Sunday, November 13, 2005

Canaanites in Israel

A classic piece of evidence for the post-Mosaic writing of the Torah is in last week's Torah portion. Gen. 12:6 "והכנעני אז בארץ And the Canaanites were then in the land."

Cassutto points out that there are three ways to understand this statement:

1. The Canaanites were still in the land at that time, but not at the time of the writing of the text. This is how modern critics understand the text.

2. The Canaanites were already in the land at that time, i.e. they had conquered it from those who had previously settled in it. This is how Rashi understood the text.

3. The Canaanites were, at that specific time, in the land. The land was not barren -- Canaanites were there -- so Avraham could not immediately become the ruler of the land. This is how Cassuto understood the passage, as well as Benno Jacob. I believe that the Pesikta Zutrasi (cited in Torah Shelemah, ad loc. no. 109) also understood the phrase in a similar way.

Frankly, while this passage could be read within the context of a late authorship of the Torah, I see no compulsion to do so. This is not a verse that should scare traditional believers in the Torah.

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