ham (cham; Cham):
1. The Youngest Son of Noah:
The youngest son of Noah, from whom sprang the western and southwestern nations known to the Hebrews. His name first occurs in Genesis 5:32, where, as in 6:10 and elsewhere, it occupies the second place. In Genesis 9:18 Ham is described as "the father of Canaan," to prepare the reader for 9:25-27, where Noah, cursing Ham for having told Shem and Japheth of his nakedness, refers to him as Canaan. On account of this, it has been suggested that "Canaan" stood originally in all the passages where the three brothers are spoken of, and that this was later changed to "Ham," except in the verses containing the curse. It seems more likely, however, that the name "Canaan" is inserted prophetically, as Noah would not desire to curse his son, but only one branch of that son's descendants, who were later the principal adversaries of the Hebrews.
2. Ham as a Nationality:
The name given, in Psalms 105:23,17; 106:22 (compare 78:51), to Egypt as a descendant of Ham, son of Noah. As Shem means "dusky," or the like, and Japheth "fair," it has been supposed that Ham meant, as is not improbable, "black." This is supported by the evidence of Hebrew and Arabic, in which the word chamam means "to be hot" and "to be black," the latter signification being derived from the former.
3. Meaning of the Word:
That Ham is connected with the native name of Egypt, Kem, or, in full pa ta' en Kem, "the land of Egypt," in Bashmurian Coptic Kheme, is unlikely, as this form is probably of a much later date than the composition of Gen, and, moreover, as the Arabic shows, the guttural is not a true kh, but the hard breathing h, which are both represented by the Hebrew cheth.
4. The Nations Descending from Ham:
Of the nationalities regarded as descending from Ham, none can be described as really black. First on the list, as being the darkest, is Cush or Ethiopia (Genesis 10:6), after which comes Mitsrayim, or Egypt, then PuT or Libyia, and Canaan last. The sons or descendants of each of these are then taken in turn, and it is noteworthy that some of them, like the Ethiopians and the Canaanites, spoke Semitic, and not Hamitic, languages--Seba (if connected with the Sabeans), Havilah (Yemen), and Sheba, whose queen visited Solomon. Professor Sayce, moreover, has pointed out that Caphtor is the original home of the Phoenicians, who spoke a Semitic language. The explanation of this probably is that other tongues were forced upon these nationalities in consequence of their migrations, or because they fell under the dominion of nationalities alien to them. The non-Sem Babylonians, described as descendants of Nimrod (Merodach), as is welI known, spoke Sumerian, and adopted Semitic Babylonian only on account of mingling with the Semites whom they found there. Another explanation is that the nationalities described as Hamitic--a parallel to those of the Semitic section--were so called because they fell under Egyptian dominion. This would make the original Hamitic race to have been Egyptian and account for Ham as a (poetical) designation of that nationality. Professor F. L. Griffith has pointed out that the Egyptian Priapic god of Panopolis (Akhmim), sometimes called Menu, but also apparently known as Khem, may have been identified with the ancestor of the Hamitic race--he was worshipped from the coast of the Red Sea to Coptos, and must have been well known to Egypt's eastern neighbors. He regards the characteristics of Menu as being in accord with the shamelessness of Ham as recorded in Genesis 9:20.
See JAPHETH; SHEM; TABLE OF NATIONS.
T. G. Pinches