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Was there a curse of Ham?

Published: 13 June 2020 (GMT+10)
different-shades-skin
Different shades of skin

In response to the UEFA anti-racism campaign concedes an own goal article published on 27 December 2019, CMI received the following feedback, to which Lucien Tuinstra responds. Mushet S. (US) wrote:

Original Message

I agree with the word of God that all people come from Adam and Eve and after the Global Noah Flood, the sons of Noah and their wives. However, where you and I may disagree with is on this: While I do believe that in Christ, spiritually, we are all one in the body of Christ, and there is no difference in that sense, I believe also that Genesis 9:20-27 clearly proves and shows and explains the history of the human race onwards: Hamites = Africans (Arabs and Blacks), Shem = Asians and Jews, Japheth =Europeans/Whites. The line of Ham is cursed in their flesh. While all people have a sin nature, the line of Ham has an “extra large curse” in them: Hamites/Blacks/Arabs are more prone to sexual and violent sins. This is why they “go ape” on people and have such gangster thug tribalism. CMI and Answers in Genesis should admit this and not try to cover it up. We all need Jesus but the Hamite needs to be Lovingly Governed by the Shemite and Japhethite. Not enslaved or abused, understand, but, governed and controlled with love, compassion, empathy, and firmness. Ham = Servant. Shem = Thinker. Japheth = Builder/Explorer. Exceptions exist but do not change the rule. Darwinism is wrong. But these distinctions between the three branches of man exist whether you admit it or not.

Response

Dear Mushet,

Thank you for your comments. In my reply to the feedback your message is in red, my reply in black.

I agree with the word of God that all people come from Adam and Eve and after the Global Noah Flood, the sons of Noah and their wives.

Indeed.

However, where you and I may disagree with is on this: While I do believe that in Christ, spiritually, we are all one in the body of Christ, and there is no difference in that sense,

We still agree; all who have genuine faith in Christ are part of his church—his bride (Ephesians 5:25).

I believe also that Genesis 9:20-27 clearly proves and shows and explains the history of the human race onwards: Hamites = Africans (Arabs and Blacks), Shem = Asians and Jews, Japheth = Europeans/Whites.

You mention “Africans (Arabs and Blacks)”, but many Arabs are ‘black’ (figure 1) and, more importantly, numerous Arabs live in the Middle East, which is not Africa.1 Not all Ham’s descendants migrated to Egypt and further afield. Take for example the Canaanites who lived in the area we today call Israel (Genesis 10:19–20). Canaan’s nephew Nimrod started in the land of Shinar and moved north to Assyria (Genesis 10:10–11). Other (undisclosed) progeny settled in Gedor, the hills of Judah (1 Chronicles 4:39–40).

Arab-black
Figure 1 Venn diagram of Arabs and ‘blacks’. (not to scale)

You mention “Asians and Jews”, yet modern day Israel (Middle East) with its Jewish citizens is in Asia, therefore many (but not all) Jews are Asians (figure 2). Although Jews are nowadays referred to as Semites (from Shem), the covenant associated with the Jews was with Abraham, the ninth generation from Shem. The word Jew itself comes from Judah, the 12th from Shem. In other words, if you descend from Abraham (or Judah) you also descend from Shem, but if you descend from Shem, you do not necessarily descend from Abraham (or Judah). Many people think that ’Jewishness’ is passed down via the mother, but this certainly was not the case in biblical times. The main reason for this is that it can without doubt be established who someone’s mother is (due to her presence at birth), but it is not always possible to ascertain the father’s identity (in case of absence). The point is, Jewish people do not necessarily know if they descend from Shem because records were lost with the destruction of the Temple.

And what about the people that convert to the Jewish religion? Consider Romans 9:6–7:

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.”

Do they fall into this category of converts or would they still be grouped according to their family tree? Lastly, the Semitic languages (named after Shem) include both Arabic and Hebrew (and many others), another overlap of your categories.

Asian-jew
Figure 2 Venn diagram of Asians and Jews. (not to scale)

These statements show that your comments are too simplistic, and quite frankly, wrong. To illustrate this, consider marriage. Jacob’s family went to Egypt where Joseph served under Pharaoh. Joseph married Asenath the daughter of Potiphera priest of On (Genesis 41:45). She was a local. Another case in point was Solomon making a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt (1 Kings 3:1). One final example is a descendant of Judah (through Jerahmeel):

Now Sheshan had no sons, only daughters, but Sheshan had an Egyptian slave whose name was Jarha. So Sheshan gave his daughter in marriage to Jarha his slave, and she bore him Attai (1 Chronicles 2:34–35).

The Bible explains that some marriages are forbidden (2 Corinthians 6:14–15), but not because of so-called racial mixing.

Not all Europeans were ‘white’; in fact, no ancient Europeans, as far as we can tell from the genetics, were ‘white’.2 Note that continent borders came much later, and Europe stretches into Turkey. What about people who live near the border (Istanbul)? ‘Border-dweller’ skin tone does not change dependent on which side of the ‘border’ they live on. Skin shades exist on a spectrum; to distinguish three groups (according to Noah’s sons) is rather short-sighted.

You correctly state that, “all people come from Adam and Eve and after the Global Noah Flood, the sons of Noah and their wives”; therefore the information for all shades would have been present from the beginning. That is, unless you believe God altered DNA information around the Flood, but this would be an argument from silence. Even if He did, people were not scattered until at least a century later at Babel (the birth of Peleg, the fourth from Shem); i.e. before then, the descendants of Noah’s sons were free to intermarry. Genetically one could argue that we are all descended from Ham! This is because there is no way to separate Ham’s genetic or genealogical contribution from all of humanity, due both to pre-Babel and post-Babel mixing. By cursing Ham, you are inadvertently cursing yourself.

You use the words “clearly proves and shows”, but you read a lot into the text that simply isn’t stated.3 If it is not in the text, where is it coming from? Interestingly, you start your sentence with “I believe”. Is it proven or not? If so, then you no longer have to believe, do you?

The line of Ham is cursed in their flesh.

This is a regurgitation of the infamous ‘curse of Ham’? The ‘curse of Ham’—allegedly a dark skin—has been around for a while (mostly in America) but seemed to be on its way out. Some people are loathe to let this fallacious idea go; if not in its original form, then some variant of it.

While all people have a sin nature, the line of Ham has an “extra large curse” in them: Hamites/Blacks/Arabs are more prone to sexual and violent sins. This is why they “go ape” on people and have such gangster thug tribalism.

This appears to be a variant of the ‘curse of Ham’, one which, simply put, is wildly racist. It is wholly fabricated with a view to suppress certain people groups. As Angela Saini put it:

“… those committed to the biological reality of race won’t back down if the data proves them wrong.

… They will simply keep reaching for fresher, more elaborate theories when the old ones fail.

All this to prove what they have always really wanted to know: that they are superior.”4

Your view is not based on any real statistics nor, more importantly, Scripture. Where in the Bible does it teach this? I agree that 100% of people are prone to sin (Romans 3:23), but you suggest that around a third of all people have this proneness “to sexual and violent sins”? And this third of the world’s population “go ape” and have “gangster thug tribalism”. Is “go ape” a reference to them being less evolved, or one of your own terms, since it certainly is not biblical teaching? If I have surmised correctly, this somehow is genetically determined in your thinking. Yet nowhere in the Bible do we read of a Hamitic curse. Further, you should realise that gangsters and thugs can also be found among ‘non-African tribes’. It is important to look at the heart, rather than someone’s outward appearance (1 Samuel 16:7).

CMI and Answers in Genesis should admit this and not try to cover it up.

Why should we admit to something not found in the Bible and clearly fallacious? Just because you say so? No, we need hard evidence. Also, to cover something up means to hide the (inconvenient) truth so others will not discover it. Clearly, this is nonsensical for imaginary stories. It’s a strawman argument.

We all need Jesus

Agreed.

but the Hamite needs to be Lovingly Governed by the Shemite and Japhethite. Not enslaved or abused, understand, but, governed and controlled with love, compassion, empathy, and firmness.

Enslaving or abusing anyone is immoral; that is not the issue here. Why should all descendants of Ham be governed by descendants of Shem and Japheth? Let’s assume Ham was cursed—which he wasn’t—so that this somehow meant he could not govern. Why would all Ham’s progeny be affected in the same way? Moses wrote that God visits “the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:7). Clearly, more than four generations have passed since the days of Ham.5

Ham = Servant. Shem = Thinker. Japheth = Builder/Explorer. Exceptions exist but do not change the rule.

But you cannot point us to a relevant Bible passage to show where you get this idea from. Genesis 9:25–27 states the following:

[Noah] said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.

May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”

The Hebrew words behind the names in the pronouncement of Noah

Canaan: servant of servants

Twice the Hebrew `ebed (עֶבֶד) is used. These two appearances of the word are the same as used in verses 26 and 27. It is almost always translated as servant. It comes from the root `abad (עָבַד), mostly translated as to serve. The word is first used in Genesis 2:15 where it is translated ‘to work’.

The Hebrew for Canaan is Kĕna`an (כְּנַעַן, humiliated) and comes from the root kana` (כָּנַע) which means to bend the knee. The Hebrews subdued the people living in Canaan (the region) when they entered their land (Joshua 17:13).

Shem: owner (or maker) of tents

“in the tents” is the Hebrew plural form of ‘ohel (אֹהֶל), which means tent, home, dwelling, habitation.

Shem (שֵׁם) means name (reputation). It also denotes a person’s whole selfhood, their presence, which is why it was God’s “name” (shem) that dwelt in the temple (2 Chronicles 7:16). How fitting that Jesus came from the one called “name” as the perfect and whole representation of God, to dwell among us?

Japheth: enlarged, tent dweller

For “shall enlarge”, the Hebrew pathah (פָּתָה) is used. This root means to open, or to make roomy, spacious or wide. Brown, Driver, and Briggs6 (BDB) 834 states that the meaning here is to give Japheth an extensive inheritance (“make wide for Japheth”).

Out of interest

The name Ham (Hebrew Cham [חָם]) means warm/hot. BDB 325 [incorrectly generalizing] adds that descendants of Ham were inhabitants of southern countries and in Psalms (105 & 106) it refers to Egypt.

For “he shall dwell” the Hebrew shakan (שָׁכַן) is used. This root conveys the idea of settling down, or residing. Mostly translated to dwell, but other translations include abide, place, remain, inhabit, and rest. BDB 1015 places this reference under the definition of abide or dwell.

Japheth is the Hebrew Yepheth (יֶפֶת) and comes from the root pathah (פָּתָה), translated earlier as enlarge. This wordplay will not have gone unnoticed by Hebrew readers. It is interesting to note that verses 25 and 27 each use a repetition, wedging in verse 26 containing the Lord God of Shem. As mentioned, Shem was the ancestor of the Semitic people, and a patriarch in the line of Jesus. Of course, Christ was the servant of servants as he was humbled beyond measure. Yet He was also enlarged to sit at the right hand of God the Father and is rightfully called Lord of lords and King of kings (Revelation 17:14). In Him we have our inheritance.

This does not mean per se that Ham was not a servant, or Shem was not a thinker, or Japheth was not a builder/explorer. But all your statements are contrived; they certainly do not come from Scripture (see box). To boot, you imply in an earlier statement that all Hamites are servants. Yet now you say, “Exceptions exist but do not change the rule”. This is evidently a fallacy of generalisation.

Darwinism is wrong.

Yes. See for instance The Darwin Effect review.

But these distinctions between the three branches of man exist whether you admit it or not.

This is the burden of proof fallacy. You have simply stated what you believe to be true, without making any case—let alone a biblical one—for it. Then you have insisted others should believe likewise. Essentially, this is equivalent to “Because I say so”. As per our motto, we rather take our doctrine from the Bible.

I urge you to meticulously read Genesis 9:20–27 again (particularly verse 25), because a lot of your argumentation seems to hinge on a curse of Ham, whereas this passage clearly names Canaan as the cursed one. I am surprised you have not (consciously) noticed this, since you brought up the passage as the basis for your thinking. Somehow you have imbibed false teaching, either from a book by an author you esteem, or perhaps a person whose teaching you esteem (even a pastor). However, I beseech you to let go of this false teaching and stand upon the unadulterated truths of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). Take God at His Word.

Kind regards,
Lucien Tuinstra

Acknowledgements

I thank my wife and our dear friend Elizabeth Backfish, PhD, for help with checking the Hebrew text.

References and notes

  1. The words black and white in this article are placed in scare quotes when referring to people groups implied by the feedback sender. CMI knows people are not truly black or white, but rather have different amounts of the pigment melanin. Outward appearances are in many ways irrelevant, for one example, see creation.com/blood-brothers. Return to text.
  2. Without buying into the evolutionary undertones, there are people that suggest that ‘Cheddar Man’ (found in a Somerset cave) who, allegedly, lived around 10,000 years ago, was deemed to have skin pigmentation more commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa. Saini, A., Superior: The return of race science, 4th Estate, London, p. 167, 2019. See also: Reade, B., Dark-skinned Cheddar Man is hard cheese for the racist morons of the far right, mirror.co.uk, 10 February 2018. The allele that causes light skin does not appear in Europe until the farmers move in from Anatolia. All people older than that carry markers for dark skin. Return to text.
  3. This is called eisegesis. Return to text.
  4. Saini, A., Superior: The return of race science, 4th Estate, London, p. 292, 2019. Return to text.
  5. An exception would be the curse because of Adam’s sin. He was the head of mankind and so we still suffer—and will, until Jesus returns—the consequences of that original sin. Return to text.
  6. Brown, F., Driver, S., and Briggs, C., The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers Inc., Peabody, Massachusetts, 2004. Return to text.

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