Genesis 9:18-28

18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.)

19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.

21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.

22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.

23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him,

25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.

27 May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years.

29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.

Ham is identified particularly as the one of Noah’s sons who was the father of Canaan. Canaan, in reality, seems to have been Ham’s youngest son (Genesis 10:6), and was no more prominent in history than his other sons. Presumably, he is singled out for special mention because of his being the ancestor of the Canaanites, who were the wicked inhabitants of the land promised to Abraham and to the children of Israel, at the time when Moses was later editing this narrative and leaving his people there. — Morris, page 232

saw (v.22) = gazed at

It is significant that, as the great prophecy of Genesis 3:15-19 was given as a result of the fall of Adam, this prophecy was given as a result of the fall of Noah. The parallel between the two situations is striking. Both Adam and Noah were commanded to fill the earth and exercise control over it. Each of them is actually the ancestor of all men in the present world. Each sinned by partaking of a fruit—Noah of the fruit of the vine and Adam of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. As a result, each became naked and then was provided with a covering by someone else. Finally the prophecy resulted in a curse, which has effected mankind ever since. Along with the curse, however, there were also the blessing and anticipation of ultimate salvation. — Morris, pages 236-237

This [v.25] is the first mention of the word “servant” in the Bible, and, as such, undoubtedly has special significance.

Morris goes to great lengths to explain the curse on Ham. He doesn’t think that Noah’s curse was directed only to Canaan, Ham’s son, because Canaan wasn’t involved in the incident in the tent and so wouldn’t have been picked out from among Ham’s other sons.

Mankind has three fundamental types of duties to perform as God’s steward over the world: (1) spiritual—receiving, preserving, and teaching the knowledge of the word of God; (2) intellectual—expanding and teaching the knowledge of the world of God; and (3) physical—providing the material means for man’s bodily needs and comforts, thus enabling him to fulfill his intellectual and spiritual functions more effectively.

Each person has, to some degree, all three capacities, but in each person one usually dominates. That is, some people are dominated by physical considerations, some by intellectual, some by spiritual. The same generalization applies to nations: some have historically been primarily motivated by religious considerations, some by philosophical and scientific thinking, others by materialistic pursuits.

It is therefore very significant that these first three progenitors of all modern nations were recognized by their father to have characteristics representing these three emphases. Shem was mainly motivated by spiritual considerations, Japheth by intellectual, and Ham by physical; and the same would be true (in a very general way, of course) of the nations descending from them, by reasons of both genetic inheritance and parental example.

Each was regarded as God’s servant—Shem in spiritual service and Japheth in intellectual service. Ham, responsible for physical service, was thus a “servant of servants,” serving both Shem and Japheth.

Since, however, Ham would be concerned more directly than the others with the “ground which the Lord hath cursed” (Genesis 5:29), the great Curse would be felt more directly by him than by the others. — Morris, pages 239-240


Noah knew that God’s spiritual blessings would especially rest on Shem, and so exclaimed: “Blessed by Jehovah, the God of Shem!”Finally coming to Japheth, Noah prophesied the Japeth would be “enlarged.” … The word is usually translated “entice” or “persuade.” [This word] is apparently derived from the word “to make open.” It seems most probably … that the thought here is one of mental enlargement. If one is “persuaded” or “enticed,” his previous opinions have been altered, he has changed his mind, or “opened” his mind. Japheth was an open-minded man, and so would be his descendants. The Japhethites would be intellectually curious, explorers in the world of thought, as Ham would be in the physical realm and Shem in the spiritual. Not only would Japheth be intellectually enlarged, but he would also “dwell in the tents of Shem.” This is a common figure of speech meaning “have fellowship with him.” … Though Shem would be the means of mankind’s receiving God’s great spiritual promises, Japheth would also appropriate these blessings to himself by enjoying fellowship with Shem. As Shem and Japheth had unitedly shown respect to their father and their father’s God, so they would unitedly worship “the Lord God of Shem.” The Hamites, on the other hand, by implication would not do so, but would presumably follow other gods of their own devising.”

In general , however, it has been true throughout history that the Semites have been dominated by religious motivations centered in monotheism (The Jews, the Moslems, the Zoroastrians, etc.). The Japhethites (especially the Greeks, Romans, and later the other Europeans and the Americans) have stressed science and philosophy in their development. The Hamites (Egyptians, Phoenicians, Sumerians, [Asians], Africans, etc.) have been the great pioneers that opened up the world to settlement, to cultivation, and to technology. Note that these three streams of nations are not three “races.” —Morris, pages 242-243

If there are no gaps in the genealogies of Genesis 11, this means that Noah continued living until Abraham was about 58 years old.

Taylor, on the other hand, does believe the curse is only on Canaan.

Ham’s actions, though reprehensible and disrespectful, did not constitute a major “cursable” offense. We have to assume that Noah was aware, prophetically or otherwise, of great offenses either already caused or soon to be caused by Canaan. Canaanites later in the Bible were the usurpers of the land that God had promised to Abraham. The Israelites were told to completely destroy these Canaanites, because their worship of false gods was particularly offensive to God. — Taylor, page 188.

Wechsler agrees with Taylor and goes a lot further.

The following considerations … support the view that Canaan was the culprit—to wit, first and foremost: Noah himself identifies the culprit as his youngest son (v.24), and whereas Ham is Noah’s middle son (per every enumeration of the three), Canaan is indeed among his youngest grandsons, being the youngest son of Ham. … The underlying Hebrew term may denote a male descendant in any following generation. … Thus, whether or not Canaan was the youngest of all Noah’s grandchildren, he is the youngest so far mentioned and hence the only person with whom the youngest son in v.24 can be identified. Consistent with this identification it should be noted that Canaan is the one cursed, and the biblical pattern, already established in Genesis 3:14, is that the actual culprit is cursed, and the sin involved something that the culprit had physically done to Noah in his nakedness, the implication being that a sexual sin was committed, which is consistent with the same specific perversity by which Canaan’s descendants are characterized just a few chapters later [in Sodom]. —Wechsler, page 159.

I’ve always heard of the curse of Ham. But Morris’ view feels like a reach.

Wechsler’s view is new to me. I never noticed that the curse is placed directly on Canaan. I find that take very compelling.

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