God Preserves His Covenant Seed
It would be a wrong conclusion to maintain that God purged the world of sin when He bathed the earth in the flood. To be sure He saved His church by purging the earth of her immediate enemy. Sin, however, was not dead. The very significance of the story that immediately follows the account of the flood is this: God maintains and realizes His covenant in spite of the weakness of His covenant people. Sin did not perish in the flood; it rode within the ark. God’s covenant is surely realized only because we read in the midst of the story of sin and cursings, “Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem” (vs. 26 of Chap. 9).
The story of Noah’s drunkenness and resultant prophetic statement to his three sons is familiar to us. Noah planted a vineyard and with the fruit of the vine became intoxicated. This for the “Preacher of Righteousness” was a gross transgression. We cannot excuse Noah with ignorance concerning the potential danger of too much wine. He must have known that excess could lead to insensible immorality. The distinct impact that is produced by a high alcohol content in the blood is known to us. Exactly for this reason we as young people must keep ourselves from being contaminated by it. It would be very beneficial to discuss whether “temperance” is not the proper answer to this problem today. One may have a very strict moral code, but with too much alcohol the sensibility of sexual purity is immediately perverted. So too with Noah. We must remember the reason that Ham mocked his father was the fact his father was acting in a way unbecoming to a child of God.
Noah fell into sin and Ham delighted in that sin. Such is the true picture of the events. Ham gave vent to his debased human nature. He was not aroused to assist his father who had sinned as were Shem and Japheth, but instead made sport of his father, even to the extent that he must have enthusiastically informed his brothers as one is inclined to do when there is some real morsel of savory gossip. Ham too had a nature like ours. This was of his weak moments.
Noah realized what Ham had done. How that was possible is often debated. How could a drunken man know what happened when he was inebriated? Two possibilities present themselves: either God revealed it to Noah directly afterward, or the event occurred while Noah was yet sensible enough to recall things that had happened. The latter seems the more tenable, since more than likely the wine was not so potent to really deaden the senses, and besides that, if one is drunk, it is possible that he recalls things that happened even though at the moment he had no power of moral restraint to prevent it. This causes the “real nice fellow” to be filled with remorse and rededication when sober and to be a “sodden fool” when drunk. Upon recalling the state of affairs, Noah delivered three “prophetic” statements concerning his sons.
“Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” Why Canaan? The answer cannot be the simple fact that Canaan was the youngest of Ham’s sons. Rather, Canaan must have had a spiritual disposition characterized by the weakness of his father. He may have participated in the sin and thus was disposed to the object of Noah’s curse. Ham sinned, but the curse was upon his generations represented by his son Canaan. This same idea is conveyed in the second commandment, “visiting iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generations of them that hate me.”
The servitude was on the generations as a whole, not on every individual. There were descendants of Canaan incorporated into the O. T. covenant, c. g. Isa. 19:18-22 and in the N.T. with Christ in Matt. 15:22. This servitude was both to Shem and Japheth and must not be construed as meaning a physical bondage forever (as Negroes in America, and thus a justification of slavery), but was principally a spiritual truth, viz. that the powers of darkness in Ham’s generations would serve the cause of Christ. This assumed the form of much physical bondage during O. T. times. We must take note of the fundamental principle of history, that the seed of the serpent must in reality serve the seed of the woman.
In contrast, Noah pronounced the central blessing of the covenant to Shem and his generations, “Blessed be Jehovah, God of Shem.” Especially bearing in mind that out of Shem “The Seed of the Woman” was to come forth, we can understand why he referred to God by the name Jehovah. This is His covenant name that spells out His almighty unchangeable faithfulness to His people. He is that God uniquely to Shem, because out of his generations He would come forth.
Finally, the prophetic insight of Noah even reaches to the N. T. times, when Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem. The figure of a tent indicates co-habitation and sharing of one’s particular blessing. The special blessing of Shem was the promise of the Messiah. Out of Shem Christ would come forth. His generations would live in the blessed hope of His coming. From his loins would come forth Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Israel, Judah, David and finally Christ. However, when Christ would come, many branches of Shem would be cut off and in their place would be engrafted the seed of Japheth (the Gentiles). In this they “both would be one” and “they would be fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.” Eph. 2:14 and 19. Thus Japheth would be enlarged in his place in the midst of the generations of the covenant.
Having observed these important keys that unlock the mystery of history, the sacred narrative mentions the death of Noah and presents a bird’s eye view of the three sons in their generations and their particular place in the midst of the earth. Chapter 10 describes for us the fact that the generations came forth and that each settled in its own place, while chapter 11 tells how this came to pass.
The place where the generations scattered is well known. Japheth was the father of the Caucasian race who settled in what later became known as Europe. Gomer e. g. settled in Brittany, Magog became the Scythians, Madai — Medes, Javah — Greece, Tiras — Thracia. Together they form the Germanic tribes and even the Armenians. Each one had his own land, family and tongue as determined by Babel.
The children of Ham were the Negroid race, settling in Africa, Ethiopia, Egypt, Libya, and Canaan. It is apparent that Nimrod was a man of great skill, compara¬ble to Lamech and his three sons, included in the “wise and prudent” of this world, He is called the “mighty hunter” which must refer to his ability to capture wild animals. Some think this refers to his killing people, but it would seem contradictory to his prominence if this were true. The fact that there is appended to this description “before the Lord” does not add a spiritual quality to the man, but must be understood as a general reference to deity, as in our day e. g. “God is my witness” or “Heaven knows,” even though this does not mean that a person who uses these phrases is a child of God. This man built his first mighty empire with Babel as its center. This was called the Babylonian Empire. It gives evidence of his skill and influence on the people. Here four major cities were joined in a confederate stronghold with the Tower of Babel as its unifying center. After the intervention of God at Babel, he built Nineveh, about 400 miles to the north. Here he constructed a composite of four cities. He certainly did not lose courage even after Babel. What persistence is evidenced in the “sons of men” —the same stamina that marks the efforts for armament control and nuclear test bans today. They will certainly overcome the effects of sin without Christ!
Finally, we notice the children of Seth settled in Asia. Here they were in a position to become the cradle of the nations. The father of the Mongolians dwelt in Assyria, Syria, eventually in Canaan. Peleg was connected with Abraham’s generations, out of which Abraham was called from Ur of the Chaldees.
In conclusion let us notice that the fact Seth settled in Asia was directly attributed to God’s providential direction. It was through him and his generations, the Jews, that, while they should inhabit the land of Canaan and thus exact the curse upon the generations of Ham, God would bring forth the Christ. Later Japheth would dwell with him. We conclude that the plan of history already laid down in this early chapter of Genesis was the westward movement of the church, from Canaan, to Asia, to Europe, to America. In the midst of all history stands the Church, the children of God, that were and are surely brought into the covenant friendship until God. God mightily preserves His covenant people, not only through the flood, but also throughout all history. Not only does He deliver them from the sword of the enemy, but preserves them through their own weaknesses and sins.