🔼The name Canaan: Summary
- Land Of Purple
- International Trade, International Synchronicity
- From the term kinahnu, purple dye.
- From the verb כנע (kana), to be brought into synchronicity.
🔼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 ethnically diverse group of people) were displaced by Israel (Deuteronomy 7:1, but see our article on the Exodus for additional considerations). The ethnonym Canaanite appears to have applied mostly to people who lived in urban environments and in complex economies and stratified societies. People who lived in the territory of Canaan but rejected urban living and lived in rural tribal chiefdoms were referred to as Perizzites.
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 puris naturalibus 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 (Acts 7:11 and 13:19) and Canaanite (female) is spelled Χαναναια (Matthew 15:22). The masculine form Χαναναιος does not occur in the New Testament but both Matthew and Mark make mention of a Simon the Kanaanite (Κανανιτης; Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18). That epithet, however, has probably 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:
The verb כנע (kana') means to synchronize, or to give up individual leanings in order to unite more effectively as a group. Noun כנעה (kin'a) means bundle or pack.
Note that although this verb may have a negative taste to modern libertarians, this verb sits at the heart of all civilization, even the very formation of language, and sets free rather than enslaves.
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.
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.