Why did Noah curse Canaan and not Ham?

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Why did Noah curse Canaan and not Ham?

Postby Be still on Tue Apr 01, 2008 7:40 pm

Why did Noah issue a curse against Ham's son Canaan and not Ham? What is the prophetic significance of this?

The Sons of Noah
18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the earth.
20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded [a] to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father's nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father's nakedness.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
"Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers."

26 He also said,
"Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem. [b]

27 May God extend the territory of Japheth [c] ;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be his [d] slave."
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Postby Be still on Tue Apr 01, 2008 7:42 pm

I remember hearing one explanation that it was a sin against authority ... I wish I could remember it.
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Postby Be still on Sat Apr 05, 2008 8:31 am

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Postby David L on Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:45 pm


I don't know that it has any prophetic significance since I have not been exposed to such a doctrine. I would like to hear/read more about it though.

I did know the answer at one time and it is connected to Leviticus 18. I'll look it up and get back to you on this one in the next couple of days....
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Postby Be still on Mon Apr 14, 2008 7:50 pm

Thank you! :mrgreen:
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Postby David L on Fri Apr 25, 2008 1:57 am



Sorry for the wait. It appears that my source or bible study did not actually explain why Caanan was cursed. However, because I often hear and see that a certain aspect of this situation is so often overlooked I'll go ahead and entertain you with another one of my long boring posts.

18 Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan.

19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.

20 Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard.

21 He drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.

22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.

23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father's nakedness.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him.

25 So he said,
"Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants
He shall be to his brothers."

26 He also said,
"Blessed be the LORD,
The God of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant.

27 "May God enlarge Japheth,
And let him dwell in the tents of Shem;
And let Canaan be his servant." Genesis 9

So the general concept out there is that Ham's son Canaan was cursed. We know from scripture that the land of Canaan was given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob which today is called Israel. I don't want to get into speculation but want to deal with Ham's sin and why Noah made a big deal of it and why it is a bigger deal to God. For this we must turn to Leviticus 18.

6 'None of you shall approach any blood relative of his to uncover nakedness; I am the LORD.

7 '(You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother; you are not to uncover her nakedness.

8 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness.

9 'The nakedness of your sister, either your father's daughter or your mother's daughter, whether born at home or born outside, their nakedness you shall not uncover.

10 'The nakedness of your son's daughter or your daughter's daughter, their nakedness you shall not uncover; for their nakedness is yours.

11 'The nakedness of your father's wife's daughter, born to your father, she is your sister, you shall not uncover her nakedness.

12 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister; she is your father's blood relative.

13 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother's sister, for she is your mother's blood relative.

14 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's brother; you shall not approach his wife, she is your aunt.

15 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your daughter-in-law; she is your son's wife, you shall not uncover her nakedness.

16 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness.

17 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of a woman and of her daughter, nor shall you take her son's daughter or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; they are blood relatives. It is lewdness. Leviticus 18

I know it’s a lot of text but the pattern is the same. You are not to uncover the nakedness of your blood relatives or anyone who has been brought into your family through marriage. The straight forward text is explicitly a reference to sexual co notated nakedness.

You have two words in Hebrew used for nakedness.

One is arom. Adam and Eve were arom. A baby that is born out of the womb is arom. One can be arom for many reasons such as, the baby, or a medical exam, in the shower, or even for tanning, etc. In many African nations and even in remote locations you have tribal people who are arom. There is nothing sinful or wrong about being arom.

The other word is ervah which means to strip nakedly for sexually stimulating purposes. This was forbidden and is specifically what is being pointed out in the text up above. There is much that can be said about this that I’m going to skip so that sometime today I may get to the point.

We know that’s what it means but what does this have to do with Noah and his sons? The text says that Noah uncovered his own nakedness so what happened? Why did Shem and Japheth walk in backwards to cover their father’s nakedness?

For that we have to go to the New Testament. Matthew 18.

15 "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.

16 "But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED.

17 "If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

18 "Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.

19 "Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.

20 "For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." Matthew 18

So all of us have had this drilled into our heads. You approach someone’s sin privately and do not openly expose it. Confrontation in the second stage is done with witnesses according to the Law Moses gave. Notice how OT law is quoted to address and define the ‘law of the Spirit’. If they refuse to listen then tell it to the body that the body may exhort, correct, encourage and restore the individual.

Then we have the 2nd definition of what binding and loosing ‘really’ means as oppose to all the non-sense we have been taught about binding Satan, the enemy, and strongholds in Jesus name. Obviously this is not what binding and loosing means but neither is the post about binding and loosing. PM for more on that or just ask and I’ll post it here.

Anyway, you loosen the individual from the assembly of believers until he repents. That is not to say you kick him out of church but they can’t serve or partake of communion unless or until they repent. Just like you wouldn't allow a non-believe to do the same in an assembly. If they repent you can bind them into the assembly of believers again and allow them to partake of communion as well as serve at your discretion, etc, etc. yada yada. The whole two or three thing with Jesus in their midst in this text has to do with binding and loosing in the assembly of believers. Christ has already loosed such an individual so you are only doing on earth what He has already done in heaven, etc. You can only bind what He has bound, etc.

So back to Noah and Ham.

What was Ham’s sin? He exposed his father’s nakedness. What does this have to do with Matthew 18? Absolutely nothing I just thought I’d kill some time to make for a longer post.

j/k XP

Seriously though the answer is found in Revelation and the typology begins or is hinted at in Isaiah 59.

17 'Because you say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked,

18 I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Revelation 3

So what of this nakedness? Does it mean the congregation was showing up naked in Laodicea? Perhaps not in a literal sense (this only happens in black Africa xP ) but their nakedness is a typological reference to their sinfulness. Adam and Eve tried to sow fig leaves to cover up their nakedness or sinfulness. Their sinfulness was only revealed after they had sinned. Fig leaves in bible typology are a type of works or works based on the pursuit of one’s salvation. They tried to cover up their sinfulness with their own works. Jesus told the Laodicean’s to buy white garments from Him to clothe themselves that the shame of their sinfulness that is nakedness would not be revealed openly. The garments of salvation that come by faith in Christ alone can only cover up your nakedness that is sinfulness. Thus, we should take the garments of salvation to cover up our kinsmen's nakedness/sinfulness.

So Noah sinned. He uncovered his own nakedness. His sons became aware of it and one son exposed his father’s sinfulness. It is possible that Canaan was with him. Text does not address it but Noah knew something we didn’t which is why he cursed him. More importantly it was the authority of God behind Noah that cursed Canaan for generations to come. Shem and Japheth however covered their father’s nakedness or sinfulness. Did Jesus tell us to uncover our brother’s nakedness in Matthew 18?

No. You go in private to the individual to cover their nakedness. You go in two or three to cover their nakedness. You go as a congregation to cover their nakedness. Not once did it ever say to publicly uncover your ‘blood relatives’ nakedness either in Leviticus or Matthew 18. It is shameful to even ‘look upon’ another blood relative’s nakedness. In Christ, I am your blood relative by the blood of Christ who cleansed and washed away our sins. It is shameful for me to expose your nakedness. This is a very important spiritual principle that is not taught I believe because it has just not been understood and overlooked. It's Jewish Midrash.

So what does all this have to do with Canaan? I really don’t know. It may have been that he was their and participated in his father’s sin. Perhaps it’s related to Exodus 20 where God’s states that He curses up to the 3rd and 4th generations of those who hate Him.

A very interesting thing the geneology pool points out in Genesis 10 is that all of Canaan's descendants would go on to be Israel's future enemies. Shem's lineage however paved the way for the future Messiah who would come from Israel, a seed of Shem.

Interesting things to speculate.

It may have been that Canaan was indeed his youngest son. Are not grandchildren still children? Is not my grandfather my father? The answer could be that simple. I am leaning more towards that since Daniel and other's like Stephen openly said 'our father's' and called Abraham their father, etc. I think Canaan was Noah's youngest son. In fact, my grandfather calls me his son and not his grandson.

/long boring post

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Postby mizbayakh on Fri Apr 25, 2008 8:21 am

I'll have to dig...but I came across a Bible study on this and the particular sin was revealed as he actually took advantage of Noah's wife sexually. I remember it making sense at the time, but now I don't know how to explain it.
Anyway...that doesn't explain to me why his son was cursed...I hope that was in the info too...oh, I hope I can find this!!
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Postby Be still on Fri Apr 25, 2008 5:11 pm

Very informative post David! Thank you :grin:
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Postby AndCanItBe on Fri Apr 25, 2008 5:56 pm

I guess I always just assumed this tied in with this idea.

Exodus 34

6Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;

7who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations."

I wonder if Noah saw Ham's sin as so serious that Noah cursed Canaan instead of him. I think you'd be more likely to be repentant and never do such a thing again if it had actually affected your child instead of you.

There is also Proverbs 10:12

Hatred stirs up strife,But love covers all transgressions.

and 1Peter 4

8Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Ham chose to stir up strife rather than cover the transgression, and maybe showed his hatred for his father in the process.

I don't really know what the prophetic signifigance is though either.

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Postby AndCanItBe on Fri Apr 25, 2008 6:05 pm

Maybe Shem and Japeth are a picture of Christ covering Israel's (Noah's) sin. They interceded for him, with garments to cover the sin like Christ does for us. Maybe Ham is a picture of Satan as the accuser. Maybe that's all just a wild stab in the dark. :lol:
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Postby crmann on Fri Apr 25, 2008 7:45 pm

From "Noah's Three Sons"
Volumn 1 of
The Doorway Papers by Arthur C. Custance...

I'm not sure I feel comfortable with some of Custance's words, but in the end, he makes much sense.l....

See what you might get out of it.

Why Noah Cursed Canaan

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 Shern; 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.

THE STORY appears in Genesis 9:20-27. Noah, apparently, cultivated a vineyard and whether intentionally or accidentally ended up with an intoxicating drink. Like many others in this condition, he had removed his clothes because of the sensation of overheating which results from the dilation of the veins at the surface of the skin. Drunkenness and nakedness have been closely associated throughout history. In a drunken stupor the old man lay indecently exposed and his son Ham "saw his nakedness" (verse 22) .
Some people believe that this phrase means more than appears on the surface and that on the basis of Leviticus chapters 18 and 19, the implication is that homosexuality was involved. On the other hand, Ham's immediate behaviour seems to tell against this, for he would hardly proceed to tell his two brothers outside (verse 22) if he had committed such a terrible offense against his father. Moreover, the behaviour of Shem and Japhetd in taking a garment and carefully covering the nakedness of their father with their faces averted so that "they saw not their father's nakedness'' (verse 23 suggests that in both instances the words mean simply what they say.
Later on, Noah awoke and somehow found out what his younger son had done. Like many others who have lost their own self-esteem and are angry at themselves, Noah became enraged against his son. But he did not curse him; he cursed his grandson according to verse 25. And herein seems to, lie the injustice, and the widespread conviction that the text is in error. Shem and Japheth are blessed, Ham is ignored and a grandson, Canaan, who can surely have had no responsible part in Ham's misbehaviour, suffers the full brunt of his grandfather's anger.
Several explanations have been offered as to why, when Noah had thus been wronged by Ham, he pronounced a curse upon Canaan instead. I should like to suggest a reason which seems to have been overlooked.
In Exodus 20:5, God declared that He would "visit the iniquities of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations. . . ." There is nothing arbitrary, barbaric, or even surprising about this. The sins of the fathers are reflected in the behaviour of their children, and these children in their turn pay the penalty. What is surprising, however, is that men will distort the truth and make it a falsehood of the most malicious kind. It soon comes to mean that a child is not to be blamed for his sins - his environment and his heredity being held chiefly responsible.We say easily enough, "It is our fathers who are to be blamed, the generation which educated us. We are simply the children of our own age." Thus, even today a more sympathetic view is being taken of Adolf Hitler and some would even try to picture him as a child who was wronged and might otherwise have been a hero. And in any case he is not to be blamed for what he did.
Curiously enough, this inverted process of reasoning is exactly what the Israelites applied to Exodus 20:5. By the time of Jeremiah they were saying, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Jeremiah 31: 29) . In other words, it was not the children's misdoings which had brought all these misfortunes upon them. It was all their fathers' fault! But the Lord said in effect to Jeremiah, "You must correct this; it is quite wrong. Tell them that 'every one shall die for his own sin; every man that eateth sour grapes, his own teeth shall be set on edge'" (Jeremiah 31:30).
It might be thought that this would have settled the matter and straightened things out once for all. But in the course of time, the truth was again distorted in another way and people came to interpret this to mean that any misfortune which overtook a man was due to his own sinfulness. Not unnaturally, this had the effect of destroying all sympathy, for a man who was in trouble or sickness was simply receiving his just deserts. It served him right.
This is what created the peculiar problem for the disciples when they were brought face to face with a man born blind in John 9:1ff. It seems doubtful if it was sympathy that made them question the Lord about his case, but rather a kind of theological curiosity. Here was a man who had suffered a great misfortune. He had been born blind. But since he was born blind, it seemed impossible to attribute the fault to the man himself. On the other hand, Jeremiah had made it clear that Exodus 20:5 did not mean that it was his parents' fault. So they asked, "Who did sin, this man or his parents?" Their question reflected their attitude towards suffering. The Lord, however, while not denying the truth of the implications in their question, nevertheless pointed out that in this instance the blind man was a privileged person who providentially was permitted to show forth the glory of God. There are at least three reasons why people suffer: because of the wickedness of their parents, because of their own sinfulness, or simply for the glory of God.
Now, in other cultures than our own, and for reasons which are not always clear, it is customary to attach the blame for a man's failings upon his parents. But by the same token, it is also customary to give them the credit for his successes. This principle is recognized by most of us, in fact, but mostly without explicit formulation. In these other cultures, both ancient and modern, the principle has been publicly recognized.
It is an attitude which is quite remarkably reflected in Scripture. Perhaps the clearest illustration is to be found in the story of Saul and David, I Samuel 17: 50-58. In this instance, David had performed a deed of great national importance by destroying Goliath. David himself was no stranger to Saul for he had on many occasions played his harp to quiet the king's distracted spirit. Yet we find that when Saul saw David go forth against Goliath (verse 55) he said to Abner, the captain of his hosts, "Abner, whose son is this youth?" And although Abner must certainly have known David by name, he replied, "As thy soul liveth, O King, I cannot tell."
This has always seemed a strange remark both for the king and his commanding officer to have made. But the explanation lies in a proper understanding of the social significance of verse 58. "And Saul said unto him, Whose son art thou, young man? And David answered, I am the son of thy servant Jesse, the Bethlehemite." This is simply an occasion upon which, following the social custom of his own day, Saul sought to give credit where credit was due, namely, to the father. Because David was Jesse's son, Jesse was to receive recognition.
Another illustration will be found in I Kings 11:9-12:

And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel which had appeared unto him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded.
Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee and will give it to thy servant.
Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it for David thy father's sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son.

This is a beautiful example, because it is so specific in statement. Solomon was to be punished: but he could not be punished personally without bringing discredit on David his father, and this the Lord was not willing to do. The only way in which Solomon could be punished appropriately without injuring David's name was therefore to punish Solomon's son.
In the New Testament we find another instance. It is quite obvious that while a man can publicly seek to give credit to the father of a worthy son, a woman could not discreetly make reference to the father in complimentary terms for fear of being misunderstood. She therefore refers instead to the son's mother who rightly shares in the worthiness of her children. This fact is reflected clearly in Luke 11:27, where we read of a woman who suddenly perceiving the true greatness of the Lord Jesus Christ, cried out in spontaneous admiration, "Blessed is the womb that bare Thee and the breasts which Thou hast sucked."
When we apply this principle to the story given in Genesis 9:20-97, the significance of the cursing of Canaan rather than Ham at once becomes clear. But because the principle has not been applied by commentators, the apparent injustice of Noah has puzzled people at least since the beginning of the Christian era when the commentators began to take notice of it. It appears that Jewish rabbis had access to a copy of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament, made in the third century B.C. by the Jews in Alexandria and which appears to form the basis of a number of quotations in the New Testament from the Old Testament) in which the name "Canaan" was replaced by the name "Ham.'' It is proposed by some authorities that this was the original reading and that the text was tampered with by Hebrew scribes who wished to add to the degradation of the Canaanites by showing that they were the subjects of a divine curse.
However, it is quite possible to explain the text exactly as it is, as a reflection of the social custom which we have been considering above. To begin with, there may have been a reason for Ham's behaviour, other than mere disrespectfulness.
Without becoming involved in the technicalities of genetics, it is possible that Ham may himself have been a mulatto. in fact, his name means "dark" and perhaps refers to the colour of his skin. This condition may have been derived through his mother, Noah's wife, and if we suppose that Ham had himself married a mulatto woman, it is possible to account for the preservation of the negroid stock over the disaster of the Flood. It seems most likely that Ham had seen the darkness of his mother's body, for example when being nursed. But he may never have seen the whiteness of his father's body.
When Charles Darwin visited the Tierra del Fuegans during the Voyage of the Beagle, he remarks how interested the natives were in the colour of his skin. Naturally his face and his hands were bronzed by exposure to the weather after the long voyage, but when he rolled up a sleeve and bared his arm, to use his own words, "they expressed the liveliest surprise and admiration at its whiteness."

The same may have been true in the case of Ham and his father. His own body and that of Noah's wife being quite dark, he may have gone away reflecting upon the difference and forgetting his filial duty. In fact, this could conceivably be the reason he went to tell his brothers, for he may have supposed that they would be as surprised at this discovery as he was himself.
If this was the case, it may be argued that this was a small offense to receive such a pronounced judgment. But it is not at all certain that the form of the curse was as severe as it appears to be. That his posterity were to be servants, yes -- but the Hebrew can just as readily be translated "servants par excellence." This actually is more likely, for we have in Hebrew plenty of instances of the superlatively excellent expressed in this manner, involving the reduplication of the key word as "Holy of holies," "Lord of Lords," etc. But where we find in Hebrew a comparable phrase in which the author is referring to that which is superlatively base (as in Daniel 4:17), the Hebrew uses an entirely different form of construction. In other words, wherever Hebrew employs a reduplication of a word, the concept intended is one of "excellence," much as in English we may say "very, very good." But while we may also say "very, very bad," the Hebrew evidently does not adopt this, but depends upon another form of construction. In short, what we are saying is that the phrase ''servant of servants" may have meant that his descendants would perform a great service to their brethren. The judgment, in so far as it was a judgment, lies in the fact that they rendered this service to others and bcnefitted little themselves.
However, the point is not essential to this essay, and in any case, it is the subject of two extended studies appearing as other Doorway Papers. What is important to note is that Noah could not pronounce judgment of any kind upon his own son, Ham, the actual offender, without passing judgment upon himself, for society held him, the father, responsible for his son's behaviour.

To punish Ham, then, he must of necessity pronounce a curse upon Canaan, Ham's son.
On the other hand, when it came to blessing, the situation was very different. In pronouncing a benediction upon Shem and Japheth, he was, in fact, doing himself an honour! Such is human nature - and such is probably the explanation of this otherwise puzzling incident.
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