Written by Paul J Bucknell on June, 17, 2023
Ham’s Descendants Who is affected by Ham’s curse?
“Are the black people cursed in the Bible? Did Noah’s pronouncements against Ham’s descendants pass down to all the black race?”
Let’s look at these questions more broadly and then proceed to answer more specifically.
The Judgment of Adam’s Descendants
Although specific curses are given to specific people and groups in the Bible, a more threatening and inclusive judgment is upon all human beings because of Adam’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:1-16). From this judgment comes death, over-shadowing all curses.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom 5:12).
It’s precisely because of this curse that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came and died in our place to set us free from death to life (Rom 5:15). Eternal life is promised to all who believe in Jesus, including all races, genders, and status in society. This redemptive message shouts God’s mercy and grace toward human beings.
“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many” (Rom 5:15).
Curses in the Bible
God cursed the serpent (Satan):
“The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle” (Gen 3:14).
God cursed the productivity of the land:
“Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Gen 3:17).
Noah cursed Canaan, Ham’s descendant:
“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers” (Gen 9:25).
Altogether the word “curse” is used 172 times in the Bible. Significantly, God did not curse mankind because he’s made in the image of God. Joshua made Rahab’s family curse the first and last born of anyone who would rebuild Jericho (Jos 6:26).
But let’s return to the questions.
Are black people cursed in the Bible?
There is no evidence of black people being cursed in the Bible. The only reason people suggest this is because of Noah’s curse, but we will address that in the following question.
Instead, we see a general blessing on all people and races, both at creation, to Adam and Eve, as well as Noah’s descendants. The word “bless” is used 290 times in the Bible.
“God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28).
“He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created” (Genesis 5:2).
“And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 9:1).
This blessing would be available to all people. Jesus became the door of hope for all people without any conditions. Let me share some powerful verses from Galatians.
God brings blessings to all the nations, even the Canaanite like Rahab the harlot.
“The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you” (Gal 3:8).
God saves all (who call upon Him in Christ) and, as a proud Father, equally calls them “sons of God.”
“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:26).
God clarifies that there are no boundaries to the human race that would exclude anyone from receiving the full blessings of Christ Jesus.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal 3:28).
If we jump into the New Testament, we see black people functioning as leaders among the believers. Simeon was likely from North Africa, which later had a large contingency of Christians (before the attacks by Muslims). ‘Niger’ means black.
“Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Acts 13:1).
In summary, we see no curses associated with black people. Instead, we find there is great hope in Christ and the full blessings of God upon everyone who believes (Eph 1:3)!
The Curse of Ham’s Descendant
Did Noah’s pronouncements against Ham’s descendants pass down to all the black race?
Let’s look more specifically at this question. It has been used to wrongly teach or suggest that the curse upon Ham’s descendant (singular, not plural, as in the question) is related to a race. Let’s first look at the only verse used to formulate this sloppy conclusion.
“24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son (i.e., Ham) had done to him. 25 So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants he shall be to his brothers” (Gen 9:24-25).
What does it say? Noah did not curse Ham nor all his descendants, but only Canaan. We are not sure why this is so. Commentators suggest that it became a prophecy of sort, as Joseph gave in Genesis 49.
Troy Lacey found three suggestions.
- Noah refused to curse his son since God had already blessed Ham in Genesis 9:1.
- Noah could see that Canaan also possessed the carnal and materialistic nature of Ham, and he realized it would only get worse in the coming generations. Perhaps this is why the phrase “Ham the father of Canaan” was used in Genesis 9:22, since Canaan was very much his father’s son.
- Canaan was not only the father of the Canaanites, but also of the Amorites, Jebusites, Sidonians and the Phoenicians. All of these peoples would at some period in the future wage war against the descendants of Shem and (to a lesser extent) Japheth, and would also become grossly idolatrous. Noah may have been prophetically denouncing this departure from faith in the true and living God.
Let’s conclude by getting a firsthand look at Genesis 10 where it clarifies these things.
Ham had four sons, recorded in Genesis 10:6-20. Each son is closely associated with a region. While Cush, Mizraim, and Put are squarely situated in northern Africa—though not all equally having dark-pigmented skin (e.g., Egyptians), Canaan appears to be an exception, situated in the land of Canaan. Canaan included tribes like Hittites, Jebusites and the Amorites (Gen 10:15-20). Ham’s three descendants located in Africa were separate from Canaan, the cursed. (Even with them, God patiently dealt with them - Gen 15:16).
Race or skin color had nothing to do with Noah’s curse on Canaan. Perhaps Noah saw some perverseness in Canaan and, from God, received insight into how this sin would follow Canaan’s descendants wherever they went. But, even still, any who repent from their sins can find forgiveness and step out of the curses placed on them or their people.
Curses are associated with evil behavior (Lev 18:3), but Christ Jesus liberates all who call upon His Name from these curses, bringing God’s amazing blessings upon them!
“Rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:17-18).
Study Questions for Ham’s Descendants
- How is Ham related to Noah?
- What are two things God cursed?
- Whom did God bless?
- Who did Noah curse and why?
- Whom did God bless in Genesis 9:1?
- How do the three verses in Galatians (3:8, 26, 28) differently demonstrate are not cursed?
- List one intriguing fact from the Ham’s Descendant diagram.
- How would you answer the question, “Are black people cursed in the Bible?”
- What are the promises in Acts 26:17-18?
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