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The descent of all men from one pair is certainly asserted by Holy Scripture, and is also necessarily assumed in the Christian doctrine of original sin. But in the Old Testament not only is Adam said to be the ancestor of the whole human race, but Noah is also said to be the ancestor of all the peoples now existing. For Genesis says that all the then living men, with the exception of Noah and his family, were destroyed by the Deluge, and that the different lands were repeopled by the descendants of the three sons of Noah.' Genesis tells us nothing of how the different races of men were formed. The so-called “generations” (Gen. x.) give us a series of peoples, who are descended from Shem, Ham, and Japhet; but the series does not pretend to be complete,-only those peoples whom the Israelites in the time of Moses knew of are expressly mentioned, -neither does the division into the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japhet claim to coincide with the anthropological division of races.” It is quite wrong to say, as Frohschammer does, that the account given in the ninth chapter of Genesis of the words spoken by Noah after the shameful deed of Ham, gives us a Biblical statement about the formation of races. He thinks that “from a Biblical point of view, only two races exist; the Ethiopian (descendants of Ham) and perhaps the Caucasian ; since the descendants of Shem and Japhet must evidently, from a scientific point of view, be included in this race; but that the formation of the first race was caused by a miracle, for in consequence of the divine curse incurred by Ham, his descendants, according to Genesis, were not only punished by being condemned to slavery, labour, and suffering, but also by the degradation and deterioration of the inner and outer, physical and intellectual nature ; that is, by a compulsory natural incapacity to equal the descendants of the other two sons of Noah.” This is just as bad as the old mistake of saying that Noah's curse justified slavery. It is worth while for me to show its falsity by a correct explanation of the passage in question, before I proceed to my real subject, especially as commentators sometimes interpret it wrongly.'
1 Gen. vi. 16, vii. 21, x. 32. 2 Kurtz, Geschichte des Alten Bundes, i. 29. 3 Das Christenthum, p. 216.
1 Cornelius à Lapide on Wisd. xii, 11 : Hæc maledictio etiamnum durat; unde videmus Æthiopes et Mauros, quos vulgo nigros vocant, qui ex Cham prognati sunt, magna ex parte esse mancipia esseque obtusioris ingenii et vilioris præ ceteris servis conditionis. Cornelius explains Gen. ix. 25 correctly. Keil, commenting on Gen. ix. 25, says : “In the sin of Ham is foreshadowed the blot on all his race. It was characterized by sexual sin, and the curse which Noah pronounced on this sin still rests on the descendants of Ham. The Canaanites were partly destroyed and partly condemned to the lowest slavery by the Israelites ; the Phænicians, with the Carthagenians and Egyptians, were subdued by the Persians, Macedonians, and Romans, and the other tribes descended from Ham either shared the same fate, or, burdened with the sin of their ancestor, are still groaning, as for instance the negroes and other African tribes, in the most oppressive slavery.” Lord Arundell of Wardour (Tradition, principally with Reference to Mythology and the Law of Nations, London 1872) even thinks that after Noah's curse Canaan became suddenly black, and thus was the ancestor of a "new, unnatural, and ugly race.” Cf. Dublin Review, new series, vol. xix. (Oct. 1872) p. 438. 1 Gen. ix. 26, 27 : “ Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japhet, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.”
In Gen. ix. 25 Noah says: “Cursed be Canaan ; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” Here. therefore Ham is not cursed, but his son Canaan. But according to the “generations” (Gen. x. 15 seq.), the latter is the ancestor of the Phoenicians and of the pre-Israelite inhabitants of Palestine, not of the negroes ; and the Ethiopians, the Egyptians, Philistines, etc., are included among Ham's other descendants in the generations. Frohschammer therefore arbitrarily inserts into the Bible a connection between the physical and intellectual degradation of the negroes and the curse pronounced by Noah on the Canaanites. The right interpretation of the passage is as follows.
The words of Noah are given in Genesis, not apparently as a wish, but as a prophecy, and it is a prophecy about the destiny of the descendants of his three sons. The reward which is given to Shem and Japhet consists essentially in this: that their father, being supernaturally enlightened, reveals to them a brilliant page in the future history of the races that are to spring from them; the descendants of Shem will be specially the people of Jehovah, that is, the recipients of revelation; the descendants of Japhet will extend widely, and will receive a share of the blessing given first of all to the descendants of Shem." Ham's punishment is that to him a dark spot in the history of his race is revealed; the Canaanites who will descend from him will be enslaved by the descendants of Shem and Japhet. It is not the whole
future of the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japhet which is here foretold and connected with the moral behaviour of the three ancestors, but only a few portions of it. The history of the descendants of Shem and Japhet has many dark spots, and the history of the descendants of Ham has bright periods, but the supernaturally enlightened eye of the seer perceives neither of these; God has only revealed to him that portion of the future which is comforting for two of the ancestors and humiliating for the third ; and therefore we ought not to say that the future destiny of the descendants of Shem, Ham, and Japhet is put forward as a reward and as a punishment for the conduct of Noah's three sons, but rather that to each is revealed, as punishment or as reward, according to their personal conduct, some part of the future of their descendants. To one is given as a reward a glimpse of a bright spot, to the third a glimpse of a dark spot in the history of his race. God, who sees the future, beheld the whole course of that history, but to Noah, as to the prophets in later times, He only revealed that portion which it was good for them to know.
Noah says nothing of the descendants of Ham as a whole. He only foretells the future of one of the peoples into which Ham's descendants will branch, the Canaanites. Neither prosperity nor adversity is foretold of the other descendants of Ham, and it is noteworthy that there is not a word about the degradation of the negroes. It is only said that the descendants of Ham would be subjugated by the descendants of Shem and Japhet, and this was fulfilled in the subjugation of the Canaanite inhabitants of Palestine by
the Israelites, and in the subjugation of the Canaanite Phænicians at Tyre and Carthage by the Greeks and Romans. The descendants of Canaan are here rightly mentioned, because the sin of Ham, shameless immorality, was especially rampant among them, as we know from the accounts given in the Bible of Sodom and Gomorrha, and the narratives of ancient writers about the immorality of the Phænicians and Carthaginians. The fall of these descendants of Ham, and their subjection to peoples descended from Shem and Japhet, is the only thing revealed to Noah concerning the destiny of the family of Ham ; and it was very natural that Moses should mention this old prophecy in Genesis, for when he wrote it his people had already been commanded by God to take possession of Palestine, and to destroy the Canaanite inhabitants as a punishment for the abominations they had committed ; and thus partly to carry out the judgment which had been predicted by Noah. As I have said, it had been foretold to the other two brothers that the prosperity of the future would first be realized in the children of Shem, and by them it would be communicated to the numerous descendants of Japhet. Nothing is said of the descendants of Ham in reference to this point, for, as a punishment for his fault, only a dark page of the future history of his race is to be revealed to Ham. The next divine prophecy which can be applied to the sons of Ham teaches us that they are not to be shut out from the welfare of the future : “In thy seed,” it is said to Abraham, “all people of the earth shall be blessed,”— all people, that is, the descendants of Ham not excepted.