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Israel's Enemies at the Time of the Conquest of the Promised Land

Julian Spriggs M.A.

God promised Abraham that he would be given the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and the Jebusites (Gen 15:17-21). There are several lists of the peoples Israel will drive out of the land. There is a core of six peoples: Hittites, Perizzites, Ammonites, Hivites, Canaanites, and Jebusites. These six are listed in: Ex 3:8 & 17, 13:5 (omits Perizzites), 23:23, 33:2, 34:11, Deut 20:17, Josh 9:1, 12:8, and Judges 3:5. There is one shorter list of Hittites, Canaanites & Hivites only (Ex 23:28). Some lists add the Girgashites to the normal six: Deut 7:1, Josh 3:10, 24:11, Neh 9:8 (omits Hivites)


When the twelve spies returned to Moses at Kadesh Barnea, their report was that the Amalekites dwell in the land of the Negeb, the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites dwell in the hill country and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the Jordan (Num 13:29).

During the conquest of the north, Jabin of Hazor called the following to fight Israel: the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Mt. Hermon in land of Mizpah (Josh 11:3)

The Kenites

The Kenites are also known as Midianites (Num 10:29-30). Their name means "Smith". The Midianites were descendants of Midan, the son of Abraham through Keturah (Gen 25:2). They came from the area south-east of the Gulf of Aqabah, where there were copper mines. Moses became the son-in-law of Reuel (Ex 2:18), also known as Jethro (Ex 3:1), the Midianite. Moses invited Hobab, the son of Reuel, to join the Israelites and teach them how to live in the wilderness (Num 10:29). His descendants are mentioned in Judges 1:16.

Sisera was murdered by Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, who drove a tent peg into his head (Judges 4:11, 5:24). Heber had separated himself from the Kenites and had linked with the Canaanite king Jabin, who oppressed the Israelites while Deborah was judge. Balaam mentions the Kenites (Num 24:21-22), predicting that Asshur will take them captive. Asshur could mean the Assyrians or the Amorites.

Saul spared the Kenites during his campaign against the Amalekites, warning them to depart (1 Sam 15:6). David made Achish of the Philistines think he had raided them (1 Sam 27:10) and later sent them spoil from the Amalekites (1 Sam 30:29). The Rechabites who were commended by Jeremiah (Jer 35) and helped Nehemiah rebuild the walls (Neh 3:14) were descendants of the Kenites (1 Chr 2:55).

The Kenizzites and the Kadmonites

They are not mentioned after Gen 15. By the time of Moses, the Kenites, Kenizzites and Kadmonites are not mentioned on the list of nations in the land. Caleb was the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite (Num 32:12).

Family tree

From the Table of the Nations (Gen 10:15) and 1 Chr 1:11, the ancestry of the enemies are given:
The sons of Ham - Cush, Egypt and Canaan,
the sons of Egypt - Casluhim and Philistines,
and the sons of Canaan - Jebusites, Amorite, Girgashites, and Hivites.
One of the sons of Esau, called Eliphaz, had a concubine Timna who bore Amalek, and ancestor of the Amalekites (Gen 36:12).

The other peoples are mentioned as Joshua was about to enter the land. They can be divided into four groups: Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Canaanites.

The Hittites

The Hittites came from a powerful people that lived in the region of modern day Turkey, having entered Asia Minor around 2000 BC, then spreading out and dominating northern Syria. Egypt was their main rival, who dominated southern Syria. Their way of controlling northern Syria was by controlling the small but important city-states with a combination of military force and good diplomacy. They created a vast network of vassal states bound by the Hittite suzerain treaties, a kind of benevolent feudalism. Each vassal king was given a free hand in matters of internal rule and the guaranteed protection of his dynasty against usurpers. He in turn gave up the right to have an independent foreign policy and pledged an annual amount of tribute to the Hittite capital.

The stipulations section of the treaty included:
a) No foreign alliances outside of Hittite orbit
b) No hostility against another vassal of the Hittites
c) Obligation to answer any call to arms issued by the Hittite Suzerain
d) Obligation to suppress any vicious rumours about the Hittite crown or secret plots to rebel
e) Prohibition against granting asylum to refugees from Hittite lands
f) Obligation to extradite all fugitives to the Hittites,
g) Obligation to appear personally at least once a year at Hittite court with tribute.

Groups of Hittites lived in the hill country of the promised land (Num 13:29). They worshipped up to a thousand different gods. The Hittites were with Israel throughout the OT period. Abraham bought the place of Sarah's burial from Ephron the Hittite who was living in Hebron (Gen 23). This became the burial site of the patriarchs: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and wives (Gen 49:29). Esau married two wives, one of whom was a daughter of a Hittite (Gen 26:34, 36:2).

Their influence was especially great around 1450-1200 BC. God promises the Hittites into the hands of Israel but because of Israel forsaking the Lord they were left in the land (Judges 3:5). David had Ahimelech the Hittite in his band of outlaws (1 Sam 26:6). David sinned with the wife of Uriah the Hittite (1 Sam 11-12), Uriah was one of David's mighty men (1 Chr 11:4). Solomon used the Hittites for forced labour (1 Kg 9:20-22) and exported Egyptian chariots to the Hittites and Syrians, north of Israel (1 Kg 10:29). He also had Hittite wives (1 Kg 11:1). The Hittites were still a force in days of Jehoram and Elisha (850 BC) (2 Kg 7:6). The Hittite empire fell to the "sea people" in 1190 B.C.

The Perizzites

The Perizzites and Canaanites are frequently mentioned together. It may have been a general name for hill dwellers. They are lived with the Canaanites near Bethel and Ai (Gen 13:7) and they dwelt with the Jebusites in the hill country (Josh 11:3). The tribe of Joseph was told to take the land of the Rephaim and Perizzites (Josh 17:15). Judah and Simeon attacked and defeated the Perizzites and Canaanites to take the territory of Judah, capturing King Adonibezek and cutting off his thumbs and toes. They were among those still left in the land in Ezra's time (Ezra 9:1).

The Rephaim or Anakim - (Heb. giants)

This people were a tribe of giants descended from Anak, who lived in the land. Their height was legendary, the Moabites and Ammonites lived in a land previously occupied by the Emin, who were as great and tall as the Anakim (Deut 2:11). King Og of Bashan was the last of the remnant of the Rephaim. He slept in a bedstead of iron, nine cubits long and 4 cubits wide (Deut 3:11, Josh 12:4, 13:12). The land of Bashan was also known as the land of the Rephaim. The town of Hebron was also known as Kiriath-arba, Arba was the father of Anak (Josh 15:14, 21:11). The valley of Rephaim formed the boundary between Judah and Benjamin (Josh 15:8, 18:16), where later David fought the Philistines (2 Sam 5:18,22).

The Rephaim were subdued by Chedorlaomer and the four kings from the east (Gen 14:5). The twelve spies reported seeing three descendants of Anak (or Nephilim). They felt as grasshoppers before them (Num 13:22,33, Deut 1:28). Moses warns the Israelites that they are about to enter the land of a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, reminding them of a saying, "Who can stand against the sons of Anak?" (Deut 9:2)

Joshua wiped the Anakim out of the hill country, but some escaped to the Philistines (Josh 11:21-22). Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak (Josh 15:14, Judges 1:20). The tribe appears to have lost its separate existence among the Philistines. Perhaps Goliath was a descendent of the Anakim, now living with the Philistines (6 cubits = 9 ft). Jeremiah's prophecy against the Philistines addresses them as the remnant of the Anakim (Jer 47:5)

The Canaanites

The term Canaanites was given to the various groups that lived in the promised land (Gen 10:15). They are descendants of Noah through Ham. Canaan was cursed to be a slave of his brothers by Noah after the incident when Noah was drunk and lay naked (Gen 9:25). They lived in various places among the other inhabitants of the land, especially on the low land (Num 13:29).

The following are descendants of Canaan (Gen 10:17, 1 Chr 1:15):

The Hivites

A peaceable business people, probably nomadic. They dwelt on Mount Lebanon and other northern mountains (Josh 11:3, Judges 3:3). David's census found them near Tyre and Sidon (2 Sam 24:7). Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah was raped by Shechem the Hivite. The reprisals caused trouble between Jacob and the local inhabitants (Gen 34). Esau married two wives, one of whom was a daughter of a Hivite (Gen 36:2). The men of Gibeon, who deceived Israel into thinking they came from far away, were Hivites (Josh 9:7, 11:19). Solomon used them as forced labour (1 Kg 9:20, 2 Chr 8:7).

The Girgashites

Little is known about them, but tradition says they fled to Africa.


It is important not to confuse these people with the Ammonites. Amorites was a general name for peoples from east of Dead Sea. The land of the Amorites was a general term for the promised land (eg. Amos 2:9-10). Gen 15:16 says that the iniquity of the Amorites was not complete (a general term). They originally came from Mesopotamia around 1875-1425 BC. At one time, the Amorites had a large kingdom that included Assyria and Babylonia. Much of their kingdom was on the east of Jordan. In 1380-1345 the Amorite king became a vassal of the Hittites. In 1792 BC Hammurabi, an Amorite, was king of Babylonia.

Abraham made an alliance with them against the four kings of the east (Gen 14:7,13). The spies reported that Amorites lived in the hill country (Num 13:29). The Israelites defeated Sihon, king of the Amorites and Og, king of Bashan, also described as an Amorite (Num 21:21-30). This victory was remembered as a significant event in Israel's history (Judges 11:19-23, Ps 135:11, 136:19). The half tribe of Manasseh was given the land of the Amorites, from the valley of the Arnon to Mount Hermon (Num 32:33).

Amorites were resident in Ai (Josh 7:7) and the hill country (Josh 11:3). During the conquest of the south, five kings of the Amorites (Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon) made war against Gibeon (Hivites) because they had made a covenant with Israel. The Lord killed them with hailstones (Josh 10:5). In the days of Samuel, there was peace between Israel and the Amorites (1 Sam 7:14). Solomon used them as forced labour (1 Kg 9:20, 2 Chr 8:7).

Israel was warned not to worship the gods of the Amorites (Judges 6:10). Amorites were used as an example of idolatry, Ahab's idolatry was like the Amorites (1 Kg 21:26) and Manasseh was more wicked than the Amorites (2 Kg 21:10).

The Jebusites

This group, among other places, lived in the city of Jerusalem (Josh 15:63). It was a key city, hard to conquer and was never taken until David's day, even though the army of Jerusalem was destroyed in Joshua's time (Josh 10). The Jebusites were not driven out, but dwelt with the people of Judah (Josh 15:63, Judges 1:21). David took the city by getting up the water shaft (2 Sam 5:6-10, 1 Chr 11:4-6). It was from a Jebusite that David purchased the land to build a temple after an angel appeared there after the plague sent as a result of David's census (2 Sam 24:18, 1 Chr 21:15-18). Solomon used Jebusites for forced labour (1 Kg 9:20, 2 Chr 8:7). The spies reported seeing them in the hill country, along with Hittites and Amorites (Num 13:29).

Other significant enemies:

The Philistines

It is thought that the Philistines came from the island of Crete after the collapse of the Minoan Empire. In Egyptian inscriptions, they were called the 'sea peoples'. They failed to invade Egypt, so they settled along the coast of Palestine from Joppa to Gaza. Their five leading cities were Ekron, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Gaza. The Philistines had a more advanced material civilisation than the Israelites and were able to produce tools and implements made of iron. The Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen their farm implements (1 Sam 13:19).

Jer 47:4 connects the Philistines and Caphtor in Hebrew parallelism. The Caphtorim came from Caphtor and settled on the sea coast (Deut 2:23). Likewise in Zeph 2:5 the Philistines are connected to the Cerethites, who are thought to come from Crete or that area. Pictures of their armour, especially their distinctive feathered head-dress is found on Egyptian reliefs. The name Palestine is derived from Philistia, the land of the Philistines.

The Philistines were a group of people in the promised land that Joshua never conquered (Josh 13:2). They became one of the main enemies of Israel with about 270 references in the Bible. Abraham dwelt in the land of the Philistines (Gen 21:34). Abimelech was the king of the Philistines (Gen 26:1). Both Abraham and Isaac in turn made a covenant with him. They were a constant problem to Israel.

God used the Philistines, among others, to discipline the people of Israel. Just before Eli died, they captured the ark and God retrieved it by divine judgment (1 Sam 5-6). Saul had some victories against them, but they finally beat Saul at the Battle of Mount Gilboa, when Saul killed himself rather than be humiliated by the Philistines (1 Sam 31). In David's day they were totally subdued. Not much is heard of them after that time, apart from a prophecy against them in Zechariah ch 9. Pompey incorporated them into the province of Syria in 62 BC.

The Amalekites

The Amalekites were a nomadic people from the Sinai and Negeb area. Amalek was the grandson of Esau (Gen 36:12, 1 Chr 1:36). The mention of the land of the Amalekites in Gen 14:7 is most probably a later editorial addition, possibly by Moses or Ezra.

The first battle after the exodus was against the Amalekites at Rephidim in Sinai (Ex 17). As long as Aaron and Hur held up Moses' hands Israel were victorious. The Lord promised to utterly wipe out Amalek (Ex 17:14). This was a major defeat, as no archaeological evidence for the Amalekites has been found after this date.

The twelve spies reported finding Amalekites in the Negeb (Num 13:29). When some Israelites disobeyed Moses and enter the land, they were defeated by Amalekites and Canaanites at Hormah (Num 14:39-45). Balaam prophesied that Amalek, the first of the nations (origin or status?) will come to destruction (Num 24:20).

King Eglon of Moab gathered Ammonites and Amalekites to defeat and oppress Israel, until judge Ehud delivered Israel by assassinating Eglon, while he was relieving himself (Judges 3:13). The Amalekites later raided Israel with the Midianites, taking their flocks and grain, like locusts, until God raised up Gideon as the deliverer (Judges 6:3).

The Amalekites caused king Saul's final downfall when he disobeyed God by failing to kill them all, and sparing king Agag (1 Sam 15). David later raided Amalekites while he lived with king Achish in the land of the Philistines (1 Sam 27) - obviously Saul spared more than just their king.

In the story of Esther, Haman, the bad guy and enemy of Mordecai, is described as an Agagite, possibly a descendent of Agag (Esther 3:1). Saul's disobedience possibly almost lead to a tragedy 600 years later. After Amalekite raids on Ziglag, David pursued them, killing all but 400 and recovering his wives (1 Sam 30). An Amalekite brought David news of Saul's death, saying he had killed Saul himself. David killed him for slaying the Lord's anointed (2 Sam 1:1). In the days of Hezekiah, Simeon destroyed the remnant of the Amalekites in the stronghold of Mt. Seir (Edom) (1 Chr 4:43).

The Ammonites and Moabites

These are descendants of Lot, by his daughters (Gen 19:37).


These are the descendants of Esau


God gave Israel a warning that if they did not destroy the people in the land they would be “pricks in your eyes and thorns in your side” (Num 33:50-56). Joshua led the people over the Jordan and destroyed many cities and peoples (Josh 12). Joshua subdued the land, but not all the people died in it (Josh 11:21-23). Josh 13:1-7 gives us a list of land still to be possessed. Joshua divided up the land and it was the task of the tribes to possess it (Josh 23:4-13). In Judges the tribes seek to drive them out. Judah and the house of Joseph has success, but others fail (Judg 1:27-36). This was because the people did not break down the altars (Judg 2:2) and served Baal (Judg 2:11ff). Judg 3:3f gives us a list of nations left in the land. Judg 3:5-6 is one of the saddest verses as the promise was not fulfilled. The land was not totally theirs. They co-habited it with the various Canaanite, Hittite, and Perizzite groups. The promise of Num 33:55-56 was fulfilled.

The type of sins the Canaanites were involved in are mentioned in the Bible. This gives us an idea of the type of life in Canaan before Israel got there. Deut 9:4-5 makes it clear the nations were involved in gross wickedness. God's judgment was pending for many years (Gen 15:14-16). Lev 18:1ff give us a list of the horrors of everyday practice in the land (Lev 18:24). Sexual sins, child sacrifice, homosexuality, and perversion with animals are listed. Deut 18:9-14 add witchcraft and the occult to the list.