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Curse of Ham revisited

Curse of Ham

The Curse of Ham refers to an incident in the Bible, Genesis 9:20-27, regarding Noah (after the Great Flood) and his sons, Shem, Japheth and Ham. Some Biblical scholars believe this anecdote was added to the scriptures as a rationalization justifying the Israelite conquest and enslavement of the Canaanites later in the Old Testament (e.g. Numbers 31:17-18).

Racist interpretations: The Canaanites, descended from Ham via his son Canaan, have historically been regarded as the ethnic ancestors of the black peoples of Africa. Although Genesis does not specify Ham's skin colour, some ancient Jewish writings, including the Talmud, state that either Ham or Canaan had his face "blackened" by God as part of the curse, in punishment for Ham seeing Noah's nakedness and not covering him, or, in some variations, for copulating while aboard the Ark.

This idea became more widespread in Europe during the Middle Ages, as an argument for the inferiority of the black race, whose dark skin was believed to be an outward sign of the curse, and to sanction some instances of slavery. The belief was at its most popular during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to justify the Atlantic slave trade and plantation slavery in the European-Caribbean colonies and American South (Confederacy). Noah's decree that Canaan should be the slave of Shem was seen as God's command that Africans should be the slaves to white Christians.

Although overwhelmingly discredited and largely forgotten, racial arguments based on the Curse of Ham are still clung to by some white supremacists. Apparently white supremacists can't think any better than the Bronze Age lunatics who wrote that part of the Bible; nor do they see the irony in using a Jewish text to justify their racism.

Rationalist interpretations: The fully functioning rational mind raises a few questions about the Curse of Ham: Why weren't any of Ham's other sons (Cush, Mizraim or Phut) cursed as well as Canaan? Why was Canaan being punished for Ham's misdeeds, when Deuteronomy and Ezekiel 18:20 clearly state that children should not be punished for parents' misdeeds? (Exodus 20:5 and Ezekiel 18:20 contradict each other) Shem and Japheth acted as equal partners in covering their father, but Japheth's reward is far greater. The whole idea that every black person in the world is permanently cursed because some far-distant and almost certainly mythological ancestor saw his father drunk and naked, aside from being appallingly racist, just doesn't make a whole lot of sense at all.

“[U]ntil Jews apologize for their hand in that ugly slave trade; and until the Jewish rabbis and the Talmudic scholars that made up the Hamitic myth–that we were the children of Ham, doomed and cursed to be hewers of wood and drawers of water–apologize, then I have nothing to apologize for,” said Louis Farrakhan (Jewish Virtual Library). Lee Levine, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, writes, “There is no reference in Egyptian sources to Israel’s sojourn in that country, and the evidence that does exist is negligible and indirect.” Levine also wrote that excavations showed there had been no walls at Jericho (Jewish Eugenics by John Glad).

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