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CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGION 
OF ISRAEL' 



LEWIS BAYLES PATON 
Hartford Theological Seminary, Hartford, Connecticut 



I. THE PROBABILITY OF CANAANITE INFLUENCE 

i. Canaanite influence on the religion of Israel is probable 
from the gradual and incomplete manner in which the conquest of 
Canaan was effected by the Hebrews. In regard to this event 
the Old Testament traditions are singularly contradictory. The 
Deuteronomic editor of Joshua and the Priestly writer in the same 
book hold that the twelve tribes entered the land together under 
the leadership of Joshua, captured all the cities in a rapid cam- 
paign, and destroyed all their inhabitants (Jos. 10: 28-43; Ii: IO— 
12 : 24, D 2 ; chaps. 13-22, mainly P). On the other hand, the older 
JE passages that are included by the Deuteronomic editor mention 
a number of cities that were not taken by Joshua, e.g., Jerusalem 
(15:63), Gezer (16:10), Taanach and Megiddo (17:11-18), or that 
were captured by other persons, e.g., Hebron by Caleb (15:14), 
Debir by Othniel (15:15-17), the Highland of Israel by the tribes 
of Joseph (17:14-18). J and E also agree that the Canaanites 
were not annihilated, but continued to "dwell in the midst of Israel 
unto this day" (Exod. 23:29 f.; 34:11-16; Jos. 13:16, 13; 15:63; 
16:10; 17:12 f.). 

There can be no doubt that the older conception of JE is the 
more historical. Jerusalem was not taken until the time of David 
(II Sam. 5:6-9; cf. Judg. 19:10-12; against Jos. 12:10). The 
Canaanites were not expelled from Gezer until the time of Solomon 
(I Kings 9:16; cf. Judg. 1:29; against Jos. 12:12). Beth-shan 
remained in the hands of the Philistines until the time of David 
(I Sam. 31:10; cf. Judg. 1:27). Taanach and Megiddo were still 
Canaanite in the time of Deborah (Judg. 5:19; cf. 1:27; against 

'For literature on this subject see my article "Canaanites" in Hastings' Ency- 
clopaedia of Religion and Ethics. 

aos 



206 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

Jos. 12:21; 21:25). Shechem was still a Canaanite city in the 
time of Abimelech (Judg. 9:28; cf. Gen. 34:2). The older his- 
tories agree that the Canaanites were not exterminated, as D and P 
in Joshua record, but that they continued to dwell in the midst of 
Israel, as narrated by J in Joshua (cf. Judg. 3:1-6; II Sam. 24:7; 
I Kings, 9 : 20-2 1) . The prohibitions of marriage with the Canaan- 
ites that continue down to Deuteronomy (Exod. 23 : 3 2 f . ; 34 : 1 1-1 6 ; 
Deut. 7 : 1-4) show that they lived in the land long after the Hebrew 
invasion. 

Another conception of the conquest is found in Judg., chap. 1. 
This agrees with the JE sections in Joshua that the Canaanites 
were not exterminated (Judg. 1:19, 21, 27-36). It differs from 
JE in representing the tribes as conquering their territories sepa- 
rately, or at most in pairs, not as united under the leadership of 
Joshua. This appears to be the earlier form of the J tradition, 
and to be historically the more trustworthy. There is no trace in 
later history of such a union of the tribes as the JE documents in 
Joshua assume. In the Song of Deborah (Judg., chap. 5), Deborah, 
in the face of mortal danger, is able to get volunteers only from the 
northern tribes who were directly menaced by Sisera. Through- 
out the Book of Judges, apart from editorial passages, the Judges 
appear as tribal leaders only, and the tribes are often at war with 
one another (Judg. 3:27; 6:34 f.; 8:1; 9:6; 11:8; 12:4-6; 

15:" f-)- 

Still another tradition of the conquest is found in Num. 14 : 44 f . ; 
21:1-3. Here the Israelites invade the south of Canaan and 
capture the district subsequently known as Hormah. This is a 
duplicate to Judg. 1:16 f., but differs from it in bringing some of 
the tribes into Canaan from Kadesh on the south, while Judg., 
chap. 1, represents them as all entering from the east (Judg. 1 : 16; 
2:1). 

There is much in favor of the correctness of the narrative of 
Numbers. If Judah and Simeon conquered their territories inde- 
pendently, as Judg., chap. 1, relates, it is improbable that they 
were united with the other tribes as far as Gilgal. If such a union 
had existed, it would not have been dissolved on the border of 
Canaan, when the hardest fighting remained still to be done. The 



CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL 207 

account of Numbers which makes part of Israel invade Canaan 
from Kadesh furnishes a much more natural introduction to the 
separate conquests by Judah, Simeon, Caleb, Othniel, and the 
Kenites in Judg., chap. 1, than does the present context in J. 
§ephath is only about 40 miles distant from Kadesh. It is more 
probable that it was conquered directly from Kadesh, as Numbers 
relates, than by the circuitous route around the land of Edom, by 
way of Gilgal, Jericho, and Jerusalem, as Judg., chap. 1, assumes. 
The separation of Judah from the northern tribes down to the 
period of the monarchy by Jerusalem and a belt of Canaanite towns 
in the center of the land is more easily explained, if the two main 
divisions of Israel invaded Canaan from opposite sides and failed 
to make connection, than if they entered the land together. 

This form of the tradition is confirmed further by the inability 
of the Hexateuchal documents to combine the stay at Kadesh with 
the stay at Sinai. In Num. 10:33; " : 35» 12: 16 J represents the 
Israelites as journeying directly from Sinai to Kadesh. Deut. 1:19, 
which depends on J, makes Kadesh follow Sinai (cf. 33:2), and 
Deuteronomy knows no earlier visit to Kadesh. E, on the other 
hand, seems to have placed Kadesh immediately after the crossing 
of the Red Sea (Exod. 15:256; cf. 17:7; Deut. 33:8; Num. 20: 
1-13). E and D make the forty years' wandering follow Kadesh 
(Num. 14:25; Deut. 1:46 — 2:1), but P omits Kadesh from the 
list of stations (Num. 33:17; cf. Num. 12:16 J; Deut. 33:2), and 
does not insert it until the end of the forty years' wandering (Num. 
33:36, 37; cf. v. 38). J mentions no wandering in the desert, but 
makes the tribes stay at Kadesh until the generation that had come 
out of Egypt had perished (Num. 14:31). This uncertainty of 
tradition is probably due to the fact that the Hebrew tribes were 
divided before the conquest into two great groups. The Leah 
tribes that entered the land from the south were settled at Kadesh, 
the Rachel tribes that entered it from the east were settled at Sinai; 
and these two sojourns may have been widely separated in point 
of time, just as the two conquests of Canaan. 

The evidence of archaeology on the whole favors the view that 
the Israelites entered Canaan, partly under the Eighteenth Egyp- 
tian Dynasty, and partly under the Nineteenth. Jacob-el and 



208 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

probably Joseph-el appear in the list of Thutmose III (1500 b.c). 
The Habiru of the Tell el-Amarna Letters (1400 B.C.) are certainly 
some sort of Hebrews. The personal name Ahi-yawi in the letter 
from Taanach looks like a Yahweh compound. The Shasu, or 
Bedawin, who were attacked by Seti I are evidently the same as 
the Habiru; and in the inscriptions of Seti I and Ramses II we 
probably meet the name Asher. Finally Merneptah in his tri- 
umphal stele speaks of Israel as settled somewhere in central Pales- 
tine. On the other hand, the mention of the store-cities of Pithom 
and Raamses in Exod. 1 : n (J) indicates, in the light of Naville's 
discoveries, that Ramses II was the Pharaoh of the oppression, 
and that the Exodus cannot have occurred earlier than the reign 
of Merneptah. The only way apparently in which these facts 
can be explained is by the hypothesis that Israel entered Canaan 
in two divisions, one under the Eighteenth Dynasty, and the other 
under the Nineteenth Dynasty. The first division was probably 
the Leah tribes of Judg. 1 : 1-20, the second division was the Rachel 
tribes of Judg. 1 : 21-29. 

The older sources show, accordingly, that the conquest of 
Canaan by Israel was a process that extended over several cen- 
turies. The aborigines were not exterminated, but certain Hebrew 
clans forced their way into the land, and occupied the rural dis- 
tricts, while the walled cities remained, for the most part, in the 
hands of the Canaanites. For a long while there was hostility 
between the two races; but gradually this ceased, and a process 
of amalgamation began. Cities that could not be conquered were 
eventually united to Israel by treaties that gave them full political 
rights. Whole tribes that made peace and accepted the worship 
of Yahweh were incorporated into the nation and counted as 
"sons of Israel." In process of time, through conquest, treaty, 
or inter-marriage, Canaanites and Hebrews were fused into one 
people and dwelt in the same cities, as was the case, for instance, 
in Shechem in the days of Abimelech (Judg., chap. 9). The 
Israel of David's day was not the lineal descendant of the 
nation that entered Canaan under Moses and Joshua, but was 
a hybrid race composed partly of Israelites and partly of Canaan- 
ites. This mixing of races could not occur without appropriation 



CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL 209 

by the Hebrews of some elements at least of the religion of their 
predecessors. 

2. Canaanite influence on the religion of Israel is probable also 
from the adoption of Canaanite civilization by the Hebrews. 
When the Hebrews entered Canaan they were rude nomads of the 
desert, while the Canaanites had attained a high civilization. 
From the Canaanites they received the forms of city life and the 
institutions of city government. From them they learned agri- 
culture and all the other industries of settled society. This is 
frankly acknowledged by Deuteronomy, e.g., 6:iof.: "Yahweh 
thy God shall give thee great and goodly cities which thou buildedst 
not, and houses full of good things which thou fuledst not, and 
cisterns hewn out which thou hewedst not, vineyards and olive 
trees which thou plantedst not" (cf. 19:1). It is confirmed also 
by archaeology. No break in the civilization of Canaan is caused 
by the advent of the Hebrews. The ancient manners and customs 
were gradually adopted by Israel as it passed from the nomadic 
to the agricultural form of life. It is probable even that the new- 
comers adopted the language of the Canaanites instead of the 
Aramaic dialect that they spoke originally. The language that 
we call Hebrew is the language of the glosses to the Tell el-Amarna 
Letters, and Isa. 19:18 calls it "the tongue of Canaan." With 
this adoption of the civilization of Canaan there must have come 
adoption of the gods of Canaan. Agriculture could not be carried 
on without observing the ceremonies that accompanied the plant- 
ing of the seed and the reaping of the harvest. The forms of city 
government could not be maintained except with recognition of 
the local divinities. 

3. The warnings against Canaanite religion that continue in 
Hebrew legislation down to the Exile show that it was a real menace. 
The primitive Mosaic commandment, "Thou shalt worship no 
other god than Yahweh," is enlarged already in J's Book of the 
Covenant (Exod. 34: 11-16) with prohibitions of treaties and mar- 
riages with the Canaanites, worship of their gods, and use of their 
religious emblems. E's Book of the Covenant (Exod. 23: 24, 32 f.) 
contains the same prohibitions, and these are repeated by Deu- 
teronomy (7:1-5, 25). Even the late Holiness Code (Lev. 18:3) 



210 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

reiterates the ancient commandment: "After the doings of the 
land of Canaan, whither I bring you, ye shall not do; neither shall 
ye walk in their statutes." 

4. The Old Testament histories and the prophets inform us 
that Israel served the gods of the Canaanites. This apostasy is 
asserted by J (Judg. 3:5 f.) and by E (Judg. 2:10, 13), as well as 
by the late Deuteronomic editors of Judges and Samuel (Judg. 
2:7,11,12; 3:7; 6:25-32; 8:33; 10:6,10; I Sam. 7:3 f.; 12:10). 
It is confirmed by the testimony of Hosea (2:8, 13, 17; 11:2; 
13:1) and of Jeremiah (2:8, 23; 7:9; 9:14; etc.). If these 
Canaanite divinities were worshiped, it is incredible that their cults 
should not have exerted some influence upon the religion of Yahweh. 



n. SPECIFIC INSTANCES OF CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE 
RELIGION OF ISRAEL 

i. Canaanite gods. — All the great celestial powers were wor- 
shiped by the Canaanites. Among these were Shemesh, " the sun," 
whose cult is attested by such place-names as Beth-Shemesh, 
'Ir-Shemesh, 'En-Shemesh; Yareah, "the moon," which appears 
probably in Yereh6, Jericho; Addu, or Hadad, the storm-god, 
often mentioned in the Amarna Letters; Resheph, "the lightning," 
often mentioned in Egyptian texts of the Eighteenth and Nine- 
teenth Dynasties; Uru, "light," in Uru-salim, Jerusalem, and the 
personal name Uru-milki in the Amarna Letters. 

These divinities had marked individuality, and could not easily 
be identified with Yahweh. Accordingly in early Hebrew theology 
they were subordinated to him as servants who waited upon him. 
They were "the host of heaven," or the "sons of God," i.e., beings 
of a divine nature but inferior to Yahweh. They were worshiped 
by some of the Hebrews down to the Exile, but this was felt to be 
deliberate apostasy from Yahweh (Deut. 4:19; 17:3; II Kings 
23:5; Jer. 8:2; Job 31:26). Still it is possible that attributes 
even of these deities were transferred to him. Particularly is this 
true of Hadad, the storm-god, who bears a striking resemblance 
to the early Hebrew theophanies of Yahweh in the thunderstorm 
(e.g., Judg. 5:4-5; Ps. 18). 



CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL 211 

Most of the Canaanite nature-gods possessed no such indi- 
viduality as those that have just been mentioned. They had no 
personal names, but were known merely as the el, "power," or 
bo'al, "owner," of this or that place or object. The title Si occurs 
frequently in Amorite personal names of the First Dynasty of 
Babylon. In Palestine it is found as early as 1500 b.c. in place- 
names in the list of Thutmose III. Personal names in the Amarna 
Letters are often formed with it. Sixteen place-names com- 
pounded with it are found in the Old Testament. These are 
probably all survivals of Canaanite nomenclature. 

When the Hebrews settled in Canaan the eWhtm were at first 
felt to be foreign deities, and worship of them was conscious defec- 
tion from Yahweh; but as the two races blended, these gods were 
gradually regarded as identical with Yahweh. El was the generic 
name for "god" in Hebrew, and was used as a synonym of Yahweh. 
It was easy to think that the eWdm of Canaan were only his local 
manifestations. This process of syncretism has left interesting 
traces in the Book of Genesis. In Gen. 16 : 13 (J) El-roi, the numen 
of the spring at Beer-lahai-roi, preserves his identity, and appears 
to Hagar as the "messenger of Yahweh"; in Gen. 31:11, 13 (E) 
the el of the standing stone at Beth-el is also the "messenger of 
God"; but in other passages the messenger and Yahweh are 
identified (e.g., Gen. 16:13; 2 9 :1 95 48:16; Exod. 3:4). In these 
cases the old local el is completely absorbed by Yahweh. So far 
did this process go that the plural Sl6Mm eventually became a 
singular in the Hebrew consciousness and was used like el as a syno- 
nym of Yahweh. This identification of Yahweh with the local 
gods of Canaan must have introduced many new elements into the 
Hebrew conception of his character. 

Another title of deities who presided over physical objects or 
places was ba'al, "proprietor." 1 Amorite personal names com- 
pounded with ba'al are common in the Obelisk of Manishtusu and 
in tablets of the First Dynasty of Babylon. The name is frequent 
in Egyptian texts of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Dynasties. 
It appears also in the Amarna Letters and in one of the letters 
discovered by Sellin at Taanach. The numerous place-names 

1 See my article "Baal" in Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. 



212 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

compounded with ba'al in the Old Testament are doubtless all of 
Canaanite origin. They bear witness to a general diffusion of the 
ba'al-cult throughout the land. There must have been innumerable 
other bg'altm whose places of worship are not recorded, since, 
according to Jer. 2:28; 3:6, they were as numerous as the towns, 
and were worshiped on every high hill and under every green tree. 
The bS'dlfm of the fertile region where Hosea lived were regarded 
as the givers of wool and flax, oil and wine, grain, vines, and fig 
trees (Hos. 2:5, 9, 12); but, as the place-names show, there were 
also bS'alim of springs, trees, mountains, and cities who did not 
necessarily possess an agricultural character. 

These local divinities of Canaan exerted a peculiar fascination 
upon the Hebrews. As the Book of Judges and the early prophets 
repeatedly inform us, "Israel served the be'dlim." At first they 
were regarded as different gods from Yahweh; but ba'al, "pro- 
prietor," was a generic name that might also be applied to him, 
and little by little they were identified With him. This process 
has left an interesting monument in personal names of the period 
of the Judges and of the early monarchy. In such names as 
Jerub-ba'al, "the ba'al contends"; Ish-ba'al, "man of ba'al"; 
Ba'al-yada', "the ba'al knows"; Ba'al-hanan, "the ba'al is gra- 
cious," ba'al is certainly a title of Yahweh. In one case, Ba'al-Yah, 
"Yahweh is the ba'al," the identity of the ba'al with Yahweh is 
asserted. In popular conception in the time of Hosea the be'alim 
were not foreign gods but local Yahwehs (Hos. 2:11, 13, 16). 
Thus the idea of Yahweh was corrupted with all sorts of foreign 
notions, and the prophets from Amos onward faced the problem, 
how to purge the religion of Israel from the heathen elements that 
had entered it. Hosea (2:16) insisted that Yahweh should no 
longer be called ba'al, and that the worship of the bg'Slim should 
be given up, but his words and those of the other prophets made 
little impression. The Book of Deuteronomy and the reformation 
of Josiah had for their chief aim the destruction of the b&altm by 
the abolition of the high places and the centralization of worship 
at Jerusalem; but both Jeremiah and Ezekiel confess that their 
efforts were unsuccessful. The Exile, which removed Israel from 
the holy places and the old religious associations of Canaan, eradi- 



CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL 213 

cated this cult nominally from orthodox Judaism, but even after 
the Exile, it lingered in the rural districts, where it was gradually 
transformed into saint-worship, as in modern Islam; and many 
rites were retained in the national ritual that owed their origin to 
Israel's predecessors. 

Besides the bZ'alim who were the proprietors of particular places 
or physical objects, the Canaanites recognized other Hohtm who 
presided over their clans and over the manifold happenings of 
human life. Such were 'Ashtart, the 'Ashtoreth of the Old Tes- 
tament and the Astarte of the Greeks, the goddess of sexual love 
and of reproduction, whose worship in the pre-Israelite period is 
attested in a variety of ways; 1 'Anath, the goddess of war, who is 
found in the place-names Beth-'Anath and 'Anathoth; Gad, 
"fortune," who survives in the place-names Gad and Migdal-Gad; 
Shalem, "peace," who appears in Jeru-salem and in compounds 
with Shalman in Amorite names in Babylonia; Edom, "maker," 
who is called the wife of Resheph in an Egyptian magicaltext 
(Miiller, Asien, p. 315), but who is usually masculine and is found 
in various place-names and in the personal name 'Obed-Edom. 

The worship of 'Ashtart by the Hebrews is certain from numer- 
ous passages that state that Israel served the bfalim and the 
'ashtardth. The recognition of the other gods of this class is proved 
by personal names and by occasional explicit statements. These 
gods, particularly the feminine ones, were too individual to be fused 
easily with Yahweh. They remained his rivals, and their worship 
was forbidden. The only influence that they can have exerted on 
the religion of Israel was through borrowing of their sacred objects 
or ceremonies. In the case of 'Ashtart, as we shall see later, this 
influence seems to have been considerable. 

Another class of tribal gods consisted of those whose names 
were the imperfect third person singular of verbs, like the Arabian 
god, Yaghuth, "he helps," or Yahweh, "he causes to live" (?), 
which described the god in question as the agent in a particular 
sort of activity. From these were formed tribal names such as 
Yisrd-H (Israel), "the striver is god," Yishmo'-el (Ishmael), "the 
hearer is god," and YSrahmSSl (Jerahmeel), "the pitier is god," 

1 See my article "Ashtart" in Hastings' Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. 



214 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

which asserted that these deities were the chief gods of these clans. 
These tribal names imply that there were once gods called Yisra 
Yishma', and Yerahem, whose names were formed like Yaghuth 
and Yahweh. In the Babylonian inscriptions and in the place-list 
of Thutmose III (1500 B.C.) we meet the Amorite tribal and per- 
sonal names Jacob-el and Joseph-el, which suggest that Jacob, "the 
supplanter," and Joseph "the adder," were originally names of 
gods. Such place-names as Jabne-el, Jezre-el, Jiphtah-el, Jekabze- 
el, Jokthe-el, Jirpe-el, which are probably survivals in the Old 
Testament from Canaanite times, seem also to contain the names 
of departmental deities that are formed in a similar manner. 

These patron-gods of ancient clans were not identified by the 
Hebrews with Yahweh, and their names did not become his epithets; 
but they were degraded to the rank of human ancestors of the clans 
that were named after them. Their ancient shrines were trans- 
formed into graves, and the homage that was still paid them was 
regarded as reverence for forefathers; e.g., the grave of Jacob at 
Abel-mizraim (Gen. 50:11) and of Joseph at Shechem. Such 
names as Jabne-el, Jezre-el, etc., are properly names of persons. 
Their use as place-names can be explained only by elipsis of bith, 
"house of," as in Ba'al-ma'Sn over against B6th-ba'al-ma'6n. 
All of these names, accordingly, point to a cult of assumed ancestors 
at their supposed places of burial. 

Most of the Canaanite tribal gods, like the nature-gods, had no 
proper personal names. They were called by titles of kinship or 
authority, like the human heads of families. Some of these titles 
that are attested by the Amarna Letters and by the Babylonian 
and Egyptian inscriptions are: Ab, "father," in Abi-shua in the 
fresco of Khnumhotep, and Abimilki, king of Tyre in the Amarna 
Letters; 'Amm, "paternal uncle," in 'Ammi-anshi in the tale of 
Sinuhe, and 'Ammu-nira, king of Beirut in the Amarna Letters; 
Dad, or D6d, "uncle," in Dada-waqar, in the Obelisk of Manish- 
tusu and Dudu, the Egyptian commissioner in the Amarna Letters; 
Ah, "brother," in many Amorite names of the Obelisk of Manish- 
tusu and of tablets of the First Dynasty of Babylon; Melek, "king," 
in Abi-milki, 'Abdi-milki, Ili-milki, and Milk-uru in the Amarna 
Letters; Ad6n, "master," in Adunu, king of 'Arqa in the Amarna 



CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL 215 

Letters; Dan, "judge" in Addu-Dan in the Amarna Letters and 
in the place-names Dan and Mahaneh-Dan; Shem, "name," in 
Shumu-Addu in the Amarna Letters; 'Elydn, "high," the god of 
the Canaanite king Melchizedek (Gen. 14: 18 ff.) and a god of the 
Phoenicians according to Philo Byblius. 

All these Canaanite titles of divinity were gradually applied 
to Yahweh by the Hebrews. Thus Ab, "father," appears in the 
personal names Abi-el, Abi-jah, and Abi-nadab; 'Amm, "uncle," 
in 'Ammi-el, Eli'am, and Ithre-'am; Dod, "uncle," in Ddd-Yahu; 
Ah, "brother," in Ahi-jah, and Ahi-tub; Melek (Molech), "king," 
in Ahi-melek, Malki-shua', and Malki-jah; Adon (Adonis), "lord," 
in Adoni-jah, and Adoni-ram; Dan, "judge," in Dani-el; and 
Shem, "name," in Shemu-el (Samuel). In all these cases it is 
certain that these titles do not designate primitive Semitic, or 
Canaanite departmental gods, but have become epithets of Yahweh. 
With the application of these titles to Yahweh attributes of the 
Canaanite divinities must have been transferred to the conception 
of his character. 

2. Revelation. — The Canaanites believed that the gods mani- 
fested themselves in all sorts of physical phenomena. In one of 
the cuneiform letters from Tell Ta'annek we read: "If the finger 
of the goddess Ashera shall indicate, let one observe and obey." 
The existence of Oracles is further established by such place-names 
as Akshaph, "divination"; 'En-mishpat, "spring of decision," at 
Kadesh, " the sanctuary " ; the terebinth of Moreh, or " the oracle " ; 
the terebinth of Me'onenim, or "the diviners"; Gibe'ath ham- 
moreh "hill of the oracle." The gods could also manifest them- 
selves by taking possession of men and using them as mouthpieces. 
The report of the Egyptian commissioner Wenamon (ca. 1100 
B.C.) relates of the king of Gebal: "Now while he sacrificed to his 
gods, the god seized one of the noble youths, making him frenzied, 
so that he said, Bring the god hither! Bring the messenger of 
Amon!" This shows that the ecstatic prophets of Ba'al and 
Ashera that we meet in later Hebrew history (I Kings 18: 19) were 
no new thing among the Canaanites. 

All these forms of revelation were recognized by the Hebrews 
as used by Yahweh. In the period of the early monarchy he was 



2i6 TEE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

believed to show himself in earthquake, fire, and storm; in sacred 
springs, trees, mountains, and stones, and in the lot of Urim and 
Thummim. He also took possession of seers, compelling them to 
utter his message. It seems probable that many of these media 
of revelation were indigenous in Canaan, and were simply trans- 
ferred to the service of Yahweh after he had absorbed the gods of 
Canaan. 

3. Holy places. — In every place where a god was believed to 
manifest himself in a special way the Canaanites established a 
sanctuary, usually consisting of a space surrounded with a wall and 
open to the sky. Over a hundred places in Canaan are attested 
as holy by the meaning of their names, by the rites that were 
practiced there, or by the evidence of archaeology. A number of 
these are mentioned already in the Amarna Letters and in the 
Egyptian records. The others appear first in the Old Testament, 
but there is no reason to doubt that the names are ancient. When 
Yahweh triumphed over the be'alim and other elohim of Canaan 
these holy places were appropriated by him. They were the 
"high places" in which Israel worshiped Yahweh without oppo- 
sition until the period of the great prophets. Then the growing 
opposition to the identification of Yahweh with the be'alim led to 
a dislike of the high places that culminated in the Deuteronomic 
centralization of worship at Jerusalem and the prohibition of 
these ancient sanctuaries. Deuteronomy was unable, however, to 
destroy the reverence for these places. Their sanctity has lasted 
without interruption down to modern times. In spite of all the 
efforts of Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism, one may 
still say with the author of Kings, "Nevertheless the high places 
are not taken away, the people still sacrifice and burn incense in 
the high places." 

An essential part of the equipment of a high place was a massebhS 
or "standing stone," which constituted the bith-el, or "abode of 
deity," and served in primitive times at once as temple, image, and 
altar. In the fist of Thutmose III (No. 1 1) we meet Kirjath-nesib, 
"town of the standing stone." The excavations have revealed 
such stones in the high places of all the cities in the Canaanite level. 
Many of them are mentioned in the earlier writings of the Old Testa- 



CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL 217 

ment: e.g., at Gilgal (Jos. 4:3, 20), Beth-Shemesh (I Sam. 6:18), 
Zorah (Judg. 13:19), Bethlehem (Gen. 35:20), Bohan (Jos. 15:6; 
18:17), Zoheleth (I Kings 1:9), Mizpah (I Sam. 7:12), Gibeah 
(I Sam. 20:19), Bethel (Gen. 28:18-22; 31:13; 35:14); Ophra 
(Judg. 6:20), Shechem (Jos. 24:27; Judg. 9:6), Ebal (Deut. 27:4), 
Gilead (Gen. 31 :45~52). Some of these may have been set up by 
the Hebrews after the conquest, but most of them were probably 
inherited from the Canaanites. That Yahweh was believed act- 
ually to inhabit them is shown by the facts that the one set up by 
Jacob was called Beth-el, "dwelling of God," or El-beth-el, "God 
of the dwelling of God" (Gen. 35:7); and the one at Shechem 
(read "pillar" instead of "altar") was called El-616hg-Israel, 
"God, the God of Israel" (Gen. 33:20). In Jos. 24:27 it is said 
of this stone: "It hath heard all the words of Yahweh which he 
spake unto us." In later times the massebhdth were forbidden as 
connected with the gods of Canaan, and therefore improper in the 
service of Yahweh (Exod. 23:24; 34:13; Lev. 26:1; Deut. 7:5; 
12:3). Of this opposition no trace can be discovered in the pre- 
prophetic period. 

The dshera, or sacred post, was also an indispensable accessory 
of Canaanite high places. At an early date 'Ashtart was confused 
with her symbol, so that Ashera becomes a proper name in tablets 
of the Hammurabi Dynasty and in the Amarna Letters. The 
Canaanite dsherim were also appropriated by Yahweh after the 
conquest of the land. Both in Samaria and in Jerusalem they 
stood in his temples (II Kings 13:6; 18:4; 21:7; 23:6, 15). 
They were unchallenged in the cult of Yahweh down to the Deutero- 
nomic reformation. After that time an effort was made to 
destroy them (Exod. 34:13; Deut. 7:5; 12:13). 

Altars were not found in the most ancient Canaanite high places. 
The massebhd served originally both as idol and as altar. Subse- 
quently a separate stone, or mound of earth, was set apart for pur- 
poses of sacrifice. Many such altars have been discovered in the 
Canaanite level in the mounds of Palestine (Exod. 34:13; Deut. 
7:5; 12:3; Judg. 2:2). They were appropriated by the Hebrews 
along with the high places. The Sabra, or sacred rock, on which 
the altar of Solomon's temple stood, has all the characteristics 



218 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

of the rock-cut Canaanite altars discovered at Taanach and 
Megiddo. 

4. Sacred traditions. — If, as we have seen, the Hebrews mingled 
with the Canaanites, identified the bS'alim with Yahweh, and 
adopted their high places as his sanctuaries, it is highly probable 
that they accepted some at least of the myths and legends that 
were connected with the holy places of Canaan. If such traditions 
exist in the Old Testament, they are to be sought in the hetero- 
geneous mass of material that has found a place in the Book of 
Genesis. Here are traditions of Babylonian, early Hebrew, and 
late Hebrew origin. May not Canaanite traditions also have 
found their way into the record ? 

That such is actually the case is shown by the following con- 
siderations. Many of the patriarchal stories of Genesis are con- 
nected with places in Canaan. The terebinth of Moreh or "the 
oracle" is said in Gen. 12:6 to have been the place where Abram 
first pitched his tent in the land of Canaan. The terebinths of 
Mamre (13:18; 14:13; 18:1) also owed their sanctity to Abram. 
The tamarisk tree in Beersheba was planted by him (21:33). 
Machpelah, Shechem, Ephrath, and Bethel were holy as burial 
places of the patriarchs and their families. The venerable altar 
at Shechem owed its origin to Abram (12:7). The altar east of 
Bethel, according to 12:8; 13:4, was built by Abram, but accord- 
ing to 35 : 7, by Jacob. The altar at Hebron was reared by Abram 
(13 : 18). The sacred stones at Bethel, Mizpah, and Shechem were 
set up by Jacob (28:11-22; 35:14; 31:466*.; 33:20). Even if 
the lineal forefathers of Israel lived in Canaan, memory of the 
trees that they planted, altars that they built, and stones that they 
set up could not have been preserved by their descendants during 
the four hundred years that are assigned to the sojourn in Egypt. 
Such stories cannot be of primitive Hebrew origin, but must have 
belonged originally to the Canaanites, as explanations of their 
local sanctuaries. 

Moreover, in the Book of Genesis there are two divergent views 
concerning nearly every feature of patriarchal history. This 
points to a blending of two independent strands of tradition, a 
Hebrew and a Canaanite. 



CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON TEE RELIGION OF ISRAEL 219 

a) There are two ideas as to the time when the patriarchs 
lived. According to one, they formed part of the Aramaean migra- 
tion (Gen. 31:20, 47 E; 29:10 J; 25:20 P; Deut. 26:5). Through 
recent archaeological discoveries it is now known that the Aram- 
aeans first moved out of Arabia in the thirteenth century B.C. 
Before this time we find no trace of them in the Egyptian, the 
Babylonian, or the Assyrian monuments. 

With this tradition another conception in the Book of Genesis 
is an irreconcilable conflict, according to which the patriarchs 
belonged to the twentieth century B.C. In Gen. 14:1 Abram is 
represented as a contemporary of Amraphel (Hammurabi), the 
sixth king of the First Dynasty of Babylon (1958-1916 B.C.). 
The same conception is found when we compute the dates of the 
patriarchs from the figures that are given in the Old Testament. 

The same difficulty emerges when we study the proper names 
in Genesis. Several of these occur as tribal or geographical 
designations in Egyptian inscriptions of a time long prior to the 
Aramaean migration. Lot occurs in Egyptian texts as early as the 
Twelfth Dynasty (2000 B.C.). Jacob and Joseph are found in the 
list of conquered races in the annals of Thutmose III (ca. 1500 
B.C.). From these names it appears that three hundred years 
before the Exodus and one hundred years before the Aramaean 
migration Jacob and Joseph, the assumed ancestors of the Hebrews, 
were present in Canaan. The only solution of this difficulty is the 
recognition that these diverse conceptions come from independent 
sources. The belief that the patriarchs were Aramaeans is derived 
from an old Hebrew tradition that was brought in from the desert, 
while the belief that they lived in the third millennium B.C. was 
indigenous in the land of Canaan. 

b) There are two conceptions of the region from which the 
patriarchs migrated. According to J, it was Haran in Mesopo- 
tamia; according to P, possibly following E, it was Ur of the 
Chaldees in Babylonia (Gen. 11:31). These two conceptions cor- 
respond with the two that we have noted already of the age to 
which the patriarchs belonged. Haran was a chief center of the 
Aramaeans, while Babylonia was conquered by the Amorites about 
2500 B.C. That some clans of this latter race, after settling in the 



220 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

neighborhood of Ur in southern Babylonia, should migrate westward 
and join their kindred in Palestine is not at all improbable. It ap- 
pears, therefore, that, while the tradition which makes the patri- 
archs come from Haran is probably of Israelite origin, that which 
makes them come from Ur must be regarded as of Canaanite origin. 

c) There are two conceptions of the region in which the patri- 
archs dwelt. One places them in the desert, the other, in the land 
of Canaan. The only way to account for this diversity is by the 
theory that the traditions were derived from different sources. 
The conception that locates the forefathers and their families in the 
desert is of old Hebrew origin, while the one that places them in 
Canaan is of Canaanite origin. 

d) The two names that are given to most of the patriarchs are 
evidence that the traditions concerning them have come from two 
sources. Abram bears also the name Abraham. The names 
sound similar, but they have no etymological connection. Jacob 
is identified with Israel; Esau, with Edom; Joseph never appears 
as a Hebrew tribe, but is always represented by Ephraim and 
Manasseh; and in like manner Lot is represented by Moab and 
Ammon. The only natural explanation of these phenomena is 
that the two sets of names represent independent traditions, one 
derived from the Canaanites, the other from Israel; and that the 
assignment of two names to one person is a result of a fusing of the 
Canaanite with the Hebrew tradition. In support of this view 
the fact may be noted that the names of one set are of Canaanite 
formation, while those of the other set are of Aramaean formation. 
Abram, Jacob, Joseph, Esau, Lot occur as Amorite names in Baby- 
lonian and Egyptian inscriptions as early as 2000 B.C. On the 
other hand, 'Abraham, Isaac, Israel, Ephraim and Manasseh, 
Edom, Moab and Ammon, which are identified with the names 
just enumerated, are never found in monuments before the four- 
teenth century B.C., and are evidently derived from an Aramaean 
tradition that was brought into Canaan by the Israelites. 

It appears, accordingly, that it is highly probable that a large 
number of the patriarchal traditions of Genesis are ultimately of 
Canaanite origin, and that they are the sacred sagas that were 
connected with the ancient sanctuaries of the land. 



CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL 221 

The same conclusion holds good for the Hebrew traditions and 
laws that have Babylonian counterparts. These cannot have been 
borrowed by the Babylonians from the Hebrews because they can 
be traced in Babylonia long before their appearance in Israel. 
The theory of a common primitive Semitic origin is precluded 
by the pronounced Babylonian character of the material. The 
theories that the Hebrews learned these traditions from the As- 
syrians at the time of the Assyrian supremacy, or from the 
Babylonians at the time of the Exile, are impossible because these 
Babylonian elements appear in the earliest Hebrew records. The 
theory that they were learned by Abraham in Ur of the Chaldees 
is unlikely, for the Bedawin have never adopted the civilization of 
the lands on whose borders they have wandered; and moreover, as 
we have just seen, it is doubtful whether the connection of Abraham 
with Babylonia is a genuine Hebrew tradition. The only theory 
that remains is that these Babylonian traditions migrated to Canaan 
long before the Hebrew conquest, and were learned by the Hebrews 
from the Canaanites after their settlement in the land. The Baby- 
lonian records testify that for nearly 2000 years prior to 1700 B.C. 
Canaan stood under the influence of Babylonian civilization, and 
this testimony is confirmed by the discovery at Taanach of a 
seal of Canaanite workmanship with a Babylonian inscription, 
and at Gezer of the so-called Zodiacal Tablet. The fact that 
the kings of Canaan used Babylonian in their correspondence with 
the Pharaohs in the Amarna Letters (ca. 1400 B.C.) bears witness 
to deep and long-continued Babylonian influence in that land. 
Accordingly, the Babylonian elements in the Old Testament are 
to be regarded as also Canaanite elements. Along with many of 
the stories of the patriarchs they were part of the body of sacred 
traditions that clustered around the sanctuaries of Canaan. 

5. Sacrifices. — The cult that went on at the high places of 
Canaan remained unchanged after their appropriation by Israel, 
only now it was rendered to Yahweh instead of to the b&alim and 
the 'ashlar 6th. The few accounts that are given of early Hebrew 
ritual show that the forms of animal sacrifice were practically 
identical with those of the Canaanites and other early Semites. 

Traces of infant-sacrifice are numerous among the Canaanites. 



222 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

In all the high places multitudes of jars have been found contain- 
ing the bones of new-born infants. The Old Testament contains 
frequent allusions to this custom among the Hebrews. The origi- 
nal form of the Book of the Covenant, preserved in Exod. 22:29, 
contains the command, "The first born of thy sons thou shalt give 
unto me," without any provision for redemption. That this was 
understood of sacrifice is shown by the statement of Ezekiel that 
Yahweh gave Israel this commandment in wrath in order that he 
might make them desolate (Ezek. 20:24-26, 31). In prophetic 
circles, opposition to this rite arose at an early date (Gen. 22: n J). 
In spite of this, however, these sacrifices continued to be offered 
(II Kings 16:3; II Chron. 28:3; Mic. 6:7; Jer. 7:31; 19:5; 
32:35). Melek (Molech), "king," was one of the titles of Yahweh, 
and the child-sacrifices offered to "the king" were understood by 
the people as offered to Yahweh (Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; II Kings 
23:10; Jer. 32:35). Archaeology also shows that the sacrifice of 
infants lasted among the Hebrews down to the Exile. 

Sacrifice of adults is known to have been practiced by the 
Canaanites. Similar sacrifices among the Hebrews, such as 
Jephthah's daughter (Judg. 11:31, 39), or the sons of Hiel the 
Bethelite (I Kings 16:34), may have been due to Canaanite 
influence. 

The agricultural offerings of the Hebrew ritual, such as first 
fruits, libations of wine, anointing the sacred stones with oil, and 
presentation of cakes of unleavened bread, must all have been 
derived from the Canaanites, since none of these could have been 
brought to Yahweh in the desert. Their foreign origin is shown 
by Gen. 4:5 f., where Cain's offering of fruits is regarded as less 
acceptable to Yahweh than Abel's sacrifice of the flocks. 

It is known from the Egyptian inscriptions that incense was 
burned for the Pharaoh (Muller, Asien, p. 305), and there is no 
doubt that it was also presented to the gods. In the annals of 
Thutmose III it is often mentioned as part of the tribute of Canaan 
(Breasted, Ancient Records, Index, s.v. "Incense"). Incense- 
burners also have been found in the mounds. Incense can hardly 
have been used by the nomadic Hebrews in the desert. Its pres- 
ence in the later ritual, accordingly, points to Canaanite influence. 



CANAANITE INFLUENCE ON THE RELIGION OF ISRAEL 223 

6. Holy days. — The holy days of ancient Israel originated, for 
the most part, in the period before the conquest, but they were all 
transformed after the settlement in Canaan to adapt them to the 
conditions of agricultural life. The New Moon was a primitive 
Semitic festival, but among the later Hebrews it was connected 
with agriculture. On it the buying and selling of grain were pro- 
hibited (Amos 8:5), and field work was not done (II Kings 4:23}. 
In like manner the Sabbath, which is habitually connected with the 
New Moon in the phrase "New Moons and Sabbaths," and which 
apparently was originally connected with the four phases of the 
moon, was changed after the occupation of Canaan into a day of 
rest from agricultural labor. In J's recension of the Book of the 
Covenant (Exod. 34:21) we read: "Six days thou shalt work 
['abad, used of tilling the ground], but on the seventh day thou shalt 
keep a Sabbath: in plowing time and in harvest thou shalt keep 
a Sabbath." The Sabbath may have been known to the Canaan- 
ites, and this change in its character from an astronomical to an 
agricultural holy day may have been made already by them. 

The Passover was undoubtedly a primitive Semitic spring- 
festival accompanied with sacrifice of the first-born lambs, but its 
celebration with unleavened bread in the legislation of D and P 
(Deut., chap. 16; Exod., chap 12) discloses Canaanite influence. 

Three pilgrimage feasts yearly seem to have been a feature of 
the primitive Mosaic religion (Exod. 23:14, 17; 34:23), but after 
the occupation of Canaan these were transformed into agricultural 
festivals, the "days of the M'Slim," as Hosea calls them (2:13). 
The Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated the early barley-harvest. 
J, E, and D say that it consists in eating cakes of unleavened bread 
for seven days in the month Abib (Exod. 34: 18 J; 23 : 15 E; Deut. 
16:3 f.). The Holiness Code (Lev. 23: 10 f.) adds that it comes at 
the time when the harvest is reaped, and prescribes that a sheaf 
of first fruits shall be waved before Yahweh. This is also why 
unleavened cakes are eaten. People are so impatient to taste the 
new crop that they do not want to wait for the process of leavening. 
A feast of this sort evidently cannot have originated in the desert; 
it is part of the agricultural ritual of the land of Canaan. 

The Feast of Weeks, according to J (Exod. 34:22), marked the 



224 THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF THEOLOGY 

beginning of the reaping of the wheat-harvest, E (Exod. 23:16) 
calls it "the feast of harvest, the first fruits of thy labors." D and 
H say that it was celebrated seven weeks from the time when the 
sickle was first put into the grain, i.e., from the beginning of Unleav- 
ened Bread (Deut. 16:9 f.; Lev. 23:15^); hence its name, the 
Feast of Weeks. According to H it was observed with the pres- 
entation of two wave-loaves of leavened bread before Yahweh. 
The agricultural character of this festival is obvious: it must have 
been of Canaanite rather than of primitive Hebrew origin. 

The Feast of the Ingathering, according to J (Exod. 34:22), 
came at "the year's turn," i.e., at the end of the agricultural cycle. 
E (Exod. 23:6) says that it comes "when thou gatherest in thy 
labors out of the field." Deut. 16:13-15 and H (Lev. 23:39-42) 
call it the Feast of Booths, because during that week the popula- 
tion lived in huts of boughs. It is customary in Palestine today 
for the people who are picking the fruit to live in such huts. This 
feast in its present form is evidently of Canaanite origin. 

As a result, accordingly, of our investigation we reach the con- 
clusion that the religion of Yahweh was deeply affected by Israel's 
conquest of Canaan. Yahweh triumphed over the bS'alim and the 
other gods of the land by absorbing them. All their attributes, 
activities, sacred objects, holy places, altars, sacred traditions, 
ritual, and feasts were appropriated by him; and the result was that 
his religion was mixed with all sorts of alien elements, just as Chris- 
tianity in its first centuries was mixed with Greco-Roman ideas. 
When the battle was won and the rivals had disappeared, it became 
apparent that Yahwism must be purged of much contamination 
that it had contracted in its career of conquest. Just as the Prot- 
estant Reformation was necessary to cleanse the Church of the 
heathenism that it had absorbed in fifteen centuries, so it was 
necessary that Amos and his successors should appear to remove 
the taint of Canaan from the religion of Moses.