Canaanite Religion, Israelite Religion

Canaanite Religion, Israelite Religion November 20, 2013

Tim Kimberley recently posted on the question of the commands to exterminate Canaanites in the Bible. In the post, he suggests that the genocide may have been justified since the Canaanites were practicing things like child sacrifice.

The problem is that, historically speaking, the Israelites were Canaanites. The genetic evidence suggests this. The linguistic evidence suggests it. The evidence from pottery and other material culture suggests it. And the evidence likewise suggests that the practices condemned as “Canaanite” in the Bible are ones that the Israelites had themselves practiced since time immemorial.

And so, on the one hand, that means that the threats that are articulated are probably aimed at getting Israelites to stop doing things in the 8th century, rather than wiping out other peoples in an earlier time.

But on the other hand, the rhetoric of genocide is problematic even if it does not reflect historical reality.

But the point I want to make here is one that sometimes gets lost in all the discussions of genocide. The practices that are so strongly condemned as “Canaanite” in the Bible were traditional Israelite ones, whoever else may also have had these traditions. I wonder how that historical state of affairs may change the perspective of some on whether those practices justify people being exterminated.

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