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Ham was the youngest of Noah's three sons, in the Flood account in the Book of Genesis. Along with his older brothers, Shem and Japheth, and their wives, he lived about a year on the Ark during the Flood. As a survivor of the flood Ham would go on to be the ancestors of many people, including several notable enemies of the Israelites such as the Canaanites, Egyptians or Philistines


Etymology

The name Ham (Heb:חָם), pronounced khahm, means "hot" or "warm". The circumstances of his birth would have moved his parents to consider this descriptive designation. Perhaps the weather patterns were changing, or that it was in a hot season of the year.


Biography

Early Life

Ham was born in a period of violence and uncertainty to the aged prophet Noah[1]. It was about 1570 years after the creation of Adam, in the days after his father had been warned of a coming deluge that would destroy the world in which he would grow up. He learned from an early age about the prophecies of his ancestor, the prophet Enoch, that God would one day judge the wickedness of his neighbors[2]. He knew from what his father had preached that that judgment was less than a century away. His name, meaning "hot", may have been a sign that the weather was changing from a mild climate to one that was hot. 

To a young child, even a decade is a long time, but when your great grandfather is over 900 years old[3] and your father is over 500[4], a century takes on an urgency every day. In those days, Methuselah was probably trying his best to rule a small tribe of mostly Sethitic linage[5]. But outside of the community of builders at the site of the ark, the world was getting more violent every day. Though the year of his birth is not given, it is believed by most that he and his brothers were born over 90 years before the flood[6].

Based on the age of the fathers' presumed firstborn sons up to Lamech (a bit over 100), it was not unusual in those days for a man to wait until a century to start a family. This seemed especially true in the last half of the antediluvian era (187 and 182 years, then a full 500 for Noah!). But since Noah was already advanced far past the norm, Ham and his brothers had married wives before the flood came[7]. It is most likely the case that as the time drew closer to the catastrophe, workers were harder to find. This would have necessitated full attention to the task by the three brothers, leaving no time for families. But for the sake of mankind, and by the grace of God[8], wives were found in time.

The Flood 

See main article: Great Flood

For the better part of a century, from his teens until in his nineties, Ham labored alongside his father building the ark. In those days the men would have been ridiculed in the nearby towns when they went to buy and trade for supplies. It is likely that they were able to hire some in the early stages, but once Noah's preaching was a decade or so old, the seasoned timbers in the lumber yard were coated with a waterproofing and the four of them patiently constructed a structure 30 cubits high, 50 cubits wide and a staggering 300 cubits long. This means at least 45 by 75 by 450 feet[9].

In the weeks before the predicted time, Ham helped shepherd thousands of animals onto the family's land and load supplies his father assured them would suffice for the long flood to come. A week before the first rain fell, he entered with his wife, along with the three other couples, as God closed them it with a strangely calm menagerie of creatures that needed protection from the coming watery death[10].

After just over a year, according to their calendar, the Great Flood ended and so Ham exited the Ark. Being one of only eight human survivors left on the world, God made a covenant with him, his brothers, and father.[11]

Family

In the centuries leading up to the flood, the people had forgotten the Creator in favor of living for themselves. It is said that the "sons of God (or the gods)" (Heb:בְנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙) had begun to take any woman they wanted from among the "daughters of man" (Heb: בְּנֹ֣ות הָֽאָדָ֔ם, literally, daughters of the man.)[12]. Those translated "giants" in some those days are said to be descendants of Ham in later places, which leads to a conclusion that Ham married into this blood line. The literal translation of the word Nephilim (Heb: הַנְּפִלִ֞ים) is "the fallen ones. This means that it was through Ham that the greatest threat to God's people would arise. Apparently, when it came to take a wife, Ham married one of the Nephilim.

As with his brothers, there was not much to do for over six months after the ark came to rest upon Ararat on day 150 (five months in), as the waters slowly receded toward the far away sea. After the considerable chores were done, the couples likely began to relax and enjoy each others' company. The result was probably expecting parents stepping out of the ark. Four sons are noted as being sired by Ham: Cush, Mizraim (or Egypt), Put (or Phut) and Canaan[13].

With his wife by his side, Ham watched as the smoke of the first sacrifice of the new age rose toward heaven. That evening, being six weeks after fall began, must have seemed cooler to the man who grew up in a warmer world. As God had promised, the seasons would not stop[14], but they may have changed quite a bit. Conditions would arise such that in the time of Job, lands to the north would be known for the cold weather and ice there[15].

Legacy of Sin

The taking of an ungodly bride before the flood may have been an indicator of the general nature of Noah's youngest son. In the process of time, Noah would plant a vineyard and lovingly care for it as the others planted gardens to grow other vegetables. Now morally allowed to eat meat, the sacrifices changed into thank offerings as the family learned to love the smell and taste of roasted flesh[16]. But the refreshing taste of newly processed grape juice (new wine[17], Heb: תִּירוֹשׁ) can easily turn to stronger stuff[18]. The weather had probably turned warmer, but even if not, the wine brought Noah to a point that he shed his clothes and passed out[19].

It may have been that Ham was celebrating the harvest with his father. But at any rate, seeing his father in a stupor, laying naked in his tent, he thought that his brothers needed to know what had happened to the man they saw as the representative of God. With total disdain, he ran, or if himself under the strong drink's affect, stumbled, out to tell the family what he had seen[20].

They were not amused. But rather, they purposely devised a method to cover their father with a garment without looking at him directly. They were perhaps surprised as Ham when their father prophesied concerning the coming generations of his sons referring not to Ham, but to his grandson Canaan. At this time, none of the grandchildren were over about five years old, for the planting and growing did not happen suddenly. Though great nations would come out of Ham's loins[21], the descendants of Canaan were destined to be slaves, and subject to destruction by the others[22].

Legacy

Genealogy

After his life Ham himself is mentioned multiple times. Ham is listed in the genealogical table of nations, which documented the various people groups that came from Shem, Ham and Japheth. The descendants of Ham are classified by their clan, language, territory and nation and are ascribed as "sons" or "descendants" of Ham[23]. Again Ham is mentioned in the genealogy of the First Book of Chronicles which repeats the genealogy found in Genesis and traces his lineage[24]

Descendants

Ham's most profound impact was being one of the three men to continue humanity after the flood, being the progenitor of the Hamites. Ham was the forefather of many significant nations and people groups including the Cushites, Egyptians, Canaanites, Philistines etc.

Land of Ham

Verses

  1. Gen 5:32, 6:6 (Link)
  2. Jude 1:14 (Link)
  3. Gen. 5:27 (Link)
  4. Gen. 5:32 (Link)
  5. Gen. 5:3 (Link)
  6. Gen. 6:5 (Link)
  7. Gen. 7:7 (Link)
  8. Gen. 6:8 (Link)
  9. Gen. 6:15 (Link)
  10. Gen 7:6-10, 13 (Link)
  11. Gen 9:1-11 (Link)
  12. Gen. 6:4 (Link)
  13. Gen. 10:6 (Link)
  14. Gen. 8:22 D (Link)
  15. Job 6:16; 38:29; see also Psa. 147:17 (Link)
  16. Gen. 9:4 (Link)
  17. Isa. 65:8 (Link)
  18. Isa. 24:7 (Link)
  19. Gen. 9:20-21 (Link)
  20. Gen. 9:22 (Link)
  21. Gen. 10:6-20 (Link)
  22. Gen. 10:25-27 (Link)
  23. Gen 10:20 (Link)
  24. 1 Chr 1:8-16 (Link)