Canaanite DNA and the Reliability of the Bible

According to an ABC affiliate in Omaha, Nebraska, “Ancient Canaanites survived biblical wrath, DNA evidence shows,” and “you may even know somebody who derives their ancestry from the group of people.” In other words, the ABC affiliate is saying the ancient Canaanites survived biblical wrath, DNA evidence shows this, and so as a result of that the Bible has to be wrong.

This is fairly tame, of course, when you start looking at what else has been written in this regard. This is a question that has been asked over and over again, and this question is a question that has arisen as a result of what has been written, most of which is very sensationalistic. For example, “Study disproves the Bible’s suggestion that the ancient Canaanites were wiped out” — The Telegraph. “The Bible got it wrong: Ancient Canaanites survived and their DNA lives in modern-day Lebanese” — Pulse Headlines. “DNA vs the Bible: Israelites did not wipe out the Canaanites” — Cosmos. Then there is the Washington Post; “Now a study of Canaanite DNA…rules out the biblical idea that an ancient war wiped out the group.”

What is the message here? The message is that the Bible cannot be trusted. The Bible is fraught with error. These stories often cite Deuteronomy 20 as proof. The research study says that “DNA retrieved from roughly 3,700-year-old skeletons at an excavation site in Lebanon that was formerly a major Canaanite city-state shows 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.’” Levant being the epicenter of the Middle East.

The bottom line: if all of this holds up, as further research is done, modern-day Lebanese people are descendants of the ancient Canaanites. But, even if that research holds up — it may or may not, but even if it does — the research does not disprove the Bible. It does something very, very different from disproving the Bible. Instead, this new genetic study is simply one more confirmation of the biblical account. All you have to do again is to learn to read in the sense in which it is intended. The Book of Judges explains that the Israelites never drove Canaanites out completely. In fact, if you read the text, there are passages that say the Canaanites will become “thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you” (Judges 2:3 NIV). The dominant biblical language of driving out indicates that extermination passages are not to be taken in a wooden literalistic sense. Driving out or dispossessing is different from wiping out or destroying. You cannot both drive out and destroy at the same time. The point here is that God’s commands to destroy the nations inhabiting the promise land of Canaan should never be interpreted in isolation from their immediate context. The command to destroy them totally, as we see in Deuteronomy 7, is contextualized by the words, “Do not intermarry with them…for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods” (vv. 3–4 NIV). The aim of God’s command was not the obliteration of the wicked but the obliteration of wickedness.

Furthermore, let me say this: God’s martial instructions are qualified by His moral intent to spare the repentant. No greater example of that can be given than Rahab. Remember Rahab was a Canaanite. She was also a prostitute. Probably more well known for being a prostitute than a Canaanite, but Rahab and her whole family were allowed to live among the Israelites (Josh. 2:1–24; 6:1–26). Not only that, but Rahab the prostitute came to hold a privileged position in the lineage of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1–17; cf. v. 5), which underscores a very significant point, not only that God unequivocally commanded Israel to treat the aliens living among them with respect and equality (Deut. 24:14–15; 17–18) but that there are blessings for those who repent. Of course, the concern for foreigners clearly demonstrates that the mercy shown to those who by faith repented of their idolatry and were therefore grafted into true Israel is a maxim. It is a principle. Blessing for those who follow and cursing for those who rebel (Deut. 16:1–19; 27:19).

This idea that the Bible has been disproven comes as a direct of result of people not being able to read the Bible in the sense in which it is intended. Here is why I wrote my book Has God Spoken: Proof of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration. In the first half of that book, what I do is demonstrate that the Bible is divinely inspired. It is a trustworthy authority. But, in the second half of the book, I teach people the art and science of biblical interpretation so that these kinds of passages are not used to discredit the Bible but when they are you have an answer. This is one of the things that I lay out in some detail in Has God Spoken.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following:

How Can Christians Legitimize a God Who Orders the Genocide of Entire Nations? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Killing the Canaanites: A Response to the New Atheism’s “Divine Genocide” Claims (Clay Jones)

Was Israel Commanded to Commit Genocide? (Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan)

Also consult the following books:

Has God Spoken: Proofs of the Bible’s Divine Inspiration by Hank Hanegraaff

Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God by Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan

Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan

2 Responses to Canaanite DNA and the Reliability of the Bible

  1. John says:

    Hank,

    Would you have any good sources regarding the theory that Israelites were just Canaanites? It seems like a pre-supposed conclusion and theory, however it seems to be held by a lot of non-confessional scholars.

    In Christ
    John

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