What Canaanite and Lebanese Genes Do, and Don’t, Say about the Bible

Using DNA extracted from ancient skeletons found near the Lebanese city of Sidon, scientists have concluded that the modern-day inhabitants of Lebanon derive 93 percent of their genomes from their Canaanite predecessors. Breathless reports in the popular press ignored the fact that archaeologists and linguists have long considered the Phoenicians—ancient inhabitants of what is now Lebanon—to be one of many Canaanite peoples, and that the new research only confirms what has long been thought. Equally unfounded is the repeated statement that the new evidence disproves biblical accounts of the extermination of the Canaanites. Jonathan Bernier sets the record straight:

The biblical text records the God of Israel commanding the ancient Israelites to destroy all the Canaanites, and we also find in the text assurances that He will deliver them into Israel’s hands. That, however, is not the same as saying that it happened. . . . And indeed, the books of Joshua and Judges make clear that certain portions of the population were not wiped out, and throughout the subsequent historical writings we again and again see “indigenous” Canaanite populations and persons playing a significant role in Israelite history. The biblical writers acknowledge that the Canaanites were not wiped out. They acknowledge, and they lament—for they see these people of the land as perhaps ultimately the single most significant external threat to Israel’s existence. . . .

Looking more specifically at the details in this study, we find that the ancient material used to produce the DNA profile came from Sidon. Now, that’s . . . quite significant, as the book of Joshua never reports that Sidon was destroyed, while Judges 1:31 lists it explicitly as a city that was never conquered by Israel. Moreover, Sidon appears repeatedly as a non-Israelite city throughout the balance of the Hebrew Bible. In other words, . . . there is no biblical claim that the people of Sidon were ever wiped out and in fact a biblical awareness that they weren’t. Far from contesting the biblical claims on the matter, the DNA confirms them. . . .

Although I have never made a systematic study of the matter, I am generally impressed by the extent to which various streams of data tend to cohere when it comes not just to biblical history but to ancient history more generally.

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More about: Archaeology, Canaanites, Genetics, Hebrew Bible, History & Ideas, Lebanon

 

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times