Geneticists at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute did a genetic test of five supposed Canaanite bodies (three women, two men) they found buried in the ancient city of Sidon in Lebanon and compared their DNA to 99 modern-day Lebanese and found a match of over 90%. The bodies are supposedly from 3,700 years ago, the Bronze Age.
Based on the genetics found in the dead bodies, the people of ancient Sidon would have had the same brown eyes and dark hair of today’s Lebanese, but darker skin. The geneticists also concluded that the origins of ancient Canaanites can be traced back to an ethnic group of natives to ancient Lebanon who intermarried with a migrant tribe from Mesopotamia, specifically where Iran is today. Modern-day Lebanese, today’s Canaanites, are also a mix of other people groups that migrated to Lebanon.
Reporter Annalee Newitz in the ArsTechnica.com article that covers this story claims the book of Joshua states that the Canaanites were supposedly wiped out when Israel took over. So she concludes, “…that doesn’t mean the account in the Tanakh is entirely wrong. Because the Canaanites were an ethnic group whose people lived throughout the area, it’s possible that the Book of Joshua refers to the extermination of one specific group of Canaanites who clashed with the Hebrew armies.” [Bold emphasis mine.]
However, Ms. Newitz’s assumptions are wrong. First of all, God ordered the Israelites to evict, or drive out, the Canaanites from the land (Exodus 23:28-31; 33:2-3). Only those who refused to leave were the ones who were to be destroyed (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Therefore, God never gave any order to Israel to render all Canaanites extinct. As a matter of fact, one of the 12 disciples, Simon the zealot (Zelotes), was a Canaanite (Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15). Secondly, it has been taught in churches for centuries what the Bible actually says, which is that Israel’s greatest failure was that they did not drive out the Canaanites as they were told and it came back to bite them in the butt (Joshua 23:13).
Although Ms. Newitz implies the Bible was partially wrong, but not “entirely wrong,” what’s actually wrong is her misunderstanding of what the Bible actually says. Another assumption Ms. Newitz makes in her article is that Canaanites only wrote on papyrus, so there are no extant manuscripts of theirs and “our only information about these people has come from their rivals and enemies, like the Hebrews, whose accounts were likely biased.” Completely wrong. The ancient writings on stone by the Canaanites themselves, known as the Ras Shamra tablets, verify what the Hebrews wrote in the Bible. The Bible is completely correct in what it says about the Canaanites and this genetic study proves it.