Did Israel Inhabit Canaan?

by Dewayne Bryant

The early history of Israel in Canaan is a particularly thorny issue for Christian apologists. Scholars often deny that the exodus happened and argue that archaeological evidence offers no evidence of the biblical conquest of Canaan. This silence, they claim, proves the biblical record false. Is the Bible legend, fiction, fairy-tale, or something else?

In 1896, the famed archaeologist Sir Flinders Petrie unearthed a black granite monument in Western Thebes (now residing in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo). Discovered in the mortuary temple of Merneptah (1213-1203 BC)—the son of the rather long-lived Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC)—the monument bears an inscription boasting of victories over various political entities in Canaan. He lists the names of his defeated foes, one of which he identifies by the name “Israel.” Most scholars view this as the first reference to ancient Israel in Egyptian sources. Egyptologist Miriam Lichtheim translates Merneptah’s famous boast…
 

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Did Israel Inhabit Canaan?