from about 4000 B.C. a wave of Semitic migration poured out of Arabia, and flooded Babylonia certainly, and possibly, more or less, Syria and Palestine also. Also that between 2800 and 2600 B.C. a second wave from Arabia took the same course, covering not only Babylonia, but also Syria and Palestine and probably also Egypt (the Hyksos). It is soon after this that we meet with the great empire-builder and civilizer, Khammurabi (2267–2213), the first king of a united Babylonia. It is noteworthy that the first part of his name is identical with the name of the father of Canaan in Genesis (Ḥam or Kham), indicating his Arabian origin. It was he, too, who restored the ancient supremacy of Babylonia over Syria and Palestine, and so prevented the Babylonizing of these countries from coming to an abrupt end.
We now understand how the Phoenicians, whose ancestors arrived in the second Semitic migration, came to call their land “Canaan.” They had in fact the best right to do so. The first of the Canaanite immigrants were driven seawards by the masses which followed them. They settled in Phoenicia, and in after times became so great in commerce that “Canaanite” became a common Hebrew term for “merchant” (e.g. Isa. xxiii. 8). It is a plausible theory that in the conventional language of their inscriptions they preserved a number of geographical and religious phrases which, for them, had no clear meaning, and belonged properly to the land of their distant ancestors, Arabia. For their own traditions as to their origin see Phoenicia; we cannot venture to reject these altogether. The masses of immigrants which followed them may have borne the name of Amorites. A few words on this designation must here be given. Both within and without Palestine the name was famous.
First, as regards the Old Testament. We find “the Amorite” (a collective term) mentioned in the Table of Peoples (Gen. x. 16–18a) among other tribal names, the exact original reference of which had probably been forgotten. No one in fact would gather from this and parallel passages how important a part was played by the Amorites in the early history of Palestine. In Gen. xiv. 7 f., Josh. x. 5 f., Deut. i. 19 ff., 27, 44 we find them located in the southern mountain country, while in Num. xxi. 13, 21 f., Josh. ii 10, ix 10, xxiv. 8, 12, &c. we hear of two great Amorite kings, residing respectively at Heshbon and Ashtaroth on the east of the Jordan. Quite different, however, is the view taken in Gen. xv. 16, xlviii. 22, Josh. xxiv. 15, Judg. i. 34, Am. ii. 9, 10, &c., where the name of Amorite is synonymous with “Canaanite,” except that “Amorite” is never used for the population on the coast. Next, as to the extra-Biblical evidence. In the Egyptian inscriptions and in the Amarna tablets Amar and Amurru have a more limited meaning, being applied to the mountain-region east of Phoenicia, extending to the Orontes. Later on, Amurru became the Assyrian term for the interior of south as well as north Palestine, and at a still more recent period the term “the land of Hatti” (conventionally = Hittites) displaced “Amurru” so far as north Palestine is concerned (see Hittites).
Thus the Phoenicians and the Amorites belong to the first stage of the second great Arabian migration. In the interval preceding the second stage Syria with Palestine became an Egyptian dependency, though the links with the sovereign power were not so strong as to prevent frequent local rebellions. Under Thothmes III. and Amen-hotep II. the pressure of a strong hand kept the Syrians and Canaanites sufficiently loyal to the Pharaohs. The reign of Amen-hotep III., however, was not quite so tranquil for the Asiatic province. Turbulent chiefs began to seek their opportunities, though as a rule they did not find them because they could not obtain the help of a neighbouring king. The boldest of the disaffected was Aziru, son of Abdashirta, a prince of Amurru, who even before the death, of Amen-hotep III. endeavoured to extend his power into the plain of Damascus. Akizzi, governor of Katna (near Horns or Hamath), reported this to the Pharaoh who seems to have frustrated the attempt. In the next reign, however, both father and son caused infinite trouble to loyal servants of Egypt like Rib-Addi, governor of Gubla (Gebal).
It was, first, the advance of the Ḫatti (Hittites) into Syria, which began in the time of Amen-hotep III., but became far more threatening in that of his successor, and next, the resumption of the second Arabian migration, which most seriously undermined the Egyptian power in Asia. Of the former we cannot speak here (see Hittites), except so far as to remark the Abd-Ashirta and his son Aziru, though at first afraid of the Hatti, was afterwards clever enough to make a treaty with their king, and, with other external powers, to attack the districts which remained loyal to Egypt. In vain did Rib-Addi send touching appeals for aid to the distant Pharaoh, who was far too much engaged in his religious innovations to attend to such messages. What most interests us is the mention of troublesome invaders called some times sa-gas (a Babylonian ideogram meaning “robber”), sometimes Ḫabiri. Who are these Ḫabiri? Not, as was at first thought by some, specially the Israelites, but all those tribes of land-hungry nomads (“Hebrews”) who were attracted by the wealth and luxury of the settled regions, and sought to appropriate it for themselves. Among these we may include not only the Israelites or tribes which afterwards became Israelitish, but the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites. We meet with the Habiri in north Syria. Itakkama writes thus to the Pharaoh, “Behold, Namyawaza has surrendered all the cities of the king, my lord, to the Sa-gas in the land of Kadesh and in Ubi. But I will go, and if thy gods and thy sun go before me, I will bring back the cities to the king, my lord, from the Ḫabiri, to show myself subject to him; and I will expel the Sa-gas.” Similarly Zimrida, king of Sidon, declares, “All my cities which the king has given into my hand, have come into the hand of the Ḫabiri.” Nor had Palestine any immunity from the Arabian invaders. The king of Jerusalem, Abd-Ḫiba, the second part of whose name has been thought to represent the Hebrew Yahweh, reports thus to the Pharaoh, “If (Egyptian) troops come this year, lands and princes will remain to the king, my lord; but if troops come not, these lands and princes will not remain to the king, my lord.” Abd-Ḫiba’s chief trouble arose from persons called Milkili and the sons of Lapaya, who are said to have entered into a treasonable league with the Ḫabiri. Apparently this restless warrior found his death at the siege of Gina. All these princes, however, malign each other in their letters to the Pharaoh, and protest their own innocence of traitorous intentions. Namyawaza, for instance, whom Itakkama (see above) accuses of disloyalty, writes thus to the Pharaoh, “Behold, I and my warriors and my chariots, together with my brethren and my Sa-gas, and my Suti are at the disposal of the (royal) troops, to go whithersoever the king, my lord, commands.” This petty prince, therefore, sees no harm in having a band of Arabians for his garrison, as indeed Hezekiah long afterwards had his Urbi to help him against Sennacherib.
From the same period we have recently derived fresh and important evidence as to pre-Israelitish Palestine. As soon as the material gathered is large enough to be thoroughly classified and critically examined, a true history of early Palestine will be within measurable distance. At present, there are five places whence the new evidence has been obtained: 1. Tell-el-Hasy, generally identified with the Lachish of the Old Testament.
Excavations were made here in 1890–1892 by Flinders Petrie and Bliss. 2. Gezer, plausibly identified with the Gezer of I Kings ix. 16. Here R. A. S. Macalister began excavating in 1902. 3. Tell-eṣ-Ṣafy, possibly the Gath of the Old Testament, 6 m. from Eleutheropolis. Here F. J. Bliss and R. A. S. Macalister made
- For the grounds of these dates see Winckler, Gesch. Isr. i. 127 f.; Paton, Early Hist. of Syria and Palestine (1902), pp. 6-8, 25-28.
- It is true the Babylonians themselves interpreted the name differently (5 R. 44 a b 21), kimta rapashtum, “wide family.” That, however, is only a natural protest against what we may call Canaanism or Arabism.
- See Cheyne, Genesis and Exodus (on Gen. i. 26), and cf. G. A. Cooke, N. Sem. Inscriptions (e.g. pp. 30-40, on Eshmunazar’s inscription).
- See Amarna Letters, Winckler’s edition, No. 7.
- Op. cit. No. 146.
- Op. cit. No. 147.
- Johns, Assyrian Deeds, iii. p. 16.
- Amarna Letters, No. 180 (xi. 20-24).
- Ibid. No. 164 (xi. 15–18).
- Nomads of the Syrian desert.
- Amarna Letters, No. 144 (xi. 24-32).