A Strange Curse

with a strange consequence.

Genesis 9:24-29 (ESV)

When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”

After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.

Curiously, Noah didn’t curse Ham, his youngest son; he cursed Ham’s youngest son.

The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. – Genesis 10:6 (ESV)

This must have happened quite some time after the flood. Grape vines take many years to become productive.

We aren’t told why Noah chose to curse Canaan. There must have been some reason, but it wasn’t important enough to include. What is important is that the descendants of Canaan will end up being conquered by the descendants of Shem (specifically, the Israelites).

But an unintended consequence turned out to be remarkably significant. Some Americans used this passage to justify the enslavement of Africans. That’s not only evil; it’s stupid. It was the other sons of Ham who settled in Africa; Canaan obviously didn’t.

The blame for this doesn’t solely fall on the crackpots who dreamed up that crazy excuse for slavery. Anyone with a clue who failed to call them out bears some responsibility.


Truth is the cornerstone of Christianity. Jesus said, “I am the truth.”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” – John 14:6a (ESV)

Jesus isn’t just truthful, He is the truth. So, our worship of Him as Lord of all creation includes defending truth – especially against lies about the Bible.

Yes, it’s uncomfortable to challenge someone about a lie, but simply quoting scripture or citing some other fact isn’t all that confrontational. Failure to defend truth is a serious error.

The toughest part about this is the timing. When someone spouts a falsehood about the Bible, or about Christ, or about the church, the best chance to speak up is right then. Yet, a hasty reply can do more harm than good. We need God’s help to keep from botching an important opportunity.

Pray for boldness in defending God’s word. Ask Him to give you courage seasoned with grace.

Ask the Holy Spirit, in advance, to help you speak eloquently and lovingly when the time comes.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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