Caanan Land

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by Sherry Chamblee

Way back when Joseph and his brothers had moved to Egypt from Canaan, there’s a little story stuck in there about the sons of Ephraim. Remember, Ephraim is Joseph’s Egyptian-born son. Yet this story in Exodus has some of Ephraim’s sons (or grandsons) stealing some cattle from a tribe in Gath. Gath is in Philistine country – in Canaan. (I Chronicles 7) The two regions were only about an 11-day journey apart, and back then, journeys routinely took longer. It may not have been all that big of a deal for the Hebrews to travel back and forth on a regular basis between their new home in Egypt and their old land-holdings in Canaan. After all, they’d left the place voluntarily due to the famine, they’d still have owned those lands they’d left behind.

(Yes, they “owned” land then – the Bible very frequently talks about buying and selling land to each other, not being allowed to cross certain lands, or having to gain permission to use a well on someone else’s property. They had a clear culture across societies of land ownership.)

So this got me to thinking – the Hebrews didn’t go to Egypt and immediately give up their own sovereignty. For several generations at least it looks like they maintained a presence of some sort back in Canaan. After all, why would Ephraim’s sons be back in Gath unless that area somewhere was still considered land holdings of the sons of Jacob?  

Also in this passage is the interesting little nugget about Ephraim’s granddaughter, Sheerah. She built both Upper- and Lower Beth-Horon, as well as Uzzen-sheerah, all of which are in the mountains above Jerusalem – back in Canaan – further evidence that at least some of the close descendants of Ephraim had either settled back in Canaan again, or traveled back and forth between Canaan and Egypt during their lifetimes.

While this is speculation, it helps illustrate something – the Hebrew dependence on Egypt started with one step. It didn’t immediately go to slavery. It was a process. The more time they spent in Egypt, the weaker grew their hold on the lands in Canaan. Yes, by the time we meet Moses, they were in complete subjection to the Egyptians, but that was 420 years after Joseph’s time. In the beginning they were free to come and go as they pleased. The thing is, they got comfortable in Egypt.

Canaan was a symbol of the promised land in the Old Testament – the Hebrews were losing their hold on the promised land. The promised land is NOT salvation – it’s the symbol of a place of close fellowship with God. The more time they spent in “Egypt”, the less time they spent in the Promised Land.  

The more time we spend in the “world,” the less time we’ll want to spend in close fellowship with God.

Where are we getting comfortable? Am I comfortable in Egypt? Or am I comfortable in the Promised Land?

About the Author:

Sherry Chamblee

Sherry grew up in various cities around northern and central California. This gave her all sorts of stories that sat and festered in her brain, waiting to be let loose. She eventually went to college in Wisconsin, where she met her equally frenetic husband, Rich. They have six (yes, count them) children, two dogs and a cat, and currently reside in a madhouse in the southern California area. As a family, they enjoy being active in their local church. Sherry spends her time writing when not caring for Granny, the kids, the dogs, the cat and any number of strays in the neighborhood.

Sherry Chamblee can be found at Or check out her books at

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