View Single Post
Old 07-03-2009, 02:25 PM
Brother Presswood's Avatar
Brother Presswood Brother Presswood is offline
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: Little Rock, AR
Posts: 15

A few years ago, I found a pamphlet entitled Biblical Segregation, in which the author was attempting to prove that God demands that the races be segregated when it comes to worship. I chose to refute this concept in my doctoral dissertation. In it, I address the issue being discussed in this thread. I would like to offer some of my thoughts on the matter.

At the foundation of the false ideology of biblical segregation is a gross misinterpretation of God’s curse on Noah’s son, Ham, recorded in Genesis chapter 9. In this passage, segregationists found what they considered a clear explanation of the role of the black man in society. According to Pastor Humphrey K. Ezell, “In this account God has segregated the races. Shem and Japheth are to dwell in tents together; but a curse is placed upon Ham and his descendants, and they are to be servants to Shem and Japheth. There is no evidence anywhere in the Scriptures that this curse…has been lifted.”

Genesis 9:22, And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. Ham showed serious disrespect for his father. Instead of covering him when he saw him uncovered, he went and told his two brothers. What exactly is Ham's sin? Noah's judgment seems harsh if all Ham did was see his father without any clothes on and poke a little fun at him.

To fully understand Ham’s sin, we need to see how the problem is solved in verse 23. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. Shem and Japheth back into the tent, carefully avoiding a glance at their father's nakedness, and they put a covering on him.

It is best to take this story at face value, understanding Ham’s sin as one of disrespect of his father and broadcasting of his father’s shame. Again, to read something else into the story is mere speculation. The connection between drunkenness, nakedness, and shame runs throughout the Word of God.

Ham should have been covering his father's nakedness, taking pity on his shame. Ham is a “talebearer” who “revealeth secrets” instead of being of a “faithful spirit” and one who “concealeth the matter” (Proverbs 11:13). Ham did not seek love by covering his father’s transgression (Proverbs 17:9). Ham is breaking the fifth commandment, which tells us to honor our father and our mother.

This commandment is more about duty to God than duty to parents. Parents rule with the authority of God, and honor given to them is honor that is due to God. So Ham, in despising his father’s nakedness and ridiculing him, is committing a truly terrible act; he is despising and ridiculing the authority of God. Ham believes his father, who bears a godlike relation to him, is not to be respected but rather to be ridiculed and made the object of gossip and jokes. For children to disobey their parents is to disobey God. To disrespect them is to disrespect God. To hate them is to hate God. At the time of this event in Noah’s life he was over 500 years old; his children are grown. It is a sin, at any age, to dishonor your parents, to ridicule them, or make yourself look good or wise at their expense. This is to dishonor and ridicule God and make yourself wiser than He.

The sin against God in this story comes in the form of sin against his appointed ruler, Noah. Shem and Japheth take over God’s role in covering their father's nakedness, just as God Himself covered the nakedness of Adam and Eve. Noah, rather than God himself, will be the one to pronounce the curse on Ham and to pronounce a blessing on Shem and Japheth.

Shem and Japheth at least showed the respect that was due to their father, by going backwards into the tent and covering their father. Proper respect will seek to cover failure rather than to expose it. Ham had exposed his father’s nakedness; Shem and Japheth’s action is the direct opposite of Ham's. Notice the care with which they accomplish this covering: they lay a garment on their shoulders and carefully back into the tent until their averted eyes recognize the edge of their father's bed. Then, sending the garment backwards from their shoulders, they lay it upon him, never looking. They take every precaution. Their action is Godlike.

And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. (Genesis 9:24, 25)
When Noah awoke, he knew that Ham had shown this disrespect toward him, though we are not told how he found out. He then pronounced a curse, not upon Ham, but upon Ham’s son Canaan. Ham could not have been cursed because God has already blessed him. Canaan would be “a servant of servants” to his brethren. He would serve Shem (vs. 26) and he would serve Japheth (vs. 27). How far this curse would extend to Canaan’s children we do not know.

The curse on Canaan has nothing whatsoever to do with skin color, but is an example warning fathers to train their children in godly principles. Perhaps Noah saw in his grandson Canaan the same disrespect and propensity to mock as did his son Ham. The Word of God bears testimony to the fact that, all too often, when the father sins, the next generation learns from their father. The sons are often more wicked than their father and are prone to pass on the generational curse to their children. It seems that Noah understood that Canaan’s descendants would also possess the insolent nature of Ham.