Christianity Knowledge Base

Canaan was the son of Ham and the grandson of Noah. Canaan is also the name of the region that his inhabitants occupied, before the Israelite invasion at the time of Joshua.

Land of Canaan[]

The part of the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible often called the Table of Nations describes the Canaanites as being descended from an ancestor called Canaan (כְּנַעַן, Knaan), saying Genesis 10:15–19:

Canaan is the father of Sidon, his firstborn; and of the Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites, and Hamathites. Later the Canaanite clans scattered, and the borders of Canaan reached [across the Mediterranean coast] from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then [inland around the Jordan Valley] toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.

The Sidon whom the Table identifies as the firstborn son of Canaan has the same name as that of the coastal city of Sidon, in Lebanon. This city dominated the Phoenician coast, and may have enjoyed hegemony over a number of ethnic groups, who are said to belong to the "Land of Canaan".

Similarly, Canaanite populations are said to have inhabited:

including Lebanon corresponding to Phoenicia Isaiah 23:11 and the Gaza Strip corresponding to Philistia Zephaniah 2:5.

  • the Jordan Valley Joshua 11:3, Numbers 13:29, Genesis 13:12.

During the Canaanite Period of the Archaeology of Israel, the cities of Canaan were ruled by vassals of the Egyptian Empire. The Table of Nations calls Canaan the "son of Ham", whose ethnicities, e.g. Egypt ("Mitzrayim"), are associated with Africa Genesis 10:6.

A Biblical story involving Canaan seems to refer to the ancient discovery of the cultivation of grapes around 4000 BC around the area of Ararat, which is associated with Noah. After the Flood, Noah planted a vineyard, made wine but became drunk. While intoxicated, an incident occurred involving him and his youngest son, Ham. Afterward, Noah cursed Ham's son Canaan (but not Ham, for reasons that are not stated) to a life of servitude. He is to serve his brothers (who were not cursed either) and also his uncles Shem and Japheth Genesis 9:20–27. Noah's curse is typically interpreted to apply to the descendants of the mentioned figures. "Shem" includes the Israelites, Moabites, and Ammonites, who dominated the Canaanite inland areas around the Jordan Valley.

The Canaanites (כנענים , Standard Hebrew Knaanim, Tiberian Hebrew Kəna‘anîm) are said to have been one of seven regional ethnic divisions or "nations" driven out before the Israelites following the Exodus. Specifically, the other nations include the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites Deuteronomy 7:1.

According to the Book of Jubilees, the Israelite conquest of Canaan, and the curse, are attributed to Canaan's steadfast refusal to join his elder brothers in Ham's allotment beyond the Nile, and instead "squatting" on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, within the inheritance delineated for Shem.

The Bible describes God cautioning the Israelites against the sexual idolatry of the Canaanites and their fertility cult Leviticus 18:27. Thus the Land of the Canaanites, defined as including these seven groups, was deemed suitable for conquest by the Israelites partly on moral grounds Deuteronomy 20:16–17. One of the 613 mitzvot (precisely n. 596) prescribes that no inhabitants of the cities of six Canaanite nations, the same as mentioned in 7:1, minus the Girgashites, were to be left alive.

Canaanite kings mentioned in the Bible[]

  • Canaan, son of Ham
  • Sidon, son of Canaan
  • Heth, son of Canaan
  • Adonizedek
  • Aziru
  • Debir
  • Labaya
  • Jabin
  • Mamre
  • Eshcol
  • Aner
  • Sihon
  • Og