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The Curse of Ham: Biblical Justification for Racial Inequality?

Charles David Isbell

Vol. 2, No. 2

Fall 2020

Pages: 1-11

DOI: 10.33929/sherm.2020.vol2.no2.01


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Curse of Ham, Noah, Nakedness, Drunkenness, Incest, Charles David Isbell

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The story of the drunkenness of Noah that caused him to remove his clothing and thus provided the opportunity for his son, Ham, to “see” him (Genesis 9:20‒27), has never received an interpretation that has been unanimously adopted by interpreters over the centuries. By examining the concept of “nakedness” as it functions in biblical legislation, this article argues that the most plausible understanding of the passage is that Ham committed incest with the wife of his father, Noah. Concomitantly, it becomes clear that the literalist idea of “race” used to undergird either slavery or any comparable form of white supremacy cannot be derived exegetically from the passage.


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