Canaanites, Amorites, and Hittites in History and the Bible

The Old Testament is full of names used to describe various ethnic groups of the Promised Land and the lands they occupy. Some of these names are well-attested from other archaeological and historical sources; others are obscure and remain a mystery to this day.

Throughout the Pentateuch and historical books, the Promised Land is frequently referred to as Canaan, and its non-Israelite inhabitants as Canaanites. Other terms used fairly often for the land’s indigenous inhabitants, though less frequently than “Canaanite”, are “Amorite” and “Hittite”.

What, in historical terms, was a Canaanite, a Hittite, an Amorite? How did ancient sources outside the Bible use these labels, and what comparisons can we draw with the Bible? The answers may help us to understand the times and places in which the biblical authors wrote, as well as the idealogical framework they were working from.

Canaan in Ancient Sources

The ethnic label “Canaanite” first appears in a third-millennium-BCE text from Ebla, and various early references equate Canaan with the Phoenician coast and its hinterlands. In the late Bronze Age, around the year 1552 BCE, Egypt established military and political control of the Levant—a situation that would last for about five centuries. Under Egyptian administration, the region was divided into three provinces: Amurru (the far north), Upi (the region around Damascus), and Canaan (Phoenicia and southern Palestine). Later, in the first millennium, Egyptian sources tend to refer to southern Palestine and Philistia as Canaan.

In Hittite sources, Canaan (Kinahhi) refers to the northern Phoenician coast as distinct from southern Phoenicia, which includes Sidon and Tyre. (Green, 2003, pp. 220–221) In Greek sources, Canaan is sometimes an equivalent term for Phoenicia.

It has become well-established in archaeology that ancient Israel cannot be distinguished from the other tribes of Canaan. Israel, a polity that emerged in the hill country of Palestine during the late Bronze Age, existed in complete cultural, material, and linguistic continuity with the Canaanite societies that preceded it. The Merneptah Stele, which provides the earliest known reference to Israel, lists Israel as one of several peoples conquered by Pharaoh Merneptah during a campaign in Canaan. In historical terms, the Israelites were indigenous Canaanites, not external conquerors. The name “Israel” itself contains the name “El”, the high god of the Canaanite pantheon.

In short, “Canaan” in ancient texts is mainly a geographical and political term that refers to land, and not to any specific ethnic group or culture. (Noll, 2007, 62–64) It was mainly a label applied to the region of Phoenicia and Palestine by outsiders. As Danish scholar Niels Peter Lemche puts it, “The Canaanites of the ancient Near East did not know that they were themselves Canaanites. Only when they had so to speak ‘left’ their original home, only when they lived in some other part of the Mediterranean area, did they acknowledge that they had been Canaanites.” (p. 152)

Canaan and Canaanites in the Bible

The Canaanites are one of the seven nations in a formulaic list that is repeated numerous times by the Deuteronomistic writer:

When Yahweh your God brings you into the land that you are about to enter and occupy, and he clears away many nations before you—the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations mightier and more numerous than you… then you must utterly destroy them. Make no covenant with them and show them no mercy. (Deut. 7:1–2)

Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites. (Josh. 3:10)

The Priestly writer of the Pentateuch understands Canaan to be essentially coterminous with the Promised Land—the homeland of Israel’s ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A rare exception to this view of Canaan can be found in the Song of Deborah in Judges 5, often considered the oldest passage in the Hebrew Bible. It describes a battle between the northern tribes and the “kings of Canaan”, which seem to from the Galilee region. And in the lead-up in Judges 4, Jabin the “king of Canaan” is based in Hazor in northern Galilee. This seems to be an earlier, less ideological view of Canaan, written before the exodus and conquest narratives had been developed.

The conceptual relationship of Canaan with other nations and sub-groups is expressed by the Table of Nations in Genesis 10—probably composed fairly late—which describes the world as a great family tree, each of its peoples represented as an eponymous ancestor descended from Noah. Here, Canaan is Noah’s grandson through Ham. His sons include Sidon his firstborn (northernly-situated Sidon/Phoenicia), Heth (the Hittites), the Amorites, the Jebusites, and so on—all kingdoms located within the author’s conceptualization of Canaan.

(As I have written in previous articles, eponymous ancestors are a fictional storytelling device; no one—aside from some very conservative literalists—thinks a man named “Canaan” really founded the land of Canaan.)

Though the authors of the Pentateuch and historical books see the Israelites as rightful inhabitants of the whole of the land of Canaan, the term Canaanite is usually reserved for those people of the land who do not fit into the approved tribal and religious framework of the Israelites. Canaanites are the “other”, a faceless enemy to be dispatched without mercy at every opportunity. They are an ideological element that addresses the concerns of the exilic or post-exilic elite that wrote and canonized these texts (Lemche pp. 119–120).

In the other books of the Old Testament, the situation is somewhat different. No negative connotation seems to be associated with Canaan in Isaiah 19:18, for example:

On that day there will be five cities in the land of Egypt that speak the language of Canaan and swear allegiance to Yahweh of hosts. One of these will be called the City of the Sun.

In fact, the “language of Canaan” appears to be Hebrew in this context, and “Canaan” is simply the land of Palestine from an Egyptian perspective.

In Isaiah 23, “Canaan” appears to be used as a synonym for “Phoenicia” in an oracle against Tyre. While the connotation is negative, the term here is used for a territory that geographically does not match its use in the Pentateuch.

Ezekiel 16.3 seems to acknowledge Israel’s Canaanite origins (no mention of an exodus here), even if there is a polemical tinge:

Thus says the Lord Yahweh to Jerusalem: Your origin and your birth were in the land of the Canaanites; your father was an Amorite, and your mother a Hittite.

In Zephaniah 2.5, Canaan seems to designate the coastal region of Philistia:

Woe to you inhabitants of the seacoast, you nation of the Cherethites (Cretans)! The word of Yahweh is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines; and I will destroy you till no inhabitant is left.

There are several passages in Ezekiel, Hosea, Zephaniah and elsewhere where the text is ambiguous as to whether “Canaanite” or “trader” is meant. The words are essentially identical in Hebrew, and this may reflect an Israelite understanding of Canaanites as merchants and traders, perhaps with the seafaring Phoenicians in mind. For example, kena‘ani in Proverbs 31.24 is usually translated “merchant” in English translations, but the Old Greek explicitly has it as “Canaanite”:

She makes linen garments and sells them;
she supplies the merchant with sashes. (MT)

She made linen garments and sold them,
and girdles for the Chananites. (LXX)

See also Job 41.6 (LXX 40.30):

Will traders bargain over it?
Will they divide it up among the merchants? (MT)

And do nations feed on it,
and do the Phoenician races divvy it up? (LXX)

In this latter instance, we have the Canaanites identified with the Phoenicians, as was typical among Greek-speakers in the Hellenistic period (Lemche p. 147).

Much more could be said, but broadly speaking, the biblical texts outside of the Pentateuch and historical books treat Canaanites in more diverse ways—as Philistines, Palestinians and Phoenicians, as merchants and traders—but not as the stereotyped enemy of the Israelites they become in the Deuteronomistic History.

Amurru, the Historical Amorites

The name “Amorite” ultimately comes from Old Akkadian Amurru, meaning “the West”. It was used by the ancient Assyrians as a general term for the Bronze-Age cultures of the desert and steppe-land in Syria. For the most part, it designated no specific nation or ethnic group, although a kingdom by that name did exist for a while around the 14th century BCE in central Syria.

After the fall of the kingdom of Amurru, the label came to be used by the Assyrians for any lands west of Assyria to the Mediterranean, with no particular southern limit. As Neo-Assyrian involvement in Palestine increased, all the kingdoms of Palestine came to called “Amurru”, including Israel as well as its neighbours—Phoenicia, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and the Philistine cities.

James Tissot, The Conquest of the Amorites, c. 1902
James Tissot, The Conquest of the Amorites, c. 1902

Amorites in the Bible

As noted earlier, the Amorites are one of the names included in an oft-repeated stereotyped list of peoples along with the Canaanites, Hittites, and so on.

Although many biblical passages seem to imply that the Amorites were a specific ethnic group, the way the term is actually used often reflects Neo-Assyrian usage from the 8th century onward—as a blanket term for the peoples living in Palestine and Transjordan. Furthermore, the Old Testament treats it as an archaic reference, as though it were an older term for the pre-Israelite occupants of the Promised Land. Van Seters suggests that using archaic terms like “Amorite” was necessary to make the text sound like something that would have come from the time of Moses, and therefore more authoritative (Van Seters 1972).

Sometimes, the Deuteronomistic History gets oddly specific with the location of the Amorites, but there is little agreement as to what that location is. In Deuteronomy 1.28, the Amorites are equated with the sons of the Anakim, a primeval race of “giants” who live in the Israelite hill country. Genesis 14 locates the Amorites further south, in the Judean Negeb. Numbers 21 appears to equate “the territory of the Amorites” with Ammon and Moab across the Jordan. Joshua 10, discussed in an earlier article here, depicts the kings of Jerusalem and four cities in the Shephelah as the “kings of the Amorites” who are defeated by Joshua in the process of conquering the Promised Land. As Van Seters, in his definitive paper on the topic, puts it:

To summarize we may say that “Amorite” in the Old Testament does not correspond to any political or ethnic entity known from the historical documents of the second millennium B.C. Instead the Old Testament writers probably learned of the term from Assyrian and Babylonian sources of the first millennium and construed it as an archaic term for the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine. Their use of the term is largely ideological and rhetorical and represents the primeval wicked nations whom God displaced in order to give Israel its land. (p. 78)

Hatti, the Historical Hittites

The original Hittites were an Indo-European people who settled in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) around 2,000 BCE and became one of the Near East’s greatest empires. They called themselves Hatti, and their capital was the central Anatolian city of Hattusa. Although they contended with Egypt for control of the Levant, Hittite rule never extended further south than some Syrian vassal states.

The Hittite Empire eventually collapsed amidst the droughts, migrations, and invasions that accompanied the tumultuous end of the Bronze Age, circa 1180 BCE. Its successors were several Neo-Hittite kingdoms that emerged in southern Anatolia and northern Syria. These became vassals of the Assyrian empire and were eventually assimilated completely.

Syria and northern Palestine during the Assyrian empire
Two major Neo-Hittite kingdoms were located at Carchemish and Hamath during the early Iron Age. (Map from Oxford Bible Atlas.)

The use of the term “Hittite” in Assyrian inscriptions changed over time. During the time of Shalmaneser III (9th century), it referred to the neo-Hittite states—Carchemish in particular. After his, however, the neo-Hittite states lost their independence and ethnic identity. By the time of Sargon (ca. 720 BCE), Hittite had become a synonym for Amorite and was used to indicate all of Syria-Palestine. (Van Seters, p. 66)

By the neo-Babylonian period (ca. 626 BCE), Hatti had replaced Amurru as the standard term for Palestine—including the kingdom of Judah. In fact, Judah is explicitly referred to as part of the Hittite region (“Hatti-land”) in the Babylonian Chronicles’ account of Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest.

In the seventh year [598-597], the month of Kislev, the king of Akkad mustered his troops, marched to the Hatti-land, and encamped against the city of Judah [Jerusalem] and on the second day of the month of Adar [Mar 16, 597] he seized the city and  captured the king. He appointed there a king of his own choice Zedekiah, received its heavy tribute and sent (them) to Babylon.

Hittites in the Bible

As previously noted, the Pentateuch and historical books present the Hittites as one of the seven stereotyped nations of the Promised Land, to be eradicated by the Israelites. Apart from this list, all references to Hittites in the Pentateuch are found in verses attributed to the Priestly author (Van Seters, p. 78), who probably revised and augmented earlier versions of the text. The term is basically synonymous with “Caananite”, and the Table of Nations makes Heth (the Hittite “founder”) a prominent son of Canaan.

Joshua 1:4 also explicitly equates the land of the Hittites with the idealized limits of the Promised Land:

From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory.

A brief reference in Judges 1.26 identifies the land of the Hittites as the hill country around the city of Luz.

A few uses of the term correspond more closely with the historical neo-Hittite kingdoms. 1 Kings 10.29 and and 2 Kings 7.6 refer to the “kings of the Hittites” in a context that puts them near, but distinct from the kings of Aram (the region around Damascus, Syria).

It is unclear exactly what is meant when the books of Samuel name two of David’s men, Ahimelech and Uriah, as “Hittites”, though they have Semitic names. Van Seters suggests that the author merely wishes to portray them as non-Israelite (p. 80; also Lemche p. 86). An alternate hypothesis given by Edward Lipiński, which I haven’t seen adopted elsewhere, is that “Uriah the Hittite” is a misinterpretation of the Hurrian title “Lord” followed by the Hurrian name “Hutiya”, whom he takes to be a Hurrian prince who ruled Jerusalem before David (Lipiński p. 127, n. 183).

In summary, while Kings understands the Hittites to be a group of northern kingdoms, the Pentateuch and Joshua use it as a label for all the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine. This closely resembles the term’s use in neo-Babylonian texts from the time of Sargon onward, and if the biblical authors are attempting to give the appearance of antiquity by using it this way, they are writing later still.

Pieter Lastman, King David Handing the Letter to Uriah
Pieter Lastman, King David Handing the Letter to Uriah, 1611

An Apologetics Footnote

There is an odd defense of the Bible’s historical accuracy that crops up now and again regarding the Hittites. One online example can be found in this article by Kyle Butt at Apologetics Press. The argument typically goes that the Bible used to be “scorned” by scholars and historians for its numerous references to the unknown Hittites. The archaeological discovery of the Hittite empire and its capital Hattusa in Turkey in 1906 is considered, then, to be a triumphant vindication of the Biblical record that has rendered the Bible’s critics  “shamefaced and silent”.

This strikes me as a rather facile argument. Firstly, I am unable to locate these pre-1906 claims that the Hittites never existed. (I welcome such references if they exist.) Secondly, as we have seen, the Bronze-Age Hittite Empire was a completely different entity from the “Hittites” portrayed in the Bible. Thirdly, the basic argument is a non sequitur. The inability to correlate an obscure tribe or kingdom with archaeological finds would not necessarily mean it had never existed; conversely, corroboration of some element from a biblical story does not prove the story itself is historically true. There is also a ridiculous level of cherry-picking occurring here: there is no shortage of reasons why Old Testament scholars do not regard the Bible as a wholly accurate account of history—one need go no further than any standard commentary to see that. And that is not to mention all the biblical nations we still find no historical evidence for (e.g. the Jebusites).

This Hittite apologetic argument is of no use to anyone trying to understand the Bible and understand history; it’s purely aimed at the naive Christian who has heard rumours about inaccuracies in the Bible and wants vague reassurances that the experts have cleared everything up in the Bible’s favour. Furthermore, it tends to lower itself to ad hominem attacks against “secular” historians who are portrayed as being hostile to religion. This is a serious mischaracterization that does nothing to advance genuine scholarship in history, archaeology, and the Bible.

Update (Feb. 13, 2022): After much research, it appears that this accusation by apologists on the subject of the Hittites originates with an offhand remark by R.K. Harrison who, in his 1975 Introduction to the Old Testament, writes:

Cuneiform texts from Boghazköy have demonstrated conclusively the cultural virility of [the Hittites], who were once relegated by liberal critics to an insignificant place in ancient Near Eastern history. (p. 117)

That’s the entire claim. And who were these “liberal critics” of the Bible? Harrison gives only one citation: The History of Israel (1883 ed.) by German theologian Heinrich Ewald. While I couldn’t locate that book in English, the equivalent pages of the German original (Einleitung in die Geschichte des Volkes Israel, 1943, pp. 338-339) say nothing of the kind. Ewald discusses the Hittites for only a single paragraph, noting that they were more civilized (“lovers of fine education”) and less warlike than the Amorites. In a footnote, Ewald remarks that the biblical Hittites who inhabited Canaan must have been different from the more northern Hatti mentioned in Assyrian inscriptions. So it would appear that the apologists’ accusation is but a straw man.


Alberto R. Green, The Storm-God in the Ancient Near East, Eisenbrauns, 2003.

Alberto R. Green, “The Chronology of the Last Days of Judah: Two Apparent Discrepancies”, Journal of Biblical Literature, 101/1 (Mar. 1982), pp. 57-73.

K. L. Noll, “Canaanite Religion”, Religion Compass 1/1, 2007, 62–64.

John van Seters, ‘The Terms “Amorite” and “Hittite” in the Old Testament’, Vetus Testamentum, 22/1 (Jan., 1972), pp. 64-81.

Niels Peter Lemche, The Canaanites and Their Land: The Tradition of the Canaanites (JSOT Supplement 110), Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.

Edward Lipiński, On the Skirts of Canaan in the Iron Age: Historical and Topographical Perspectives (OLA 156), 2006.

Anson F. Rainey, “Who Is a Canaanite?”, BASOR 304, 1996.

36 thoughts on “Canaanites, Amorites, and Hittites in History and the Bible

  1. Two comments: King David, we are told, purchased the temple site from a Jebusite; not compatible with Joshua’s alleged policy of extermination. And I have met the abominable Kyle Butt and Apologetics Press in a different context; the production of one of the most dogmatic, mendacious, and ill-informed attacks on life science and earth science that I have ever met, under the title “Truth to tell – exposing the myth of evolution”; full review here:


  2. Thanks Paul, another great post. I was especially interested in the section An Apologetics Footnote. I have often heard that comment about the Hittites as ‘proof’ of the Bible. I will categorise that with other great misnomer of Luke being proven writer of accurate history.

    Incidentally Uriah the Hittite always puzzled me given the very negative attitude to foreigners in the Pentateuch. But I had wrongly assumed in the past that the Pentateuch predated the Book of Samuel.


    • “But I had wrongly assumed in the past that the Pentateuch predated the Book of Samuel.”

      Yeah, that’s obviously the canonical (traditional) view. Nowadays, it’s widely thought that there was an early kernel of the Deuteronomistic History (Deuteronomy through Kings) that the books of the Pentateuch were later added to as a sort of prologue.


  3. he Song of Deborah in Judges 5, often considered the oldest passage in the Hebrew Bible.

    I’ve heard this before. I’d love to learn how different parts of the OT are dated.


  4. Another installment of yummy, higher-criticism goodness.

    By coincidence, I just happened to be searching to see if anyone has been able to come up with solid links tying the Jewish festivals listed in Leviticus 23 / Deuteronomy 16 to earlier “pagan” festivals. What appears (to me at least) to be the best article I’ve come up with yet is by Kathryn QannaYahu entitled, “Origins of Passover,” who appears to be an observant, if not Rabbinically so, Jew, who considers her audience to be other observant Jews, oddly enough.

    On her way to linking the Jewish Passover unto the celestial YHWH with the Amorite Zukru festival (as attested in texts from the cities of Mari, Emar, and maybe she references ones from Ebla and Ugarit too) unto the cthonic Dagan (a fascinating tale in itself as she finds vestiges of cthonic worship in the Jewish Passover, which is supposedly to worship a celestial deity), she references some of the same scriptures that you have, because her first task is to also establish an equivalence between the “Canaanites,” and the Amorites. She writes:

    An important factor in the identity of Israel, that many may not have noticed in the Tanak, is the verse in Yechezqel [Ezekiel] 16:3, ‘and say, so says adonay YHWH to yerushalem, the place of your origin and the place of your birth is of the land of the kenaaniy [canaanite]. your father, the amoriy [amarru, amorite] and your mother, chiththiyth [female suffix with hittite, basically hittitess].’ If you take the word of the post-exilic Jewish editors of the Tanak, then you would get the impression that the Amoriy are a pre-Israelite inhabitant of the land of Kenaan [Canaan]. But the land was not called Kenaan then, it was called the land of the Amoriy / Amurru by the nations surrounding it. A verse in Yahusha [Joshua] 24:15 shows Yahusha reaffirming the covenant with the people and states, ‘And if it seems evil in your eyes to serve YHWH, choose for you today whom you will serve, whether the elohiym [gods] whom your fathers served beyond the river [Assyrian Harran] or the elohey of the Amoriy whose land you are dwelling, but as for me and my house, we will serve YHWH.’ Notice it does not state Canaan and Canaanites, but Amoriy, who were the Amurru.“

    Of particular relevance to your article is Joshua 24:15 which claims that the “promised land” is, in fact, the land of the Amorites. The Wikipedia entry for the Amorites (which if correct) corroborates this saying, “In the earliest Sumerian texts, all western lands beyond the Euphrates, including modern Syria and Canaan, were known as ‘the land of the MAR.TU (Amorites).'”

    Something else that I thought was interesting because I had never noticed it before is how in Ezekiel 16:3, it says the “father” and “mother” of “Jerusalem” were an Amorite and a Hittitess. I assume since the temple mount is equated with Mount Moriah which is where Abraham attempts to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22, QannaYahu interprets this “father” and “mother” to be Abraham and Sarah. Whether that’s the best interpretation of the text or not is not clear to me, since Jerusalem is supposed to have been a Jebusite city named Jebus prior to David (even though archaeological evidence contradicts this) so wouldn’t, according to the bible at least, the “father” and “mother” of Jerusalem have to be Jebusites rather than Amorites or Hittites? Whatever. But that, taken with Genesis 20, where Abraham attests that Sarah is his half-sister by another mother, would mean that the final text we have today seems to be saying that the mother of Abraham was an Amoritess, while the mother of Sarah was a Hittitess? Perhaps, as in Rabbinic Judaism, the matrilineality was applied here. Otherwise, unless Terah was half Amorite and half Hittite himself, at least one of them, by internal logic, is no more than half what the text claims. (Unfortunately, the bible is contains examples of Israelite patrilinearity.) But I would think that since Terah was supposed to be from Ur, that he would have most likely have supposed to have been Chaldean. QannaYahu, however, assumes that Sarah was not his sister at all, but probably a political marraige to forge an alliance. While that makes much better historical sense and avoids the stigma of incest, however, once you’ve decided to take liberties like this, you might as well go ahead and assume that the whole thing is an etiological myth, which I don’t see how it can fail to be.

    What I though most interesting from your article is the fact that “Canaanite” in Hebrew is simply the same as the word for “merchant” or “trader.” That draws into question whether the transliteration of it simply a mistake, and that until an eponymous founder Canaan was invented, that not even earlier biblical authors intended us to think that implied an ethnicity, and that we really should be translating the word instead. Of course, I am not well-enough versed in higher criticism to know if the temporal parameters of successive authorship and redaction within this theory make sense in terms of the text. Anyway, I’m off to “Canaanite” Joe’s to buy some groceries.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Ephemerol, great comment with a lot to respond to.

    Regarding Ezekiel, I think QannaYahu falls into the trap of assuming the folklore traditions about Abraham in the Pentateuch were known to Ezekiel. I think the early portions of Ezekiel (whatever can be attributed to the individual Ezekiel) predate the Pentateuch, and that the author had different knowledge about Abram and Judah’s origins.


    • Agreed. Maybe what it really is that I find so interesting about Ezekiel 16:3 is the possibility that it’s a vestigial remnant of an older origin story that predates the Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob/Israel story that’s been erased from the texts.

      I myself haven’t assembled in my mind at all yet what order things were probably written in except that, apparently, Genesis, at least in the form in which we have it, was late to be finished and late to be canonized. I’m not even sure what version of the DH is currently in vogue.


  6. Since the Bible claims that the evil Ham was the progenitor of two thorns in Israel’s side–the Canaanites and Egyptians (Genesis 10:6)–and that Canaan was the ancestor of various other “-ites” (10:15-16), why didn’t Yahweh make Mrs. Ham infertile, at least before she conceived Canaan? Yahweh had no problem doing this to other women (Genesis 20:18, 1 Samuel 1:5), so why not do this to prevent the birth of these enemies of Israel rather than allowing them to be born, only to wait around until they were “wicked enough” to slaughter (Genesis 15:16, Deuteronomy 7)? At the very least, when God was “scattering” people after the Tower of babel incident, why not “scatter” Canaan’s descendants somewhere other than the Promised Land and just “scatter” Shem’s descendants there instead?

    Paul, you could do an entry on Genesis 9:20-27, one of those tantalizingly bizarre stories which has led to a myriad of interpretations by ancient and modern commentators.


    • There is some belief that “seeing the nakedness of” could imply rape, either of Noah himself or his wife, as a battle for domination/authority.


    • Maybe because God had already blessed Ham when he said to Noah “Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.” Maybe it wasn’t Gods plan to have all of Hams sons wiped out. Maybe it’s the mystery of Gods character that allows “evil” to have it’s place and time. Maybe God was looking ahead to the time of Jesus Christ and knowing some of Hams descendants would come to accept him. I am not sure if you believe in God, but your question comes down to understanding Gods character as revealed in the bible. The way you are describing God is as if he is prevented by circumstances out of his control and only needed a simple solution to solve his problems. That would assume you know God and his will and assume it’s similar to your own.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Some of the theories are that Ham castrated Noah; Ham raped Noah; Ham had sex with Mrs. Noah (and Canaan is the offspring); and that Ham literally saw his father naked. It appears that Wajdenbaum opts for the castration option. I have my opinion, but I guess I’ll wait to see your post.


  8. I’ve also heard the theory that Canaan, not Ham, was the original perpetrator, that one tradition thought of Canaan as Noah’s youngest son (thus, verse 24’s “discovered what his youngest son had done to him”), etc.


  9. “There is an odd defense of the Bible’s historical accuracy that crops up now and again regarding the Hittites.”

    No odder than the literalists I’ve encountered who claim that Israel had conquered the old Hittite kingdom in Anatolia and the Babylonians as well just because the bible says somewhere that Israel stretched from the Euphrates to the Mediterranian.

    Just that apparently those stories got left out of the books.


  10. I have been looking into the Hittite apologetic argument. This search resulted in me landing here at one point. If you are interested in the origins of this argument, as best as I can tell, it came from the general opinion of scholars during the 1800s that said “No Hittite Kings can have compared in power with the king of Judah”. The quote comes from F.W, Newman’s “History of the Hebrew Monarchy” p. 192 and seems to reflect scholarly opinion at the time of his writing (1847).

    Below is the portion of an email from my dad that I was fact checking which is what caused me to search this in more detail. He states that there is a trend among secular historians of the bible being right and scholars are slowly admitting the validity of the history presented in the bible.

    ” During my own lifetime the skeptics have had to move back more than 400 years with their Hebrew language beliefs (from 6th to 10th century BC) because of empirical evidence. In Grandpa’s generation they had to move back more than 1,000. That’s a significant trend line. And though there are still stubborn deniers of Scripture’s indications, it’s been increasingly challenging for them to maintain that, “Moses could not have known Hebrew, could not have written Hebrew, and nobody could have read it anyway.” Even the liberal unbelievers of Jesus’ day (Mk 12:19) knew that Moses had written (Ex 17 & 34) and that other Israelites could write as well (Mk 10:4). If in the last 70 years the evidence has moved the clock back 1.4 millennia, it may be very reasonable to believe it was in use by, and before, Moses, even since before the days of Jacob (Gen 31:47) who gave Hebrew names to numerous places. Or does this idea have to remain an impossibility until archaeologically proven otherwise? What part will reason, deduction, and trust be allowed to play in receiving the evidence that is currently available? {For example: Academics widely accept the idea that (Old) English language usage predates any of it’s verifiable written evidences by some 200-300 years. However, if the Bible was the document indicating this same idea, those academics would deny such until someone discovered a document that’s 300 years older than the current oldest. And even then, some would not be satisfied. Thus the “bias” of which you spoke. AND, I do understand that such goes both ways! And we need to rise above their prejudiced tactics.]
    The above example may help you understand why the “hits” get emphasized. It is because of trend. As time passes there is a diminishing number of historical portions of Scripture to yet be verified. It used to be, “The Hittites are pure fiction.” But then, all of a sudden, they weren’t. Will a “tipping point” of trustworthiness ever be reached? That depends on the observer’s ability to be “reasonable.” It is highly “reasonable” that the Hebrew tongue dates to (at least) the Genesis 11 & 12 era. The name “Hebrew” means the people beyond the river, and possibly got its designation from the family of “Eber” (Gen 10 & 11 ; 1 Chron 1). The wide diversity of ancient spoken and written language development, in itself, is very challenging to explain WITHOUT an event like Gen 11. Just as the idea of a single ancestor being the progenitor of all humanity was abhorrent to science until DNA pointed in the same direction, a multiple languages outbreak from an ever-converging time line is just an enigma if we deny a Babel-like event until we can verify it with documents from the time. (Gen 1,2 ; Acts 17 ; etc. have long presented a unified answer to human origins.)”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the comment. The quote that “No Hittite Kings can have compared in power with the king of Judah” is certainly a far cry from the claim that the existence of the Hittites was disputed altogether. If anything, such a sentiment is altogether too credulous about the Bible’s grandiose claims about the Israelites.

      I certainly dispute the overall sentiment (assuming I interpret you correctly) that the history of the Bible is one of “secular historians” trying to disprove it, only for the Bible to be proven correct over and over. If anything, the trend seems to be the opposite.

      Lastly, although my understanding is limited, DNA does not point toward the idea of a single ancestor. It shows the opposite, that populations have always evolved as groups, and that bottlenecks of even a few dozen individuals can be deadly to a species. Perhaps you are thinking of the notions of the misleadingly named Y-chromosome “Adam” and mitochondrial “Eve”, which are our earliest common ancestors through patrilineal and matrilineal descent, respectively.


      • What would you use as evidence to show the trend in the other direction (historians correcting biblical history)? I have searched high and low for a scholar questioning the existence of the Hittites but the best I can come up with is apologists quoting unnamed sources. Wikipedia article on the Hittites says the following: “Before the discoveries, the only source of information about Hittites had been the Old Testament. Francis William Newman expressed the critical view, common in the early 19th century, that, if the Hittites existed at all, “no Hittite king could have compared in power to the King of Judah…”.” I wonder if Wikipedia needs a correction here or if that could be substantiated with sources I have been unable to find.

        Liked by 1 person

        • In the case of the Hittites, the point is rather that the historical Hittite empire has little or nothing to do with the group called “Hittites” in the Bible, which is just a late appellation used by the Assyrians and Babylonians for Palestine itself. There is no indication that the biblical authors knew about the great Hittite empire of the Bronze Age.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. I am studying the Ancient Near East at Uni, and have been reading Marc Van De Mieroop’s history of the Ancient Near East. He claims that there is almost certainly no direct link between the Biblical Amorites and the earlier Amorites. He does however state that a late second millennium kingdom called Amurru existed in the Syria region. Could there be a link with the biblical Amorites here?

    One thing though. Given how there both the giants of the Hebrew Bible are called both Amorites and Rephaim, it is entirely possible that the two are one and the same, and that the biblical authors were perhaps drawing on ancient canaanite traditions about the Ugaritic rpum, who appear to have been related to the Old Amorites.


    • “Could there be a link with the biblical Amorites here?”

      The problem is that neither the chronology nor geography are a match. Biblical references variously refer to people in the hill country, Transjordan, and Negeb as “Amorites”, but the kingdom of Amurru was a 14th century Syrian kingdom.

      On the subject of Amorites as giants, the Bible does refer to the Anakim as Amorites, as noted in the article above.


    • You are right the Ugarit Rphaim in the funerary offerings cult is the exact same word as the bible used and both mean something like mighty or great ones. Not sure exact spelling. As for the Ammuru that was a more general term Sumerian’s and akkadians used to refer to westerners which were more likely the arameans of Abraham although archeology does not acknowledge this so the Amurru remain a mystery however I am not aware of any documents that place “amurru” in Canaan, and it was a very general term so any link professors make to the biblical amorites is speculation. However it does seem The bible does use the word amorites to describe all the canannites and give no origin in the book of nations so maybe it was the same general term.


  12. Wow. I am late to the party but I tend to get fixated on things and then check back.

    From what I can see in answer to one question, the latest findings are disastrous for evangelical Christianity as well as Mormonism among people who do a serious unbiased inquiry.

    The dates of the Torah have been greatly lowered meaning towards us, not farther away. I also note less and less that non-evangelicals are willing to concede any eyewitness authorship at all. The dates of the earliest manuscripts have all been pushed back. But to the guy who asked, one thing that is happening now is linguistic analysis. Indic languages were attested as Into-European very late, almost the 19th century and it takes two hundred years but there is a huge amount of interest in the Info-European, I know it’s not info, dammit languages in terms of movement and substrate and language interaction.

    Spain is a mixture but it was pre-into-European and then Punic/Celtic and then Roman and then conquered by the Eastern Goths who promptly adopted the remnants of Vulgate Latin and dropped German. They also conquered much of North Africa but all of North Africa Christianity was wiped out by Islam and now the Big mean Goths are gone from history. And it didn’t take long at all for that to happen, about a couple of hundred years.

    Was Egypt a Semitic substrate but perhaps originally with many Indo-Europeans? The Indo European languages are by far the most studied and attested and it’s difficult to get good information about whether the Arabic peoples could easily understand Coptic or Syriac. It seems these languages were close, similar to Italian and Spanish or Portuguese and Spanish but you have to really dig or you had to in the past because Christians had no interest in Punic civilization nor Phoenician nor that of the Philistines.

    The show Vikings flubs this badly. It’s highly doubtful that Anglo-Saxons, Jutes and Danes need translators until 106t6. Then Anglo-Danish disappears after the three Germanic tribes were conquered by a French cousin essentially of theirs and three hundred years later, English had no cases or gender or verbal conjugations except for elites in the 3rd person singular present only. Otherwise with the exception of strong forms, in just two or three hundred years something completely different emerges and it’s not intelligible with French, Danish, Dutch or German. I don’t have a good feel for say Aramaic vs. Coptic vs. Syriac vs Punic/Hebrew in terms of the closeness but Punic and well, Phoenician and Hebrew were identical at one point and the Punic language, RIP, was very closely related.

    Language often caused fewer difficulties it seems back then than now. It’s hard for me to get a feeling exactly but bam, out of nowhere without warning you have Indo Aryans (sorry I don’t change this term because it is historical and descriptive and vital) and Indo Iranians, Hittites, Macedonians, Scythians and one presumes that they knew they they were all linked somehow by something since they all shared apparently a photo-religion. Not a photo religion, sigh. Whether the Greeks could communicate well with the Persians/Indians I cannot find much on. They did have an empire together and Buddhism, Jainism, Zoarasterism and Vedic religions were all originally Indo-European which is obscured by religion now but not by language. Into-European languages dominate the world and they dominate the world’s landmass.

    Christians appear to me, meaning evangelicals, to be all but unaware of Iranian culture and how influential and important it was in the ancient world. Because of Islam, it has been obscured but this was a country that was the equal of any other empire/people in achievement. All of the Muslim republics out of the USSR were Iranian or Turkic and the Iranians essentially went to the end of the earth through the Scythians eastward. I continue to believe that Zoraoasterism is going to eventually get it’s due and that will not help strict scripturalist evangelicals. Me, I don’t care who came up with the idea of being a child of light or who invented hell. I don’t care if Mithraism was almost Christianity but lost by a hair because much of that is happenstance. Two significant battles in European history, Tours in the 8th century and Balkan wars in the 1500’s saved Christianity or it might already be gone. We might be speaking Danish or Slavic or a Semitic language. Who knows what was the history of prehistorical Egypt. That’s going to be fascinating now that the Christians and Muslims are losing control over their religions, as are the Mormons because evangelicals couldn’t research this stuff until college when I was growing up.

    With those wikipedia links a person can learn a hell of a lot about anything quickly. I am very, very impressed by this blog and my goal in life is to deconstruct fundamentalist Christianity and extinguish it forever. Others want the rapture or whatever but I am sick of nonsense and finally we don’t have to listen to nonsense related to the Chicago statement any longer which literally, in the history of humanity and know-nothing-ness, evangelical Christianity takes the cake, eh, it’s a tie but since I come from the Christian background I won’t impugn any others but any religion that is articulated as a puzzle or as an epoch in history to me, is extremely dangerous and unscientific.

    My son when he was five years old could demolish the Chicago statement and we actually have college graduates who believe in hocus-pocus. And again, don’t equate this to Jews except the ultra-conservative ones. Christians do not understand Judaism at all. Their entire approach to knowledge is 180 degrees opposite from evangelicals. Jews are encouraged to deconstruct their very own religion and society and anything else, at least in the three main American traditions. Jews in general do not agree with Christians on world view or much of anything. Judeo-Christian as a term to me, is useless unless you are going to call it Persian-Judeo-Christian.

    I am sorry to any intelligent evangelicals; I was one but none of you remotely understand just how far off the scholarly path you are. You don’t even belong in here unless you are striving for knowledge because this fellow will demolish you, in a nice way. So no, friend. To me, if Genesis and Exodus were written after 596 BC then you have little to nothing left of your fundamentalist/evangelical tradition and none of us on here have anything to say to any of you who are here to be circular and not to learn.

    Most of the comments are great comments but in my opinion, evangelical Christianity is an embarrassment to anyone who believes it in a non-Kierkegaardian way. That’s all that’s left of your faith without some sort of tradition to attach it to and you guys had that with the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church to a lesser extent and you decided to go off and do sola scripture and start using obscure names from the Old Testament because John Calvin said so. We all make fun of you guys; we make fun of the rapture; we make fun of your news; we make fun of your prosperity gospel; we especially sneer at your “scholarship”.

    What’s the line from Field of Dreams, “back to the 60’s with you….” “Back to the 16th centur”y with the evangelicals since now I am reading that one has to be pre-renaissance to understand evangelical Christianity. What a load of, eh, it’s enough… There is no way logically for a person to think themselves into heaven and you are all wasting your time. If there’s a heaven great for you but for the rest of us, it means we are stuck in Evangelical Cartoon World and let me out of this part of the multiverse.


  13. It’s interesting that in Joshua 9, Israel’s deceivers, the Gibeonites, are called “Hivites” (v:7), but 2 Samuel 21:2, which recounts their alleged murder by King Saul, calls them “Amorites.” It might be tempting to see “Amorites” in this passage as a blanket term for all the “-ites” of the land, but Joshua 9:1 distinguishes between Amorites and Hivites as do Exodus 3:8, 13:5; Deut. 7:1; Joshua 11:3, 12:8, 24:11; Judges 3:5; 1 Kings 9:20 et al. In fact, 1 Kings 9:20, after listing a group that contains Hivites and Amorites, uses the phrase “not of the children of Israel,” the same phrase found in 2 Samuel 21:2.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, you could make the case that Amorite is a generic term for the people of the Judahite heartland, which would include Gibeon. Whether the Hivites are always equated with the Gibeonites is another issue. Joshua 24:11 preserves an alternate tradition about the Hivites (and the people of Jericho!) fighting against the Israelites, which obviously differs from the stories of Joshua’s southern campaign earlier in the book.

      At any rate, that list of Canaanite nations that gets repeated everywhere is just sort of a schematic list that doesn’t always make sense in specific contexts.


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