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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Read more at Critical Realism and the New Testament

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

 

Hamas’s Deadly Escalation at the Gaza Border

Oct. 16 2018

Hamas’s weekly demonstration at the fence separating Gaza from Israel turned bloody last Friday, as operatives used explosives to blow a hole in the barrier and attempted to pass through. The IDF opened fire, killing three and scaring away the rest. Yoni Ben Menachem notes that the demonstrators’ tactics have been growing more aggressive and violent in recent weeks, and the violence is no longer limited to Fridays but is occurring around the clock:

The number of participants in the demonstrations has risen to 20,000. Extensive use has been made of lethal tactics such as throwing explosive charges and grenades at IDF soldiers, and there has been an increase in the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. At the same time, Hamas supplemented its burning tires with smoke generators at the border to create heavy smoke screens to shield Gazan rioters and allow them to get closer to the border fence and infiltrate into Israel. . . .

[S]ix months of ineffective demonstrations have not achieved anything connected with easing [Israel’s blockade of the Strip]. Therefore, Hamas has decided to increase military pressure on Israel. [Its] ultimate goal has not changed: the complete removal of the embargo; until this is achieved, the violent demonstrations at the border fence will continue.

Hamas’s overall objective is to take the IDF by surprise by blowing up the fence at several points and infiltrating into Israeli territory to harm IDF soldiers or abduct them and take them into the Gaza Strip. . . . The precedent of the 2011 deal in which one Israeli soldier was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners has strengthened the feeling within Hamas that Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for bringing back captured soldiers alive. . . . Hamas also believes that the campaign is strengthening its position in Palestinian society and is getting the international community to understand that the Palestinian problem is still alive. . . .

The Hamas leadership is not interested in an all-out military confrontation with Israel. The Gaza street is strongly opposed to this, and the Hamas leadership understands that a new war with Israel will result in substantial damage to the organization. Therefore, the idea is to continue with the “Return March” campaign, which will not cost the organization too much and will maintain its rule without paying too high a price for terror.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security