Sunday, June 14, 2015

Genesis 9 and the Curse on Canaan

This is one of the most abused passages of Scirpture.  In addition to how it has been and still is used to Justify Racism, Slavery and Imperialism.  I've now seen it thrown into (by the pastor I do not name) the list of clobber passages against Homosexuality.

Genesis 9:18-27
And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.  These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.
 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.
The first error is thinking it was Ham who did something to Noah.  The problem is the more limited meaning "son" often has to modern readers.  Hebrew had no word for Grandson, Son can mean any male descendant.  Every time this particular narrative mentions Ham it refers to him as the father of Canaan.  Canaan is the youngest of the 4 descendants of Noah named in this narrative, while we know from Genesis 10 that Ham was older then Shem.

Because Leviticus used "uncovered nakedness" as an idiom for various sexual relations.  The Mishna, Midrash and The Talmud (Jewish Fables, Titus 1:14) began playing games to add to what this narrative says about Ham.  And Christians have gone and played along.  One popular theory is to cite the reference that you uncover your father's nakedness when you sleep with your father's wife.

But this passages isn't using the word nakedness is any such Levitical or poetic sense.  It's a straight forward narrative.  Noah became uncovered, Ham saw it and informed his brothers that there was a problem.  Noah became uncovered before Ham saw anything.  We are reminded at this moment that he is Canaan's father.  It's possible he entered that area because he was looking for his son.

The curse is placed solely on Canaan, not Ham or Ham's descendants in general, just Canaan.  Ironically, in light of how this would be used later, the ONLY one of Ham's sons who didn't go to Africa.  The people we tragically enslaved were mostly descendants of Cush, kin to Nimrod who has also been unfairly slandered.

This "curse" is really a Prophecy.  It was strictly speaking I feel fulfilled when David finished conquering the land.  That is when Israel's military expansion period was over.  If it goes beyond that at all it could include when Alexander finished fulfilling Ezekiel's prophecy against Tyre, or Rome conquering and enslaving the Phoenician outpost of Carthage.  After that I firmly believe Canaanites ceased to exist as a distinct people.

Regardless of Canaan committing a Sin and misfortune befalling his descendants because of that, being descended from Canaan does not make one automatically Evil.  Rachab was from Canaan as well as Uriah The Hittite.  Both named in Matthew's genealogy of Jesus.  Also Hiram King of Tyre who was an ally of Solomon, and the other Hiram who was the architect of The Temple was paternally a Tyrian.

For more refutations of Racism go here.

Now to address what it was Canaan did.  The pastor who I do not like to name says (assuming Ham did it) something homosexual was done to Noah.  I'm sure plenty others have viewed it that way too.  This pastor adds that it demonstrates an inherent link between homosexuality and drunkenness (I wish I knew how to add an eye roll emoji to this blog).

If something sexual was done to Noah, which does seem plausible, the problem is that it was done to him while he was asleep making it Rape.

Another theory is that he castrated Noah, this is usually suggested by bizarre theories trying to make Noah Ouranos of Greek mythology and Ham (who they assume did it) Cronos.  This being justified by that Japheth became a Titan as Iapetos in Greek mythology.

All we know is Noah became uncovered, Ham's interruption may well have prevented Canaan from entirely finishing what he was doing.

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