Ministry Co-Director of Truth of Genesis
In a few weeks our thirteen-year old son will be taking the United States Constitution test. He must pass it in order to move to eighth grade, so over lunch we studied flashcards to prepare. One question dealt with ‘unalienable rights.’ In the Declaration of Independence these well-known words are penned, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
A few flashcards later the question was posed, “Did the Constitution abolish slavery?” He quickly said “no,” which was the correct answer. So much in our human existence consists of juxtaposition. Our worldviews don’t always line up logically or morally. The stark contrast of the founding fathers allowing slavery while eloquently stating mankind’s equality is as glaringly opposed as darkness is to light.
Just as Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun,” our sinful condition is evident in all periods of time in human history, even now. Slavery did not begin in the United States. The first account of harsh bondage of one group to another is described in the book of Exodus when the Egyptians were enslaving the Israelites. Yet, racism and slavery are grievously unmistakable in our country’s history.
Slavery, in what became the United States, most likely is traced to the arrival of approximately twenty enslaved Africans to the British colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619. It ended legally when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865. Some slave buyers, transporters and owners tragically used erroneous “Biblical theology,” designated ‘the curse of Ham,’ to rationalize their heinous deeds.
Thousands of years ago, shortly after the global flood, Noah’s youngest son, Ham, sinned against him. After the incident, described in Genesis 9, Noah cursed Canaan (who was Ham’s youngest son.) Noah said, “Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren,” In Exodus 9:25.
Why did God curse his grandson Canaan if it was Ham that sinned against him? Biblical scholars disagree on this topic. Professor James J.S. Johnson theorizes that Canaan may have been to blame for the sinful act, and therefore received the punishment. Dr. Jonathan Sarfati proposes several possible reasons why Canaan was cursed instead of Ham. One, God already blessed Noah’s three sons, so Noah couldn’t counteract God’s blessing with a curse. Two, since Ham sinned as the youngest son, he would be punished with a curse on his own youngest son. Three, Canaan may have been the perpetrator of the sinful act. Four, it was an act of mercy, because only one of Ham’s sons was affected. Five, Noah discerned that the evil that appeared in Ham had developed to a greater degree in Canaan.
Regardless of the reason, Canaan received the curse. Why then did people cite the ‘curse of Ham’ when they justified enslaving African-Americans? David Goldberg, a historian, states that errors were made when interpreting the Hebrew word ‘Ham’ to mean ‘dark,’ ‘black’ or ‘heat.’ The descendants of Ham included the Sumerians, the Egyptians, the Ethiopians, and there is a good possibility it included some of the Asiatic nations of the present as well. Although not all of these people groups have black skin, (the Canaanites were painted in Egyptian murals to have olive skin), misguided individuals proclaimed that dark-skinned people were doomed to be slaves because of the prophecy given to them from Noah.
As Tony Evans states, when addressing this issue, “This process is known as sacralization, the development of theological and religious beliefs to serve the interest of a particular ethnic or racial group.”Slave owners dolefully used twisted beliefs to give themselves ‘permission’ to treat others in ways God would not approve. God is clear in His Word when He tells us the entire law is fulfilled when you love others as you would love yourself. He does not advocate, anywhere in His Word or express in His character, that slavery is acceptable. In fact, anyone caught kidnapping a person and keeps or sells him, is to be put to death, God says in Exodus 21:16. God’s two greatest desires are that we love Him and that we love others. Anyone striving to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ would honor what He asks us to do. When Abraham Lincoln said, “slavery is founded in the selfishness of man’s nature,” he rightfully identified selfishness, and not the curse of Ham, was the root of slavery in America.
 www.usconstitution.net/declar.html. Accessed February 10, 2019.
 www.nationalgeographic.com/interactive/slavery-united-states. Accessed February 10, 2019.
 Johnson, James J.S.. “Mankind’s Social Dynamics After Eden.” Institute for Creation Research. 2011. Page 12-14.
 Sarfati, Dr. Jonathan D.. “The Genesis Account.” Creation Book Publishers. 2015. Page 621
 Lee, Felicia R.. “From Noah’s Curse to Slavery’s Rationale.” www.nytimes.com/2003/11/01/arts/from-noah-s-curse-to-slavery-s-rationale.html. 2003. Accessed February 14, 2019.
 Morris, Henry M. “The Genesis Record.” Baker Books. 2009. Page 238.
 Sarfait, Dr. Jonathan D. “The Genesis Account.” Creation Book Publishers. 2015. Page 623
 Evans, Tony. “Are Black People Cursed? The Curse of Ham.” www.epm.org/resources/2010/Jan/18/are-black-people-cursed-curse-Ham. January 18, 2010. Accessed February 15, 2019.