What do we know about the Canaanites?

Canaanites are an ancient people group that lived in the Land of Canaan, which is the land God promised to Abraham's descendants (Genesis 12:7). The biblical description of the land is largely in Genesis 10 and Numbers 34 and is essentially modern day Lebanon and Israel, extending into some of Jordan and Syria.

The Bible mentions Canaanites more than 150 times. They descended from Noah's grandson Canaan (Genesis 9:18) and are described as idolatrous and wicked. The people are also described as large, fierce, and so difficult to defeat that the Israelites would need God's help to do so, which He promised (Joshua 1:3).

Sometimes the Bible uses "Canaanites" in a more general sense to describe all the people who lived in the land, including the Hivites, Girgashites, Jebusites, Amorites, Hittites, and Perizzites (Judges 1:9–10).

When Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land, they reported that the land was wonderfully productive, but the people (the Canaanites) were strong and their cities fortified (Numbers 13:21–29). The spies also described very large humans in the area (Nephilim and descendants of Anak) and they were afraid (Numbers 13:28, 33). Only Joshua and Caleb maintained their confidence that God would help them overtake the land. The Israelites' fear overtook their trust in God and they wanted to return to Egypt. God threatened to disinherit them and make a nation out of Moses. Moses interceded for the people, and God instead punished them through wandering in the desert for a generation (Numbers 14:1–38).

After the generation died, including Moses, Joshua followed God's plans and guidance, crossed the Jordan River, overtook Jericho, and entered Canaan through God's supernatural intervention and help (Joshua 1—6).

A long struggle for the land ensued. There were still Canaanites in the area when the Israelites divided the land for the twelve tribes (Judges 1:27–36). Some Canaanites were enslaved, but others continued to fight. Because the Israelites did not completely follow God's instruction to subdue the entire land, the Canaanites were able to continue their fight and cause many problems through the time of the Judges.

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