DNA Sequencing of Ancient Canaanite Remains Raises Many New Questions About The Accuracy of The Known Biblical Reference

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With little textual records documenting the Canaanites, their origins and relationship to ancient and present-day civilizations are ambiguous. Using DNA sequencing, a group of genomes from 99 individuals were sequenced from today's Lebanon. The individuals were ancient burials dated using radiocarbon methods. The intent was to "catalog modern Levantine genetic diversity." [i]

The Canaanite gate in Tel dan, North Israel.INature.Info/Wikimedia Commons

The author states that the results indicate that "present-day Lebanese derive most of their ancestry from a Canaanite-related population, which implies substantial genetic continuity in the Levant since at least the Bronze Age." The author asserts that,

The Bible reports the destruction of the Canaanite cities and the annihilation of its people; if true, the Canaanites could not have directly contributed genetically to present-day populations. No archaeological evidence has so far been found to support widespread destruction of Canaanite cities between the Bronze and Iron Ages...Cities such as Sidon show continuity of occupation until the present day."

Watch the video below for more detail on precisely who the Canaanites were.

Biblical scholars have disputed the claims that genome sequencing indicates an inaccuracy in the Bible's reference to the conquest of Canaan under Joshua. As the author cites that no archaeological evidence corroborates that the city was physically destroyed, Biblical scholars point to Deuteronomy 6:10-11, which reads,

When the Lord your God brings you into the land he wore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you--a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant..." [vii]
Moses and the Messengers from CanaanGiovanni Lanfranco/Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

They also assert that God did not intend for the cities to be physically destroyed but rather that they were left structurally intact. Scholars also refute the idea that genome sequencing discredits the Bible. They assert that the Israelite conquest under Joshua happened mostly along the hill country and Galilee, with regions from Gaza to Sidon remaining largely unscathed by the Israelites and under Canaanite rule. [ii]

Sidon's Se Castle, Sidon, Saida, Lebanon.Vyacheslav Argenberg/Wikimedia Commons

Scholars further question the theory proposed by the genome sequencing as the Bible indicates that the Israelites did not drive out all of the Canaanites, as illustrated in Judges 1:19 stating, "They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains because they had chariots fitted with iron." [iii] [iv]

Joshua 17:12 also says, "[They] were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region." Judges 3:2-3 also mentions the nations left, which included "the Sidonians...living in the Lebanon mountains," which scholars assert explains why cities such as Sidon would exhibit continuity of occupation." Scholars further assert that the historical conquering of the people could lead to genetic mixing resulting in surviving Canaanite descendants. [v] [vi]


[i] Marc Haber et al., Continuity and Admixture in the Last Five Millennia of Levantine History from Ancient Canaanite and Present-Day Lebanese Genome Sequences, (Aug. 3, 2017)

[ii] Paul Giem, Bible Says Israelites Didn't Exterminate Sidonians, (Feb. 01, 2018)

[iii] Id.

[iv] Bible Gateway, Judges 1:19 - NIV, (Accessed: 2022)

[v] Bible Gateway, Joshua 17:12 - NIV, (Accessed: 2022)

[vi] Bible Gateway, Judges 3:2-3 - NIV, (Accessed: 2022)

[vii] Bible Gateway, Deuteronomy 6:10-11 - NIV, (Accessed: 2022)

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