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May 2, 2021 | Doug Sauder
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“Then he said: ‘Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.’ And he said: ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant.’”—Genesis 9:25-27 (NKJV)
Here we see the only recorded words of Noah in Scripture that speak to the heritage of humanity. And they raise a valid question: Why was Canaan cursed when Genesis 9:22 clearly specifies Ham as the perpetrator against Noah?
What’s key to remember is we don’t know exactly what happened. Scholars suggest Canaan was somehow involved in dishonoring Noah, or perhaps Noah discerned that Canaan exhibited the same character flaws as his father Ham. Honestly, anything proposed to fully answer that question is mere speculation. What is paramount is that God’s inspired words, spoken through Noah, were reasonable and just.
But beyond the question of why Canaan was cursed is the historical certainty of Noah’s prophecy. The Bible describes how the Canaanites, descendants of Canaan, went on to become notoriously ruthless, widely idolatrous, and entirely void of any sense of worship of the one true God. Perhaps they did have the same character flaws demonstrated in Ham and Canaan. While God’s grace allowed for this, His judgment of the Canaanite’s sins eventually fell upon them when Joshua and the nation of Israel invaded their land, placing many of them under forced labor as servants.
Another significant certainty of Noah’s prophecy centers on Shem and Japheth, Noah’s other sons. Shem is the ancestor of Abraham (Genesis 11:10-32); the very same man who was promised blessing for all his descendants (Genesis 22:18). Abraham was the forefather of the Hebrew nation through which God made Himself known. Furthermore, Japheth (whose name means “opened or enlarged”), had descendants who successfully branched out, settled in lands near the Mediterranean, and eventually spread north into Europe and Asia Minor. Noah’s prophecy, God’s Word, was fulfilled.
But above all is the redemptive legacy within this prophecy. Noah said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem.” Take note: Jesus Christ is a descendant of Abraham and Shem (Luke 3:23-38). Jesus came to bring light to the Gentile nations (Isaiah 49:6; Luke 2:32). Noah’s prophecy unfolds when the Gentiles, descendants of Japheth, heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and were welcomed to “dwell in the tents” of the descendants of Shem, the Israelites. It was God’s vision all along to bring every nation under the same banner, all one in Christ.
The curse upon Canaan brought servitude to mankind, but in Christ, we serve God. And that is a service with a rich and lasting heritage. Blessed be the Lord!
DIG: What are the far-reaching results of Noah’s prophecy?
DISCOVER: Using a reliable source, research how the sons of Noah’s family line plays out in history. Examine how each civilization grew and prospered. How did God use these civilizations for His purpose and plan?
DO: Whatever your genetic blueprint, if you accept Jesus Christ, you dwell in the tents of Shem. How does this impact your view of God and His redemptive plan born eons ago?
Lisa Supp lives in Utah and has served within the CCFL Web and Prayer Ministry since 2011. She also volunteers as an editor on the CCFL Prayer Wall and is a writer on the Communications Team. Retired from teaching, Lisa and her husband Ron volunteer at their local Calvary Chapel and share a passion for Scripture, apologetics, and education.