Israel emerged as a people just before the period of the Judges, at the end of what archaeologists call the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 B.C.) and the beginning of Iron Age I (1200–1000 B.C.)—the time when the Israelite tribes settled in the land of Canaan.
Scholars have explained Israel’s emergence in Canaan according to three different views.1
According to one view, this period should be called the time of the Settlement in Canaan; this settlement took place over several generations and was not completed until the time of David (c. 1000 B.C.). Initially, there was no military assault on Canaanite cities, but only a gradual, nomadic infiltration. Pastoral nomads—Israelite tribes—from the desert to the east and south of Canaan moved into the sparsely settled hill country in search of pasture for their flocks and cattle. As a rule they lived on good terms with the Canaanites, and even intermarried with them. There were occasional clashes but no serious conflicts until the 11th century, when the expanding Israelites moved beyond the hills into the fertile plains where strong Canaanite cities were located.