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Sunday: The Curse of Ham — 42 Comments

  1. In the days when I attended research conferences and seminars, they often had a dinner associated with them. A feature of these meals was the ready availability of alcohol. It usually started with the careful consideration of the wine list, discussing the characteristics of the different wines. Then the conversation would get louder and funnier and from then the choice of drinks no longer mattered. It was down the hatch and who cares. The conversation would get more stupid and aggressive until someone said something so embarrassing that shook off all semblance of civility. And this was among men and women I normally had great respect for in their fields of study. Sometimes I had to drive them home. At other times I had to try and help mend the bridges of personal relationships. And sometimes the consequences stuck around for years. I still know of professional people who avoid one another because of things that were said in moments of drunkenness at conference dinners. (It was good for me to go to these dinners. I learned that sobriety is often a rare but valued gift!) One thing I did learn was that it was never a good idea to talk about what happened at such a dinner later. The participants were often ashamed of their actions and any reminder was painful - but it did not stop them from doing the same thing at the next conference.

    So Noah got drunk and Ham was disrespectful to Noah. Their story is the proto-story of drunken stupidity and its consequences. I don't think the curse was meant to have racial overtones. That is an "a postiori" use of the story to justify racial superiority.

    • Agreeable that when alcohol is introduced it can lead some people to an undesirable side of their personality which brings on embarrassment and shame. This too is what I understand of Hams condition here. Noah got drunk, Ham was a gossip about it, disrespected him and hence the curse. Same humanness we now experience and have since then. In my opinion, the running of Hams mouth to offend Noah seems to be the crime here.
      Gossip ruins lives.
      How racism comes into this, just signs of our now current- sinful- times. Shame

  2. The topic of curses and blessings is again relevant to this week's lesson. So it is perhaps worth taking some time to reflect upon what you understand in relation to the nature of curses and blessings - and the actions of cursing and blessing.

    Are curses and blessings something that comes about only when/because someone says some 'magic' words - and, therefore, it is the saying of these words that makes the curse or blessing come into existence? Thus, if Noah had not said "cursed be Canaan", would Canaan have instead had a blessed and prosperous life? Or was it the (self-)cultivated qualities* that Ham had demonstrated in his treatment of Noah that shaped Ham's future to the point that those qualities were also passed down and modelled to his son Canaan who in turn embraced those same qualities for his own life and living?

    I am very mindful of the significance of cursings within traditional African culture where the impacts of cursing is a very real phenomenon giving rise to a very real fear of curses and cursing. However, is this the same thing that is being referred to in the bible passages we are presently studying? Was Noah participating in 'witchcraft'? Or is there a difference?**

    For those who may be interested, here is a link to a 2017 Journal of Adventist Mission Studies article by Dr Passmore Hachalinga regarding "How curses impact people and Biblical responses". While I find that the section on Biblical responses needs further refinement with regard to the notion of God's judgment/s, the article is nevertheless informative of the issues related to curses and cursing within traditional African culture.

    * That Shem and Japheth responded very differently to Ham suggests that Ham's way of being was something other than a dynamic modelled by Noah. Hence the suggestion that Ham had (self-)cultivated different tendencies than those of his brothers under the same parental environment - just like Cain had compared with Abel and Seth.
    ** I acknowledge that cursings and omens are a reality under the Kingdom of Darkness which does have the power to bring about bad things - and even to seemingly bless someone with material prosperity, though it only does so ultimately for maleficent rather than beneficent reasons and outcomes. However, does the Kingdom of God operate the same way?

    • It's a real fundamental belief in most of Africa and others parts of the World dominated by black colored skinned people.
      Parental curse is a strong spiritual factor that can affect progress in life despite determination with much disciplined efforts.

      It needs to have biblical answers to the long struggle faced.

  3. Personally, I'm not buying into the notion that Ham merely talked about Noah's predicament, and did nothing to help him. Whatever actually happened, the inspired Ellen White called it an "unnatural crime." Clearly, the language of Scripture is hinting at something very dark, something corresponding to the extent of the later general depravity of the Canaanites.

  4. It can be really hard to care for an elderly family member! Why do I feel compelled to talk to my siblings about the weaknesses and shortcomings of the one we're caring for? Maybe I'm frustrated and tired. Maybe I need to get this off my chest. Maybe I feel like someone needs to know the truth of how the day actually went, that all the smiles came at a cost. And then I read this lesson. And I think of 1 Peter 4:8 (love covers a multitude of sins) and 1 Corinthians 13:5 NIV (love keeps no record of wrongs) and 1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV (love always protects). Jesus covers the multitude of our annoyances and mistakes with His Love. There is an Accuser (Rev. 12:10) and that is not who I'm following. I want to be of the lineage that covers shames and speaks of others' strengths...spreading the news of God's kind, generous, peaceable kingdom by living in His Love.

  5. A couple of quick pointers to those in the past who have justified slavery and other great wickednesses to Black Africans by using Genesis 9:25
    1. It was Canaan, not Ham who was cursed
    2. Black Africans are descended from Cush, not Canaan, a different son of Ham.

  6. Just curious to know, who are the present descendants of Ham, Shem and Japheth?

    Noah's drunkenness,no wonder the Bible said that wine is a mocker, instead of learning from this Bible figures, we indulge in same or even worse mistakes than they.

    Why will apostle Paul justify the use of little wine as good for the stomach?

    • I do not think that there would be any "pure" descendants of the three sons today. Anybody who looks at human ancestry using modern genetics gets the impression sooner or later that we are an interesting mix of genetics.

    • Regarding the use of alcohol for the stomach, it is my understanding that alcohol, at sufficiently strong concentration, has antimicrobial properties. Alcohol does this via de-naturing ('breaking down') of the proteins - and hence protein-based structures - that bacteria, viruses and fungi are made up of. Hence, I believe Paul was speaking, in the context of his time of writing, of using alcohol responsibly as medicine. Sanitation-related problems (resulting in contaminated water and food) was an issue back then - just as it still is in some 'developing' places today.

    • I read somewhere the initial ancestries were as follows:

      Ham-Philistines, Egyptians and those with roots in Africa

      Japheth (Noah blessed descendants with wealth)-Romans, Greeks, Europeans and those with roots in Europe like the American colonists

      Shem (Noah blessed descendants with authority)-Hebrews, Arabs, Asian

      What Maurice answered makes sense to me, though…that as we get further and further from the days of these patriarchs the more our ties mix together - we are all from the same family tree after all, and increased opportunities for worldwide transportation makes more intermingling possible. Genealogy certainly does not determine character. Also, Ham is one of Noah’s children blessed by God Himself in Gen. 9:1.

  7. Also, I stay away from wherever strong drink is served anywhere. I disagree with the idea that sometimes it is a good thing to attend an event where strong drink is served to see if somehow we can be a witness for good there. What good came out of Noah getting drunk? "Nothing at all."

    • While I do not seek out events where alcohol is served, I do attend when it has been related to my work and/or research interests. I do so with a prayer in my heart. Nobody has ever been critical or sarcastic about my not drinking. All of them appreciate a ride home if they know they are inebriated. And some of them have had to ask me to sort out personal problems afterwards for things said under the influence. Jesus was accused of mixing with sinners and publicans - they were the people he came to save. As I said earlier, I don't seek out these events to attend them, but when I do choose to go to them for work or research conferences, God provides opportunities to share and help.

      I understand that my stance on this issue is not for everyone. Sometimes, what transpires at the events is not pretty. And, some people have a problem with the temptation of alcohol. That is fair enough.

  8. You bring up a good thought, sister Esther. While caring for others, friends and family might ask about the sick one's condition. And if it is concerning mental illness, there's a line between telling the truth in kindness and gossiping. I personally feel the most comfortable, saying that "this one does have memory lapses, but they can still function in other areas."

    • Thank you for your beautiful additional thoughts, sister Rebecca! This topic is very present for me and I'm sussing out the difference between "telling the truth in kindness and gossiping", as you perfectly put it. I was feeling guilty for expressing my burden in caregiving to anyone, however now I'm seeing it's important to support one another through difficult social situations - whether it's ACA groups (Adult Children of Alcoholics), or new parents meeting up to share stories and life balance techniques, or an adult son or daughter reaching out to talk through the grief and weariness of parenting an elderly parent with advancing dementia.

      For me, that puts an interesting twist on this Noah and sons story. And lends to more compassion for the whole situation. Did 600+-year-old Noah have any memory loss issues? Was this drunkenness a one-time thing, or had it become an ongoing problem for the family to deal with? Did Shem and Japheth have better skills at setting personal boundaries with their Dad than Ham did so it affected Ham differently to see his Dad like that?

      Even if that was so, this is a reminder that we can share conversations with siblings about the realities of our parents, but a Christlike character is never cynical and mocking. In that regard, Shem and Japheth demonstrated restraint to turn their backs on the "tabloid" or "victim" aspect of what was going on. They actually did something to move beyond the situation. I recently saw an apropos meme: "when you're going through hell, go through it". Ham seems to have lingered there, whereas his brothers went through it.

  9. Noah, the “hero” of the Flood, drunk? What should this tell us about how flawed we all are and why we need God’s grace every moment of our lives?

    The strongest (except Christ) of God's representatives have fallen because of self interest: Lucifer, God's covering angel; Adam, man created perfect; Abram lied re: Sarai being his wife and tried to aide God in the effort of a son; David committed adultery and murder; Elijah ran from queen, etc. . . If icons of God can fall, who am I, a mere mortal to believe I'm above it. I must "Practice Presence of God" (Pastor Hoh, Amazing Facts Ministries).

    Heb 12: 2,3 We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete... keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won't get discouraged and give up.

    Eph 6:12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

    I must look past the veiled trials in my life to the eternal consequences. May God help and have mercy.

  10. Today’s Scripture reference does not speak in any way of the race or color of Ham or his descendants. All of Noah’s sons were of one race and origin. It was not Ham who was cursed, it was Canaan, Noah’s grandson yet to be born. To manipulate this passage of Scripture to justify racism is a testimony to the depravity of 'religious' man – may God help us!

    I think, to better understand what actually transpired to establish Noah’s ‘curse’ of Canaan, the circumstances effecting his family’s clan, it would help to closely study the historical accounts of him and his posterity’s affiliation with false gods.
    Noah said – Gen.9:25 - ”Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem, ….” It appears that even Japheth benefited from the ‘God of Shem’ in that his posterity was able to ‘dwell in the tents of Shem’, but not so Canaan; his clan was to become their servant.

    I see Canaan’s leanings to lend an ear to other gods, relying on false gods to guide his people, which lead to the destruction of his people. The whole of Mesopotamia and all the regions around them, including Egypt, were populated by people who eventually worshipped false gods and made themselves idols of them.

  11. " Im very mindful of the significance of cursing within the traditional AFRICAN CULTURE where the impact of cursing is very real"..Phil Van Der Kilt
    Are you referring to AFRICAN COUNTRIES or a particular AFRICAN culture ? I've been an African America for over 85 years and have yet to find this practice in my culture. I find this statement to be an outrage! Again perpetuating a distortion about "traditional" African culture ?!
    In Islam , Hindu and most religions you will find the belief in curses..Through out the Old Testament GOD uses curses against disobedience to His word.

    • It would help to read the article linked so as to understand what his statement means. It is true that the whole system of blessings and curses is present in the traditional african culture. Examples would be the belief that elderly people could curse those who erred and also bless the good. I am an african and I can attest to it. The whole understanding of the biblical perspective on blessings and curses is often misunderstood because it isn't exactly aligned with cultural beliefs.

    • I do not believe there is a culture that does NOT include a preconceived idea of what it means to be 'cursed' or beliefs about the subject. We have various names for it like Witchcraft, Obeah,even 'fixings and hauntings. They all have negative connotations for evil. We tell stories of Baalim who tried to 'put a curse' on Israel, but was prevented. Of an entire household afflicted because of Sarah, or was that a curse...
      Perhaps... Ham did not receive a direct punishment, however, a parent's heart breaks when they see certain tendencies of theirs quite alive and well in their children.

    • Hi Barbara

      I wanted to acknowledge your outrage from feeling that I had perpetuated a distortion about "traditional" African culture. Because you do not know me, you cannot be expected to know that I was actually intentionally trying my best to do the very opposite via drawing upon the views of those within African culture, rather than relying upon my view as an 'outsider'. Hence my inclusion of the link to one of the articles I consulted in the process - I hope you had opportunity to browse it to see what informed the statements I wrote. I was not referring to African American culture.

      Perhaps you could assist and educate me with knowing how you would have preferred me to write the statement/s that are of particular concern to you?



      • The South African system of Apartheid instituted by the Dutch Reformed Church was based on the perverted idea that the descendents of Ham were the black races of Africa and that therefore the White races were appointed by God to rule and govern and so the system became ingrained in the minds of the White Afrikaner...I know, because as a person of colour I lived under their oppressive rule until I migrated to Australia

  12. I think with the plants just starting to grow back and all, that Noah did not realize the wine was already fermented. I think him getting drunk was a total accident. At the same time I understand we all make wrong choices even when we are fully aware of the situation.

    • Why would Noah's getting drunk be a total accident? I am sure that Noah was very much aware about how before the flood He had probably gotten drunk there then with fermented drink but he had probably had more control then with it and just got high on it and not like after the flood because after the flood He was now King of the whole earth and made the mistake of going further with the alcohol content into his system this time.

      • I just heard an explanation that makes some sense. The atmosphere of the planet was greatly changed by the flood. There was less carbon dioxide and less atmospheric pressure on the surface of the planet. It is possible that in pre-flood conditions, grape juice kept fresh much longer, and Noah was unacquainted with fermented grape juice.

  13. But and again, why did Noah curse Hams son, Canaan, but not Ham Noah's own son and the guilty one for the crime of disrespect to his father Noah? I do not recall anyone having an answer to my question on this before.

    • I think the last paragraph of the lesson may lend a little light on the question. Some have said that Noah's 'curse' was really a prophecy of the coming situation with the land of Canaan in which the inhabitants became subdued when God gave the Promised Land to them.
      In other words, it wasn't a punishment or 'curse' as we know the word, but a consequence of having sin multiply in their lives. So that with the play on names: Canaan, the grandchild and Canaan the upcoming generation, we find hope rather than punishment.

  14. Blessings and Curses in the Bible

    I think you will find that most "blessings" and "curses" in the Bible are inspired prophecies of what is to come, based on the mind set and behavior of the people involved. Our omniscient Creator who knows the end from the beginning inspired those prophecies.

    Check out, for instance, Jacob's "blessings" on his sons. Then check out the formal blessings and curses pronounced from Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal. (See Gen 27:1-13. Curses for disobedience begin at Gen. 27:14. Blessings for obedience are listed in Gen. 28:1-14. Curses for disobedience are listed in Gen. 28:15-68. It's a interesting read, and it's clear to see that the blessings would follow obedience, and the curses would follow naturally from disobedience. If we keep these blessings and curses in mind as we follow the history of Israel, we can see that they were fulfilled to the letter.

    Note also Jacob's blessings on his sons, Gen 48:14-16 and Gen 49:2-28. It's fascinating to follow lives of the sons of Jacob and see how these "blessings" matching their characters, were fulfilled.

    • I agree with and therefore wanted to affirm what you have outlined, Inge. No 'magic' involved. Just foretold revelation of the reality manifest in the mind/heart-set and associated behaviour of those involved and the consequences that would inherently flow from such for better (blessing) or worse ('cursing').

  15. I fail to understand why the lesson talks of the curse of Ham while the Bible is plain that it's Canaan who is cursed.
    KJV Genesis 9:25
    25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

    Somebody enlighten me kindly

    • Perhaps it is because Ham's actions caused the "curse" by Noah. Gen 9:22, 25 It is interesting that the Bible records "Ham, the father of Canaan," and then the prophetic curse rests on Canaan. Someone pointed out that Canaan was the youngest son, thus the most impressionable, at the time of Ham's sin and thus the most likely to carry on sinning in a similar manner. We know that the Canaanites were particularly known for their crude and debased form of ritual fertility-cult. Thus Canaan's off-spring apparently carried Ham's sin further.
      I mention "prophetic curse," because Noah's words did not cause the sins of his son and grand-son or their off-spring. It appears to be a prophecy of the consequences of Ham's sin.

    • I believe there is a difference between the Holy Spirit through Noah foretelling the negative influence of Ham's character on his son and the Tough Love solution to try and remedy that influence. Which was to remove Canaan from his father's influence and put him under Shem's guidance where he had to learn to obey Shem and the LORD's rules.
      We have and will further discover this is the LORD's Way - He examines the evidence, determines whether their hearts are good or evil, if evil He prescribes a course of action which hopefully leads them to repent and be transformed.

  16. I have been researching this curse of Canaan- the Bible is a treasure and I love looking intently at it’s pages in depth! What I find baffling is Ham served his father faithfully 120+ years helping build the ark and getting provisions. He is blessed by God when they listen to God about the Covenant of the Rainbow. Then shortly after the Flood is over, he disrespects his father by gossiping about him and then Noah curses his grandson? What about Noah applying “be slow to speak and slow to become angry.”? (I know that’s NT but it still applies!) Would Ham and Canaan’s life had been different for the better if Noah had a honest and restorative conversation with Ham about respect? YES! But after the curse, how could their relationship EVER be restored? It would be damaged almost beyond repair. Maybe Ham and Canaan began fulfilling the prophecy because of the brokenness the curse caused! We can see that today in dysfunctional families—“You will never amount to anything” has been spoken to many young people and their future lives began matching the statements of their parents. It would have broken my heart to have been cursed by my father for my disrespect. I think the curse was an overreaction brought on by an angry drunk! God is still God- no matter what! May He reveal to me what I should know. I want to really understand. Thank you all for sharing. I read all the comments and the excellent article.


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