The Bible mentions a specific group of people who lived in the Promised land for many generations, from the time of Abraham (Gen. 13:7) even to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 9:1-2). However, the time during which they were mostly at odds with the Kingdom of Israel seems to be the time of Joshua into the early period of the Judges. It appears as though a peace between the Israelites and the Perizzites eventually came to pass, with intermarriage as well as religious conversion to idolatry as being part of this peace (Judges 3:5-6 Ezra 9:1-2).
According to the Book of Joshua, the Perizzites were located in the hill country of Judah and Ephraim (Joshua 11:3 17:14-15). They were enslaved by Solomon.
Their racial background and origins are unknown to us. There is only one possible extra-Biblical mention of the Perizzites, as the unidentified Pirati who are found in an Egyptian vocabulary list, and there is a remote possibility that the Perizzites may be found in a fragment from the Amarna letters.
It is possible that their name had a generalized application: that is, it either referred to those who lived in villages (as opposed to being nomadic); or it referred to those whose origins were unknown; or Perizzite may refer to an amalgamation of several peoples.
Jewish Encyclopedia Entry
The Canaanite tribe settled in the south of Canaan between Hor and Negev, although it is not mentioned in the genealogy in Gen. x. According to the Biblical references, Abraham, when he entered Canaan, found the Perizzites dwelling near the Canaanites (ib. xiii. 7), and God promised to destroy both these peoples (ib. xv. 20). Jacob reproved his sons because of the crime of Shechem, inasmuch as he feared the Perizzites and the Canaanites (ib. xxxiv. 30). Moses promised the Israelites to bring them unto the place of the Perizzites and the Amorites (Ex. xxx. 8); and at a later time the tribes of Simeon and Judah conquered the Canaanites and the Perizzites (Judges i. 4). The Perizzites were among the tribes that were not subjected to tribute by Solomon (I Kings ix. 20-22), while the complaint was brought to Ezra that the priests and the Levites would not separate themselves from the Perizzites and the other peoples of the land (Ezra ix. 1).
The view was formerly held that the Perizzites were a prehistoric tribe which became assimilated to the Canaanites when the latter invaded Canaan; but this is in contradiction to the fact that the Perizzites are not mentioned in the genealogy. More recent commentators are of the opinion that the names "Perizi" and "Perazi" are identical, and that the Bible has included under the name "Perizzites" all stocks dwelling in unwalled towns.
- Riehm, Handwörterb. 2d ed., p. 1211
- Cheyne and Black, Encyclopedia Biblica, s.v.;
- Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible, s.v.
- The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible; Merrill Tenney, ed., Zondervan Publishing House, ©1976; Vol. 4, p. 704