Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Race and the Bible

Does the Bible declare, as claimed by slaveholders in the past and many who believe Blacks to be inferior today, that Blacks were cursed to be servants?

We start with Noah and his son Ham.

It has come to my attention that there are still Christian ministers today who preach that Blacks are being punished for the sin of Ham. They say that Black people have dark skins because they were cursed. I was surprised to hear that such teachings are still being heard in Christian churches.

If they are Christian churches. I mean, they certainly seem to be. There are plenty of Bibles around. There are plenty of religious songs being sung. There's a lot of talk about Jesus. But when you pay close attention to those teachings, some of them don't sound very Christian at all.

Teachings like this one bring to mind certain Bible verses. Such as:

Matthew 7:15-18 KJV
[15] Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. [16] Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? [17] Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. …

The teaching that Blacks are inferior because they have been cursed does not taste like good fruit to me. It seems to me as if a minister here and there is wearing sheep's clothing.

But back to the Bible and the story of Ham.

Genesis 9:20-27 KJV
20] And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: [21] And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. [22] And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. [23] And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon 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. [24] And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. [25] And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. [26] And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. [27] God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

So the Bible clearly states that Noah got stinking drunk and collapsed, naked and unconscious. His son, Ham, walked in and saw this. He then left and told his two brothers to go in and cover up their disgustingly drunk father. They did. When he sobered up, Noah cursed Ham's children (real justice there, punish the yet unborn!) to be servants to their uncles' descendants.

No mention of race or color is made. Furthermore, it is clear that Noah has not condemned the descendants of Ham to cease to be members of the tribe. It is clear that they are still Jewish. They are not transmogrified into sub-Saharan Africans.

This action on Noah's part is so unjust that commentators on the Bible have decided, in their wisdom, that Ham must have had sex with his father. However, the Bible clearly states he simply saw his father. When the Bible wants to make it clear that someone had sex with someone else, it says so. It does not use the word "saw" as the same thing as "having sex".

Wikipedia: In Genesis 34:2, it reads, "And when Shechem the son of Hamor saw her (Dinah), he took her and lay with her and defiled her." According to this argument, similar abuse must have happened each time that the Bible uses the same language.

But the Bible doesn't use the same language. It clearly states that Shechem did more than see Dinah. It says he took her and lay with her and defiled her. If we are to apply the same language test, then the Bible should say that Ham took his father and lay with him and defiled him. It doesn't say that.

Much worse, if we are to assume that every time we see the word "saw" in the Bible someone had sex with the thing that he or she saw... It quickly becomes absolutely idiotic! For example, if "saw" means "had sex with"' then what are we to make of this one passage, not to mention many others?

Genesis 1:31 KJV
[31] And God saw every thing that he had made...

Now there's an image that either fills you with horror or laughter!

Desperate Biblical exegesis aside, the Bible clearly states that Noah behaved very badly while Ham did not. It also clearly states nothing about race or skin color.

Not to mention, it seems to me that Noah doesn't have the power to curse an entire race of people to anything. He is the Patriarch of his clan. Therefore, he has control over his family to an extent it is hard for us to understand or believe in the modern age. He is virtually an absolute monarch. But he was neither God nor a prophet speaking in the name of God. His curse was the curse of a human being. It had no more power than that.

You can argue about who was the first prophet in the Bible. Most would identify either Enoch or Moses. But it wasn't Noah.

Remember that Noah declares:

Genesis 9:25-27 KJV
[25] And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. [26] And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. [27] God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

I suppose this could be taken as a prophecy, but in context it is clearly a curse and is usually called exactly that. This is an angry, bitter father who has shamed himself in front of his son and therefore punishes his son and his son's descendents for the crime that he himself has committed. Remembering the power of a Patriarch, I'm not sure that curse is even the right word for this. It is more like a sentence.

Those who say that Ham must have done something awful to his unconscious father are doing so because they are assuming that Noah was such a perfect human being that he could commit no wrong. If there's a basis for that in the Bible, I have missed it. My understanding of Noah is that he is a human being with all the faults and failures that are a part of that condition.

I know this has run long, but there's another point I have to make. Of the sons of Ham, Noah cursed only Canaan and his descendents. Can anyone explain that? Also, it is clear that the sons of Canaan did not move to sub-Saharan Africa. The Bible states they settled in the Middle East.

Genesis 10:15-19 KJV
[15] And Canaan begat Sidon his firstborn, and Heth, [16] And the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite, [17] And the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, [18] And the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterward were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. [19] And the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest, unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha.

On top of all the rest of this, what's supposed to be so bad about being Black anyway? I don't claim to know my Bible thoroughly, but I know some of it. The only reference to Blacks that I can recall in the Bible is the reference to Solomon's lover. First Kings does not specify that the queen of Sheba was Solomon's lover, but it has traditionally been accepted as having been so for thousands of years.

(If anyone reading this knows another reference to Blacks in the Bible, please add a comment and quote it. Thank you.)

First Kings does not give any racial information on the Queen of Sheba. It's contained in the song of songs. Since this is the love Song of Solomon, it is assumed that the reference to the Black woman is a reference to the Queen of Sheba.

It is a very reasonable assumption. But it is not confirmed. In any event, according to the Song of Songs, at least one of Solomon's lovers was a Black woman.


Song of Songs 1:5-6 KJV
[5] …I am black, but comely, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon. [6] Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept. …

The Song of Solomon/Song of Songs contain some references which have been at various times interpreted as referring to love between Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Thus, the female lover at 1:5 declares “I am black, but comely.” - See more at: http://queenofshebaokc.com/the-queen-of-sheba-okc/#sthash.o0e6tDc7.dpuf

Since she is presented as a fabulously wealthy and powerful queen, certainly someone to be admired, it hardly makes sense that God would choose to punish people who have been cursed by their fathers by turning them Black! This is true even if Solomon's Black lover was not the Queen of Sheba. She was still his lover. There's nothing to be ashamed of in that.

1 comment:

  1. It is come to my attention that while Christians do not regard Noah as a prophet, he is so regarded in the Koran. An interesting point. But this has little effect upon Christian exegesis.