The Curse of Ham

Is the black man cursed? Why are black nations underdeveloped? Is this underdevelopment attributable to Noah’s curse of his son, Ham? (Using linguistic analysis, anthropologists believe Ham is the primogenitor of the black race). We find the narrative of the Curse of Ham in the 9th chapter of the Book of Genesis. Here’s the story:

As a consequence of the diluvian catastrophe that wiped out the human race, Noah became the ancestor of all mankind. The sons of Noah who came out of the ark with him were Ham, Shem, and Japheth- Ham being the youngest. Noah cultivated a vineyard and one day got drunk on his own product. He drank himself to naked stupor. Ham found his father naked in his tent but instead of exercising godly discretion, he went and told his brothers. They took a robe, held it over their shoulders, backed into the tent and covered their father. They didn’t see him naked.

When Noah woke from his drunken stupor he learned what had happened. Inexplicably he cursed Ham’s son, Canaan. Instead of cursing his last born, he cursed the last born of his last born. Thus Ham will know the deep ache from a last born, just as Noah did. In essence, “You’ll know what this feels like!”

The lesson from Noah is that children are supposed to cover the nakedness and shame of their parents. “May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives,” Noah cursed. He goes further: “May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and May Canaan be his servant! May God expand the territory of Japheth! May Japheth dwell in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant.” (Shem is the ancestor of Semites – Arabs and Jews. The word “semitic’ comes from “Shem”).

The black race is said to descend from Ham. By that very fact the black race is said to be cursed, but how true? The first thing to note is that Ham was not cursed. It was Canaan, the last born of Ham that was cursed. Therefore not all of Ham’s descendants were cursed. Ham had three other sons: Cush, Mizraim and Phut. They were not cursed.

Noah’s curse on Canaan is already fulfilled. Let’s go back in history. Let’s see how the curse was fulfilled:

The rampaging army led by the second generation General, Joshua had destroyed Jericho in dramatic style. Using a brilliant tactical maneuver they had also destroyed Ai, another great city-state. The casualty was high. Twelve thousand dead. Ai was set on fire. It never recovered. This army had also routed two powerful Amorite kings: the famous King Og of Bashan and King Sihon of Heshbon.

The victories sent a powerful signal to the peoples west of River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea coast: You’re next! They were descendants of Canaan: Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites, Girgashites, and Jebusites. (Please note the Ijebus of South West Nigeria are not descendants of Jebusites). The kings formed a coalition to fight against Israel, setting up a single command structure. But the Hivites did something smart. Behind their allies they sent emissaries to make peace with Joshua. But they used false pretenses. They posed as travellers from very, very far. Kind of used movie effects. Their donkeys were loaded with parched sacks and mended wine skins; they wore tattered clothes, threadbare sandals and they had dry crusts for food. To all appearances therefore they had travelled from afar.

They requested alliance with Israel under terms of surrender: “We want to be your servants, they said. Make a covenant with us.” Fooled by the “evidence” presented (which the Hivites amped), and without consulting God, Joshua made the covenant only to discover three days after they were actually their next military target. The Hivites were thus spared annihilation. And the covenant could not be broken. It was made before God. “Let them live and be our slaves,” the Israeli leaders responded when the people murmured their mistake. “Now therefore you are cursed, and of you there shall always be slaves, hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God,” General Joshua told the Hivites. And so they became, and the prophetic curse of Noah was fulfilled. End of story.

Interesting that Joshua designated the Hivites labourers in God’s temple. How did he come about that? It’s actually part of the curse of Noah: “May the Lord, the God of Shem, be blessed, and may Canaan be his servant!” Thus according to the curse, Canaan would serve the God of Shem in a capacity as servant of Shem. And so the Hivites became hewers of wood and drawers of water “for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord.”

Despite this fulfillment, the Biblical account of the curse of Canaan has become one of the most abused scriptures. It’s become justification for satanic ideologies and unconscionable economic systems, slavery included. Theosophy inspired Nazi racism, the ideology of Klu Klux Klan seek solace in the “Curse of Ham”, as well as Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Darwin wrote of “favoured races”. The full title of Darwin’s 1859 work was The Origin Species by Means of Natural Selection – or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

In his second major work on evolutionary theory, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex Darwin wrote:

“At some future period, not very distant as measured by centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace the savage races throughout the world. The break between man and his nearest allies will then be wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, the Caucasian, and some ape as low as baboon, instead of as now between the negro or Australian and the gorilla.”

Darwin believed the Australian and the Negro are sub species between Caucasians and apes. Bunk! The methodology of genealogical mapping of the races faces daunting challenges. It is largely based on linguistic grouping. Assimilation and linguistic conquest throws a spanner in such reasoning. The relative underdevelopment of black nations is not because of any Curse of Ham. Such belief is fatalistic. It’s simply the result of the tidal forces of history, as well as slavery and the balkanizing trauma of colonialism. They need to articulate a strong vision, develop human capacity and institutions, and effectively manage resources.

If you’re black, the so-called Curse of Ham has nothing on you. Even if it did Jesus broke the curse. It is written: “Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.” Jesus became your curse on the cross (Galatians 3:13). Game over! But to partake of this blessing of redemption you’ve got to take on the nature of Christ. You must be born anew.

Please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner. That Jesus died on the cross for me. Please forgive me. I accept Jesus as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen!”

© Leke Alder |