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Home > Secteur-English > General > Cham or Canaan? By Rabbi Ephraim Isaac

Cham or Canaan? By Rabbi Ephraim Isaac

It never happens that a rabbinic theory on any subject is presented in a monolithic form ; general line of thought still appears, however ; it can generate, even from contradictory statements, if any historical justifications or other supporting evidence. From there, we can state categorically that : the idea that the curse pronounced by Noah affected the family of Ham, and one that makes black descendants of Canaan, the cursed son of Ham, are completely foreign to biblical thought and rabbinical. The biblical story is clear enough : "When Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what had made him his youngest son. And he said, "Cursed be Canaan he be to his brothers the last of the slaves !" "(Gen. 9 : 24-25). Rabbinic literature is equally clear : this is not Ham who was cursed, but Canaan ’We tried to say that Ham also was hit by this curse, but two Jewish tradition as a whole, did not corroborate. this opinion.

In the mind of the rabbis, there was never any doubt as to the specific identity of the man who was cursed Canaan, nor as to the distinction between it and Ham. In fact, some Bible commentaries and legends were born of the need that we had to explain why the curse and punishment fell on Canaan, apparently innocent, while his father Cham apparently guilty, was not punished. This difficult problem was to elicit many answers and many of speculative opinions : good example to show how religious thought rabbinic on any given subject can be diversifiée.3 And one of the answers proposed as a solution to proves that the rabbis were well aware of the differences between Canaan one hand and Kush, the father of black, and his brothers on the other. Some, indeed, suggest that the curse fell on Canaan precisely because God wanted to save the rest of the family of Ham, which of course included his brothers (Mizraim, Kush, Put) .4 Others content themselves not the answer ; they advance the conjecture that Noah, in revenge of Cham who had prevented him from having a fourth son, cursed the fourth son of the latter, Canaan, according to the law of retaliation. This response, however, does not satisfy a number of rabbis who then offer a syllogism : since God had bestowed a blessing to Noah and his son (Gen. 9 : 1) and since a blessing could not be removed or replaced a curse, Noah threw the curse against his little son.

The descendants of Canaan - Who are they ? Relations with Israel

We find nowhere involved in any rabbinic literature, the descendants of Canaan were cursed blacks or Africains.5 And indeed, this point was never raised in the minds of rabbis it was Kush and not Canaan, who lived in Africa south of Egypt.

Many biblical Jewish sources and post-biblical, as we know, refer to the descendants of Canaan as the Canaanites ; 6 or epigraphic and archaeological modern sources we learn a lot about these Canaanites. They were at the points of geographical, historical and cultural, a Semitic people of the Northwest which occupied almost the entire territory of the east coast of the Mediterranean to the west of the Jordan. They wrote and spoke a language related to Hebrew. From this point of view, and also the ethnic-racial perspective, they were related to the Israelites themselves and the Phoenicians, ’the famous navigators and traders of the ancient world. Certainly, from the time of the Old Kingdom (3rd millennium B.C.), the Egyptians at intervals dominated this region ; and they have now firmly controlled, sometimes loose. But after the decline of the Egyptian civilization, the late second millennium BC, there appeared locally in the area now occupied by Lebanon, Syria and Israel, a number of kingdoms constantly at war with each others. It was then, it is believed, was born Israelite nation, as one of those who inherited, culturally and politically, the Canaanites. It was then also that the Canaanites, having had to cede part of their territory to the Philistines and the Israelites took the head of the international expansion of trade in the Mediterranean and began to be known as the Phoenicians. Although they had been without doubt farmers early in their history, as evidenced by the names they gave to vegetation deities ( ’There, Baal and Anat), they came to be recognized, even in the world of Israelites as the most prominent merchants and men affaires.8 Israelites and Canaanites shared the same territory, or occupying contiguous territories ; they were neighbors, not to mention parents ; and therefore there must have been continuously them, as in most other states, peoples and companies in similar circumstances, misunderstandings, quarrels, disputes and wars that never made them for political antagonists and enemies. The story of the curse of Canaan was most probably invented to explain the feelings of the Israelites to the Canaanites and justify the reason for their fight against the people with whom they were perpetually scrambled ? This is perfectly clear in the Book of Jubilees, post-biblical Jewish book recovered fully only in the Ge’ez version of (Ethiopian). According to this book, "Canaan saw the land of Lebanon to the river of Egypt. He saw that she was very good. And he went not to the land of their inheritance toward the West Sea ; but he lived the land of Lebanon, east and west of the Jordan border and the border of the sea Also Cham, his father, Kush, and Mizraim his brothers, they said to him. :

"You’ve established on land that is not yours and the spell has given much we do not do that ;. Because if you do, this earth will your fall and that of your son, you know the sédftion and you will be cursed, because it is by sedition you are installed and you there is a sedition that your son will fall. and thou shalt be uprooted forever. Do not live where remains Shem, because this place has been assigned • by lot to him and his son. Damn you, today and tomorrow, between all the son of Noah, by the oath and the curse by which we commit ourselves in the presence of the Holy judge and in the presence of our father Noah. "

Despite this, he did not listen to them, but he remained in the land of Lebanon. ... That’s why this land is named Canaan "10

So they said Canaanites cursed Canaan because their father had violated the divine decree on the distribution of land and usurped territory and heritage of the Israelites. This curse was to be a development from later generations. Note also that the Canaanites, formerly an agricultural people, were later become merchants, sailors and businessmen in the world of the Jewish peasantry : it was easy to label them as exploiters and repeating that their ancestor commanded them to be "thieves, adulterers and lazy." Cliche invented probably like many similar stories to justify the feelings of the Israelites to the Canaanites.

No discrimination

The biblical story of the curse, or haggadic elaborations that were made later and the legends of Canaan and his descendants, reflect political realities and socio-economic of ancient Israel. Yet, despite the insults, insults, defamation accumulated against the Canaanites, there is no written biblical and post-biblical challenging their human dignity or deny their equality with Jews as human beings, as were do in the modern West certain racist theories, ideological and scientific nature, concerning non-Europeans. Biblical writers and post-biblical, as well as the rabbinical masters believed, certainly, in the idea of ​​a legal election (that God chooses those who obey his laws, or that God chose Israel to give the law). But the doctrine of racism, that some people are biologically and naturally superior to others, is foreign to their thinking. The rabbis, like the ancient Israelites believed that those who transgress the law of God may be subjected to various punishments ; and the concept of "curse and blessing" applies not only to the Canaanites but to the Israelites themselves if they break the law. "And so, if the Canaanites are condemned to perpetual slavery because of their disobedience, he the same goes for the Israelites punished land of Egypt by becoming the slaves of the Egyptians, and punished again in all places of exile. " Cham has sinned and his son Canaan is cursed ; Israel he sins ? . His land will be cursed "According to a rabbi, the sin committed by the Ten Tribes of Israel is more serious than the sin of Ham, the father of Canaan, and therefore also their punishment is more rigorous :

"If Ham, the father of Canaan, which did not hit (his father), but simply glanced (on his • nudity) was convicted with his descendants to perpetual slavery, how much more will be cursing and hits at once ! "

This allusion concluded the rabbi, is "the Ten Tribes who refused to bear the yoke of God, whereby Sennacherib came and carried away ...." "Like the Israelites who sin against God may be cursed , and the Canaanites who obey God can be blessed. in other words, there is no dogmatic view of the curse of Canaan. so the Canaanite Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, was able to escape, as such a curse. " A Canaanite tribe, the Girgashites, left to itself Canaan and went to North Africa ; as God-blessed, giving them a land "as beautiful as theirs." "Also, because the Canaanites welcomed well the Israelites when they came into the land, God permitted that the land should bear their name." Finally, as anyone who can turn to God in repentance, Canaanites can repent and be accepted into the land of Israël.18

The curse of Canaan is, conceptually speaking, a political myth which includes national chauvinism elements ; but it is not a racial ideology. Moreover, even if one seeks to forge racial implications, it is impossible to argue that the prejudice of the Jews against the Canaanites applies to Kush, the father of black people traditionally recognized.

1. Bekor 13a ; Kid 67b ; 7a etc.

2. See Pesikta Rabbati 21, 22. Some early theologians (See also Qur’an XI), 44s) already claimed that Cham had suffered the consequences of the curse of Noah, but it was only in the Middle Ages that writers, both Christian and Jewish or Muslim attributed directly to this curse Ham. See Mas’udi writing clearly, "and he says" Cursed be Cham ... "." See the text published by C. B. Meynard and P. Coteille, The Golden Prairies, Paris, 1861, c. III, p. 76 ; and finally, recently, for example, Richard Jobson, The Golden Trade or A Discovery of the River Gambra and the Golden Trade of the Aethiopians, 1623 ed. Charles G. Kingsley, Teignmouth, 1904, pp. 65s ; for an historical explanation test, see Albert Perbal, "The Negro race and the curse of Ham" Journal of the University of Ottawa, 1940, vol. X, pp. 157s which says that the curse of Ham was forged, and punishment fu transferred to the person of Canaan to the entire family Cham to justify slavery and colonization. Cham Augustine calls "the bad brother" and says that Ham (meaning hot), second son of Noah, while remaining among his brethren, was somehow separated from them, belonging neither to the first strain Israel nor the fullness of the Gentiles, and it symbolizes the heretical world, driven by the spirit, not patience but impatience, as are the hearts of heretics who disturb the peace of the saints. "(De Civitate Dei, Book XVI, 2). Elsewhere he compares Cham Cain. Chrysostom also talks about the son of Noah worthy of esteem because they loved their father "while the other was cursed because he did not like his father." (Homilies on I Thess 4). Compare also : "Tertia decima tribes generatione cum ex filiis Noe, who unus erat medius, patri fecisset iniuriam, Posteritati suae ex maledicto conditionem servitutis induxit" (Clementis Romani, Recognitiones, Book I, 30). It would be wrong, however, to accuse these racist theologians about it, because this was not the purpose of their presentation or exegetical preaching. (See Cave of Treasures, 19b fol -.. Ed Budge,
p. 121.)
3. Ber. Rabba 36, ​​5-7 ; Tanhuma Buber 49-50 ; Tanh. Noah 13-15 ; Sanh. 70a ; Pes. 113b ; Mid. Haserot ; Targum Jonathan ; etc.
4. Mid. Haggadol Bereshith, Noah 25.
5. There are only a few indications of the presence of the Canaanites in North Africa : we see one in the fact that the Canaanites actually welcomed the Israelites on their arrival and therefore God said, "You have the big open country, he calls your name, and I will give you another country as beautiful as yours. " Some say it would be Africa (North). Similarly there is another indication of the Girgashites who willingly, left the land of Canaan, came to Egypt in the time of Alexander to take over the territory of Israel, but were sent back. (Nb R. 17.3 ;. R. Lv 17.6.) ; See also ad locum Wayikra Rabba, ed. Margulies, Jerusalem, 1954, pp. 3s.
6. Gn. 10,15s ; . I Ch 1,13s ; R.H. 3a ; 13a ; B. B. 56a ; 117a ; Mak. 9b ; 10a.
7. O (he) (Doi.v (fi (Do Lvixii, Phoenicia leo 1 - IOC, (ix Do tv Lvog Phoenician).
8. The very name meant "• dealer." Is 23.8. Ez. 17.4 ; Bone. 12.8 ; Zeph. 1.11 ; Lv. R. (Mesora) 17.5. The general history of the Canaanites, see W. F. Albright, "New Light on the Early History of Phoenician Colonization," Bulletin of the American School of Oriental Research, LXXXIII, 1941, pp. 14-22 ; The Role of the Canaanites in the History of Civilization, Studies in the History of Cultures, 1942, pp. 11-50 ; B. Maisler, "Canaan and the Canaanites," BASOR CH, 1946, pp. 7-12 ; Noth, "Die Syrisch-palàstinische Bevalkerung of zweiten Jahrtausends there. Chr. im Lichte neuer Quellen "Zeitschrift of deutchen Palästina-Vereins, LXV, 1942, pp. 9-67.
9. It is quite common for people who live in perpetual tension with other up stories that serve as psychological weapons against their enemies by denigrating. Just think of the opposition between English and Irish, Flemish and Walloons and even Americans and Russians. Poetry and traditional songs of Ethiopia speak of Europeans who invaded that country as being aramane (race without God and culture) and farani (without foreign culture), the word derived from "Franc". In Ethiopia, as in other parts of Africa white people are often called "devils" or "demons." See also note 31.
10. Jub. 10, 28-34. It is very interesting to note that here Canaan is not cursed by Noah • but by his own father, Ham, and his brothers, Kush and Mizraim.
11. Cf. Dt 32-34. Is. 1, etc.
12. Gn. 15.13 ; Ex ls. 2 R. 17 ; 25 ; Bone. ls ; Am ls. Is 1.1 s. Jr. 17s ; etc.
13. Lv. R. 17.5 ; Midrash Tadshe 17.
14. Ex. R. 30.5.
15. Lv. R. 17.5.
16. Lv. R. 17.6.
17. Nm. R. 17.3.
18. Sotah 35b.
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