The Official Journal of the Ensign Trust, London





We can only begin to understand the society that existed in the land of Canaan in the Lord Jesus’s day if we understand what took place there during the several hundred years leading up to His arrival. The following is a very brief summary of the history of Canaan circa. 700-100 B.C.


When the House of Israel and some 200,000 of the House of Judah were taken captive to Assyria (beginning circa. 724 B.C.), the Assyrians brought all manner of foreign tribes in to occupy the land of Samaria:

‘And the king of Assyria brought men from Babylon, and from Cuthah, and from Ava, and from Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel: and they possessed Samaria, and dwelt in the cities thereof. “ (II Kings 17:24)

This was to prevent the House of Israel from returning to Samaria, and they never did. These foreign tribes intermarried with most of what few members of the House of Israel were left in the land (the berries on the uppermost branches etc, Isaiah 17:6) and became known as the Samaritans.


Following the removal of the remainder of the House of Judah by the Babylonians (beginning circa. 586 B.C.), the Edomites, who had actually assisted the Babylonians in capturing the Judahites, moved in to occupy the land of Judah, later known as Judaea, as did many other Canaanite tribes:

“After this {the Babylonian deportation of the remnant of the House of Judah} they {the Edomites} settled in southern Palestine {Judaea }, and for more than four  centuries  continued  to prosper.” (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, under ” Edom or Idumaea”)

“The Edomites pressed into the now empty lands in the South of Judah [ Judaea ] “ (International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, under ” Edom ; Edomites”)

The Return from Exile

 Ezra tells us that only a tiny remnant of the House of Judah [Jerusalem], less than 43,000, returned to Canaan following their 70 years in captivity in Babylon . That is less than one per cent of the total number of Israelites taken away captive (some six to nine million based on the number of fighting men). They were members of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin and Levi.

When this tiny band of Judahites arrived in Judaea they found it to be a very different place to that which they had left 70 years before. Ezra tells us that the returning Judahites were initially living in fear because of all the foreign peoples that were now living in Judaea, and even lists them for us (note that Esau, the twin brother of Jacob-Israel, had joined  himself through marriage to the Canaanites and Hittites, among others):

”And when the seventh month was come, and the children of Israel were in the cities, the people gathered themselves together as one man to Jerusalem …And they set the altar upon his bases; for fear was upon them because of the people of those countries.” (Ezra 3: 1 ,3, KJV)

“Now when these things were done, the princes came to me, saying, The people of Israel, and the priests, and the Levites, have not separated themselves from the people of the lands, doing according to their abominations, even of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. ” (Ezra 9:1, KJV)

There was so little room in Judaea that most of the Benjaminites among the returning Judahites had to leap-frog Samaria, which was also full of foreign tribes, and settle in the land of Galilee which was largely unoccupied at that time.

The Conversion

In 126 B.C. John Hyrcanus II, the last true Judahite heir to the throne of Judah in Canaan, defeated the Edomites militarily. Hyrcanus ordered that all Edomites in Judaea and Idumaea (Edom) circumcise themselves and convert to Hebrewism, the Israelite religion. The Edomites complied, and from that time on they became part  of the nation  of   Judah :”… during the warlike rule of the Maccabees they {the Edomites} were again completely subdued, and even forced to conform to Jewish laws and rites, and submit to the government of Jewish prefects. The Edomites  were now  incorporated  with  the  Jewish nation. (Smith’s Bible Dictionary, under “Edom, ldumaea  or  Idumea”)

“Hyrcanus took also Dora and Marissa, cities of ldumea, and subdued all the ldumeans; and permitted them to stay in that country, if they would circumcise their genitals, and make use of the laws of the Jews… they were hereafter no other than Jews. (Judahite historian Flavius Josephus:Antiquities of the Jews, Book XIII, Chapter IX, sec. I )

Although  known  from this time  on as “Judah” by name, these Edomite converts remained very much Edomites by race.

The Usurping

 The forced conversion of the Edomites was a disastrous decision for the House of Judah. The Edomite governor, Antipater the Idumaean, became procurator of Judaea, Galilee and Samaria.

Through collusion with the Romans he arranged for his Edomite son, Herod the Great, to usurp the throne of Judah. Herod assassinated John Hyrcanus II , killed all of the Levitical priests bar one, rebuilt the Temple according to his own ( not God’s) requirements and specifications and appointed his Edomite brethren into the Sanhedrin and the newly instigated sects known as the Pharisees and Sadducees:

“In 126 B.C the country was subdued by John Hyrcanus, who compelled the people to become Jews and to submit to circumcision. Antipater, governor of ldumaea, was made procurator of Judcea, Samaria and Galilee by Julius Caesar. He paved the way to the throne for his son Herod the Great. With the fall of Judah under the Romans [ 70 A .D . ] , ldumaea disappears from history.”(International  Standard  Bible  Encyclopaedia, under “Edom; Edomites”)

“For there are three philosophical sects among the Jews. The followers of the first of which are the Pharisees; of the second, the Sadducees; and the third sect… are called Essenes. These last are Jews [properly “of Judah”] by  birth,  and seem  to have  a greater affection for one another than the other sects have.” (Flavius Josephus, The War Of The Jews, Book II, Chapter VIII, Sec. 2)

[ Note: Not all of the Pharisees were Edomites. For example, the apostle Paul was a Pharisee,  although  he was an Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin. Nicodemus is another possible exception.]

The Supplanting of Hebrewism

The  Edomite Pharisees,  now  in  control  of the Temple, began teaching a new,  Babylonian  based  religion known as Pharisaism which replaced Hebrewism, the true Israelite religion of the Old Testament Israelites as instituted by God and administered by the Levitical  priesthood in accordance with  His will:

“With the destruction of the Temple (A.D. 70) the Sadducees disappeared altogether, leaving the regulation of all Jewish affairs in the hands of the Pharisees. Henceforth, Jewish life was regulated by the Pharisees; the whole history of Judaism was reconstructed from the Pharisaic point of view, and a new aspect was given to the Sanhedrin of the past. A new chain of tradition supplanted the older priestly tradition.

Pharisaism shaped the character of Judaism and the life and thought of the Jew for all the future. (The Jewish Encyclopaedia, 1905, under “Pharisees”)

This new religion of Pharisaism was later written down in the Babylonian Talmud and became known as Judaism long after the New Testament was written (there was no such thing as Judaism in Biblical times).

The Result

By the time Jesus Christ appeared on the scene, the Edomite usurpers had control of the land, the throne, the Temple and the religion of Judah. This was in confirmation of the prophesy spoken by Isaac, Esau’s father, before He died. Esau was mourning the loss of the birthright promises and blessings that had been his, but which he had sold to his younger brother Jacob for a bowl of lentils. In comforting his favourite son, Isaac said:

”And by thy sword shalt thou live, and shalt serve thy brother [Jacob-Israel]; and it shall come to pass when thou shalt have the dominion [the Kingdom], that thou shalt break his yoke from off thy neck .” (Genesis 27:40)

The fact that Esau-Edom had indeed usurped the Kingdom is confirmed by the words of the Lord Jesus Christ when He said to the Jews:

“Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. “ (Matthew 21:43, KJV)

That “nation” (not “the church” as the preachers falsely claim) was none other than the rightful heirs to the Kingdom, the nation of Israel who at that time were already settling the great wilderness of Europe and Scandinavia, the “many nations” promised to their forefather Abraham.