Saturday, August 13, 2016

Genesis 9:18-29 comments: Noah's curse

18 ¶  And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. 19  These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. 20  And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: 21  And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. 22  And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. 23  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.

    24 ¶  And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25  And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26  And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 27  God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

    28 ¶  And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. 29  And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died.

The entire earth was eventually settled by the offspring of these three sons. This is not hard to accept, even from the point of view of modern theoretical science. Scientists theorize that there may have been many, “severe population bottlenecks,” of human beings in the distant past based on their assumptions about evolution. (36) Of course, their conclusions are filled with speculations and interpretations based on an atheistic worldview in that they might think, “we don’t know for sure but it must be so because the alternative of the Bible being true is just too horrible for us to imagine.” The point is that here is the ultimate population bottleneck and there may have been others later until humanity got on its feet, so to speak.

It is possible that, based on the change in conditions, Noah would not have known that fermentation could take place and that he could get drunk. Or, perhaps the long voyage and time of struggle surviving and leading his little tribe after disembarking from the ark made him desperate to get roaring drunk as soon as it was possible to do so. Either way, that is what happened.

To see the nakedness of someone carries with it a very wicked implication.

Leviticus 20:17  And if a man shall take his sister, his father’s daughter, or his mother’s daughter, and see her nakedness, and she see his nakedness; it is a wicked thing; and they shall be cut off in the sight of their people: he hath uncovered his sister’s nakedness; he shall bear his iniquity.

But, let’s say, for argument sake, that this is not an idiom suggesting actual sexual contact with either Noah or Ham’s mother which it appears to be.

Leviticus 20:11  And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

To keep from delving into aspects of this event that incite prurient interest in a reader or listener let’s say for argument sake that this event involved only vulgar disrespect and mocking. God had already blessed Noah and his sons in verse 1 of chapter 9. So, Noah cursed Ham’s son, Canaan, and this curse was fulfilled in Israel’s conquest of Canaan hundreds of years later. Noah blessed Shem and Japheth further, due to their respect and merciful deed toward him and their mother, one assumes, and prophesied that Canaan would be their servant, which proved very true as Palestine, where Canaan dwelt, became the victim of many conquests from Israel to the Persians to the Turks to the Crusaders and the Turks again to the British and French with many in between. Palestine was an avenue of conquest between the warlike culture of Babylonia and Assyria to Egypt.

There was a myth fostered and promoted as a justification for racial slavery in the United States, although it had a small number of voices before, that Ham was the father of the black, African races, thereby making the curse on Canaan really a curse on Ham and all of his descendants. This myth gained ascendancy in Antebellum America and is still popular among racist preachers and congregations. The most exhaustive study of this myth I have read is by Stephen Haynes, a professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. (37)

While a literal view of this passage reveals that the curse was laid upon Canaan, a curse we will see was literally enforced as per proof in the Bible narrative, we will also soon see that Ham was not just the ancestor of African populations. In fact, let’s make something clear. The idea that Noah walked off the ark with three sons; one of whom was a white guy, one a black guy, and one an Asian guy is so patently absurd that it can only be dismissed as the raving of a lunatic who has an agenda. Mankind would have been brownish with dark hair and eyes at this time, with some variation possible which foundations were already in the genetic code God had placed in man and God operated with each cell division and each generation. Race, a social construct, that has little bearing in physical reality, based more on politics, geography, and culture, will come about later, over time. Some geneticists estimate that the classic white skinned, blue eyed Caucasian came about between 5 and 6,000 years ago as, in their elongated time frame based on their dating methods, early Europeans were dark-skinned, brown-eyed, and dark-haired. There are a number of genetic studies confirming this belief of the modern geneticist. Unfortunately, we are still using classifications from the racist 19th century that alternately render black people between being, as a group, naturally villains or fools, and impulsive victims of their own biology. Such nonsense should not be honored in a Christian church.

Galatians 3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek [grades of ethnicity or race], there is neither bond nor free [grades of social class], there is neither male nor female [grades of gender] : for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:11  Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

Noah lived for several centuries after the Flood to see several noteworthy events, perhaps to his further shame.

·         (36) John Hawks, Keith Hunley, Sang-Hee LeeMilford Wolpoff, “Population Bottlenecks and Pleistocene Human Evolution,” Molecular Biology and Evolution, Volume 17, Issue 1, Pp. 2-22.

(37) Stephen R. Haynes, Noah’s Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

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