When discussing the reason for Israel’s admission in to the Promised Land “An Introduction to the Old Testament,” mentions three reasons theories as to how the Israelis entered the land. One of these theories centers on the idolatrous behavior of those already in the land. In this theory, Joshua comes in with Israel and in one massive war wipes out the original population.
One of the twelve apostles was a Canaanite. An Introduction to the Old Testament,” points to many other examples of how Canaanites were in the land long after they were wiped out. This points to the second hypothesis; the conquest of the land was gradual. “An Introduction to the Old Testament,” posits a third hypothesis, a Marxist one. At least some of the people who sided with Israel participated in a Marxist peasant’s revolt.
“An Introduction to the Old Testament,” asks us to abandon the literal reading of the text in light of a twentieth century understanding. If this were a peasant Marxist revolt, we would expect the writers to use a name for the enemy that vilified them. Canaan, “כְּנָעַן” refers to the people of the lowlands. They thought of themselves as the people of the soil juxtaposed to the people of Aram, the highlands people. They were not the only tribes living in the land at the time. If Canaan referred to elite as “An Introduction to the Old Testament,” maintains, why choose to name this people a word that simply means lowland, or humble people? Why list names to these peoples corresponding to tribes other nations report were really in the land?
There were two disputes between the Canaanites and the entering Hebrews. One concerned who the great provider was: “אל” or “בעל” and “עשתרת.” The Canaanites worshiped “בעל,” “Husband,” or the head of the household. His bride in the story is “עשתרת” or the woman of “תרת,” or “Ra” an Egyptian word. She was one of the daughters of Ra in Egyptian mythology. These individuals point to a farming culture. “בעל” dies in the winter and rises again in the spring. When he rises, the ground becomes fertile. “בעל” becomes the great provider.
Agriculture was a great advance in the development of culture. In the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there is minimal conflict between the Canaanites and the shepherds who were with them. Most of the people in the Promised Land were ranchers, shepherds, as were Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
As Joshua and the people of Israel enter the Promised Land, there is conflict similar to the conflict between the ranchers and the farmers of our American Midwest. The farmers put up barbed wire fences to keep out the cattle. Ranchers became upset as they tried to move their cattle from Texas to the railroads in Kansas. The ranchers of our Midwest were the wealthy tycoons. Hebrew is Hebrew for “Homeless.” Another difference is the cattle, “Chattel” or live stock. The American rancher raised cattle. The Basque peoples, who ranchers also did not care for, raised sheep, as did the Israelites. They were the odd men out.
What was the original dispute with the Canaanites? The only text we have as to the real dispute is Torah and Prophets. Were the original Canaanites farmers putting up fences to block the herding of the Hebrews? Was the dispute about who “בעל,” the Great Provider is?
“An Introduction to the Old Testament,” brings up the dispute between the established folk who moved from agriculture to trading, built cities and traded with peoples from Carthage to Greece, to Egypt. He points to the desire to return to Egypt and the consumer mentality of Pharaoh, the Great Abuser, who makes the Jewish people a commodity.
In the consumer/trading mentality, “בעל” becomes Hermes, who becomes Mercury. The Great Provider of the agrarian people becomes the god of Merchants and thieves. As polytheism dies out the idea of a god becomes with a mechanical creation, or in Freudian terms, a great Id, who is more able to discern what is in man’s best interests than the collective Ego. The Super Ego and the ID join together to rationalize rampant consumerism at the expense of the poor.
This is part 1, please click here for part 2.