While uncertainties endure about the fate of the idolatrous and immoral people of Canaan God commanded to be destroyed in the Bible, a new study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics Thursday suggests many survived and their descendants are living in present-day Lebanon.
"However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites — as the Lord your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God," God commanded the Israelites in Deuteronomy 20:16-18.
Researchers in the study sequenced the DNA from 3,700 year old remains of five individuals from the city of Sidon which was a major Canaanite city-state on the Eastern Mediterranean Coast. They then sequenced the genomes of 99 individuals from present-day Lebanon and compared the two sets of DNA and found a very strong relationship between the two.
"We show that present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population, which therefore implies substantial genetic continuity in the Levant since at least the Bronze Age," the researchers said. They noted that the genetic ancestry of the people of Canaan and modern day Lebanon was more than 90 percent similar.
"The Bible reports the destruction of the Canaanite cities and the annihilation of its people; if true, the Canaanites could not have directly contributed genetically to present-day populations. However, no archaeological evidence has so far been found to support widespread destruction of Canaanite cities between the Bronze and Iron Ages: cities on the Levant coast such as Sidon and Tyre show continuity of occupation until the present day," they argued.
In a study on the Canaanites and why God wanted them destroyed, Greg Koukl, adjunct professor in Christian apologetics at Biola University in La Mirada, California, and founder and president of Stand to Reason, said they "were a hideously nasty bunch."
"Their culture was grossly immoral, decadent to its roots. Its debauchery was dictated primarily by its fertility religion that tied eroticism of all varieties to the successful agrarian cycles of planting and harvest," Koukl said.
"In addition to divination, witchcraft, and female and male temple sex, Canaanite idolatry encompassed a host of morally disgusting practices that mimicked the sexually perverse conduct of their Canaanite fertility gods: adultery, homosexuality, transvestitism, pederasty (men sexually abusing boys), sex with all sorts of beasts, and incest. Note that after the Canaanite city Sodom was destroyed, Lot's daughters immediately seduced their drunken father, imitating one of the sexual practices of the city just annihilated (Genesis 19:30–36)," he added.
The Canaanites were also known for sacrificing children to idols, Koukl said, and had repeatedly flaunted their ways before God.
"A bronze image of Kronos was set up among them, stretching out its cupped hands above a bronze cauldron, which would burn the child. As the flame burning the child surrounded the body, the limbs would shrivel up and the mouth would appear to grin as if laughing, until it was shrunk enough to slip into the cauldron," Koukl wrote. "Archaeological evidence indicates that the children thus burned to death sometimes numbered in the thousands."
The study noted that "for uncertain reasons but perhaps related to the use of papyrus instead of clay for documentation, few textual records have survived from the Canaanites themselves."
It further added that "most of their history known today has been reconstructed from ancient Egyptian and Greek records, the Hebrew Bible, and archaeological excavations."
Koukl noted that even though God had ordered the annihilation of the Canaanites, the Jews failed to listen.
"The sons of Israel lived among the Canaanites ... took their daughters for themselves as wives, and gave their own daughters to their sons, and served their gods. The sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth," he highlighted from Judges. 3:5–7.
"Before long the Jews had adopted all the degrading and detestable habits God had condemned Canaan for in the first place. The book of Judges — a record of the "Canaanization" of Israel — ends on this sinister note: 'In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes' (Judg. 21:25). Eventually, the same judgment that fell on the debauched Canaanites, fell upon the corrupted Jews for the very same reasons," Koukl wrote.