Missing the Canaanites in Plain Sight
“New archaeological discovery contradicts the Bible.” I’ll tell you why headlines like this are worth double-checking, next on BreakPoint. We’ve heard a lot about “fake news” this year, and last week we were treated to a flurry of fake news aimed at the reliability of the Bible. A study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics reported that DNA from 3,700-year-old Canaanite remains closely matches that of the modern Lebanese. In other words, a major biblical people are alive and well, still living in the region! It was an exciting confirmation of the Bible’s history. But for a dozen or so major media outlets, it was precisely the opposite. “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out,” trumpeted the UK Telegraph. The Independent declared, “The Bible says Canaanites were wiped out by Israelites but scientists just found their descendants living in Lebanon.” And ABC Online reported: “Canaanites survived Biblical ‘slaughter,’ ancient DNA shows.” Even the journal, Science, joined the debacle with the headline, “Ancient DNA counters biblical account of the mysterious Canaanites.” Science soon issued a casual correction, saying, “The story and its headline have been updated to reflect that in the Bible, God ordered the destruction of the Canaanites, but that some cities and people may have survived.” “May have?” Uh, these reporters might want to re-read their Bibles. Or maybe read them for the first time. Because far from claiming the Canaanites were wiped out, Scripture records in numerous places that large Canaanite populations survived and thrived in the region. As David Klinghoffer at Evolution News points out, “The first chapter in Judges lists all the places in Israel where the Canaanites persisted…‘for they [the Israelites] did not drive them out.’” And in the next chapter, God rebukes Israel for not driving the Canaanites out, saying “They shall become thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare to you.” Much of the remainder of the Old Testament is the sad fulfillment of this prophecy. Some Canaanites, like Rahab, who hid the spies at Jericho, converted to the Hebrew religion and were incorporated into Israel. And in Joshua 9, we learn that the entire Canaanite city of Gibeon tricked Israel into a peace treaty, and its people were allowed to stay. Even in the New Testament, in Matthew 15, we read of a Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her demon-possessed daughter. He famously rebuffs her twice before seeing her “great faith” and granting the request. And according to the genealogies of Matthew and Luke, Jesus Himself had Canaanite DNA, as he was descended from David through Jesse, Obed, and Boaz whose mother was…Rahab. All of this goes to show how biased much of the news media are against Judeo-Christianity. But it also shows that we’re living in a time of startling biblical illiteracy. The fate of the Canaanites sets the stage for much of the biblical drama. In other words, knowing it isn’t a matter of being religious, but of having a basic acquaintance with the most influential book in Western civilization. So there are two takeaways here. First, archaeology continues to reinforce key elements of biblical history. I say this having just read another report on ancient jug handles in Jerusalem that confirm the Babylonian destruction and exile. Our faith is based on a real God Who worked through real events in history, not some dreamtime legend. The Canaanites were as real as their descendants are today. Second, you can’t always believe what you read in the press, particularly when it comes to the Bible. Open it up, and do your own fact-check. Reporters miss things, but the story of our faith was authored by a perfect God Who, unsurprisingly, never has to retract a word.