Canaan meaning | Canaan etymology

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The name Canaan in the Bible

Canaan was the name of the fourth son of Ham, the youngest son of Noah, the father of all humanity (Genesis 9:18). This Canaan would give his name to the much coveted country of Canaan and the people who live there. The original Canaanites (an ethically diverse group of people) were displaced by Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1, but see our article on the Exodus for additional considerations).

Canaan became the recipient of a curious curse that made him the perpetual servant of his two uncles Japheth and Shem. After having survived the flood and their 230 days stay in the Ark (40 days of rain, 150 days of floating, 40 days of drying) Noah planted a vineyard (a common symbol of general human culture), made wine and got drunk, and lay naked in his tent. Then not Canaan but Ham, the father of Canaan, saw Noah naked and quipped about it to Shem and Japheth. The two older brothers walked into their father's tent backwards and covered Noah without looking at him.

When Noah awoke he learned what Ham had done but then lashed out at Canaan, Ham's fourth son. He decreed that Japheth should become large but live in the tents of Shem, but Canaan should be the servant of all of them. Why Noah became so upset with Canaan instead of Ham is not told.

Canaan's brothers were Cush (the Biblical name for Ethiopia), Mizraim (the Biblical name for Egypt) and Put. Canaan's eleven sons as listed in 1 Chronicles 1:13 are also all known nations, among whom Sidon, Heth, Jebusites (who owned Jerusalem — Joshua 10:1, 2 Samuel 5:6 ), Amorites, Hivites.

In the Greek New Testament the name Canaan is spelled Χανααν and Canaanite is spelled Χαναναιος. Both Matthew and Mark make mention of a Simon the Kanaanite (Κανανιτης; Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18), but that epithet probably has nothing to do with the country Canaan. See our article on the name Kanaanite for more details.

Etymology of the name Canaan

The name Canaan may have been original — meaning "land of purple," says HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, which relates it to Phoenicia, also meaning purple — and turned proverbial, but it may also have been taken from the Hebrew verb כנע (kana) and projected back upon this person. Either way, in the Biblical contexts, the name Canaan surely has to do with the Hebrew verb כנע (kana) meaning to be brought into synchronicity:

Abarim Publications Theological Dictionary

The Old Testament's passion for reaching the "land of Canaan" may have a very clear connotation of reaching the blissful situation of international synchronicity.

Being located on the bridge between three continents, he historical people of Canaan maintained a flowering culture of trade. Thus the words כנען, meaning Canaan, and כנעני, meaning Canaanite, acquired the additional meaning of trade or merchant (Zephaniah 1:11, Ezekiel 16:29). See our article on the name Abraham for a closer look at the rise of trade between states.

Canaan meaning

For a meaning of the name Canaan, NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads Low. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Merchant or Servant.

Here at Abarim Publications we would interpret the name Canaan as International Trade or International Synchronicity.

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