This article is about the person. You may be looking for the land.
Canaan, son of Ham, was born near Ararat soon after the Great Flood. The progenitor of the inhabitants of Canaan, and listed fourth among the sons of Ham, he would be cursed by Noah, his grandfather, when the patriarch lashed out at his father.
After his father Ham was humiliated, the family probably separated from the others. Canaan would learn how to build a life apart from the ways of his grandfather, who had essentially condemned the family to dishonor. He would proudly look on, though, as his uncle Nimrod, son of Cush, would rise to power. Near the end of his life, he would find himself speaking a different language from his cousins as his people marched west and then south to settle in what seemed like legendary Eden to them.
They would be blessed with the lands west of the Jordan River, the very lands that would be promised to Abraham many years later. These descendants would stray so far from the faith of Noah that they would be threatened with extinction when Abraham's descendants returned from captivity in Egypt.
However, their family ties in the times they had control of the land included Abraham's great grandsons. Though they were not destroyed, they were to become subject to the descendants of Shem, just as Noah had predicted.
The word Canaan [Heb: כְּנַ֫עַן, Kena`an] mean "lowly, low place" from a root meaning "to be low, to be made low, as in to be humbled."
That Ham would name his son this reflects one of two things. He may have moved into a plain below Ararat, separate from his brothers, and liked the land well enough to name one of his sons after it. The other reason may be after the fact that Noah had called Ham the pejorative "Canaan"—meaning someone who was lower than oneself.
Canaan was born a few years after the Great Flood, the son of Ham, and grandson of Noah. Times were tough as his father and uncles worked to rebuild in a fertile, but empty earth. In time, though, vineyards brought grapes and their juice. This juice, once processed, became wine, with its danger toward intoxication.
Canaan was probably a young lad, assuming his grandfather was speaking about him, and not prophesying his existence, when Noah fell under the influence of the wine he drank. Canaan's father had made fun of Noah, and when the older man had sobered up, he learned about it. When it came time for blessings, Ham received a warning: the family of his son Canaan, the Low, would be servants in the houses of their relatives, the Semites.
Like his cousins, Canaan probably lived a long life, seeing the rise of the cities built by Asshur and Nimrod. He may have been there when the tower lay unfinished and the people scattered in all directions. His son Sidon would build a city on the coast of the Great Sea to the west, while another son, Heth, would be the progenitor one of the greatest early empires of ancient times: the Hittites.
But most of all, Canaan would be known for the land that was to be possessed by at least nine tribes descended from him.
The land of Canaan stands as the legacy of this cursed son of Ham. The ancient city of Sidon would be there, and the Hittites would rule over it for centuries. At least nine tribes would rise up and claim parts of the fertile Jordan Valley far before Abraham walked through it. The Canaanites would both be a blessing and a curse to the sons of Abraham. He would avoid them when he could, work with them when he had to, but he refused to have his son Isaac marry a daughter of that land. His grandson would also avoid taking a wife from there.
However, by the time Jacob's sons were grown, they were looking to the cities among the surrounding tribes for brides. Two Canaanite women, Tamar and Rahab, would be progenitors of the Davidic dynasty (and thus the Messiah).
The land would finally be subdued during the days of Joshua. However, weaknesses in the plan to take the land led to Canaanites continuing to live there. After the rise of the nation of Israel, and later Judah, the Israelites would finally see the prophecy against Canaan fulfilled.