Ham, son of Noah

From Academic Kids

Ham (חָם, Standard Hebrew Ḥam, Tiberian Hebrew Ḥām, Ḫām, Ge'ez ካም Kam: possibly "warm; hot"), according to the Genealogies of Genesis, was a son of Noah and the father of Cush, Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan. David Rohl has identified his nation with the Poeni of Punt.

Ham in the Bible

Traditionally, it is held that Ham was one of the sons of Noah who moved southwest into Africa, and was the forefather of the nations there. The Bible refers to Egypt as "the land of Ham" in (Psalms 78:51; 105:23,27; 106:22; 1Ch 4:40). The Hebrew word for Egypt was Mizraim (probably literally meaning the two lands), and was the name of one of Ham's sons. The Egyptian word for Egypt was Khem, plausibly the origin of the name Ham, or vice versa, according to sound change between languages. The names of Ham's other children correspond to regions within Egypian influence - Canaan, Libya (one main tribe there being the Pitu, probably identical to Phut), and Kush (part of Nubia).

According to Genesis 9:20–25, Noah began to raise grapes after the flood, and became drunk one day. While drunk, he lay naked in his tent. Ham saw his father naked, and told his brothers Shem and Japheth about it. Shem and Japheth went into the tent with their faces away from him, and covered him. When Noah awoke, he realized what had had been done to him, and cursed Canaan, son of Ham, to be the servants of Shem and Japheth.[1] (

The extent of the significance of this passage is debated, but the simplest interpretation considers uncovering the nakedness of his father to be a great taboo, and the inaction of Ham (who chose instead to publicize and perhaps make light of the situation) to be what led Noah to deem Ham's judgement inferior to that of his more modest brothers. The statement by Noah "Cursed be Canaan" is thus interpreted by some as presaging a fatefully undesirable trait of immodesty that destined Ham's heir Canaan to be held low in society.

Taking into account other uses of the phrase "...the nakedness of..." in Hebrew writings, and the fact that Noah knew what had been done to him - apparently something highly noticeable-- suggests it to be euphemistic innuendo, a reference to a sexual act. Thus the act of "uncovering the nakedness" of the patriarch, performed without consent, constituted a great crime. Some interpreters add to this that Canaan, not Ham, was the object of the curse, since the curse was a result of Ham's sexual activity that had also resulted in the birth of Canaan, his youngest son.

This curse was likely connected to the conquest of Canaan by Israel. From a Judaeo-Christian standpoint, the conquest of Canaan is an instance of fulfilled prophecy. From a secular point of view, it is considered an example of later Hebrew writers attempting to justify the conquest of Canaan by retroactively cursing their progenitor.

Some argue that the curse parallels the blessing God grants to Abraham and his descendants, in that the promised land to be delivered to the descendants of Abraham's grandson Jacob, was to be taken away from the descendants of Ham's son Canaan.

The conquest of Canaan and the curse, according to the Book of Jubilees, are attributed, rather, to Canaan's steadfast refusal to join his elder brothers in Ham's allotment beyond the Nile, and instead "squatting" in the inheritance of Shem, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, in the region later promised to Abraham.

A few have used the curse of Canaan to justify discrimination against blacks, arguing that Ham was the one who actually committed the sin, and that since he is the father of the black race, all of his descendants (not just those of his son Canaan) were cursed.

The Existence of Ham

Creationist scholars of mythology hold that some early civilizations came to worship humans deified as gods in the generations after the flood, perhaps owing to the extraordinary longevity of the first few generations after leaving the ark. Minimalist scholarship holds a parallel view, that many (but not all) early gods (or deified humans, e.g. Herakles) are representative of personified archetypes of races, i.e. their family trees being codified descriptions of the inter-relatedness of each race and tribe (with some of the older/earlier generations being more speculative). Both of these distinct viewpoints agree that there is a connection between the family tree of the characters (whether gods or men) and that of tribes and races (although the extent of that connection varies, both amongst the characters in question, and amongst the scholars).

In the minimalist view, the early tribal name either became seen by later generations as the name of the "old ones", and thus gradually evolved into that of a god, or else was deliberately transformed into the name of a god, demi-god or hero, for the purpose of making it easier to tell the tale of a tribe representatively. However, minimalists generally prefer to avoid giving any credence to accounts of tribes being named for eponymous ancestors.

Counter arguments are often put forward that the connection is only between the Egyptian word and the typical modern pronunciation of Hebrew ח as /χ/ ("kh") rather than /ḥ/ (as was the case with biblical Hebrew, and suggest that the appearance is lessened with the original Hebrew חם Ḥam considered as Northwest Semitic /ḥ/ (such as in Hebrew, Phoenician, and Syriac). Further, Kam, the version of the name in Ge'ez—a South Semitic language—is seemingly borrowed from biblical Hebrew via the Hebrew Bible and perhaps does not reflect a native derivation of the word. However, the conversion between Khem and Ham corresponds with the widely occurring phonological sound change of Kh into X, the voiceless velar fricative (the ch in loch rather than the X in exam), that often happens over time, or during transcription from one language into another (e.g. Xerxes is the ancient Greek attempt at spelling the name Khshayārsha).

In the 19th century, there was an erroneous transcription of the Egyptian for Min as ḫm ("khem"), purely by coincidence. Since this Khem was worshipped most significantly in Akhmim, the separate identity of Khem was reinforced, Akhmim being understood as simply a corruption of Khem. However, Akhmim is a corruption of ḫm-mnw, meaning Shrine of Min, via the demotic form šmn. The existence of a god named Khem, was later understood as a faulty reading, but unfortunately it had already been enshrined in books written by E. A. Wallis Budge—now out of copyright and widely reprinted&mdash. Thus this error still finds a home among non-Egyptologists, who often use it to identify Ham with the god Khem or Chem, in additional to the identification of Ham by the Greeks as the Titan Cronos. (See the article Min (god) for more details.)

See also:

de:Ham (Bibel) et:Ham fr:Cham nl:Cham (Bijbel) pt:Cam wa:Xham


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