Have you heard about the “Promised Land” which many also called the “land of milk and honey”?
The name of this utopia was Canaan. If we look at our maps today we can find no trace of this place and yet it is frequently mentioned in the Bible. It is the land that God promised to the Israelites who had just been delivered from abusive slavery in Egypt. The exciting news that their God had prepared a perfect place for them to live in was a source of great hope. Did it exist? Was it really abundant in resources of every kind?
The Land of Milk and Honey
The scriptures record that the promised land was bountiful. In one story, Moses, the leader of the Israelite, sent out twelve spies to assess Canaan and its people.
The spies returned with amazing evidence and tales. For example, two men were required to carry an enormous bunch of the largest grapes. The excited spies reported that the land was indeed flowing with milk and honey. BUT—
Bad news! The Canaanites living in the land were giants! The land contained unique city-states having their own sets of beliefs, practices and traditions, and they worshipped many different gods.
Canaan and Archaeology
Through archaeological excavations, we can now say that the land of Canaan did indeed exist.
During the 20th century archaeologists unearthed relics of the following major Canaanite cities:
- Jerusalem – this ancient city remains an important site to the three major religious groups in the world — Christians, Jews and Muslims
- Gezer (now Tel Gezer) – Palestine Exploration Fund (1902-1905; 1907-1909; 1923); Yigael Yadin (1957)
- Bet She’an/Beth-Shan/Beisān – University of Pennsylvania (1921-1933)
- Shechem/Shekhem (now Tell Balata) – German scholars led by H. Tiersch (1903); Austro-German team led by E. Sellin (1913-1914; 1926-1936); American team under G. E. Wright and B. W. Anderson (1956); W. G. Dever (1973); artifacts now in Harvard Semitic Museum
- Megiddo (now Tel Megiddo) – Deutsche Orientgesellschaft (1903-1905); Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (1925-1939)
From several excavation sites around Palestine, bowls and other utensils have been recovered depicting Canaanite inscriptions. Carbon dating has determined these to be from between the 16th-13th centuries BC.
Canaan and Literary Sources
Our modern knowledge of the promised land’s history and culture is also derived from ancient documents. Aside from the Old Testament of the Bible, there are other important literary sources that attest to the historicity of Canaan:
- Ras Shamra texts – discovered at the ancient Ugarit site (north coast of Syria)
- Amarna Letters – 14th century BC dispatches by Palestinian and Syrian governors to their Egyptian overlords (example is Cuneiform Letter El Amarna 9 by Burna-Buriash II to Tutankhamun; EA 251 by Labayu to Amenhotep III, now in the British Museum)
These are just some examples of the evidence that proves the historicity of Canaan. Scholars point out that this prosperous region corresponds to present-day Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Join Katherine Abraham as she reveals more amazing examples of earth’s history.