The curse of Ham and slavery


How do we account for the curse of Ham because this is the basis for racial segregation and slavery (Gen 9:20-25)?



Dear Smithy

In reply I would start by saying that we should question the assumption that ‘the curse of Ham’ can be used to justify racism or slavery. No doubt that people can and do find ways to use the Bible to justify all kinds of claims and practices. But this does not mean that a careful examination of the Biblical text and the authorial intent (that is, sound contextual exegesis) will support just any reading of the Bible. There really is such things as good and bad interpretations.

In short, I don’t think that the curse of Ham on Canaan, can be used to justify either racism or slavery (and to do so would be to abuse the Bible for one’s own purposes). To see why this is so, I will refer you to a few places.

First, there is the following article from Wikipedia which is a fair attempt at explaining the context:

Secondly, I would recommend the following book by a Jewish scholar on the subject: Goldenberg, David M. (2009). The Curse of Ham: Race and Slavery in Early Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Here is a summarising quote form its pages: “We do not find a link between skin color and slavery in the Jewish sources of antiquity and late antiquity.”

Thirdly, since it’s not easy to always find or buy the books we’re looking for, you can read a review of above-mentioned book here.

Finally, the issue of slavery in the Bible is often cited as one of those intolerant practices that the Bible seems to condone. The following webpage refers to a few places where the issue of slavery in the Bible is put in perspective:

Please feel free to ask any other questions. The Christian faith is often misunderstood, and therefore viewed with suspicion. Clearing up just some of these doubts and misconceptions will often help people to be more open in exploring the claims of the Christian worldview.

Kind regards


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