The greatest problem with the ‘mixed multitude’ theory is that there is no archaeological support
for it. After all, we are having a very difficult time to distinguish between Israelites and
Canaanites, how can we even come close to distinguish between the various groups that
supposedly make up this ‘mixed multitude’?
The impression from most of these theories that argue for a “mixed multitude” is that the
majority of the “proto-Israelites” are rural Canaanites13 and the evidence for this is supposedly
coming from the archaeological record. These Canaanites are usually divided into peasants and
The goal of this essay is to test this “Canaanites to (proto) Israelites” theory.14
While there can be little doubt that some Canaanites were part of (proto) Israel,15 it will be shown that the
archaeological evidence does not support the theory that early Israel (or proto-Israel) was formed
mostly of Canaanites. To prove my point I will take into consideration and review two major
recent works that argue that early Israel was not formed of indigenous Canaanites. Then my
essay will focus on the marks that I consider the most important for the argument that early Israel
was different from the indigenous Canaanites: foodways, burial practices, settlement patterns,
and the cult. While the focus in this essay will be on the archaeological evidence, it is useful to
briefly review the Egyptian textual evidence of the preceding Late Bronze Age period.