Who and what is…
Canaan and what is The Promised Land

Hebrew: כְּנַעַן‎

This is the name of a biblical man and a land that belonged to descendants of that man, and later became The Promised Land of Abraham’s descendants.

  1. Canaan, son of Ham

    Canaan is the 4th son of Ham (Genesis 10:6) and a grandson of Noah.

    His descendants were under a curse due to the transgression of his father (9:22-27).


    When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. So he said,

    Cursed be Canaan;
    A servant of servants
    He shall be to his brothers.”

    He also said,

    Blessed be the Lord,
    The God of Shem;
    And let Canaan be his servant.
    May God enlarge Japheth,
    And let him dwell in the tents of Shem;
    And let Canaan be his servant.” —Genesis 9:24-27 NASB

    Canaan’s eldest son Zidon (Sidon) was the father of the Sidonians and Phoenicians. He had 11 sons, who were the founders of as many tribes (10:15-18).

    Canaan fathered Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth, the Jebusite, the Amorite, the Girgashite, the Hivite, the Arkite, the Sinite, the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite; and afterward the families of the Canaanite were spread abroad. The territory of the Canaanite extended from Sidon going toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; and going toward Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. —Genesis 10:15-19 NASB

    Relatives of Canaan

  2. Canaan, the land

    This area derived its name from the man above.

    The name as first used by the Phoenicians denoted only the maritime plain on which Sidon was built on the coast of the Mediterranean. But in the time of Moses and Joshua, it denoted the whole country to the west of the Jordan and the Dead Sea (Deuteronomy 11:30). In Joshua 5:12 the Septuagint read, “land of the Phoenicians,” instead of “land of Canaan.”

    The name signifies “the lowlands,” as distinguished from the land of Gilead on the east of Jordan, which was a mountainous district. The extent and boundaries of Canaan are fully set forth in different parts of Scripture (Genesis 10:19; 17:8; Numbers 13:29; 34:8).

    Map of Canaan, with the border shown in red as defined by Numbers 34:1–12, and in blue as defined by Ezekiel 47.
    Borders of ancient Canaan, marked in RED as defined by Numbers 34:1–12, and in BLUE as defined by Ezekiel 47.
    Author: EmmanuelM (2007). Licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0.

    The Promised Land

    The land of Canaan was promised by God to the descendants of Abraham (Genesis 12:7) and is thus referred to as The Promised Land.

    Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him. —Genesis 12:7 NKJV

    “The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and who swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give this land,’… —Genesis 24:7 NASB excerpt

    It is called “The Land of Promise” in Hebrews 11:9.

    Later this land was known as “The Land of the Hebrews” (Genesis 40:15). It is also called “The Land of the LORD,” “The Land of Jehovah (YHWH)” (Hosea 9:3; Psalm 85:1), and “The Holy land” (Zechariah 2:12). It is also called “The Land of Israel” (1 Samuel 13:19), and “The Land of Judah” (Isaiah 19:17).

    The full territory promised as an inheritance to the seed of Abraham (Genesis 15:18-21; Numbers 34:1-12) was much greater than just the land of Canaan. It was bounded on the east by the Euphrates River, on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, on the north by the “entrance of Hamath,” and on the south by the “river of Egypt” (apparently the Nile River). This extent of territory, about 60,000 square miles, was eventually conquered by King David, and was ruled over also by his son King Solomon (2 Samuel 8; 1 Chronicles 18; 1 Kings 4:1; 1 Kings 4:21).

    This vast empire was The Promised Land, and Canaan was only a part of it, terminating in the north at the southern extremity of the Lebanon range, and in the south in the wilderness of Paran, thus extending in all to about 144 miles in length. Its average breadth was about 60 miles from the Mediterranean on the west to beyond the Jordan. During the reign of King Solomon, Israel actually had control of most of this area.

    The Promised Land includes not only ancient Canaan, modern Israel, Gaza and other Palestinian lands, but also parts of modern day Turkey, Syria, and Jordan and possibly some of Egypt.

    Canaanite languages

    The people of the ancient land of Canaan primarily spoke a Semitic language of which there were various dialects and other variations.

    The language of the Canaanites and of the Hebrews was substantially the same. This is seen from the fragments of the Phoenician language which still survive, which show the closest analogy to Hebrew.

    The cuneiform writing of Babylon, as well as the Babylonian language, was taught in the Canaanite schools, and the clay tablets of Babylonian literature were stored in the Canaanite libraries.

    Even the Babylonian divinities were borrowed by the Canaanites.

    Languages included:

    “Semitic languages occur in written form from a very early historical date in West Asia, with East Semitic Akkadian and Eblaite [aka Eblan or Palaeo-Syrian —see Ebla tablets] texts (written in a script adapted from Sumerian cuneiform) appearing from the 30th century BCE and the 25th century BCE in Mesopotamia and the north eastern Levant respectively.

    The only earlier attested languages are Sumerian, Elamite (2800 BCE to 550 BCE), both language isolates, Egyptian, and the unclassified Lullubi (30th century BCE). Amorite appeared in Mesopotamia and the northern Levant circa 2000 BC, followed by the mutually intelligible Canaanite languages (including Hebrew, Moabite, Edomite, Phoenician, Ekronite, Ammonite, Amalekite and Sutean),the still spoken Aramaic and Ugaritic during the 2nd millenium BC.”

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Article Version: July 14, 2021