– WHO Were They?
They were various tribal people who lived in “Canaan”… the Promised Land.
– WHERE Were They?
The piece of land between the Mediterranean Sea (west) and the Jordan River (east).
– WHAT Kind of People Were They?
The Canaanites practiced a polytheistic (many gods) religion based in agriculture & fertility.
Their Chief god was El, the father & ruler of all other gods. He was usually depicted in idol form as a bull.
His goddess, Asherah/Ashteroth, was the Mother-Goddess (having given birth to about 70 gods/goddesses), and Lady of the Sea. She was usually depicted in idol form as being very shapely.
These 2 gods factored more into the sexual/fertility side. The Canaanites practiced temple prostitution, religious orgies, and human sacrifice of firstborn as inducement for more children.
Baal, their son-god, is the most recognized Canaanite god, and is mentioned most often in the Old Testament. He was considered the Warrior-Prince, the Rider of the Clouds, the God of Thunder & Rain, the Lord of the Earth. He was referred to as “Master” or “Lord” and could be whichever god was needed in any given situation/location.
Baal would eventually be worshiped as the one who overthrew El, and the powers associated with El would be transferred to Baal.
Knowing this, it’s easier to see how a case could be made for the Israelites to compromise:
1) Their god was El… “the god”. The Israelites worshipped The God… the Elohim, El Shaddai, etc. It was simply a matter of the Canaanites saying they were all worshipping the same God, just under variations of the same name. But they weren’t.
2) Their goddess Asherah/Ashteroth appealed to the men’s most base – and vile – passions. Encouraging them to believe religion is all about the one doing the worshipping.
3) The Baal was hands-on. He could be whoever/whatever was required in any situation/location. And God had been trying to teach His people that’s who He is… Baal would eventually overthrow El, and El’s powers would become his. So, b y the time of the prophets, the Canaanites believed Baal had already overthrown El, and it would be a simply matter for him to do it again, any time he chose to.
It seemed almost natural for God’s people to embrace Baal… just as it seems almost natural for God’s people to compromise God today.
WHEN Do We Hear of Them?
Canaan & Canaanites are mentioned about 160 times in the Bible, mostly in the first 7 books of the Bible.
Gen. 9:18,25…Canaan was the son of Ham (Noah’s son). It was Canaan who was cursed by Noah, not Ham. Canaan’s descendants would migrate… and settle… in that area between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of Aram. Many of the “ites” would descend from Canaan. Their primary enemy would be Egypt… until Moses led God’s people to their eastern border.
Num. 13:1,2,25,27-33…Israel’s first encounter with Canaanites.
Num. 14:40-45…Israel’s second encounter with Canaanites.
Deut. 7:1-5…An example of the many warnings against assimilation/compromise.
Josh. 1:2-4…God’s challenge to Joshua, following Moses.
Josh. 3:10…God’s command to the Israelites concerning the Canaanites.
Judg. 3:5,6…Israel’s response to God’s command.
From a military perspective, Israel won. The Canaanites would be weakened to the point the Philistines would invade/expand and dominate. That’s why, under the early kings, the Philistines are the dominant enemy. Under David’s reign, the Philistines would be wiped out… and Canaan would officially become the Land of Israel.
But, from a spiritual perspective, the Canaanites would always be a smudge on God’s people:
– King Saul named a son, Eshbaal (“Man of Baal”); 1Chron. 8:33
– Jonathan named a son, Merib-baal; 1Chron. 8:34
– David named a son, Baaliada (“Baal Knows”); 1Chron. 14:7
– Solomon blended the belief systems more than ever before through his many wives; 2Ki. 11:1-8
– The kingdoms split (North/South, Israel/Judah).
Israel bordered the Canaanite areas and blended the 2 even more… accelerating through Ahab & Jezebel in the time of Elijah. Hosea’s warnings proved too little too late; Israel would fall, due primarily to idolatry.
Judah was protected geographically, but not spiritually. The people would tend to compromise/assimilate… being “tolerant”, despite the reforms of Kings Hezekiah & Josiah. Isaiah preached against Baalism, and Jeremiah followed. But, Judah would choose the path of Israel… and would also be taken away.
Purity! Spiritual purity!
God did not want His people to be lured away from their commitment to Him by people who worshipped false gods, and did not worship the One True God.
God knew if those people were allowed to live among His people, they would corrupt the purity of His nation.
God had a plan for the world and His plan was that His people be holy and spiritually separated from the rest of the world, and devoted completely to Him. “In the world, not of it…”
My question for you: “Are you having more influence on the world around you… or is the world around you having more influence on you?”