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The Ancient Land and People of Canaan

Main sources for critical education piece are from: Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, Israel Bible Centre & Jerusalem University College

Abram was born in Sumer, one of the mainstream contenders for the earliest Eastern civilizations. According to the scriptures, Abram lived in Ur which was situated between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Archaeologists call the earliest Sumerian phase the Uruk period ca. 4,000–3,100bce, after its first and largest city-states in southern Mesopotamia with around 40,000 inhabitants and an estimation of around 80,000 to 90,000 people in the surrounding areas. Comparable modern-day city centres in population within Canada include Grey County, Ontario and Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. Being an ancient metropolis, the land would have looked very different than the desert we see today. 

Whether or not Abram was native to the region is not clear. But it is known that he was born into a priestly Chaldean family and became a powerful tribal leader, warrior and father to three monotheistic world religions. No big deal for an ancient man with mysterious origins whose heritage was deeply rooted in the ancient 'magic' practices of the Near East right? Daniel encountered these practices when he served king Nebecenezzer in Babylon and was able to exceed the abilities of his magicians.


For the most part, western Christian society dismisses these types of discussions as nonsense or just too weird to cover in a Sunday morning sermon but if we want to progress as a society, we need to be open to discussing anything and everything, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that there are other gods or deities while staying true and faithful to one God. The Bible has many contradictions that are not discussed or studied. The effect of this silence has created elephants in the congregation waiting to be acknowledged.  

How we became blind to this knowledge is beyond comprehension since it is scattered throughout the scriptures, "When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; the LORD’s own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share" (Dt. 32:8-9 NRSV, 1989). "According to the number of the gods" has been switched to read sons of Israel, sons of God, and even angels of God.


In Joshua 24:2 we learn that Abraham's father Terah worshiped other gods too“Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods.” Dt 32:17 "They sacrificed to demons, not God, to deities they had never known, to new ones recently arrived, whom your ancestors had not feared. Scripture such as this should inspire curiosity and further study

Who were the Sumerians?

Abram was born right around the time of the construction of the great Neo-Sumerian Ziggurat of Ur located in what was the city of Ur near Nasiriyah, which is present-day Dhi Qar Province, Iraq. It was:

It is known that  Abram's father Terah held this god in high esteem and was possibly involved in establishing priestly castes devoted to the ritual worship of this regional deity.

In addition to being master builders, Sumerians could write and had a military and a well-established code of law.


How were the ancient Sumerians so advanced Our current education system describes 4,000 years ago much differently than what the pictures in my mind's eye look like. Abram was also born into an already established legal code (first found), created by Ur-Nammu, the Sumerian king (2100 to 20150bce). Sargon of Akkad forcefully merged with Sumer to create a multinational empire. Akkadian was spoken but the Sumerians preserved their words in cuneiforms which were preserved from the Old Babylonian period from 2003-1595bce.


The Akkadian Empire fell around 2150bce and Sumer was taken over by the Gutians from the eastern highlands but Ur-Nammu regained control in the Third Dynasty of Ur, established courts (weights and measures) of justice that influenced legal systems to come. The Third Dynasty of Ur was short-lived however as it was captured and destroyed by the neighbouring Elamites in 2004bce.

The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989)

Once Canaan, then Palestine, now Israel

other first town contenders

Catalhoyuk - Chalclithic - Anatolia - 75
Sumer Civilization Archaeological City of Ur - Ziggurat Ur.jpg

Ancient Sumerian stone carving of the Tree of Life with cuneiform scripting

"After long study of the Semitic and Sumerian sources I have become convinced that totemism and demonology have nothing to do with the origins of Sumerian or Semitic religions. The former cannot be proved at all the latter is a secondary aspect of them.
I may fail to carry conviction in concluding that, both in Sumerian and Semitic religions, monotheism preceded polytheism and belief in good and evil spirits. The evidence and reasons for this conclusion, contrary to accepted and current views, have been set down with care and with the perception of adverse criticism. It is, I trust, the conclusion of knowledge and not of audacious preconception" (Langdon., S. Volume V., 1931.p. xviii) The Mythology of all Races; in thirteen volumes by Stephen Herert Langdon, M.A. 

One of the professors from the Israel Bible Centre, Pinchas Shir, has a website where he goes through the interpretations of biblical texts in the contexts of ancient culture, languages, and history. Pinchas promotes this uTube video about Canaan as a good overview. He says it's "not a biblical history (history based on the Bible) but a history that incorporates biblical records among many other diverse sources".

Israel in Egypt.png
 a man of faith, obedience & loyalty to one God in a world with many gods

Bronze Age Canaanite Period

c. 3000-1200 BC

Iron Age = Israelite Period

c. 1200 - 586 BC

First Temple Period

c. 960-586 BC

Abraham's Seed Promise from God.jpg

was before Abraham




Emergence in Canaan: abt. 1220bce

First record:

Calendar: According to Harvest

Cultural Identity: Canaanite,

Deity Worship & Beliefs: Uniquely Israelite is the shortened name of the local deity, “-yaw,” the divine name of Yahweh, the national deity of Israel and Judah - God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob.

  • -yaw was mostly used by the Northern Kingdom of Israel

  • -yhw and -yh (pronounced “yahu” and “yah”) mostly used by the Southern Judean Kingdom – Judah

  • Canaanite goddess Asherah (40+ instances in the Hebrew Bible)

Language: Old Hebrew

Surrounding Languages: Phoenician, Aramaic - (developed as an independent script in the late eighth century)

Surrounding Cultures: Phoenician, Aramean (tenth and ninth centuries)

Archeology: Naama Yahalom-Mack et al., “The Iron Age IIA ‘Benyaw Inscription’ on a Jar from Tel Abel Beth Maacah,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly (2021), pp. 1–23,

“The biblical site of Abel Beth Maacah (2 Samuel 20:14-22; 1 Kings 15:20; 2 Kings 15:29) is a prominent 25-acre mound in the northern part of the Hula Valley not far from the Israel-Lebanon border. Located at the crossroads of ancient Israel, Aram-Damascus, and Phoenicia.” (ROBERT A. MULLINS is Professor and Chair of the Department of Biblical and Religious Studies at Azusa Pacific University) - Shifting Borders? - Biblical Archaeology Society

Tribal Kingdom Ruled by a king who is second in command behind Israel’s God: king who is second behind God of Israel (El, YHWH) who’s subjects were dependent on their relationships (loyalty) to him. Later recorded as “house of Omri” in the Tel Dan 9th century stele verses the southern kingdom of Judah is referred to as “house of David”.


Household/Community/Tribe Organization: Large lineage/households formed clans. Iron Age II (1000-586 bce) saw the largest family as a state, all organized around agrarian/some sort of farming.

COVENANT (בְּרִית, berith; διαθήκη, diathēkē). A sacred kinship bond between two parties, ratified by swearing an oath. Covenant making was a widespread custom throughout the ancient Near East and Graeco-Roman culture, serving as a means to forge sociopolitical bonds between individuals or groups.

Scott Hahn, “Covenant,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Types of Covenants
There were two kinds of covenants in the ancient Near East during the biblical period (Weinfeld, “Covenant of Grant,” 184):

  1.      Bilateral covenants, which placed obligations on both parties. The agreement was conditioned on one party fulfilling their obligations (e.g., “If you will … then I will …”)
  2.      Unilateral covenants, which were unconditionally guaranteed by the party initiating the agreement (e.g., “I will …”)

God’s promise to Abraham (Gen 12:1–3) and his descendants was a unilateral or unconditional covenant: He promised to make Abraham and his descendants a great nation (Gen 12:2–3).

Joel T. Hamme and J. Carl Laney, “Covenant, Critical Issues,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).


was justified before God without the Law, and he identified Abraham as a precedent for being a Gentile within Israel’s covenant. Furthermore, Paul asserted that Abraham’s covenant promised to be a blessing for all foreigners (see Gal 3:1; Rom 4:1–5:21).


Law, and he identified Abraham as a precedent for being a Gentile within Israel’s covenant. Furthermore, Paul asserted that Abraham’s covenant promised to be a blessing for all foreigners (see Gal 3:1; Rom 4:1–5:21).

Salvation. The first-century Jewish concept of salvation was essentially linked to (although not limited to) ethnicity—whether an individual was an Israelite or a Gentile. Paul abandoned this notion, arguing that the Israelites were chosen because of the promise God made to Abraham. According to Paul, Abraham was justified through faith, not ethnicity. Paul asserted that Abraham was justified before God without the Law, and he identified Abraham as a precedent for being a Gentile within Israel’s covenant. Furthermore, Paul asserted that Abraham’s covenant promised to be a blessing for all foreigners (see Gal 3:1; Rom 4:1–5:21).

Anthony Le Donne, “Paul the Apostle,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

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