What is a Perizzite?
The Perizzites were one of several groups of people occupying the land of Canaan as early as the time of Abraham:
“In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.” Genesis 15:18–21
Mention of the Perizzites in the Bible takes place in 21 of 27 lists of nations that occupied Canaan before Israel’s conquest of the land. The name Perizzites means “villagers” and denoted those who lived out in the open country, rather than in larger, walled cities. The Perizzites dwelt in the region south and southwest of Mt. Carmel, in the fertile central portion of Canaan.
In Genesis 13:7, Abram’s and Lot’s herdsmen argued over the territory where the Perizzites were living. The land could not support both of their large flocks and herds, so Abram entreated Lot for a peaceful resolution. Lot chose to move his family and livestock to the Jordan Valley, while Abram settled in Canaan.
When God spoke to Moses in the burning bush, He detailed His plan to deliver the people from slavery in Egypt to a land of promise. The Lord mentioned the Perizzites among the six nations living in the “good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8, 17).
In Exodus 23:23–24, God commanded the destruction of the Perizzites along with five other nations. These pagan nations occupying Canaan were enemies of God. The Lord wanted Israel to expel them from the land. He gave the people of Israel these instructions:
“When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.” Deuteronomy 7:1–3
When Israel entered the Promised Land under Joshua, the Perizzites were living in the forested hill country (Joshua 11:3) in territories that would be assigned to Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah (Joshua 17:15).
Later, in the books of Judges and Ezra, we read that the people of Israel had not completely driven out and destroyed the Perizzite nation. Instead, God’s people had intermarried with the Perizzites and other inhabitants of Canaan, in disobedience to God’s command (Judges 3:5–6; Ezra 9:1–2). The Israelites worshiped the gods of Canaan and allowed themselves to be morally polluted by these pagan peoples.
During the reign of King Solomon, the remaining non-integrated Perizzites were forced to serve as slave laborers (1 Kings 9:20–21).