Who Were Noah's Sons?
If I had to guess, I would say you are familiar with the story of Noah. God told him to build an ark, and the animals came in two by two (obviously this is the express version of the story). However, the tenor of Noah’s story shifts when the ark door closed. At that point, there were eight people in that ark: Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives, along with a whole lot of animals. The world as they knew it was about to change and Noah’s sons, as you will soon see, were an essential part of God’s plan for the repopulation of the earth.
Who Were Noah's Sons?
The Bible introduces Noah and his family to us in Genesis 6.
“This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth” (Genesis 6:9-10).
The Bible is clear that Noah was a righteous man. However, the Bible does not tell us whether Noah’s sons were righteous or rebellious. When reading the story, there is no record of any of Noah’s sons objecting to building or going into the ark, which makes it reasonable to assume Noah’s sons followed in his footsteps and walked uprightly before the Lord as well.
Why Were Noah's Sons (and Their Wives) Allowed on the Ark?
The reason God had to allow Noah’s sons and their wives on the ark is because they had a mission to fulfill once the waters receded. Part of that mission was to repopulate the earth. Not only were there eight people in the ark, but when the waters receded, there were only eight people on the earth. Noah’s sons and their wives had a responsibility and a charge from God to create human life on the earth.
“Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth… As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it’” (Genesis 9:1, 7).
Had their wives not been on the ark, then humanity would have died out with Noah and his sons, unless God intervened miraculously.
We have the benefit of looking back, but I wonder what went through the minds of Noah, his wife, Noah’s sons and their wives. When they entered the ark, there were a substantial amount of people on the earth. When they left the ark, all those people were gone. Whatever the previous population of the earth was, it was now reduced to eight people. They were the only ones left, and I wonder what that must have felt like. This is something we will never know.
What Happened to Noah's Sons after the Flood?
After the flood, Noah’s sons and their wives began having children and repopulating the earth.
“The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth” (Genesis 9:18-19).
Genesis 9 gives a detailed breakdown of the sons born to each of Noah’s sons, and we see that from their offspring came the nations of the world. One of the notable descendants of Ham was Cush, the father of Nimrod who was a mighty hunter before the Lord and a builder of towns and cities. From Cush’s descendants came a powerful nation south of Egypt in Africa, which many scholars believe is Ethiopia.
From the lineage of Shem, we get the peoples known as Semites. The most notable of all the historical Semites was Abram, who became Abraham the father of the nation of Israel. It takes nine generations to get from Shem to Abram, which is outlined in Genesis 10. It is important to note that even though Abraham was the father of Israel, he was not born a Jew or Israelite, but God birthed this nation out of him.
Why Was Ham Cursed?
In Genesis 9, there is an incident that has been the topic of much theological debate and interpretation over the years. In short, Noah got drunk and was laying in his tent naked. Ham walked in and saw his father naked. He left him uncovered and told his brothers Shem and Japheth, who then walked backwards into the tent so they would not see their father’s nakedness as they covered him. When Noah arose from his drunkenness and discovered what happened, he placed a curse on Canaan, one of Ham’s sons.
3 Things to Consider about the “Curse of Ham”
1. We Don’t Know What Really Happened
The first thing to note is there is no certainty to what this act of viewing his father’s nakedness really means. The Bible does not mention what happened in the tent, it only tells us Ham saw his father naked and told his brothers. We know something happened because of this verse.
“When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him…” (Genesis 9:24, emphasis added).
There are lots of speculations about what his youngest son did, but all of them are just speculations. Some have implied there was some kind of sexual act, while others have implied it could have been a mockery of Noah. Honestly, we just don’t know and since God purposely left it out of Scripture, the best we could do is theorize. But the truth is we will never know because God did not want us to know.
2. Noah Placed the Curse on Canaan, not Ham
We must note that Noah did not place the curse directly on Ham, but on his son Canaan. Some have suggested that Noah could not curse one who was already blessed, given that God had already blessed Ham, which happened earlier in the chapter. Others have speculated Canaan may have played a role or been present with Ham. Again, these are speculations.
Over the years, this has been referred to as the curse of Ham, but more appropriately, it should be called the curse of Canaan. Noah’s curse was specific and directed only to Canaan, not to all of Ham’s descendants. I will explain why this is important in a moment. Part of the curse Noah declared was Canaan would be the slaves of Shem and Japheth. For a moment, consider who the descendants of Canaan were.
“Canaan was the father of Sidon his firstborn, and of the Hitites, Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites” (Genesis 10:15-18).
If some of these names sound familiar, it’s because these ultimately became the Canaanite people, many of whom were enemies of Israel. When the Israelites were on their way to the promised land, they eventually conquered many of these nations and they became the slaves of the Israelites who were the descendants of Shem.
3. This Was Not a Curse on All of Ham’s Descendants
Where the interpretation of this curse has gone sorely wrong is people have attempted to pass this curse onto all of Ham’s descendants. This is simply not true and is not an accurate interpretation of the text.
The only descendant of Ham whom Noah cursed was Canaan. This means this curse did not apply to any of his other descendants. This matters because some have attempted to use this curse and connect it to a curse against Black people, especially since Cush was one of Ham’s descendants. However, when you read the text, that interpretation is off base.
First, God blessed all three of Noah’s sons and established a covenant with them. Second, God never said Ham or Canaan were cursed. Noah did. Since God blessed Ham, there is no way possible the words of Noah are going to override the blessing of God. So if anyone tries to tell you all the descendants of Ham are cursed, there is no validity to that statement at all.
We Are All Descendants
Noah’s sons were vital to the repopulation of the earth after the flood. Their life stories are played out briefly in Genesis 9 and 10. Generations have felt the importance and impact of Noah’s sons. Out of eight people came all the nations of the earth.
Today we have gone from 8 people to 8 billion people living on the earth. Let’s also not forget the billions who have lived and died along the way. As you trace back history, one thing we know for certain — we are all descendants of Noah’s sons, and they followed God’s command because they were fruitful, they multiplied, and they increased the numbers on the earth.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Richard Villalon
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.