And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Ham is the father of Canaan.—Though human life had thus begun again upon a firmer footing, yet evil and discord were soon to reappear, though in a milder form. No brother sheds a brother’s blood, but in the next generation sin breaks forth afresh, and the human family is disunited thereby, the descendants of Canaan taking the place of the Cainites—without indeed, their striking gifts, but nevertheless as a race foremost in trade and commerce. After enumerating the three sons of Noah, we are told: “Of ‘—more correctly, from—“them was the whole earth overspread,” that is, peopled.
18. כנען kena‛an, "Kena'an, bowed down."
19. נפץ nāpats, "break, scatter, spread." פוּץ pûts, "break, scatter, flow."
20. כרם kerem, "orchard, vineyard."
21. יין yayı̂n, "wine; related: ferment."
After the blessing on the new heads of the human race has been pronounced, and the covenant with them renewed, we are prepared for a new development of human action. This appears, however, in the form of an event which is itself a meet preliminary to the subsequent stage of affairs. The prophecy of Noah, delivered in the shape of a solemn paternal doom, pronounced upon his three sons, sketches in a few striking traits the future history of the separate families of mankind.
These two verses form a connecting link between the preceding and the following passage. After the recital of the covenant, comes naturally the statement, that by the three sons of Noah, duly enumerated, was the whole land overspread. This forms a fit conclusion to the previous paragraph. But the penman of these sentences had evidently the following paragraph in view. For he mentions that Ham was the father of Kenaan; which is plainly the preface to the following narrative.2347
Which is here mentioned to make way for the following relation. Genesis 5:32.
and Ham is the father of Canaan; this is observed for the sake of the following history, concerning the behaviour of the one to Noah, and of the curse of the other by him, which would not have been so well understood if this remark had not been made: the father and the son, as they were, related in nature, they were much alike in manners and behaviour. Cush, the firstborn of Ham, is not mentioned, but Canaan, his youngest son, because he was cursed, as Aben Ezra observes; and who remarks that the paragraph is written to show that the Canaanites were accursed, the father of whom this Canaan was; and who is the same Sanchoniatho (y) calls Cna, and says he was the first that was called a Phoenician.And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)18. the sons of Noah] The names of Noah’s sons have already frequently been given in the P narrative (Genesis 5:32, Genesis 6:10, Genesis 7:13).
Ham is the father of Canaan] This note has in all probability been inserted by the compiler, with reference to the section Genesis 9:20-27 and the curse pronounced upon Canaan (Genesis 9:25; Genesis 9:27).
18–27. Noah, as the Vine-dresser, and his three Sons. (J.)
In this section the narrative, which begins at Genesis 9:20, is introduced by the two connecting Genesis 9:18-19, which either conclude J’s account of the Flood, or are an editorial insertion by the compiler.
(a) 18, 19 Noah and his family leave the ark: (b) 20–24 Noah plants a vineyard, drinks wine, becomes intoxicated, is observed and ridiculed by Ham, but Shem and Japheth shew respect: (c) 25–27 the curse of Noah on Canaan, the blessing on Shem and Japheth.Verse 18. - And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, who are here again mentioned as the heads of the nations into which the family of man developed, the writer having described the important modifications made upon the law of nature and the covenant of grace, and being now about to proceed with the onward course of human history. The present section, extending to ver. 27, is usually assigned to the Jehovistic author (Tuch,Bleek, Kalisch, Colenso, Kuenen), though by Davidson it is ascribed to a so-called redactor, with the exception of the present clause, which is recognized as the Jehovist's contribution to the story. The ground of this apportionment is the introduction of the name Jehovah in ver. 26 (q.v.), and certain traces throughout the paragraph of the style of writing supposed to be peculiar to the supplementer. And Ham is the father of Canaan. Kena'an, the depressed or low one; either the Lowlander or inhabitant of a tow coast country, as opposed to the loftier regions (Aram); from kana , to be low, depressed, in situation, as of land (Gesenius); or more probably the servile one in spirit (Furst, Murphy, Keil, Lange). The reason for the insertion of this notice here, and of the similar one in ver. 22, was obviously to draw attention to the circumstance, not "that the origin of Israel's ascendancy and of Canaan's degradation dates so far back as the family of the second founder of the human race," as if the writer's standpoint were long subsequent to the conquest (Kalisch), but that, "as Israel was now going to possess the land of Canaan, they might know that now was the time when the curse of Canaan and his posterity should take place" (Wilier). Genesis 9:18; and in prospective allusion to what follows, it is added that "Ham was the father of Canaan." From these three "the earth (the earth's population) spread itself out." "The earth" is used for the population of the earth, as in Genesis 10:25 and Genesis 11:1, and just as lands or cities are frequently substituted for their inhabitants. נפצה: probably Niphal for נפצה, from פּוּץ to scatter (Genesis 11:4), to spread out. "And Noah the husbandman began, and planted a vineyard." As האדמה אישׁ cannot be the predicate of the sentence, on account of the article, but must be in apposition to Noah, ויטּע and ויּחל must be combined in the sense of "began to plant" (Ges. 142, 3). The writer does not mean to affirm that Noah resumed his agricultural operations after the flood, but that as a husbandman he began to cultivate the vine; because it was this which furnished the occasion for the manifestation of that diversity in the character of his sons, which was so eventful in its consequences in relation to the future history of their descendants. In ignorance of the fiery nature of wine, Noah drank and was drunken, and uncovered himself in his tent (Genesis 9:21). Although excuse may be made for this drunkenness, the words of Luther are still true: "Qui excusant patriarcham, volentes hanc consolationem, quam Spiritus S. ecclesiis necessariam judicavit, abjuciunt, quod scilicen etiam summi sancti aliquando labuntur." This trifling fall served to display the hearts of his sons. Ham saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. Not content with finding pleasure himself in his father's shame, "nunquam enim vino victum patrem filius resisset, nisi prius ejecisset animo illam reverentiam et opinionem, quae in liberis de parentibus ex mandato Dei existere debet" (Luther), he just proclaimed his disgraceful pleasure to his brethren, and thus exhibited his shameless sensuality. The brothers, on the contrary, with reverential modesty covered their father with a garment (השּׂמלה the garment, which was at hand), walking backwards that they might not see his nakedness (Genesis 9:23), and thus manifesting their childlike reverence as truly as their refined purity and modesty. For this they receive their father's blessing, whereas Ham reaped for his son Canaan the patriarch's curse. In Genesis 9:24 Ham is called הקּטן בּנו "his (Noah's) little son," and it is questionable whether the adjective is to be taken as comparative in the sense of "the younger," or as superlative, meaning "the youngest." Neither grammar nor the usage of the language will enable us to decide. For in 1 Samuel 17:14, where David is contrasted with his brothers, the word means not the youngest of the four, but the younger by the side of the three elder, just as in Genesis 1:16 the sun is called "the great" light, and the moon "the little" light, not to show that the sun is the greatest and the moon the least of all lights, but that the moon is the smaller of the two. If, on the other hand, on the ground of 1 Samuel 16:11, where "the little one" undoubtedly means the youngest of all, any one would press the superlative force here, he must be prepared, in order to be consistent, to do the same with haggadol, "the great one," in Genesis 10:21, which would lead to this discrepancy, that in the verse before us Ham is called Noah's youngest son, and in Genesis 10:21 Shem is called Japhet's oldest brother, and thus implicite Ham is described as older than Japhet. If we do not wish lightly to introduce a discrepancy into the text of these two chapters, no other course is open than to follow the lxx, Vulg. and others, and take "the little" here and "the great" in Genesis 10:21 as used in a comparative sense, Ham being represented here as Noah's younger son, and Shem in Genesis 10:21 as Japhet's elder brother. Consequently the order in which the three names stand is also an indication of their relative ages. And this is not only the simplest and readiest assumption, but is even confirmed by Genesis 10, though the order is inverted there, Japhet being mentioned first, then Ham, and Shem last; and it is also in harmony with the chronological datum in Genesis 11:10, as compared with Genesis 5:32 (vid., Genesis 11:10).
To understand the words of Noah with reference to his sons (Genesis 9:25-27), we must bear in mind, on the one hand, that as the moral nature of the patriarch was transmitted by generation to his descendants, so the diversities of character in the sons of Noah foreshadowed diversities in the moral inclinations of the tribes of which they were the head; and on the other hand, that Noah, through the Spirit and power of that God with whom he walked, discerned in the moral nature of his sons, and the different tendencies which they already displayed, the germinal commencement of the future course of their posterity, and uttered words of blessing and of curse, which were prophetic of the history of the tribes that descended from them. In the sin of Ham "there lies the great stain of the whole Hamitic race, whose chief characteristic is sexual sin" (Ziegler); and the curse which Noah pronounced upon this sin still rests upon the race. It was not Ham who was cursed, however, but his son Canaan. Ham had sinned against his father, and he was punished in his son. But the reason why Canaan was the only son named, is not to be found in the fact that Canaan was the youngest son of Ham, and Ham the youngest son of Noah, as Hoffmann supposes. The latter is not an established fact; and the purely external circumstance, that Canaan had the misfortune to be the youngest son, could not be a just reason for cursing him alone. The real reason must either lie in the fact that Canaan was already walking in the steps of his father's impiety and sin, or else be sought in the name Canaan, in which Noah discerned, through the gift of prophecy, a significant omen; a supposition decidedly favoured by the analogy of the blessing pronounced upon Japhet, which is also founded upon the name. Canaan does not signify lowland, nor was it transferred, as many maintain, from the land to its inhabitants; it was first of all the name of the father of the tribe, from whom it was transferred to his descendants, and eventually to the land of which they took possession. The meaning of Canaan is "the submissive one," from כּנע to stoop or submit, Hiphil, to bend or subjugate (Deuteronomy 9:3; Judges 4:23, etc.). "Ham gave his son the name from the obedience which he required, though he did not render it himself. The son was to be the servant (for the name points to servile obedience) of a father who was as tyrannical towards those beneath him, as he was refractory towards those above. The father, when he gave him the name, thought only of submission to his own commands. But the secret providence of God, which rules in all such things, had a different submission in view" (Hengstenberg, Christol. i. 28, transl.). "Servant of servants (i.e., the lowest of slaves, vid., Ewald, 313) let him become to his brethren." Although this curse was expressly pronounced upon Canaan alone, the fact that Ham had no share in Noah's blessing, either for himself or his other sons, was a sufficient proof that his whole family was included by implication in the curse, even if it was to fall chiefly upon Canaan. And history confirms the supposition. The Canaanites were partly exterminated, and partly subjected to the lowest form of slavery, by the Israelites, who belonged to the family of Shem; and those who still remained were reduced by Solomon to the same condition (1 Kings 9:20-21). The Phoenicians, along with the Carthaginians and the Egyptians, who all belonged to the family of Canaan, were subjected by the Japhetic Persians, Macedonians, and Romans; and the remainder of the Hamitic tribes either shared the same fate, or still sigh, like the negroes, for example, and other African tribes, beneath the yoke of the most crushing slavery.
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