identical with the Amraphel of Genesis.
Tablets found in the Mesopotamian city of Nuzi use the term Kinahnu ("Canaan") as a synonym for red or purple dye, apparently a renowned Canaanite export commodity. The dyes were likely named after their place of origin (much as "champagne" is both a product, and the name of the region where it is produced). The purple cloth of Tyre in Phoenicia was well known far and wide.
During the 2nd millennium BC the name Kan'an, favored in Egyptian usage, was used for a province of the Egyptian empire bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, on the north by the Pass of Hamath in southern Lebanon, on the east by the Jordan Valley and on the south by a line extended from the Dead Sea to the Gaza area. This region corresponds closely to the description given in the Hebrew Bible, in Numbers 34.112.
At the end of what is referred to as the Middle Kingdom era of Egypt, and the event that actually caused its end, was a massive Asiatic invasion of Egypt. Around 1674 BC, the Semitic invaders, whom the Egyptians referred to as the "Hyksos", conquered Lower Egypt (northern Egypt), evidently leaving Canaan an ethnically diverse land.Among the migrant tribes who settled in the region were the Amorites.
In the Old Testament, we find Amorites mentioned in the Table of Peoples (Gen. 10:16-18a). Evidently, the Amorites played a significant role in the early history of Canaan. In Gen. 14:7 f., Josh. 10:5 f., Deut. 1:19 f., 27, 44, we find them located in the southern mountain country, while in Num. 21:13, Josh. 9:10, 24:8, 12, etc., we hear of two great Amorite kings residing at Heshbon and Ashtaroth, east of the Jordan. However, in other passages such as Gen. 15:16, 48:22, Josh. 24:15, Judg. 1:34, etc., the name Amorite is regarded as synonymous with "Canaanite" - only "Amorite" is never used for the population on the coast.
In Egyptian inscriptions Amar and Amurru are applied strictly to the mountain region east of Phoenicia, extending to the Orontes. Later on, Amurru became the Assyrian term for the interior of south as well as north Canaan.In the centuries preceding the Hebrew invasion(s), Canaan and Syria became tributary to the Egyptian Pharoahs, although domination by the sovereign power was not so strong as to prevent frequent local rebellions.
Under Thutmose III (1479 BC-1426 BC) and Amenhotep II (1427 BC-1400 BC), the pressure of a strong hand kept the Syrians and Canaanites sufficiently loyal. The reign of Amenhotep III, however, was not quite so tranquil for the Asiatic province. Turbulent chiefs began to seek their opportunities, though as a rule, could not find them without the help of a neighboring king.
The boldest of the disaffected nobles was Aziru, son of Abd-Ashirta, a prince of Amurru, who even before the death of Amenhotep III, endeavoured to extend his power into the plain of Damascus. Akizzi, governor of Katna (near Hamath), reported this to the Pharaoh, who seems to have frustrated the attempt.
In the next reign, however, both father and son caused infinite trouble to loyal servants of Egypt like Rib-Addi, governor of Gubla (Gebal).Egyptian power in Canaan suffered a major setback when the Hittites (or Hatti) advanced into Syria in the reign of Amenhotep III, and became even more threatening in that of his successor, displacing the Amurru and prompting a resumption of Semitic migration.
It is related that Abd-Ashirta, and his son Aziru, at first afraid of the Hittites, were afterwards clever enough to make a treaty with their king, and joining with other external powers, attacked the districts remaining loyal to Egypt. In vain did Rib-Addi send touching appeals for aid to the distant Pharaoh, who was far too engaged in his religious innovations to attend to such messages.
In the el Amarna letters(~1350 BC) sent by governors and princes of Canaan to their Egyptian overlord Akhenaten (Amenhotep IV) in the 14th century BC - commonly known as the Tel-el-Amarna tablets - we find, beside Amar and Amurru (Amorites), the two forms Kinahhi and Kinahni, corresponding to Kena' and Kena'an respectively, and including Syria in its widest extent, as Eduard Meyer has shown.
The letters are written in the official and diplomatic language Babylonian/Akkadian, though "Canaanitish" words and idioms are not wanting.
Seti I (ca. 1290 BC) is said to have conquered the Shasu, Arabian nomads living just south and east of the Dead Sea, from the fortress of Taru (Shtir?) to the "Ka-n-'-na", and Rameses III (ca. 1194 BC) is said to have built a temple to the god Amen in the "Ka-n-'-na".
This geographic name probably meant all of western Syria and Canaan, with Raphia, "the (first) city of the Ka-n-'-na", on the southwest boundary toward the desert. Some archaeologists have proposed that Egyptian records of the 13th century BC are early written reports of a monotheistic belief in Yahweh noted among the nomadic Shasu.
Evidently, belief in Yahweh displaced polytheistic beliefs that had arisen among the early Hebrews, during and after the reign of King Josiah (around 650 BC), according to that book, and also according to archaeologists Neil A. Silberman and colleagues, in The Bible Unearthed (Simon and Schuster, New York, 2001).
Most interesting is the mention of troublesome invaders called sometimes SA-GAS (a Babylonian ideogram meaning "robber"), and sometimes Habiri. These Habiri are believed by some to signify generally all the nomadic tribes known as "Hebrews", and particularly the early Israelites, who sought to appropriate the fertile region for themselves. The terms Habiri and the Assyrian form Habiru may also include other related peoples such as the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites.
In the El Amarna letters(~1350 BC), we meet with the Habiri in northern Syria. Itakkama wrote thus to the Pharaoh, "Behold, Namyawaza has surrendered all the cities of the king, my lord to the SA-GAS in the land of Kadesh and in Ubi. But I will go, and if thy gods and thy sun go before me, I will bring back the cities to the king, my lord, from the Habiri, to show myself subject to him; and I will expel the SA-GAS."
Similarly Zimrida, king of Sidon, declared, "All my cities which the king has given into my hand, have come into the hand of the Habiri." Nor had Canaan any immunity from the Semitic invaders.
The king of Jerusalem, Abdi-heba, reported to the Pharaoh, "If (Egyptian) troops come this year, lands and princes will remain to the king, my lord; but if troops come not, these lands and princes will not remain to the king, my lord." Abdi-heba's principle trouble arose from persons called Iilkili and the sons of Labaya, who are said to have entered into a treasonable league with the Habiri.
Apparently this restless warrior found his death at the siege of Gina. All these princes, however, maligned each other in their letters to the Pharaoh, and protested their own innocence of traitorous intentions.
Namyawaza, for instance, whom Itakkama (see above) accused of disloyalty, wrote thus to the Pharaoh, "Behold, I and my warriors and my chariots, together with my brethren and my SA-GAS, and my Suti ?9 are at the disposal of the (royal) troops to go whithersoever the king, my lord, commands"; El Amarna letter, EA 189. This petty prince, therefore, saw no harm in having a band of Semites for his garrison.
Ham discovered Noah naked while Noah was sleeping off some wine (Genesis 9:22). Because of this Noah cursed Ham's son Canaan to go into servitude not only to his Shemite and Japhethic cousins, but even to his Hamite brethren (Genesis 9:25).In the so-called Table of Peoples in the tenth chapter of Genesis, Canaan is included among the four sons of Ham.
It is generally agreed (apart from perhaps the most extreme minimalists) that Cush in 10:6 signifies Ethiopia, Mizraim (lit. two lands) is the Hebrew name for Upper and Lower Egypt, and Phut (Puti) a Libyan tribe. The name of their father, Ham, is often thought to be cognate with the old Egyptian name for Egypt, Kam-t (black), though this is more widely disputed.
Some skeptics in the very early 1900s postulated that Cush, Mizraim, Put and Ham were all locations in northern Arabia, and suggested the name Canaan was therefore similarly of Arab origin.
It is plausible that inscriptions in the Canaanite language incorporated some geographic and religious phrases that originated in Arabic.
The Canaanites are initially identified as divided into eleven tribes or areas: Sidon; Heth; Jebusites; Amorites; Girgasites; Hivites; Arkites; Sinites; Arvadites; Zemarites; Hamathites.
The Canaanites or Kna'anim are said in Deuteronomy 7:1 to have been one of seven nations driven out before the Israelites. Other passages describe regional ethnic divisions, of which the Canaanites were the coastal component. The term "Canaanites" in this context corresponds exactly to "Phoenicians". The seven Canaanite nations mentioned are the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites.
The Bible indicates that God cautioned the Israelites against the sexual depravities of the Canaanites and their fertility cult (Leviticus 18:27). Thus the land of the Canaanites (specifically the Amorites, Hivites, Hethites, Girgashites and Jebusites) was deemed suitable for conquest by the Israelites partly on moral grounds. Deuteronomy 20:16-17, one of the 613 mitzvot, prescribes that no inhabitants of the cities of six Canaanite nations, the same as mentioned in 7:1, minus the Girgashites, are to be left alive.
Source from: Crystalinks