The story of how Noah’s son Ham saw his father naked and Noah’s curse which came as a result of the incident has for centuries been used to justify hatred for and oppression of black people. Unfortunately, even in some Christian circles today, people of European descent have held on to this concept and have passed it on to their descendants. They would never speak of their true feelings in public about it, but when they are in private it is sometimes discussed. Does this concept hold any merit? Let’s look at what the scripture says:
“And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” (Genesis 9:20-27)
It was wrong for Noah to get drunk like he did, but what Ham did was wrong also. When he realized his father was naked he should have turned away immediately. Instead, he gazed at his father for a while and in his heart he despised and dishonored his father. So he went to his brothers and probably told them how ridiculous their father looked. His brothers, acting out of reverence and respect for their father, walked backwards so as not to see Noah’s nakedness and covered him with a cloth.
In reading this passage, we must remember that Noah was a prophet of God. The curse he spoke was out of the foreknowledge that God gave to him. Ham greatly disrespected his father and God revealed to Noah the disrespect that Ham’s son Canaan would receive. Ham had four sons–Cush (the founder of Ethiopia), Mizraim (the founder of Egypt), Phut (the founder of Libya), and Canaan (the founder of Canaan). Canaan was the only one cursed by Noah. Ham was never cursed. The Canaanites (which included the Hittites, Amorites, Jebusites, and other people who settled in Canaan) were black, but they did not settle the continent of Africa. Noah foreknew that Israel, the descendants of Shem, would conquer the Canaanites and he used his prophetic curse to humble Ham as a way of telling him that he had no right to despise Noah like he did since his descendants the Canaanites would be despised.
Ham’s other three sons who were the true ancestors of the Africans did not receive any curse from Noah. Those who want to justify their racial hatred based on Genesis 9 are without any basis whatsoever. Furthermore, anyone who calls themselves a Christian shouldn’t be filled with hatred anyway.
God “hath made of one blood [Adam] all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” (Acts 17:26). Why is it that a person of one skin color who claims to be a Christian would hate a person of another skin color who claims to be a Christian? “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 John 4:20). Selah.
–posted by Harry A. Gaylord–