Who was Ham in the Bible?Question: "Who was Ham in the Bible?"
Answer: Ham was one of the three sons of Noah. Ham and his wife, along with the rest of Noah’s family, were saved from the great flood God sent to judge the earth, which had grown increasingly wicked. Once the flood waters had receded, God commanded Noah’s family, specifically his sons and their wives, to multiply and repopulate the earth. Ham himself became the father of the Canaanites, the Babylonians, the Phoenicians, the Cushites, and the Egyptians (Genesis 10:6–20).
Ham was cursed by his father after a sordid family incident. As Noah’s family worked to reestablish civilization after the flood, Noah became “a man of the soil” and grew a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). One day, he became drunk after imbibing some of the wine he had produced. Ham entered Noah’s tent and found his father there, passed out and naked. Ham told his brothers of their father’s condition, and Shem and Japheth walked backward into the tent, their faces turned respectfully away, and covered their father with a garment (verses 22–23). When Noah awoke, he blessed Shem and Japheth for their action, but he cursed Ham and Ham’s son, Canaan, who it seems had also been involved in the matter (verse 25).
Exactly why Noah cursed Ham and Canaan is unknown, because the Bible does not give any detail as to Ham’s specific actions in the tent. The curse may have been because Ham did not afford Noah the same respect and courtesy Shem and Japheth had shown him. Some speculate that Ham violated his father somehow, and rabbinic tradition states that Ham castrated Noah. Whatever happened, Noah was greatly displeased and cursed Ham and his line through Canaan: “Cursed be Canaan! / The lowest of slaves / will he be to his brothers” (Genesis 9:25).
Although the curse did not extend to every person in Ham’s family throughout every generation, Ham’s line did indeed experience enslavement by the hands of Shem’s and Japheth’s descendants. In ancient times, Hamites served the Assyrians, Persians, Macedonians, and Romans (Shemites and Japhethites). And of course the Canaanites were destroyed or subjugated by Israel during the conquest of the Promised Land. Sadly, we have even seen this curse play out in modern times as the Africans (Hamites) were enslaved by Western Europeans (Japhethites) and Arabs (Shemites). This does not mean that Hamites were or are in any way inferior to Shemites and Japhethites; rather, the history of slavery points to the dire nature of Noah’s curse and the accuracy of Scripture and the prophecies it contains.
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