Sons of Ham

There is a myth amongst some Christians that black people are "Sons of Ham" and therefore eternally doomed to be servants; to be "hewers of wood and drawers of water". I'd really like to explode this myth. It simply isn't true.

Here's what the Bible says:

"And the sons of Noah that went with him and came forth of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japeth. These are the three sons of Noah, and of them was the whole earth over spread. And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard, and he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japeth took a garment, and laid on both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father, and their faces were backward,and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done. And he said:

"Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant."

Genesis 9: 18-27 King Jame's Version

I'd like to make three points about this:

  1. That's all the Bible says. There is no mention of black or white people.
  2. Ham had other sons. They were not doomed to be servants.
  3. There is no mention of this going past one generation. There is no mention of the sons of Canaan also being servants.

Another point I'd like to make is this:

Black people are black because they have more pigmentation, of the same color we all do, in their skin, than white people. Black people have more pigmentation than white people because the darker skin is better adapted to tropical and sub-tropical climates. The darker skin blocks ultrviolet radiation, making the person less likely to contract skin cancer. Whiter skin is better adapted to northern climates that are far less sunny: whiter skin is more able to absorb vitamin D. We all have the same color pigmentation in our skins: there is no difference. Some of us have more of it; others less. There is no scientific reason whatsoever to believe that a darker-skinned person is in any way inferior to a lighter-skinned person.

If you believe in the Bible, which is your personal faith, the Bible does not and never has indicated any superiority of whiter people over darker people. Whoever believes this has been sadly misguided and misinformed and I hope this article will help to set the matter straight.

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Comments 25 comments

Dorothy 2 years ago

I'm descended from Ham and I'm sort of white. Why would you be cursed if you are black or have brown skin? That's a silly idea. It's the sort of thing Constantine would have levered in when they were discussing what to put in the Bible.


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

Paradise7:

You write, "I'm even more suprised to find out some black people believed it. How very suprising. You'd think we'd all have more common sense, or at least be motivated to look in the Bible for ourselves. It's so strange how people are. No, I could never in a million years believe God approved of slavery of anybody anywhere at any time. It seems sad to me that a black person would believe that"

I have been black for a long time, and I have known only one black person to believe this story about Ham, and that was the person who told me the same myth. I have never met a black person who thought that God approved of slavery. I imagine that there are people who believe just about anyting said. I cannot argue with that. I think that those old teachings came from times of slavery.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the Ham story.


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

Years ago I heard that Ham was cursed with black skin because he looked upon his father's nakedness. When I read the scriptures myself, I did not see that anywhere. There are so many opinions and interpretations about races of people in the Bible that I fail to see the importance.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you. This is a great comment! I wish I had incorporated this verse into my hub.


Prayerhub profile image

Prayerhub 4 years ago from Padova-Italy

Yes I have heard about it , but I am not disturbed for being black,or sons and daughters of Ham, what is more important is that God is no respecter of persons, Acts 10:34-35 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, Kitty. I agree.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether

I have definitely heard this story before; however, I have never heard it referenced to the idea that black people are subservient to white people. That's total crap. You're right, the bible can be interpreted in different ways and people have to remember, it was written thousands of years ago...some things wouldn't necessarily apply to today! Use it as a guide, if you wish.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Hah! Mega...I still also run into the people like that, from time to time. I can't believe they still think in biased ways. We should let that irrational prejudice go, completely. It has done enough damage. Nobody can justify it--I so agree with you. The excuses are so weak!


mega1 profile image

mega1 5 years ago

that ham makes me salivate! also I need to say that whenever people make others into their slaves they have to come up with stories to justify why they are enslaving others - the innate guilt involved means that they'll take other old stories and twist them to make what they do seem right and reasonable when it is evil and mean. I still run into people who have these kind of attitudes and it really shocks me = there is no excuse for it. but I do love me some ham! also the performing kind :D


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Dear Sofs: yes, I know, people do that, twist bits of the Bible to support any old thing; this particular thing is pernicious (SP?) and evil, in my opinion, so I'm doing what I can to put the kabosh to it!

Dear Patty English: thanks for the return visit and the new info about Dr. Price. I'll have to look into him: that sounds interesting. And I'm glad you only went one time to where they were spouting this nonsense about Ham!

Dear Mega, yes, it's one really strange story, if you think about it. It wasn't Ham's fault that Noah got blasted and lay there in his birthday suit. I don't know what the big deal is, anyway. I'm glad (and you seem to be the only one) you noticed the rather cheeky juxtaposition of the Bible and the ham. Doesn't that ham look delicious?


mega1 profile image

mega1 5 years ago

People have used the Bible to justify all sorts of their biases and preferences and one should not care what they say. It's obvious old Noah liked his wine, and said some cranky things to his son when he was hung over - probably didn't want them to see him naked cuz he was fat and hairy and ugly!! I think people should read the Bible like an interesting mythological history of those times and not try to interpret it for modern instruction - it just doesn't apply to people nowadays, whether Christian or not. But then, I tend to find funniness in all the human stories because we are so human and essentially funny. The image of the two sons walking backwards with a robe to cover their drunken old father is hysterical to me and I don't care how sanctimonious people will get about it! If one is raised in fundamentalism it is sometimes a real revelation to read the Bible again with adult, knowledgeable perceptions. Its probably a good idea to re-examine all the things we were taught when small once we are adult enough to make educated decisions for ourselves. Good hub, Paradise! I love that you included the picture of ham!!:D


sofs profile image

sofs 5 years ago

Patty, I will look this up . I love to listen to Dr Price sr. and enjoy the way he presents truth. Thanks for sharing :)


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America

About 5-6 years ago, Dr. Frederick KC Price did a lengthy TV and book series on the untruths taken by design wrongly from interpretations of the KJV. I listened closely and checked for myself and had my eyes opened. The churches I heard the Ham falacy in were those that I visited only once.


sofs profile image

sofs 5 years ago

Wow! a gem again..Paradise.I am often annoyed with how the words of the Bible are misinterpreted. The Bible warns against just that and using it for their own gains sounds rather awful :( Thanks for stating things as they are.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Dear Peter, thank you so much for that comment. It never ceases to amaze me what kind of wheels an unreasoning bias can have, and how long it can last. Why a minister of a church would propogate this nonsense just is beyond me. That's the part I found hardest to accept--that several people have commented they had heard of this in church!


PETER LUMETTA profile image

PETER LUMETTA 5 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

Paradise your article is well done an very convincing. I myself have heard this myth over the years and I dismissed it as religious tripe. There in lies the problem with some religious fanatics. They can interpret the bible as they see fit to conform to their warped beliefs. I'm not being irreverent I'm just stating that when Humans want to back up their predjudices they always blame the bible or god instead of accepting the responsibility. Thanks for the interesting read,

Peter


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Dear Leann: I heard of this first when working with both black and white people in a factory. A white person, who was a really nice person and my friend, told me this. I said to myself then, "Uh-oh, you can't be right. This isn't right." I looked it up in the Bible, then brought the Bible in to work and showed my friend. She was really surprised to find out she was misinformed by her minister of her church all these years. I also had a bit more science education than she did and looked up in an encyclopedia the information on skin pigmentation and skin color. I showed her this info, too. It was many years ago. Just lately, after publishing a hub about Harriet Tubman, I got an email with the same "Sons of Ham" thing in it. It was well-meant and politely couched, but again the person has been entirely misinformed. That's why I hesitate to label this idea "bigotry". The people are sincere in their beliefs, it's just there is absolutely no valid basis for it. It was surprising to me that this false myth is still, after all these years, making the rounds.

Dear Jen, I'm even more suprised to find out some black people believed it. How very suprising. You'd think we'd all have more common sense, or at least be motivated to look in the Bible for ourselves. It's so strange how people are. No, I could never in a million years believe God approved of slavery of anybody anywhere at any time. It seems sad to me that a black person would believe that, and think that he or she was right behind the eight ball from birth. That is really distressing.

Dear Patty English: You heard of this in your church? I'm glad you never bought into that theory. It makes absolutely no sense. It goes against common sense. I also am distressed to think our nation's founders went along with slavery.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America

What I heard in a very few churches is propaganda that 1)Ham is Black African because paintings show different skin colors on Noah's sons, and 2) as father of Canaan, Ham is father to the whole nation of Canaan that would contain all of Canaan's (the son's) descendants as well as other people; and 3) these people were dark skined and they and their descandants were doomed to slavery forever. The attitude of the speakers was that they deserved it. So I have heard of this and don't believe it.

I hate slavery and am dismayed that some of our nation's foudners owned slaves, as did my Native American ancestors.


Jen's Solitude profile image

Jen's Solitude 5 years ago from Delaware

Sadly Paradise, some people of color believed this so-called Bible teaching was true, yet believed in a loving God anyway. And although it is not misapplied as often, there are still some who wonder if God approved of slavery. Not to mention the fact that the Black race descended from Cush, who was never cursed! Very good info!


leann2800 5 years ago

I have never heard of this. Wish I could be surprised that people use any reason to back their racist beliefs. Its sad. You did a good job.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

It is, Roy, and I have hopes that even in my lifetime we shall see the end of it.


Roy Perrin profile image

Roy Perrin 5 years ago from Jacksonville, NC

At least it IS dying...


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you both, Roy and Frank, for your comments...this myth has been around a long, long time, and was partly the initial justification for slavery. Otherwise, how could a person call themselves a Christian and still "own" a slave?

The facts about skin color are pretty simple and generally known. There still are a few...misguided people (I don't want to use the word "bigot" but that's what I was thinking) who use this as a Biblical justification of racial prejudice. It seems that's one prejudice that's dying a very slow death.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

I too never heard of this belief.. hmm and sadly that last time I used the Bible was to prop open a door so I could get my television into the house.. JOKING! I'm JOKING!


Roy Perrin profile image

Roy Perrin 5 years ago from Jacksonville, NC

This is interesting. I've never heard of this belief before and it doesn't really make sense to me that people would believe this. I fully believe that if people would READ the bible for themselves instead of just regurgitating other people's beliefs or out-of-context scriptures the world would finally come to one accord (one of the pre-reqs for the second coming).

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