(This study is an expansion of the worship section in my book, “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality,” Fifth Estate Publishing, 2007)
Noah prophesied about slavery soon after he and his family exited the Ark. In fact, Noah spoke it as a curse on his grandson.
“Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.’ And he said: ‘Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.” Genesis 9:24-27
The curse and prophesy would have a deeper meaning centuries later when God sent the people of Israel into the land of Canaan to defeat the descendants of Canaan and establish the nation of Israel. We know from Genesis 11 that the family of Noah traveled from Mt. Ararat to a plain in the land of Shinar. Their intention was to build a city and a tower whose top would be in the heavens (meaning they would worship the “gods” from the top of the tower). They wanted to make a name for themselves – “lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” God saw that the people were united in their efforts and opposition to His will, so He confused their language so they couldn’t understand each other. The Lord scattered them abroad from that place over the face of all the earth and the people ceased building the city. The name of the place became known as “Babel,” which means “gate of god.” Nimrod believed worshipping at that place on top of a tall tower would open up a gateway to the “gods,” giving him and all the people access again to lost immortality. That was not God’s plan, so he stopped it and scattered the people in a way that would keep them from ever uniting again.
We know from the Bible and other historical records in what directions the different families traveled after God confused the language and scattered them abroad. Nimrod, who was from the line of Ham, was a warrior king and stood his ground. He kept most of the land of Shinar for his family. Shinar included the cities of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh. That area later became known as Mesopotamia and included Sumer, Babylonia, and Akkad. After establishing those cities, Nimrod went north and built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah. That area later became known as Assyria.
Canaan, also from the line of Ham, and his family traveled west from Babel and settled along the Great Sea (Mediterranean Sea). One of the earliest cities there was named after Canaan’s firstborn son, Sidon. The Land of Canaan was described in Genesis 10 as having a border from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; then as you go toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha. We would recognize that today as including Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. The Canaanites included the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. The other sons of Ham – Cush, Mizraim, and Put – traveled southwest of Babel and established a large series of kingdoms in areas we would know today as North Africa and also along the west Arabian coast.
The families of Noah’s son Shem traveled in many directions from Babel. Genesis 10 describes the area of their dwelling place as “from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east.” That was a large area of land that we would know as much of Arabia and some of Assyria and southern Mesopotamia. Genesis 10 identifies family heads in the line of Shem as including Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, Aram, Uz, Hul, Gether, Mash, Salah, Eber, Peleg, Joktan, Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab.
The families of Noah’s son Japheth traveled north, northwest, and east of Babel into areas we would know as Greece, Asia Minor (including Turkey), Iran, China, India, some of the Mediterranean islands, Europe, Russia, etc. Genesis 10 identifies family heads in the line of Japheth as Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, Tiras, Ashkenaz, Riphath, Togarmah, Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. Genesis 10 calls the family of Japheth “the coastland peoples of the Gentiles.” That’s the first time in the Bible any people were identified as Gentiles.
Think about this situation. God makes dramatic changes to the language (and possibly the genetics) of all the people of the earth gathered together in one place on the plains of Shinar to build a city and a tower to the heavens. God scatters the families and they settle in different regions of the world. They establish cities, towns and villages. They develop spiritual beliefs and cultures based on those beliefs. Each family is different from the other families on earth. They speak a different language. They look different. They have different beliefs and values. What you have is a breeding ground for major conflicts among families.
What are most wars fought about? Control – usually control of land and wealth. We saw this attitude first in Cain. He wanted to control his environment and lifestyle and thought he was losing it to his brother, Abel. Cain’s primary concern was self-preservation and he was the first person to build a city for protection and control of environment. We saw Cain’s great-great-great grandson Lamech disobey God and take two wives for himself. He thought highly of himself and threatened a more severe revenge than God had threatened. We saw the breakdown of the godly line of Seth when the men married women from the ungodly line of Cain. The wickedness had become so overwhelming that God decided to destroy the human race. Fortunately, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. We saw the attitude of Noah’s great-great grandson Nimrod who rebelled against God (Nimrod means “rebel” in Hebrew) and led all the families of the earth to build a city and tower toward the heavens. After the confusion of languages, Nimrod led his family to build a kingdom of large city/states that controlled great areas of land and possessions.
Even though the ungodly line of Cain was destroyed in the Flood, the sin nature was not. It was alive in Noah and his wife and they passed it along to their children, who passed it along to their children. It was just a matter of time before it would explode.
We’ll look deeper into the history of slavery in the next part of our study.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”