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Ham (Hebrew: חָם, Modern Ḥam Tiberian Ḥām / Ḫām ; Greek Χαμ , Cham ; Arabic: حام, IPA: [ xam ], "hot"), according to the Table of Nations in the Book of Genesis, was a son of Noah and the father of Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan.[1][2]

Ham, son of Noah, in the Bible

The story of Ham is related in Genesis 9:20–25,

And Noah the husbandman began, and 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 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.

And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done unto him. And he said: Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said: Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant. God enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant..[3]

Curse of Canaan also known as the Curse of Ham

The Talmud deduces two possible explanations (attributed to Rab and Rabbi Samuel) for what Ham did to Noah to warrant the curse. (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 70a.) According to one explanation, Ham castrated Noah, while the other says that Ham sodomized Noah. The textual argument for castration is as follows: Since Noah cursed Ham by his fourth son Canaan, Ham must have injured Noah with respect to a fourth son, by emasculating him, thus depriving Noah of the possibility of a fourth son. The argument for sodomization from the text draws an analogy between “and he saw” written in two places in the Bible: With regard to Ham and Noah, it is written, “And Ham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father (Noah)”; while in Genesis 34:2, it is written, “And when Shechem the son of Hamor saw her (Dinah), he took her and lay with her and defiled her.” Thus this speculation deduces that similar abuse must have happened each time that the Bible uses the same language.

This "curse of Canaan" by Noah was likely connected to the conquest of Canaan by Israel. Both the conquest of Canaan and the curse, according to the Book of Jubilees 10:29-34, are attributed, rather, to Canaan's steadfast refusal to join his elder brothers in Ham's allotment beyond the Nile, and instead "squatting" within the inheritance of Shem, on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, in the region later promised to Abraham.

The existence of Ham

According to the Bible, Ham was one of the sons of Noah who moved southwest into Africa and parts of the near Middle East, and was the forefather of the nations there. The Bible refers to Egypt as "the land of Ham" in (Psalms 78:51; 105:23,27; 106:22; 1Ch 4:40). The Hebrew word for Egypt was Mizraim (probably literally meaning the two lands), and was the name of one of Ham's sons. The Egyptian word for Egypt was Kemet (or Kmt), meaning "black land" (in reference to the fertile dark soil along the Nile Valley).[4][5][6] Ham could plausibly be a name derived from Khem (Egypt), or vice versa, via sound change, due to the change in language between Egyptian and Hebrew, corresponding to the well known phonological change of /k/ into /x/ (voiceless velar fricative) into /h/. The names of Ham's other children correspond to regions within Egyptian influence - Kush, Canaan, and Phut (probably identical with the Pitu, a Libyan tribe, though often associated with Punt, an ancient name for Benadir).

Ivan Ksenophontov. The damnation of Ham

Creationist scholars hold that some early civilizations came to worship humans deified as gods in the generations after the flood, perhaps owing to the extraordinary longevity of the first few generations after leaving the ark. Minimalist scholarship holds a parallel view, that many (but not all) early gods (or deified humans, e.g. Herakles) are representative of personified archetypes of races, i.e., their family trees being codified descriptions of the inter-relatedness of each race and tribe (with some of the older/earlier generations being more speculative). Both of these distinct viewpoints agree that there is a connection between the family tree of the characters (whether gods or men) and that of tribes and races (although the extent of that connection varies, both amongst the characters in question, and amongst the scholars).

In the minimalist view, the early tribal name either became seen by later generations as the name of the "old ones", and thus gradually evolved into that of a god, or else was deliberately transformed into the name of a god, demi-god or hero, for the purpose of making it easier to tell the tale of a tribe representatively. However, minimalists generally prefer to avoid giving any credence to accounts of tribes being named for eponymous ancestors.

Counter arguments are often put forward that the connection is only between the Egyptian word and the typical modern pronunciation of Hebrew ? as /x/ ("kh") rather than /ħ/ (as was the case with biblical Hebrew, and suggest that the appearance is lessened with the original Hebrew ?? Ḥam with Northwest Semitic /ħ/ (such as in Hebrew, Phoenician, and Syriac). Further, Kam, the version of the name in Ge'ez—a South Semitic language—is seemingly borrowed from Biblical Hebrew via the Hebrew Bible and perhaps does not reflect a native derivation of the word.

In the 19th century, there was an erroneous transcription of the Egyptian for Min as ĥm ("khem"), purely by coincidence. Since this Khem was worshipped most significantly in Akhmim, the separate identity of Khem was reinforced, Akhmim being understood as simply a corruption of Khem. However, Akhmim is a corruption of ?m-mnw, meaning Shrine of Min, via the demotic form šmn. The existence of a god named Khem was later understood as a faulty reading, but unfortunately it had already been enshrined in books written by E. A. Wallis Budge—now out of copyright and widely reprinted. Thus this error still finds a home among some writers, who often use it to identify Ham with the imaginary god Khem, who may also be identified with the Greek Titan Cronos. (See the article Min (god) for more details.)

Nevertheless, since Khem (meaning black) was normally used to describe the fertile soils by the Nile, it was sometimes used as an epithet for Min, as the god of fertility. Since Khem was also an Egyptian name for Egypt (precisely because it described the soil of the Nile valley), there is also an association with Ham, who represented the forefather of the north-east African nations including Egypt.

Many believe that ancient Jatt people of Persia (who now inhabit Punjab), are descendants of Ham.

Identifications based on Jasher

Some of the names of Ham's descendants in the list below do not appear anywhere in the Bible, but rather originated from the mediaeval rabbinic work, the Book of Jasher. Among the ethnic groups various modern authors[who?] have attempted to link to Ham's children include:

  • Cush[7] - also Chus, Kush, Kosh (Nubians, Ethiopians, Somalis, Eritreans, and other related groups).
  • Mizraim "double lands" (sons were Lud, Anom, Pathros, Chasloth and Chaphtor)[8] - also Misraim, Mitzraim, Mizraite, Mitsrayim (Egyptians, Khemets, Philistines, and other related groups).
  • Phut "a bow" (sons were Gebul, Hadan, Benah and Adan)[9] - also Putaya, Putiya, Punt, Puta, Put, Libia, Libya (Libyans, Cyrenacians, Tunisians, Tuaregs,Berbers,The extinct Guanches of the Canary Islands, North Africans, and other related groups).
  • Canaan "down low" (sons were Zidon, Heth, Amori, Gergashi, Hivi, Arkee, Seni, Arodi, Zimodi and Chamothi)[10] - also Canaanites, Cana, Chna, Chanani, Chanana, Canaana, Kana, Kenaanah, Kena'ani, Kena'an, Kn'nw, Kyn'nw, Kinnahu, Kinahhi, Kinahni, Kinahna, Kinahne (Canaanites.

See also


  1. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, Astrid B. Beck, Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible, (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing: 2000), p.543
  2. Stanley E. Porter, Craig A. Evans, The Scrolls and the Scriptures, (Continuum International Publishing Group: 1997), p.377
  3. Genesis 9:25
  4. Nicolas Grimal (1994) A History of Ancient Egypt Blackwell pp.171-172: "black (land)"
  5. Rosalie David (1997). Pyramid Builders of Ancient Egypt: A Modern Investigation of Pharaoh's Workforce. Routledge. p. 18. "The name they gave to their whole country was 'Kemet', which means the 'Black Land'. This referred to the cultivation, fertilised for countless years by the black mud of the inundation." 
  7. Book of Jasher Chapter 7:10
  8. Book of Jasher Chapter 7:11
  9. Book of Jasher Chapter 7:12
  10. Book of Jasher Chapter 7:13
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Ham (son of Noah). The list of authors can be seen in the page history.