Why Does the Torah Point Out that the C’naani Was in the Land?
In Breisheet 12:6 we read: “Avram passed into the Land as far as the site of Shechem, until Alom Moreh and the Cnaani was then in the Land (az ba’aretz)”.

The words “the C’naani was then in the land” come to teach us a few things:

According to Radak it was miraculous that Avram, a stranger, was passing through the Land with a lot of cattle and there were many shepherds in the land yet nobody bothered him at all.

Rashi points out that the statement emphasizes the fact that the Land was destined to belong to the descendents of Shem (Semites) and was given to Shem (Noach’s son) after the flood. However, the C’naanim slowly conquered the Land from Shem. Therefore, in sentence 7 it says “God said to Avram: To your descendents will I give this land”. This refers to the fact that in the future God will return the land to Avram’s children who are descendents of Shem.

Radak’s opinion is that although God promised the Land to Avram, he would not have the opportunity to take it over immediately. Avram, who did not yet have any children could not possibly take over the whole Land on his own. He would only be able to inherit the Land once the Jewish people would become a great nation. For now, he can travel the land as freely as he likes with all of his cattle and with all of possessions and people will only be gracious to him. He can travel in peace and nobody will bother him. Once Avram’s descendents would return to the Land as a nation, then God would slowly chase the enemies away. As it says in Shmot 23:30: “Little by little shall I drive them away from you, until you become fruitful and make the land your heritage.”

Avraham built a mizbeach (alter) to thank God for giving this wonderful good Land of milk and honey to his descendents.