Monday, February 2, 2015

#BlackBiblicalHistory: Ham, Father of African Nations

Image Source: yangzeninja on DeviantArt.Com
Biblical Reference: Genesis 9, Genesis 10

According to the Bible, the beginning of African History (if we begin with the founding of African civilizations) can be credited to the man known as Ham or Cham, Noah's second born son, the Father of African Nations. The biblical story of Ham is a famous or infamous story, full of notoriety and intrigue, one that has been (wrongly) used for a long time to justify the oppression of black people. 
      Ham's notoriety begins soon after Noah and his family exits the ark that had protected them from the flood God had sent to cover the earth and therefore remove most of humanity from it (because of their overwhelming sin). Now that Noah and his family (his wife, and his three sons Shem, Ham and Japheth and their wives) were the sole humans left on earth, it was up to them to re-populate it. 
      But before they could really get into focusing on that mission alone, a scandal occurred which caused tension in Noah's family. Noah planted a grape vineyard, from which he was able to create wine. Inevitably, Noah got drunk and (as often happens when people get drunk) found himself in dishabille and unconsciousness - basically, he was knocked out and naked. Ham discovered him in this state and told his brothers Shem and Japheth, who chose to cover their father without actually seeing him as well. When Noah woke up, he figured out somehow what had happened, and was so angry that he decided to curse Ham's youngest son, Canaan, into servitude towards Shem and Japheth. 

     This is where the story has become misused and convoluted throughout the centuries. Many people have taken the fact that Noah cursed Ham's son to mean that Ham and all of his descendants are forever cursed into being servants. But as I said before, Noah cursed Canaan, not Ham. Why? Well, right before all of this had happened, God had blessed Noah and his sons, asking them to go forth and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). Noah basically did not have the power to curse Ham, because he had already been blessed by God Himself. 
      The proof of God's blessing and calling towards Ham (that he go forth and fill the earth) would soon be seen in the fact that Ham, through his actions and the actions of his sons, became the father of many African nations. Ham is credited specifically with founding Egypt in Psalms 105:23 ("Egypt...the land of Ham"), which he apparently passed on to his son Mizraim, since the ancient name of Egypt was Mizraim (Genesis 10:6, Amplified Bible). Ham's son Cush founded Ethiopia (Ezekiel 30:5, Amplified Bible), his son Phut founded Libya (Genesis 10:6, Good News Translation & King James Version), and his cursed son Canaan founded the Canaanite nations which actually headed opposite of Africa towards what we think of today as the Middle East. Other nations that came from Ham's sons include (but are not limited to) Sheba, Babylon and Erech/Uruk (Genesis 10).
      Despite all of the accomplishments of Ham and his sons, it must have weighed down on him to know that one day his youngest son Canaan would become enslaved to or captured by the descendants of his brother Shem. This prophecy/curse of Noah did eventually come true, as the Children of Israel (descendants of Shem through their father Israel/Jacob, who was the grandson of Abraham, a grandson of Shem seven times over) did eventually go into the land of Canaan and completely capture it and its people (Joshua 6, Joshua 11, Joshua 13).

Triumphs and Disappointments of Ham
  • Triumph - Ancestor of many nations and civilizations whose fame would last for centuries because of their many accomplishments and contributions.
  • Failure- Knowing that the line of his youngest son Canaan would be cursed to serve the line of Shem, because of a wrong he did to his father Noah (discovering his nakedness, bragging about it to his brothers, which shamed his father)
  • Triumph - Fulfilled his mission from God, to go out and fill the earth, through the many nations that came from his line. 
  • Failure - The nations he founded turned away from worshiping God as they took up idols and false gods that they created. 
  • Triumph - Many of his descendants eventually chose to turn away from idol worship and submit to the One True God, as will be seen in later posts and was prophesied in Psalm 68: 31 ("Cush will stretch out her hands to God"). Some of them even became leaders within God's chosen nation, the Nation/Children of Israel.

What I Learn from Ham's Life
Ham gained the world (in a sense), but he couldn't take the things of the world (like wealth and fame) with him. The thing he should have focused on was continuing to be a child of God. Based on the fact that his descendants largely began worshiping false gods (as most of Shem's and Japheth's descendants did as well), it seems that he lost this focus. But God provided a way for men to turn back to God, through Abraham and his descendants. Interestingly enough, Ham's relationship with God (specifically, the relationship of his descendants with God) would be restored in later generations who would unite with the Children of Israel. 

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