Biblical Nations - Girgashites


Key Scripture: Joshua 24:11

Figures: none

You may have noticed there are a variety of "Key Scriptures" that all deal with the inhabitants of the Promised Land, rather than a simple repetition the same passage each week.  It's been my hope that by looking up each one of these you'll get to see a wider range of God's communication with his people, first promising to provide a place for them, then commanding them how to act, and finally following through on His side of the covenant.  This week we delve into the mystery of the Girgashites, a group of people who are listed among the nations who Israel is to destroy and dispossess.  Biblically and historically, however, not much is known for certain about the group.  As such, we'll look into where they came from and explore some of the ideas that have been developed about their movements and ultimate destiny.

Like other groups inhabiting the land where Joshua and the Hebrew people invaded, the Girgashites were descendants of Ham's son Canaan.  Consequently, they were under the same curse that Noah had levelled against his disrespectful son.  There was a tribe that resided in Anatolia (modern Turkey) alongside the Hittites during the Bronze Age, from roughly 1750-1150 BC, named the Qaraqisha who joined their neighbors in the struggle against an Egyptian incursion under Ramses II in the century prior to the Israelite Exodus.  Some scholars believe the name could represent the same people, and if so then some of their families are suspected to have migrated south and settled near the Sea of Galilee.  Their name is thought to reference a people who dwelt in a land of clay soil, which would align with the mineral deposits that are found around that particular region.

Interestingly, the Girgashites are not specifically mentioned during the wars of conquest under Joshua or later judges of Israel, and we don't know of any individuals by name who were part of that race.  The obvious fact that the Hebrew people did possess whatever territory the Girgashites originally claimed has led some Jewish commentators to speculate that they may have fled in fear because of what God allowed His people to accomplish.  The possibility that they left Canaan behind and journeyed into northern Africa, west of the extents of Egyptian control, is intriguing because it could mean they were among the people who founded Carthage.  The Carthaginians were known to be a Semitic people who spoke Canaanite, and who likely included refugees from Phoenicia which is just west of the region around the Sea of Galilee that was previously linked to the Girgashites.  The Punic religion practiced there closely mirrored the practices that God said were unacceptable for the Hebrew people, including worship of Baal and Ashtart, as well as accusations by both Greek and Egyptian contemporaries of child sacrifice (reference Deuteronomy 12).  If they were not forced to leave the area, however, their absence from any further writings in the Old Testament indicates that they would have been entirely absorbed into or wiped out by the remaining groups.


  1. Very interesting that nobody seems to have researched them successfully before!


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