Genesis 9:25-27, The Curse of Ham

And [Noah] said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

//I’ve heard it. Unless you’re under fifty, you’ve probably heard it too. Ham was a black man, and his son was cursed by Noah such that his descendants would become slaves.

The idea of black skin stems from a misnomer relating the name “Ham” to the Hebrew word for black, brown, or burnt. The sons of Canaan–Cush, Mizraim, Phut–are thought to have populated Africa. Psalms 78, 105 and 106 refer to Egypt as the “land of Ham.” Thus, says the logic of Christian thinking dating back to the 17th century, black people are biblically destined to be slaves.

This may seem like silliness today, but overcoming this logic in the church was very difficult and caused great tension. In 1845, the Southern Baptists split from the northern Baptists over the issue of slavery. Only 20 years later, the Thirteenth Amendment outlawed slavery in the states. Yet it was another 130 years before the Southern Baptist Convention voted to adopt a resolution apologizing for its defense of slavery and its promotion of racism.

In 2012, the Southern Baptists elected their first black president, a pastor named Fred Luter Jr. Overcoming our prejudices may take time, but Christianity is slowly moving in the right direction.

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