Review: Volkmar Fritz on the Israelite Settlement of Canaan -- By: Bryant G. Wood

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 01:1 (Winter 1988)
Article: Review: Volkmar Fritz on the Israelite Settlement of Canaan
Author: Bryant G. Wood

Review: Volkmar Fritz on the Israelite Settlement of Canaan

Bryant G. Wood

In today’s climate of biblical scholarship, the vast majority believe that the Israelites first appeared in the land of Canaan at the end of the 13th century BC. Those who take the Bible seriously (a distinct minority), however, object to this dating since it conflicts with the Bible’s own internal chronology which would place that event about 200 years earlier.

In a recent review of the archaeological evidence from the beginning of the Iron Age (12th century BC), German scholar Volkmar Fritz has made an important contribution to our understanding of the Israelite settlement in “Conquest or Settlement?: The Early Iron Age in Palestine,” Biblical Archaeologist, 50/2, June, 1987.

Fritz concludes that the material culture of the small settlements from the 12th century BC, many of which undoubtedly were Israelite, was a continuation of Late Bronze Age material culture (with the exception of architectural design). This continuity, argues Fritz, “is best explained by intensive, prolonged contact with the Canaanite culture. This contact must have occurred in the Late Bronze [Age]” (p. 97). He further concludes that the Israelite tribes were not entirely nomadic prior to the advent of permanent villages:

“The various groups that settled in the country from the 12th century onward cannot merely be regarded as former nomads. Periods of a partially sedentary life must have interspersed their nomadic existence; otherwise the wide-ranging adoption of Canaanite culture during the last phase of the Late Bronze Age cannot be explained” (p.98).

Fritz goes on to point out that, according to the Bible, particularly Judges 1, the Canaanites continued to live among the Israelite tribes for a considerable length of time after Israel’s entry into the country. This can only be explained, he says, by the fact that the country was “occupied by a process of settlement that took place over a longer period of time” (p.99).

Fritz’ reconstruction is exactly what one would expect, based on the information given in Exodus-Judges. Prior to their entry into Canaan, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years and prior to that they were slaves in Egypt. As a result, they had no material culture of their own. There were no potters to make pottery, no masons to build houses, and so on. After they entered the Promised Land, the Israelites lived in tents side-by-side with Canaanites for a prolonged period. It was during this time of “symbiosis” that the Israelites learned their crafts, probably from the Canaanites.

Fritz’ conclusions are especially important because...

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