The following four articles were part of the Canaanite "genocide" debate but are here separated out because the topic has changed from ethics to history i.e. to whether the events happened.
1 The Myth of the Canaanite Holocaust
2 The "Myth" of the Canaanite Holocaust
3 Archaeology and the Conquest of Canaan
4 Canaan's Apocalypse Happened

The Myth of the Canaanite Holocaust

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 135, 2010 November)

This article is the final essay in a series of related critiques of Anonymous' defence of the claim that God kills or orders the killing of children.

The origin of the debate started with Atheism, Evil & God (No. 122, pg. 44), which outlined the ethical objections to 1 Samuel 15:2-3. Further moral principles for rejecting the idea were then outlined in Reply to Anonymous on Biblical Genocide (No. 132, pg. 17), and theological and philosophical arguments opposing the concept were delineated in When Human Wickedness is mistaken for God's Word (No. 133, Pg. 58).

In this closing essay I shall show that archaeological evidence does not support the idea that these massacres occurred, and that the Israelites were in fact an offshoot of Canaanite culture:

Contemporary archaeologists believe that the Israelites themselves were, for the most part, originally Canaanites (including Amorites, Apiru, Shashu, possibly Hyksos, and others) who federated into the nations of Judah and Israel from the eleventh century B.C.E. onward, rather than being an ethnically homogeneous group that migrated en masse from Egypt, as the Bible reports.

The story of the Kenites (Judges 1) joining Judah is an example of the Bible itself confirming the theory that non Israelite people federated with Israel in Canaan. Moreover, the Perizzites are usually named as a Canaanite tribe against whom Israel must fight (Gen. 3:8 and 15:19, etc.), but Numbers 26:20 identifies them as part of the lineage and tribe of Judah, through his son Perez. The latter reference may reflect the fact that Perizzites joined Judah in Canaan and were literally "adopted" into Judah's origin-story.

The biblical story of the conquest of Canaan may represent the memories of Apiru victories written down several centuries after the fact and filtered through the religious viewpoint of that later time. According to this and similar theories "Israelite" migration from the south indeed took place, but occurred in phases as various groups moved north into Canaan. Moreover, some of groups that later identified with the Israelites had lived in Canaan for centuries. Thus the distinction between Canaanites and Israelites was once very faint, if it existed at all. Possibly the earliest distinction was political: the Canaanites were ruled by the Egyptian-dominated city-states while the proto-Israelites were Canaanite groups who lived in the countryside outside of that political orbit — hence, Apiru. Eventually the Israelites came to see themselves as a people separate from the Canaanites, largely for religious reasons.

The Israelite religion itself went through an evolutionary process, beginning with the fusion of the Canaanite god El with the desert god Yahweh, and evolving into the assertion that Yahweh/El alone could be worshiped by the Israelites. The rejection of traditional Canaanite religion resulted in the development of a religious mythology in which the Israelites were never a part of Canaanite culture, and the Canaanite gods were enemies of Yahweh/El, rather than members of the assembly of the gods with El as their chief.
Given that the archaeological evidence requires us to conclude that the Israelites ancestors were in fact Canaanites, it follows that there was no invasion of the Promised Land as described in the Bible, and therefore no wide scale massacre of its indigenous inhabitants by hoards of rampaging Hebrews:
The account of Joshua's conquest of Canaan is inconsistent with the archaeological evidence. Cities supposedly conquered by Joshua in the 14th century BCE were destroyed long before he came on the scene. Some, such as Ai and Arad, had been ruins for a 1000 years.
The Book of Judges, which directly contradicts Joshua, and shows the Israelites settling the land over a prolonged period, is nearer historical reality; but even it cannot be taken at face value.

The conclusion is somewhat startling to Bible readers who know the Canaanites portrayed in the Bible as immoral idolaters: most of the Israelites were in fact formerly Canaanites. The story of Abraham's journey from Ur of the Chaldees, the Patriarchs, the Exodus, Sinai, and the conquest of Canaan, all these were apparently based on legends that the various elements brought with them from their countries of origin. The consolidation of the Israelites into a nation was not the result of wanderings in the desert and divine revelation, but came from the need to defend themselves against the Philistines, who settled in the Canaanite coastal plain more or less at the same time the Israelites were establishing themselves in the hills.¬%20Myth%20and%20Reality
Unfortunately, many believers refuse to accept the findings of modem archaeology. Instead, they attempt to make the facts fit preconceived notions of what they already consider true. This is sometimes the case with so called Biblical archaeology, which can be more concerned with apologetics rather than historical facts:
Those who were unwilling - primarily for religious reasons - to abandon their familiar texts began to shoehorn the archaeological data into the text-based framework, often with confusing results. A good example is Joshua's supposed conquest of Canaan in the second millennium BCE: take any century in that millennium to be the time of the conquest and there will always be a Canaanite city whose sack is described in the Book of Judges that turns out not to have been occupied at that time. Choose a different century and other cities will be found to have been deserted. This shoehorning is a desperate attempt to force the evidence into a preconceived structure, the reverse of how real archaeology works and much more like the behaviour of Cinderella's ugly sisters when confronted with a glass slipper that was patently not theirs.
In the light of the archaeological evidence the Biblical accounts of the massacres are most probably a fiction. However, let us suppose that the Canaanites were as evil as the Bible alleges. Indeed, let us assume they were as evil as the Nazi regime, whose atrocities have been established beyond any reasonable doubt:

The exact number of people killed by the Nazi regime will never be known, but scholars, using a variety of methods of determining the death toll, have generally agreed upon common range of the number of victims. Recently declassified British and Soviet documents have indicated the total may be somewhat higher than previously believed. However, the following estimates are considered to be highly reliable.

The estimates: toll/id/5324946
The Nazi atrocities were terrible indeed, and Hitler certainly had to be stopped. But would any humane person demand that every German child be killed because of the crimes committed by adults?

From the evidence I have presented it can be clearly seen that Anonymous' position is untenable: His justifications for the atrocity of the mass murder of children has been refuted on ethical grounds, on theological and philosophical grounds and, finally, is not supported by archaeological evidence relating to the Canaanites.

Finally, I have done my best to conduct myself with civility when discussing this issue with an individual who attempts to justify child murder. However, I now feel I have reached the limits of my capacity to remain courteous. Anonymous will probably disagree with my conclusions, which is fair enough. But I will make no further reply on this subject due to the aforementioned reason.

The "Myth" of the Canaanite Holocaust

Kevin Rogers

(Investigator 136, 2011 January)

In several past issues Kirk Straughen has argued that the Canaanite invasion was immoral. However, in Investigator #135 Kirk is now arguing that the Canaanite invasion did not in fact occur. This is supposedly Kirk's last contribution on the Canaanite issue. However, he has introduced entirely new material that is of a different nature. This is actually a huge topic over which there is considerable disagreement. This is like an aircraft popping up over the horizon, firing a missile and then running away before it gets shot down.

I haven't had much time to do research, but I will make some brief comments. Kirk's article mainly consisted of several quotations that were copied off of the web. The first article argued that Israel was an offshoot of Canaanite culture, rather than coming out of Egypt.

The article states, "The story of the Kenites (Judges 1) joining Judah is an example of the Bible itself confirming the theory that non-Israelite people federated with Israel in Canaan."

The actual reference is, "The descendants of Moses' father-in-law, the Kenite, went up from the City of Palms with the men of Judah to live among the people of the Desert of Judah in the Negev near Arad." (Judge 1:16) The claim is partly true. The Bible stipulates principles whereby aliens could join in with the Israelite community. Other examples are Ruth, the Moabitess and Rahab the harlot. However, this does not in itself provide evidence that mainstream Jews were derived from Canaanite culture.

The next claim is, "Moreover, the Perizzites are usually named as a Canaanite tribe against whom Israel must fight (Gen. 3:8 and 15:19, etc.), but Numbers 26:20 identifies them as part of the lineage and tribe of Judah, through his son Perez." However, Numbers 26:20 actually says, "The descendants of Judah by their clans were: through Shelah, the Shelanite clan; through Perez, the Perezite clan; through Zerah, the Zerahite clan." The descendants of Perez were called "Perezites", not "Perizzites". The names are similar, but they are not the same. For example, I play racquetball with Jan and Jane. Their names are similar but they certainly are not the same woman. The Perizzites were a Canaanite race but the Perezites were a clan within the tribe of Judah. They were not the same group of people. This is not just an error; it is an obvious error. This illustrates a couple of things:
After the time of King Saul (from David onwards), there is increasing confirmation of the general historicity of the Biblical record (i.e., the kings of Israel and Judah) from external sources. Prior to David there is very little. This is natural and what we should expect. However, it is this era, where external evidence is not available, that comes under historical attack from sceptical circles.

If we leave aside discussion of the miraculous elements, the remaining outline of the period from Moses to Saul seems quite credible. There is a general continuity with those elements that can be verified. There is also a tremendous amount of detail about some items, eg the tabernacle. Why record such enormous detail for something that never existed? The record is also not very complimentary of the nation and most of the main characters. This is not history written by victors.

As I said, this is a big topic and a contentious one, so readers should not draw conclusions without giving the subject a more thorough treatment.

Archaeology and the Conquest of Canaan

Kirk Straughen

(Investigator 137, 2011 March)

Although I have no desire to restart the debate on this subject I am taking into consideration Kevin Rogers' comments in No. 136, page 47 when he says that when considering this issue "readers should not draw conclusions without giving the subject a more thorough treatment."

With this in mind I have done some additional research using the web pages below which deal with the above topic, and present them here for those seeking additional information which hopefully will assist them in deciding the issue for themselves.

The History and Archaeology of the Book of Joshua and the Conquest/Settlement Period, Joel F. Drinkard, Jr.
When discussing with Anonymous the ethics of slaughtering children, I chose to debate on his home ground — which is the assumption that the Bible is literally true (an assumption that I don't share). Most of my criticisms of religion are aimed at the fundamentalist position, and this is why I adopted this particular line of argument.

I introduced archaeological evidence in my final reply as I thought it relevant to the discussion — primarily to reassure Christians of a non¬fundamentalist stance that the Blitzkrieg style invasion of Canaan as portrayed in the Bible wasn't supported by historical evidence, and that those commands attributed to God to kill children were most likely a fiction. In hindsight perhaps I should have made this clear in order to avoid confusion. I'll leave it for others to decide if my digression into archaeology was appropriate or not.

I acknowledge I made some mistakes in my article. Having said this, further reflection on the matter as well as research I have undertaken (reading the above webpages) has not refuted my conclusions, at least not from an ethical perspective.

As far as the archaeological evidence is concerned: it is clear that there is disagreement concerning the emergence of Israel as a nation. However, from the additional research I have undertaken it appears that most experts in this field have abandoned the naive idea that the Bible's portrayal of the Israelite occupation of Canaan is historically accurate.



(Investigator 136, 2011, January)


Mr Straughen (#135) changed our discussion about the ethics of the Canaanite Apocalypse to claiming that Israelites were Canaanites, and that there was no Israeli Exodus from Egypt or invasion of Canaan. He quoted websites that echo archaeologists who hold such views.

Thomas L. Thompson of the "Copenhagen School" (which takes a "Minimalist" position that virtually the entire Bible is wrong) authored The Bible in History: How Writers Create a Past (1999) and The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and the Myth of Israel (2000).

Israel Finkelstein, a Tel Aviv University professor, is of the "new Jewish archaeologists" who question the biblical stories. A report in 2000 quotes him: "The ancient Israelites evolved from the local late Bronze Age Canaanite civilization. There was no brutal military invasion. And if the united kingdom of David and Solomon ever existed, they were small tribal affairs. As for Solomon's Temple, there is no hard archaeological evidence for it."

Other experts, however, support the Bible. James K. Hoffmeier authored Israel in Egypt (1996) and Ancient Israel in Sinai (2005). He and like-minded scholar Kenneth Kitchen are Egyptologists with backgrounds in biblical studies and Syro-Palestinian archaeology. A summary of these scholars' arguments appeared in "Did the Exodus Never Happen?" by Kevin D. Miller (Christianity Today, September 7, 1998).


Ancient rulers sometimes had history destroyed:

The Cush (Sudan) conquest of Egypt was forgotten until recently although the Bible records the Cushites as a "mighty people". (See #124)

Pharoah Thutmose III (1479-1447 BC) ordered the removal of every reference to the female pharaoh Hatshepsut who preceded him: "almost all the images of her as king were systematically chiseled off temples, monuments, and obelisks." (Brown 2009)

Of another pharaoh, Akhenaten, we read: "Under Akhenaten…the names and images of many gods…were destroyed." (Schultz & Seidel 1998)

Similarly with the "Hyksos": These were Asians who seized power in north Egypt, and produced the 15th dynasty which (using Encyclopaedia Britannica dates) ruled 1630-1521 BC. Egyptian history of that era is murky because after the Hyksos defeat "all traces of their occupation were erased".

According to the Bible Israel's ancestors moved into Egypt (Genesis 46) during a famine and stayed 215 years at which time Moses became Israel's leader and the "ten plagues" occurred. These events including the "new king" (Exodus 1:8) who ordered Israel's baby boys killed overlap with Hyksos rule. But details are obscure because Hyksos history was "erased" and because Egyptian chronology is still debated.

Historians use the Egyptian "king list" to correlate the reigns of various pharaohs with pottery styles and cultural changes identified in archaeological layers around the Mediterranean. By this dating method the ash layers from the Santorini volcano eruption (near Crete) were dated 1500 BC.  

Science Illustrated (March/April 2008), however, reported that olive twigs discovered in a pumice layer in 2006 were carbon dated to 1627-1600 BC, and that ice-core-dating of a Greenland ice core showed an "acidity spike" (due to volcanic eruption) in 1643-1637 BC. It follows that Santorini erupted over 100 years before 1500 BC.

So, is Egypt's king list wrong, or is its match-up with archaeology wrong? Either way, much 2nd millennium BC Mediterranean history (including Palestine) is out by over a century. Furthermore, if pharaohs could make previous pharaohs non-existent, and delete Hyksos rule and the Cush Empire from history, then they could also delete Moses, the Exodus, and Israel's invasion of Canaan!  

Josephus' description of an Egyptian military campaign in Cush, led by Moses when he was Prince of Egypt (Antiquities Book II Chapter X), therefore deserves more credence!

Archaeology and history can also go wrong when ancient towns were:
•    Destroyed and rebuilt many times;
•    Abandoned and a town of same name built nearby;
•    Looted for stones re-used elsewhere;
•    Completely cleared away and another town founded on the same site.


The Old Testament mentions bees in Canaan (Deuteronomy 1:44; Judges 14:8; Psalm 118:12); and "honey" about 60 times. But archaeologists never found any beehives in Canaan! This changed in 2005 when Amihai Mazar of Hebrew University (Jerusalem) excavated 30 hives in the form of clay cylinders at Tel Rehov and found remains of bees.

The bees were a subspecies from Turkey less aggressive than Syrian bees and producing up to eight times as much honey. (New Scientist, June 12, 2008, p. 16) This explains the phrase "land flowing with milk and honey" (which the Old Testament uses 20 times).

Palestinian propaganda denies ancient Jewish links to Palestine and the Temple Mount. In 2000 Sheikh Salah stated, "The constant excavations carried out by Israeli archeologists under the mosque … have found nothing that belongs to the Jewish people." Hamed Salem, a university lecturer in Ramallah, declared: "Even the term Judaism is not very old. There is no record of Judaism before Jesus." Archeologist Dr. Adel Yahya claimed: "Palestinians are the descendants of the ancient Canaanites themselves, who were present in the land before the Israelites arrived." Others claimed that Palestinians descend from the Philistines who settled the coast of Canaan in the 12th century BC.

The historical facts, however, are that Palestinians are unrelated to Philistines and descend from immigrants entering Palestine since Roman times. The ancient existence of Israelites in contrast is documented in countless archaeological finds from the Merneptah Stele (a 2-metre high black granite stone) of 1200 BC to the Arch of Titus erected in Rome to commemorate the destruction of the Temple, as well as ancient documents such as the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We also have genetics. New Scientist reports: "Most Jews in different parts of the world … share genetic traces of an ancient Middle Eastern ancestry, two large genetic studies conclude." The exceptions were the Jews in Ethiopia and India.

A team led by Karl Skorecki of the Israel Institute of Technology analysed genetic markers from the genomes of 121 Jews from 14 locations and compared them with 1166 non-Jews from 69 locations. 90% of the Jews had DNA originating from populations living in Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories and Cyprus over 2000 years ago. (12 June, 2010, p. 10)

The Bible records that Abraham's descendants included nations other than Israel. There was intermarriage between Abraham's descendants and Canaanite women, and further mixing with countless invaders and immigrants over many centuries. The ancestry of Jesus included a Moabite woman named Ruth!

All this mixing, however, does not disprove Israel's existence as a people just as the mixing of a 150 nationalities in Australia does not disprove the existence of "Australians" or Australia.

In 2010 a "Stunning Discovery" was reported. A pottery shard with Hebrew writing eight centuries older than the Dead Sea Scrolls was found in 2008 at Khirbet Qeiyafa, 18 miles west of Jerusalem. The ink inscription (6-inches square) was carbon-dated to the 10th century BC, and translator Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa called it the earliest known Hebrew writing.

The inscription expresses social concerns for weaker members of society similar to Exodus 23:3, Isaiah 1:17 and Psalm 72:3. This suggests parts of the Bible are centuries older than critics postulated, and Israel existed in the 10th century BC.

Ever increasing evidence, therefore, confirms the Bible as reliable and its critics wrong.  


The "Minimalist" school treats every biblical point not proved by archaeology as dubious or false. That's the starting point, the working assumption.

It's similar to declaring a man guilty of every unsolved crime for which he can't supply proof of innocence. For the man so accused to prove his innocence by solving every unsolved crime is impossible. Potentially, however, he could use "inductive reasoning". He might investigate some accusations and prove his innocence whenever testable evidence is available, and establish a body of data that can be generalized. He would then argue:
  1. I'm proved innocent in every crime investigated so far, forty crimes;
  2. I lack the logistics to investigate a million other crimes;
  3. Therefore I generalize the testable results, i.e. the 40 confirmations of innocence, and predict the trend of being proved innocent would continue if investigation continues and more evidence is found.
Given the starting assumption of guilty-of-every-unsolved-crime, the method of establishing a body of data and then generalizing is the best rebuttal possible.

And that's what I do with the Bible. I investigate it point by point as time permits, every testable statement, and generalize the finding. Generalizing or extrapolating from a trend is called "induction" or "inductive reasoning".

Induction is what everyone does when they plan for tomorrow — they remember that countless "tomorrows" have already occurred and therefore predict more will come. Induction is also why people jump to avoid an oncoming speeding car — they're generalizing from similar occurrences in the past and anticipate pain or death if they don't step aside.

Without induction all science becomes useless. It's no good knowing about the force of gravity, for example, unless we predict that gravity will operate today, tonight and indefinitely. Without this extrapolation or prediction we'll happily walk off high cliffs without fear.

Around 1970 I learned from the Bible that cobras hear the snake charmer's music, but convinced no one because everyone believed snakes are deaf. In the 1990s, however, I got the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on "Cobra" revised (#94). Nowadays, texts on the sensory systems of snakes concede that snakes hear with an "inner ear".

Again in the 1970s I convinced hardly anyone that the Bible's counsel against sexual promiscuity is medically sound. Nowadays with evidence of 200 million promiscuity-related deaths in the 20th century, the emergence of "superbugs" and AIDs, and recent links of promiscuity with cancer the Bible is vindicated.

Such examples of biblical accuracy (and many others) could not be confirmed until science uncovered the facts. If we acknowledge this trend then we already know that many current criticisms of the Bible will ultimately fail.


I argued previously that the some Canaanite nations had to perish to prevent Canaanite standards such as idol-worship, sexual abuse, and religious prostitution becoming the worldwide norm, and instead to let Abraham's descendants bring "blessing to all the nations of the earth". (Genesis 22:18) Straughen's comment "God...orders the killing of children" misrepresents this theology as surely as the occasional death from compulsory vaccination is misrepresented if we argue "Western Governments ordered the killing of children."

A few comments now about religious prostitution:
…religious prostitution was an outcome of the beliefs, common to almost every ancient race, that sexual intercourse with a god, or with anyone intimately associated or connected with a god, was beneficial to the human participator… (Scott 1996)

In many lands females commenced adulthood as temporary temple prostitutes — in Babylon, Greece, Rome, etc. Regarding India Scott writes:

The dancing-girls who, until recently, were openly attached to so many temples in India were prostitutes who had intercourse when required with the priests and other temple officials, and with visitors for payment. For generations it was the custom in many parts of India for every first-born female child to be dedicated to the tribal god, to whom she was supposed to be married, and made to serve as a temple prostitute… Under British rule efforts were made to stamp out temple prostitution… (p. 49)
Through the mediation of Christian ethics temple prostitution declined in the late Roman Empire, subsequently in Europe, and after that in India and around the world. In Britain child prostitution, the sale of children, and the trade in virgins (for deflowering) was common until the 1880s when made illegal. (Barber 1975)

Today "blessing to all nations" occurs through monotheism and biblical values and through what these led to i.e. science, technology, improvements to modern law, and thousands of charitable ministries. The future will even see an end to war (Isaiah 2), pain and death. (Revelation 21:4) All such good could not have occurred in an idol-worshipping world of religious prostitution, child abuse, and human sacrifice. The progress achieved came slowly because most people opposed it, and can yet be reversed if today's Bible-misrepresenting critics prevail.


Barber, L. 1975 The Penthouse Sex Index — Temple Prostitution, Child Prostitution.
Brown, C. National Geographic, April 2009, 88-111.
Schultz, R. & Seidel, M. 1998 Egypt The World of the Pharoahs, p. 154.
Scott, G. R. 1996 The History of Prostitution. =fte/nehemiah/ nehemiah&floc=wn-nx latestnews

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