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Canaan ; the name ; Language then spoken-Its inhabitants ; Aborigines ;

Canaanites proper; Amorites ; Hittites; Perizzites ; Philistines—Their religion-Fertility and natural features of the country; its capabilities Characteristics of the Canaanitish tribes—The Fellaheen-Abram's life-New promise-Selection of Canaan as the cradle of true religion - Bethel.

'The country was not untenanted at the time of Abram's arrival. “The Canaanite was then in the land” (Gen. xii. 6). The descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, under various tribal appellations, were seated in the lowlands of Palestine, on the seashore, and in the valley of the Jordan. The name of Canaan was applied originally to that strip of territory called Phænicia by the Greeks and Romans, between Lebanon and the sea; but as the tribe there settled and its kindred clans spread abroad, the whole land came to be called Canaan, and its inhabitants, without regard to origin and affinity, were termed generally Canaanites. The language which they spoke was closely related to, if not substantially identical with, Hebrew; in Isaiah xix. 18, the Hebræo-Phænician tongue is called “the language of Canaan.” In all the intercourse of the Hebrews with the old inhabitants there is no sign of the necessity of an interpreter; all communications pass directly with no mediator. The proper names of Canaanitish persons and places are, to all intents, Hebrew, and capable of being explained by Hebrew etymology. Of course, it is possible that the Israelites translated the native names into their own lan

• Prof. Sayce, “ Monthly Interpreter," iii. 133.
• Comp. Abimelech, Melchizedek, Shechem, Kirjath-Sepher.


guage, giving Hebrew equivalents for them, just as they altered Assyrian and Egyptian words into Hebrew forms; but there is no doubt that the remains of the Phænician language which have been preserved have the closest analogy to the Hebrew; and that the Phænician tongue was the Canaanitish is well established.

With the aboriginal inhabitants of Canaan we do not find that Abram came in contact. Traces of Troglodytes have been discovered, not only in Edom, where the dwelling-places of the Horites are well known, but also at Beit-Jibrin, on the borders of the Shephelah, and in the Lebanon, where their flint instruments are mingled with the bones of the reindeer and wild ox. We often hear mention of a gigantic aboriginal tribe, the Rephaim, who dwelt chiefly in Bashan, and whose capital was AshterothKarnaim, named from the two-horned goddess whom they worshipped. These people are found also in the west, settled among the Philistines, and have left their name in a fertile valley near Jerusalem, which has been the scene of some stirring events in Jewish history. Offshoots of this gigantic clan are named, Anakim, Emim, and Zuzim. There is no reason to suppose that, though individuals of enormous stature occasionally appeared, the race generally exceeded the average height of tall, well-grown men. The Hebrews, recalling the legends of early times and investing these dwellers in the hoary past with monstrous attributes, applied the term Rephaim to the dead, perhaps with some idea that Sheol was the residence of these fallen giants. Another ancient people, the Avim, dwelt on the sea coast to the south. It was with the conquerors of the aboriginal inhabitants that Abram was concerned. At Sichem he found the Canaanites in possession. This people descended, as we have said, from Canaan, the son of Ham, and differing in many particulars from nations of Semitic origin, seem to have invaded Palestine from the south-east, gradually spreading to the north-west, and establishing themselves in Sidon and other strong places on the coast, as well as on the western side of the Jordan valley up to the Sea of Galilee. Another nation with whom the patriarch had dealings were the Amorites. Their

* The question is discussed by Gesenius, "Gesch. d. Heb. Spr.," pp. 16,

223 ff.

See 2 Sam. V. 22 ; xxiii. 13 f. ; 1 Chron. xi. 15 ff. ; xiv. 9 ff. 3 Ewald, “ History of Israel,” i. 232 f.

name implies that they dwelt in the mountainous district. Originally their home was beyond the mountains at the foot of the Dead Sea, and south of the subsequent territory of Judah ; but in patriarchal times they occupied the central and southeastern region of Palestine, and contained among them some relics of the aboriginal population. They are described as a warlike and fierce race; and Abram's alliance with them enabled him to carry out successfully his attack on the Elamite ravagers. In contrast with these warriors stand forth the peaceful Hittites, or “Sons of Heth," an offshoot of that great nation, the discuvery of whose importance is one of the triumphs of modern investigation.". Their city, Hebron, is most closely connected with Abram's life; it contains his sepulchre. The sacred historian, in mentioning (Numb. xiii. 22) that Hebron was built seven years before Zoan, or Tanis, in Egypt, countenances the idea that the Hittites formed part of the Hyksos forces which invaded that country some time earlier than this, and that a division of them remained behind in Southern Canaan and settled there. If this is so, it accounts for Abram finding friends when he went down into Egypt because of the famine in Canaan.

With the clan dwelling at Mamre the patriarch had the most amicable relations. He pastures his flocks in their midst; he turns to them when he wants to effect the purchase of Machpelah. They were a cultured and highly-civilized people. A city of theirs in the south of Judah was known as Kirjath-sepher, i.e., Book Town, a title which implies the possession of a library; and many inscriptions in peculiar writing have been discovered belonging to them. Their dress, aš we learn from the monuments, even in their southern home recalled their Cappadocian origin. They are always depicted as wearing boots with turned-up toes, such as are still worn by mountaineers in Asia Minor. In figure they are short and thick-set, of a yellowish complexion, with black hair, but without beards. Such in appearance, doubtless, were Abram's friends, the children of Heth, at Kirjath-Arba. The Perizzites, dwellers in villages, pagani, were probably only Hittites under a different appellation, and in a different locality. The Philistines are mentioned as dwelling at Gerar, in the south-west. Whether they had already given the name Philistia to the sea coast of Canaan and the

* See Prof. Sayce, “ Fresh Light from the Monuments," chap. v., from which account the statements in the text are derived.


maritime tract towards Egypt, is difficult to determine. It seems certain that they had settled in Crete (where the name of the river Jordan appears), and they may have peopled that island at the same time as they appeared in Canaan. This would account for their connection with Caphtor, if, as is supposed by Ewald, the name Caphtor designated the whole or part of Crete. A remarkable relic of this people existed in Malta some forty years ago, though it has since been greatly mutilated. This monument is called Hdjar Cham, “stones of worship,” and consists of a temple of the rudest workmanship, in the walls of which were found figures of female deities, probably Ashtoreth. In front of these statues were stone altars, and in another enclosure was an altar carved with the palm-tree, the Phænician symbol, together with the high-priest's seat, on the back of which were graven two serpents and an egg. This temple is supposed to have been erected by some of the inhabitants of Palestine, who fled before the conquering arm of Joshua. But the Philistines were evidently in patriarchal times possessed of little power, and lived a quiet pastoral life, displaying none of that restless activity and warlike skill which made them such formidable enemies in the age of Saul and David. This later change in national character is accounted for possibly by the infusion of a fresh element, owing to another immigration of these “strangers," as the Septuagint calls them.

The religion of these tribes was the worship of nature, gradually degenerating into immorality and cruelty. The Hittites borrowed many of their deities from Babylonia, so that among them Abram found traces of that religion which he had abominated in his old home. Their chief goddess was Istar or Ashtoreth, whose worship they carried with them wherever they went, and introduced especially among their Syrian neighbours. The other tribes worshipped also Baal under various names El, Moloch, Adoni. As in all such systéms that have broken away from revealed religion, the people learned to consecrate their own lusts and passions, and to impress a Divine element on the indulgence of them. To propitiate offended powers of nature they practised human sacrifice ; and from the notion that the more costly the offering the more favourably would the offerer be regarded, they scrupled not to slay their own offspring on the

• Homer, “Od.” iii. 292. Ewald, “ History of Israel," i. 245.
* Malan, “Philosophy or Truth," p. 131 f.

altar of their gods. Of primitive idolatry vestiges are still to be found in stone circles, obelisks, and dolmens, though the zeal of Jewish kings destroyed most of them in Judæa. At the same time, in some quarters, a purer religion was cultivated. Melchizedek was a priest of the Most High God (Elion); and whether this term Elion was applied, as Eusebius says (“ Praep. Evang." i. 10), to the Phænician deity or not, it is plain that Abram acknowledged the king of Salem as a worshipper of the same God as himself. Abimelech (Gen. xxi. 22 f.) appeals to God (Elohim), as recognized both by himself and Abraham ; and though in the plural form of this word many have seen an intimation of polytheism, yet, joined as it is with a verb in the singular number, it was doubtless used not only to adumbrate a monotheistic creed, but likewise to prepare men's minds for the full development of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. But without pursuing this subject further, we may see that in Canaan at this time, side by side with idolatry and polytheism, there was a tradition of true religion, and that Abram was recognized as a worshipper of one God, and was not persecuted or despised on this account. In his intercourse with the inhabitants of the land he may have been eager to grasp at any intimation of purer doctrine and to turn it to a holy purpose ; as when he uses the local term El-Olam, the eternal God, and identifies it with Jehovah (chap. xxi. 33); but no intimation is ever given that he was hereby exaggerating the belief of his hearers or attributing to them a faith which they did not profess. The example of such a man, in the midst of corruption of religion and abominable vice, must have had some influence for good, and led to the inference that the God whose worshipper was of so high a character was not as the gods of the heathen.

The fertility of Palestine was always remarkable. It was no vain boast when Moses described it (Deut. viii. 7 f.) as “a good Jand, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills ; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates ; a land of oil-olive and honey." Though little cultivated in patriarchal times, its capabilities were great ; its wadys and pools were always there ; its natural products were the same then as now. The climate indeed is variable, but would not be unhealthy if drainage were more

• Liddon, “Bampton Lectures,” pp. 73 ff.

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