Friday, November 18, 2016

The Curse on Canaan

The question was asked recently, "Why did Noah have to curse Canaan?"

For those of you not familiar with the story: Noah and his three sons and the four wives of those four men had recently spent a year and change aboard the ark, with a bunch of smelly, high-maintenance critters. After disembarking, Noah planted a vineyard, maybe within a year or two, and then it was probably another year or three before he was drinking the wine from that vineyard.

Whether he intentionally got drunk, or had no idea wine would ferment into alcohol in this new post-Flood world (other clues in the text indicate that something had changed in the environment), the result was that he got wasted. Here's the text from Genesis 9 (WEB):
20 Noah began to be a farmer, and planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and got drunk. He was uncovered within his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it on both their shoulders, went in backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were backwards, and they didn’t see their father’s nakedness. 24 Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25 He said,

“Canaan is cursed.
    He will be a servant of servants to his brothers.”
I'm not sure it's accurate to say Noah "had to curse" Canaan.

Two versed prior to this, in verse 18, you might notice that Moses specifically points out that "Ham is the father of Canaan", without saying something similar about the sons of Shem and Japheth. Now again, in verse 22, Moses again points out that "Ham, the father of Canaan" did such-and-such.

Why all this emphasis on Canaan?

Recall that Moses compiled Genesis (from books and records of the earlier patriarchs - cf Gen 5:1; 10:1; 36:1; etc), and he likely did this during the forty years of wandering in the desert, just before he was expecting to lead his people to an invasion of the land of ... wait for it, wait for it ... Canaan!

His people needed to understand that they need not fear the people of Canaan; the prophecy is that Canaan will be the servants of his people.

All part of God's plan to lead his people into the Promised Land of Canaan.

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