What the Bible says about
Canaan as Youngest Son of Ham
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Notice the incident: "So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him" (Genesis 9:24). An illicit sexual act is indicated. While Noah was drunk, he had no idea what was occurring.
The difficulty in this verse is one of grammar. Similar problems exist elsewhere in Scripture. Notice, for instance, Exodus 34:28: "So he [Moses] was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments." In the Hebrew text, "He wrote" seems to refer to Moses, but Exodus 31:18 and Deuteronomy 9:10 prove that God wrote the Ten Commandments on the stone tables. Thus, modern translations that capitalize pronouns that refer to Deity correctly translate this as "He [the LORD] wrote."
Armed with this example, we can now attempt to solve the problem in Genesis 9 by seeing verse 24 in its context:
Then he [Noah] drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his [Ham's] younger son [or, more properly, youngest son] had done to him. Then he said: "Cursed be Canaan . . ." (verses 21-25).
The situation begins with Noah becoming drunk and being violated ("became uncovered"; see Leviticus 18:6-7). The perpetrator, Canaan, is named in verse 22 as Ham's son. That Ham is Canaan's father is emphasized twice in the account (verses 22, 24). The pronoun "his," then, properly refers back to Ham, not to Noah. Ham was the first on the scene after his son's perverse act, guessed what had happened, and reported it to his brothers to seek counsel about what they should do. Later, when Noah awakes, there is no doubt in his mind that Canaan had defiled him, and he curses him for it.
Finally, was Canaan really the youngest son of Ham? Genesis 10:6 indicates he was: "The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan." Canaan is listed last in order of birth. Canaan was the youngest son of Ham.
Canaan was not punished for something Ham did. Canaan was punished for his own sin.
We witness the closing stages of Noah's comments today. Canaan, broadly the peoples of Africa, is in the process of being marginalized by world powers. God has indeed "enlarged" the population, prestige, and power of Japheth, the Asian nations collectively, especially in the last hundred years or so. Japheth's general and widespread "blooming" is one of the most obvious and important trends today.
What is not so obvious, however, is the role of Shem in bringing about this growth. Nevertheless, the fact is incontrovertible: God has used (and is using) Shemitic civilization to transform Japheth into a great people. Japheth is coming to "dwell in the tents of Shem"—in those cultural fixtures originated by Americans and Europeans. This widespread realignment of cultural bearings, from traditional Oriental to postindustrial Occidental, often comes with reservation—and with a good deal of adaptation as well. Nevertheless, it has come about:
» The Japanese Emperor wears Western-style clothes. His people, isolated from the Occident for centuries, have today thoroughly accepted the institution of capitalism, "a peculiar creation of Western culture." The Japanese people have come to feel quite at home "in the tents [and tenets] of Shem."
» India may lack an emperor but not Shem's tents. India is the world's largest democracy. Just like capitalism, democracy, as we will see shortly, is a Shemitic invention. In the 1830s, an Englishman, Lord Macaulay, formulated a civil and criminal legal code still used in India today. Macaulay believed that Britain's aim in ruling India should be the creation of "a class of persons, Indian in blood and colour, but English in taste and intellect." To an extent, Britain succeeded.
» As is evident to all, China is moving into Shem's tents as well, slowly adopting a market economy. While no one can say for sure, there will probably be more of Shem in China's future.
One writer offers remarkable insight into these tents. He does not refer to Shem, but to his descendent, Abraham. The Abrahamic
world emerged from the triad of religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—that trace their roots in the Biblical patriarch and spawned the great secular ideologies of scientific empiricism, liberal democracy, and Marxism. Unlike the Buddhist and Hindu worldviews, the Abrahamic perspective sees nature as reducible to predictable laws and history as a process with a meaningful beginning, middle, and end. The Muslim, the Marxist, the democrat, the Baconian scientist, the Christian, and the Jew all share this fundamentally similar outlook on life.
Because the Western perspective focuses on the sibling rivalries between Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, Jefferson, Bacon, and Marx, it too often overlooks the extraordinary spread of Abrahamism out of its native Middle East into nearly every corner of the world. Virtually every human culture that has encountered Abrahamic ideology has adopted it sooner or later. Asia is no exception. In the last 100 years, each major Asian state has embraced at least one Abrahamic faith. Consequently, every Asian society is today engaged in a fundamental effort to reconcile its increasingly Abrahamic outlook with its native culture. (Walter Mead, "The End of Asia? Redefining a Changing Continent," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2000, p. 156. Emphasis added).
The commentator concludes:
In fact, the twenty-first century may well be remembered more for the end of Asia than for its rise. On the one hand, the universal solvents of capitalism and Abrahamic ideology will continue to sow deep social and cultural changes among the peoples of geographical Asia, steadily reducing, transforming, and remixing—although probably never finally eliminating—the last traces of pre-Abrahamic culture.
The point, of course, is not that Asia is "ending" as a power structure. Rather, Asia is buying into Occidental thought at the cost of her traditional, Oriental culture.
Globalism (Part Two): The Tents of Shem
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