“A cunning Canaanite! Deceitful scales are in his hand; He loves to oppress” (NKJV)
Here the word “Canaanite” is interchangeable with merchant or trader. Most versions translate it that way. The values of foreigners differed from those of Israel. This was Israel’s self-image, anyway. So it is a puzzle why Israel seems to have banned foreign pottery. Bigotry or ethnocentrism is the simplest explanation. Too simple, Faust thinks. Another suggestion has been that in later Israel the state controlled trade and restricted certain imports as a part of trade policy. Faust agrees that there may have been a government policy against imported pottery. But he argues that a negative attitude about such pottery had to come before the policy. Perhaps the prohibition of decorated and imported pottery came from an anti-elitist, egalitarian ideology that valued simplicity. This goes along with Norman Gottwald’s theory that Israel arose in a peasant revolt. The critiques of this theory apply also to this explanation. It may not be wholly wrong, but it is incomplete. An intriguing possibility is that, along with Israel’s division of animals into clean and unclean categories, there was also a division of artifacts. Numbers 31:20-24 requires booty captured from foreigners in war to be ceremonially cleansed. Faust’s theory is that an elite connected to the royal houses developed in Iron Age II, and that this elite used negative popular feelings about foreign pottery to centralize and control the manufacture of pottery in Israel. The elites were fine with the double standard that allowed the import of cedar and other foreign products. His theory might explain about the distribution of pottery, but it seems pretty conjectural. At any rate, his real interest is in Iron Age I and how the bias against fancy foreign pottery developed. One view about this is that Israel first developed a bias against Philistine pottery during their confrontation with that people. Then the bias eventually expanded to include all foreign pottery. Faust, however, also raises the possibility that the bias originated even earlier. Imported pottery was everywhere in the Late Bronze Age. So the ideology favoring simplicity and egalitarianism may have arisen in the transition between the two ages, and, therefore, before Israel’s encounter with the Philistines.