Canaan was the inheritance which the Israelites won for themselves by the sword. Their ancestors had already settled in it in patriarchal days. Abraham “the Hebrew” from Babylonia had bought in it a burying-place near Hebron; Jacob had purchased a field near Shechem, where he could water his flocks from his own spring. It was the “Promised Land” to which the serfs of the Pharaoh in Goshen looked forward when they should again become free men and find a new home for themselves.
Canaan had ever been the refuge of the Asiatic population of Egypt, the goal at which they aimed when driven out of the land of the Nile. The Hyksos conquerors from Asia had retreated to Jerusalem when the native Egyptians recovered their independence and had expelled them from their seats in the Delta. Though Moses had assured the Pharaoh that all the Israelites needed was to go a short journey of three days into the wilderness, and there sacrifice to their God, it was well understood that the desert was not to be the end of their pilgrimage. Canaan, and Canaan only, was the destined country they had in view.
In the early inscriptions of Babylonia, Canaan is included in the rest of Syria under the general title of “the land of the Amorites.” The Amorites were at the time the dominant population on the Mediterranean coast of western Asia, and after them accordingly the whole country received its name. The “land of the Amorites” had been overrun by the armies of Babylonia at a very remote period, and had thus come under the influence of Babylonian culture. As far back as the reigns of Sargon of Akkad and his son Naram-Sin (B.C. 3800), three campaigns had laid it at the feet of the Chaldaean monarch, and Palestine and Syria became a province of the Babylonian empire. Sargon erected an image of himself by the shore of the sea, and seems even to have received tribute from Cyprus. Colonies of “Amorite” or Canaanitish merchants settled in Babylonia for the purposes of trade, and there obtained various rights and privileges; and a cadastral survey of southern Babylonia made at the time mentions “the governor of the land of the Amorites.”
The Amorites, however, though they were the dominant people of Syria, were not its original inhabitants; nor, it is probable, did they even form the largest part of its population. They were essentially the inhabitants of the mountains, as we are told in the Book of Numbers (xiii. 29), and appear to have come from the west. We have learnt a good deal about them from the Egyptian monuments, where the “Amurru” or Amorites are depicted with that fidelity to nature which characterised the art of ancient Egypt. They belonged to the white race, and, like other members of the white race, were tall in stature and impatient of the damp heat of the plains. Their beard and eye-brows are painted red, their hair a light red-brown, while their eyes are blue. The skin is a sunburnt