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Canaan, Land of [Ca’naan] The land possessed by the descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham, which was until recently called PALESTINE. The whole of it was promised to Abraham, and a further territory was also promised ‘from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.’

Genesis 15: 18; Genesis 17: 8. The word used here thrice for ‘river’ is nahar, which is not applicable to a Winter stream, so that ‘river of Egypt’ doubtless refers to the most easterly Branch of the Nile, called Pelusiac. These limits of Abraham’s promised possession are on the S.W. and N.E.; the Mediterranean being the western limit, the eastern being undefined; but the ‘river Euphrates’ boundary must be on the north part of that river, which indeed was reached by Solomon at Tiphsah (about 35 50′ N, 39 E). 1 Kings 4: 24.

In Numbers 34: 5-8 directions are given as to the boundaries of the land to be then possessed by the Tribes, and here a different word is used for ‘river’ (nachal) in ‘river of Egypt.’ This word signifies ‘brook in a Valley,’ and cannot refer to the Nile; indeed the places also mentioned are more in the latitude of the wady called el Arish, 31 5′ N, near to the Ancient city Rhinocolura. This is not so far south as the country over which Solomon had dominion, which extended to Ezion-geber on the gulf of Akaba. In Numbers 34: 9-11 the north border is also given, and though some of the places cannot be traced, it is yet clear that the border did not extend as far as was possessed under Solomon, who anticipated for the moment the possession which will yet be inherited by Israel under Christ. ‘From Dan to Beersheba’ became the common way of describing the whole of Canaan. This comprised about 150 miles from north to south. In Deuteronomy 1: 7 the borders are named as between ‘the mount of the Amorites,’ near the Dead Sea on the south, to ‘Lebanon and the river Euphrates’ on the north.

The land is declared to be like no other country on earth, presenting as it does in so small a compass such diversity of surface; some parts being fruitful plains; other parts rugged rocks and spacious caves, and mountains with their sides covered with vineyards. One part is 1200 feet below the level of the sea, with a tropical atmosphere; its highest part 9000 feet above the sea, with an Alpine temperature. In some places it is a Garden of flowers; in others an arid Desert. See Seasons.



Section of the Land near Jerusalem

The land of Canaan may be described as having four zones: by the Mediterranean Sea a plain runs from north to south, much wider in the south than in the north; it is broken into by Mount Carmel running across it. Parallel with the plain is a zone of hill country from Lebanon to the south, varying in height, and with some mountains. To the east of this is the Valley in which runs the Jordan with the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. To the east of the Jordan Valley is another range of hill country, which declines into the Desert on its east. In the west, south of Aijalon, 31 51′ N, is a district called the Shephelah. It is distinct from the plain by the sea coast, and distinct from the hill country. It is sometimes described as low hills or ‘the lowland.’ It was the part where the Israelites were so often attacked by the Philistines.

God Himself describes the land as “a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that Spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and Barley, and vines, and fig trees, and Pomegranates; a land of oil olive and honey; a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose Stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass.” Deuteronomy 8: 7-9. Universal Testimony is given to the great productiveness of the soil if it were properly cultivated; but under the Judgement of God and the misrule of man comparatively little has been produced. Recently however portions of the land have been purchased by wealthy Jews, and have been let out to Jewish agriculturists, by whom various colonies have been founded, and the villages greatly improved.  A railway has been completed from Japha to Jerusalem and others are in progress.  It is estimated that there are now 100,000 Jews in Palistine, and many are resorting thither, but, alas, in unbelief.

Ruins of former greatness abound everywhere showing how the judgements predicted by God have been fulfilled; but it is well to remember that the predictions as to future Blessing will as certainly be fulfilled as were those as to judgements. It will yet be ‘the holy land,’ Zechariah 2: 12; ‘Immanuel’s land,’ Isaiah 8: 8; for it is ‘the land of promise,’ Hebrews 11: 9. It is called Chanaan in Acts 7: 11; Acts 13: 19.

The name Palestine is often now used as synonymous with Canaan, but in the Scripture that term and ‘Palestina’ refer to the land of the Philistines, the narrow border on the sea coast in the south of Canaan. Exodus 15: 14; Isaiah 14: 29, 31; Joel 3: 4.

The land on the west of the Jordan and some portions on the east have been surveyed, firstly by the officers of the Palestine Exploration Fund, which has been the means, as far as their Judgement goes, of identifying many Biblical sites. Their map enabled the longitude and latitude of the principal places being given in this work.

Original text taken from the New and Concise Bible Dictionary published by G. Morish, London

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