Noah is a man recorded in the Bible as blameless and righteous when people of his generation had turned their ways against God. Because of his faith in God, Noah was chosen to build the ark, which saved his family and some animals when the flood wiped out the earth. However, the story of Noah took a twist when he got drunk, and his son Ham saw his nakedness. In the book of Genesis 9:20-25, Noah went ahead and cursed Canaan instead of Ham, who had seen his nakedness. So, it is quite confusing why Noah pronounced the curse on Canaan and not his father, Ham. Why did Noah curse Canaan and not Ham?
There are several views on why Noah cursed Canaan and not Ham. Some bible scholars and theologians posit that the curse was a reflection of when the Canaanites took land that God had set aside for the Israelites. Other scholars argue that Canaan and Ham had done something more than just looking at his father’s nakedness. They argue that this is a possibility because when Noah discovered what his youngest son had done to him, he was angry.
So, did God prevent Noah from cursing Canaan? How did Ham’s sin against his father cause the curse of Canaan? How did Noah’s curse on Canaan set grounds for future conflicts? Continue reading to find the answers to these questions and even more.
Did God prevent Noah from cursing Canaan?
Most scholars argue that God prevented Noah from cursing Ham, which is why he cursed Canaan. Those who believe in this view argue that God had blessed Noah’s son in the book of Genesis 9:1, and Noah could not curse him. According to this perspective, God protected Ham from the curse of Noah by the blessing he proclaimed over Noah’s son. However, no one can say with certainty that the blessings God proclaimed over Noah and his sons prevented Noah from cursing Ham.
Other scholars argue that it was, in fact, Canaan and not his father Ham who saw the nakedness of his father. The book of Genesis 9:22 reads that Ham saw the nakedness of his father and informed his brothers. Though the Bible does not record Canaan sinning against Noah, those who hold on to this view speculate that Ham is incorrectly blamed for the sins of Canaan.
How did Ham’s sin against his father cause the curse on Canaan?
Ham’s sin against his father is recorded in Genesis 9:20-25. The Bible notes that Noah got drunk by drinking some wine from a vineyard he had planted. When drunk, the scripture indicates that Noah could have stripped naked, and his youngest son had no shame in seeing his father naked. Genesis 9:22-25 says, “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so they would not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and discovered what his youngest son had done to him, he said, cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.”
However, the Bible does not explicitly mention why Noah decided to curse Canaan because of the sin that his father, Ham, had committed. However, some scholars believe that Canaan also sinned against Noah. They argue that there was a possibility that Canaan was Ham’s youngest son, and Noah was referring to his grandson when he spoke about his youngest son. The sons of Ham are mentioned in the book of Genesis 10:6 as Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. This theory is surrounded by many unanswered questions as scholars try to reconcile the harsh punishment with the offense and why Noah cursed Ham’s son for what his father did.
Those who argue that what made Noah angry when he woke up was a sin committed by Canaan and not Ham holds on to the fact that calling a grandson a son is not uncommon in the Bible. In Ezra 5:1, Zechariah is referred to as the son of Iddo when we know that Iddo was his grandfather.
The Bible is apparent in Zechariah 1:1 that Zechariah was Iddo’s grandson. Therefore, there might be a possibility that Noah was referring to Canaan in the book of Genesis 9:24. Therefore, by the term young son, there is a possibility that the scripture meant Noah’s youngest grandson.
How did Noah’s curse on Canaan set grounds for future conflicts?
The patriarch spoke for the first time in the flood story when Noah cursed Canaan. Additionally, this is the only time Noah is quoted in the book of Genesis. This leads some scholars to wonder if the curse was a prayer request or a declaration. Scholars believe that the curse was a prayer request and it did set grounds for future conflicts, as seen in the books of Judges, Numbers, and Joshua. They believe it was a prayer because of Noah’s speech in Genesis 9:27, “May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his servants.”
Canaan was the son of Noah’s youngest son, Ham. Several years after Noah’s son died, the Israelites settled on the land God had promised to them (Abraham and his offspring). The account of the Israelites going to the Promised Land is recorded in Genesis 12:1-3. “The Lord said to Abram, go from your country, your people, and your father’s household to the land I will show you. I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse, and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
However, the Israelites fought against the Canaanites to occupy the Promised Land. The book of Judges 1:9-10 records that the Israelites who lived in Judah first fought with the Canaanites who lived in the hilly country and later on with those who lived in Hebron. Because God had promised them victory, they defeated the Canaanites and occupied the Promised Land.
The Bible is also specific that the Canaanites were evil people. The book of Leviticus 18:24-25 reads, “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled, so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws.” Therefore, with the above biblical proof, bible readers and scholars have reason to believe that the curse of Canaan set grounds for future conflicts.
As a devout Christian, I have always been passionate about the Christian faith. This inspired me to pursue a degree in Religious studies and a Masters in Theology in college. I have also been privileged to teach 4 Christian courses in a college and university. Since I am dedicated to spreading the word of God, I am actively involved in the Church. Additionally, I share his word online and cover diverse topics on the Christian faith through my platform. You can read more about me on the about us page.