Hosea 12:8 states, “לַעֲשֹׁק אָהֵב כְּנַעַוֹבְּיָדוֹ מאזְנֵי מִרְמָה,” Canaan is explicitly referred to as a merchant. This is in Hosea’s time. Proverbs 31:24, in the middle of the Acrostic, “Woman of Valor,” recited by all Jewish men to their wives Sabbath evening relates, “וַחֲגוֹרנָתְנָה לַכְּנַעֲנִי,” “She gives girdles to the Canaanites/merchants.” If the writer of Joshua and Judges is from a later period, like the Babylonian exile, it would make sense to condemn the merchants who diluted the old ways of doing things. They were from the low country, which is to say by the Mediterranean Sea, and therefore the bringers of foreign lifestyles. When looking for a people to blame for the disaster, they make the ideal target.
The merchants brought the way of the nations. That is what merchants do for a living. They bring goods, and with the goods the way of living from other cultures. Psalm 115:4 begins a diatribe against the idols of the Canaanites, and it is part of Hillel. The referent has a double meaning. The silver and gold could refer to the market with its emphasis on silver and gold. It could also refer to the פסלים the Canaanites worshiped. It probably refers to both.
The main complaint of the Deuteronomy writer of Joshua and Judges is bringing the way of the nations. By the Babylonian exile, the writers were the established class, not the farmers, or the shepherds. Deuteronomy 9:4 tell us, “מר בְּצִדְקָתִי הֱבִיאַנִי יְהוָהלָרֶשֶׁת אֶת-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאתוּבְרִשְׁעַת הַגּוֹיִם הָאֵלֶּהיְהוָה מוֹרִישָׁם מִפָּנֶיךָ.” The writing is that of a very skilled writer. “לָרֶשֶׁת,” to inherit alliterates well with “רִשְׁעַ,” Russia, “Those who think themselves first,” and “מוֹרִישָׁם,” “to drive them out.” The skilled writing is not that of a farmer, or a shepherd. He is the established class.
Deuteronomy 9:4 translates, “Do not say in your heart, “It is because of my charity, the Personal Name has brought me in to possess this land, and because of these nations thinking themselves first that the Personal Name is dispossessing them before me. It is because of their thinking of themselves as first that the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, dispossesses these nations in order to fulfill the promise he made on oath to your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
The context Torah and Prophets gives us is not that of class war. The warning is not to be like the other nations, thinking themselves first. Deuteronomy does show the greatest concern for the less fortunate. Deuteronomy 15:4 tells us, “There shall be no one of you in need, if you listen to the voice of the Personal Name, your Almighty Judge, and carefully observe this entire Mitzvah which I enjoin on you today.” Deuteronomy 15:11 relates, “The land will never lack for needy persons; that is why I command you: “Open your hand freely to your poor and to your needy kin in your land.” God knows we will never follow the rules, so commands us to at least make up for past failures.
This takes away the third option of “An Introduction to the Old Testament.” Some of the peoples fighting the Canaanites probably were Semitic, as opposed to the descendents of Ham who were the Canaanites. Almost certainly, some were shepherds fighting for their shepherding ways against the established farming and merchant ways of the more advanced culture.
We must follow Torah, not because we believe it is literally correct, it is not, but because we are evaluating about what they thought was the conflict. They are the only witnesses to this and thought the conflict was about who the real “בעל” the real head of the household, the real “אל” or Almighty Judge was. If we could ever get this right, there would be no need to fear anyone. God is the Great Provider. There is no need for merchants or market forces, or any of the garbage these false idols may seem to provide.
This is part 2. Please click here for part 1