After the flood in Genesis, Noah was drunk (Gen. 9.18-26) and he cursed Canaan, which was the son of Ham (his grandson). Why did Noah cursed Canaan and not Ham which actually saw his father's nakedness?


1 Answer 1


See pages 4-18 here, which provide 3 possible answers:

(a) Ham was actually the subject of the curse, but Canaan’s name was used in the curse; (b) Canaan was actually the subject of the curse, but in this case exegetes need to provide an explanation as to why; (c) by some manner, both Ham and his son are direct targets of Noah’s curse.

This paper is also worth seeing, and related to the issue at hand, albeit not directly.

I will just quickly note Jacob Ibn Caspi's understanding, because I personally like his approach here. He first notes that throughout the bible, it is common to curse and bless children as a blessing or curse to their parents. He notes Deuteronomy 28:4, 28:18, Genesis 48:15-16, as examples. He also suggests that the author chose to specify Canaan here because this provides a positive boost to the Israelites who would later war with Canaan. Here is the original Hebrew of Ibn Caspi:

ואמנם מדוע בכעסו על חם קלל זרעו באמרו ארור כנען, מבואר לבעלי העינים כי כל עמל אדם הוא לזרעו, וקשה לכל אדם כשיקללו בני אדם את זרעו, והעד בקללות ״ארור פרי בטנך״ (דברים כ״ח:י״ח), והפך זה ״ברוך פרי בטנך״ (שם כ״ח:ד׳). ויותר נמרץ אמרו ״ויברך את יוסף ויאמר״ ״יברך את הנערים וכו׳״ (מ״ח:ט״ו-ט״ז). אולם בחר נח לקלל כנען על שאר בני חם כי אולי היה בן זקונים לו. גם בחר נותן תורתנו לכתוב זה לנו כי זה טוב לנו, אשר אנו עתידים להלחם עמו.

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