C Á P S U L A S
J.N. ROBLES OLARTE
by Alexander Zephyr
‘You must destroy all the people the Lord your God hands over to you. Show them no mercy, and do not worship their gods or they will trap you’ (Deuteronomy 7:16).
To understand the significance of the future prophetic role in the World of the descendants of Japheth, Ham and Shem, we have to look at the tiny story of the ‘Curse of Ham’. We will also learn the blessings of God given to Japheth and Shem.
Everyone knows the story how Noah got drunk and felt asleep naked in his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the ‘nakedness of his father’ and told about it to his brothers Shem and Japheth. They took a garment and covered the ‘nakedness of their father’ without looking at him. When Noah awoke and knew what Ham had done, he said: ‘Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren’ (Genesis 9:25).
This story is short but very condensed with meanings. What had Ham done so bad that Noah cursed him with such grievous punishment’ And why Canaan, the fourth son of Ham, was cursed instead of his father’ The Bible verses are silent about these details. We ought to remember that Japheth, Ham and Shem were born before the Deluge. They had inherited sins of the people God destroyed. They were spared by God only because of their father’s righteousness (Genesis 7:1). According to the story, Shem and Japheth were good and obedient sons of Noah, and treated him with the utmost respect and honor. Noah was for them the model of the spiritual and moral guidance. Ham was quite different; the evil inclinations of sinful behavior had overcome all goodness emanated from his father’s righteousness, that he was able to ‘uncover the nakedness of his father.’
There are many opinions of the scholars trying to answer on the questions ‘When Noah awoke and knew what his youngest son had done.’ Really, what did Ham do to his father? What does it mean ‘Uncover the nakedness of his father’? It must have been something more important and grievous than just simply (and innocently) to see his father without clothes.
One source says that Ham brutally sodomized his father, using the drunkenness of Noah (‘passed out’) as a convenient condition to fulfill this malicious act. To ‘uncover the nakedness’ is very closely linked to Leviticus 18 as a prohibition not to have sex with relatives:
‘None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him. Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’ (Leviticus 18:6, 7).
God’s Law also prohibits the homosexuality:
‘Thou shalt not lie with man as with woman: it is abomination’ (Leviticus 18:22).
Others came up with the idea that Ham castrated his father in order to prevent him to have the fourth son. And there is another speculation that Ham had intercourse with beautiful Na’amah, Noah’s wife, his mother, and as a result fourth child was born by the name of Canaan. It is not an accident that the Bible emphasizes the fact that ‘Ham is the father of Canaan’ on a few occasions (Genesis 9:18); that later on the Canaanites will reject their settlement among their brothers beyond the River Nile in Egypt or on the Island Crete in the Aegean Sea and go live into the Land of Canaan (Palestine) in order to meet their enemies and rulers of the house of Israel and fulfill the prophesy (Genesis 9:25). Some theologians think that Noah cursed the youngest son of Ham because Ham himself was the youngest among the children of Noah. Others suggest that there is nothing extraordinary in this story besides the fact that Ham is simply violated Noah’s privacy by entering in his tent and looking at his father naked body. Some speculate even farther saying that Ham witnessed the sexual intimacy of his drunken father with his mother. These explanations do not make too much sense for such a heavy punishment of Canaan who had nothing to do with the ‘crime’ of his father. It is not even clear if Canaan was born at the time when Ham ‘uncovered the nakedness of his father’. According to the narrative of the Bible, ‘Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood’ (Genesis 10:1).
There are some interesting opinions of the Sages concerning the Noah’s wife. In the book Sefer Yasher (Hebrew for ‘upright account’) and in the Midrash Bereshit Rabba 23:3 says that Na’amah, the sister of Tubalcain, (Genesis 4:22), was the wife of Noah. The Bible does not confirm that. Nahmanides asked: Why mention a name, if we do not know who it is’ The name Na’amah means ‘the pleasant one’, ‘fear and beautiful’. No wonder that the Greek and Arab writers later compare her beauty with the Venus and Minerva. The Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel portraits her as a composer of funeral songs and lamentations. Some scholars picture her as upright and chaste woman; the others say that she was a source of all evil spirits in this World. There are speculations that Na’amah was Ham’s lover, was with him in the ark during the time of the Flood and led him into adultery.
It is obvious that her name was mentioned not only on account of her personal charms. Every word and especially every name in Scripture has its purpose and significance.
‘You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness. The nakedness of your father’s wife shall you not uncover: it is your father’s nakedness’ (Leviticus 18:7, 8).
Why did God curse Canaan for the sin of his father Ham?
Why did God curse the Canaanite nation, for the sin of one man?
Noah had the reason to curse Canaan because God showed him what kind of people will become from Canaan: – the worst evil and idol worshippers, murderers, sex perverters and moral degraders, heavily linked to the overwhelming sins of Sodom and Gomorrah. In the course of the history they will become the mortal enemies and brutal oppressors of God’s People Israel. That is why the Almighty commanded the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites.
‘You must destroy all the people the Lord your God hands over to you. Show them no mercy, and do not worship their gods or they will trap you. On account of the wickedness of these nations the Lord your God will drive them out before you’ (Deuteronomy 7:16; 9:5).
It is of interest to see Prophet Zechariah 9:6, the last time in the Scripture the name ‘Philistines’ mentioned:
A mixed race [Hebrew, “mamzer” possibly connoting a bastard people] will occupy the city of Ashdod. I will destroy the pride of the Philistines’.
Could not this ‘mixed race, bastard people’ represent the modern day Palestinians who counterfeited a claim of inheritance as if they are rightful heirs of the ancient Philistines?
Actions of adultery are strongly prohibited by the Bible.
It is important to notice that ‘Curse of Canaan’ was limited to Canaan people only.
The Hamitic descendants were blessed to become the ‘servants’ in the sense of providing a high technological service to humanity.
Secondly, are we dealing with the same people in Palestine today who lived in the Canaan for more than 3,000 years ago, mainly the Philistines? Well, the Palestinian Arabs claim that they are direct descendants of the ancient Philistines who lived in Canaan before the Israelites moved in. Their motives are well understood in the light of the political battle for the ownership of the Land.
Most scholars believe that the Canaanites, who are also called Phoenicians and Philistines, were not Arabs, and had nothing in common with them. The Philistines were not even a Semitic people. They are the descendants of Ham through his son Mizraim.
‘Mizraim was the father of the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, Pathrusites, Casluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites’ (Genesis 10:13-14).
They were invaders from the Aegean Sea, the Island of Crete and Anatolian areas in the 12 Century b.c. The Canaanites and Israelites were the people who had dwelled in the land long before the Exodus from Egypt. If the Palestinians were these ‘sea people’ as they pretend to be, they might have some justifications to claim the Island of Crete from the Greek authorities as the homeland of their origin.
“Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Caphtor?” (Amos 9:7).
‘Caphtor’ denotes the ancient name of the Island Crete where the descendents of Caphtor, the son of Mizraim, were settled shortly after the Flood. They invaded Canaan, destroyed the people who lived there, the Avvites, and settled in their territory.
They did this without realization that it was God’s way to fulfill the prophecy (Genesis 9:25):
‘The Caphtorites coming out from Caphtor destroyed the Avvites and settled in their place’ (Deuteronomy 2:23).
The Philistines, the Sea People, are extinct. They have vanished from history. Any Palestinian Arabs (Shem) link and identification with the Philistines (Ham) is false. Their origin, culture and language are completely different. The Philistines were invaders from the Sea in ancient times (circa 12 Century B.C.). Meanwhile, the Arabs invaded Palestine from the wilderness under Mohammed in the seven Century A.C. That wilderness is the Arabian Peninsula, the Arab’s homeland. The Israelites and the Philistines had been living in the Land of Canaan, the Promised Land, since the time of the Patriarch of the Hebrews Abraham and the king of the Philistines Avimelech. There had been a Peace Treaty between them. Later on, after the Exodus from Egypt, God had used the Philistines as an instrument to punish and test His People, Israel. The Philistines had become a constant plague and mortal enemies of Israelites, their brutal oppressors.
In the time of King David, the Israelites defeated the Philistines and subdued them (2nd Samuel 8:1). The Kerethites and Pelethites, were Philistines from their ancient homeland of Crete. They were loyal to David and even served as his bodyguards.
As far as the Bible is concerned, the Philistines were destroyed and vanished from the face of the earth, as the prophets of God had prophesied.
‘I will turn my hand against Ekron, till the last of the Philistines is dead” (Amos 1:8).
‘Gaza will be abandoned and Ashkelon left in ruins’ (Zephaniah 2:4).
‘The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah the prophet against the Philistines, before Pharaoh smote Gaza. For the day has come to destroy all the Philistines and to cut off all survivors who could help Tyre and Sidon. The LORD is about to destroy the Philistines, the remnant from the coasts of Caphtor’ (Jeremiah 47:1, 4).
Many Bible scholars are of the opinion that the Prophet speaks here of Pharaoh Necho was defeat by the Chaldaeans at the battle of Carchemish in 605 b.c. On the way back to Egypt, Necho attacked and destroyed the Philistines of Gaza. This was in the time of Josiah, the King of Judea.
There was no name ‘Palestine’ until the time of the Romans when Emperor Hadrian renamed the Roman province of Judea, ‘Palestine’. This was in order to take revenge from the Jewish People for their stubbornness and rebellion against him. Never before in History had the Land of Canaan or the Land of Israel been called Palestine. The same goes for the ‘Palestinian People’: Not one Empire who ruled over Judea at one time or another (Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Ottomans), ever mentioned in their historical records the existence of a ‘Palestinian People’. This nation was invented after the 1967 ‘Six Days War’ by the political leaders of the Arab world, the UN and other Anti-Semites and Jew-haters as a tool in their fight against Israel. In fact, the Palestinians are ‘fresh’ immigrants (100 years or so) from all the surrounding Arab countries who historically had called themselves Jordanians, Lebanese or Syrians. They thought of the Land as being an integral part of Syria. There are many known documents confirming this.
Who are the men to judge God’s decisions?
As the heaven are higher than the earth, so ar My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.(Isaiah 5:9)
Joseph and His Brothers
A rift extending across history
The conflict between Joseph and his brothers, particularly that between Joseph and Judah, runs like a seam across the entire history of Israel. At times Joseph gains the upper hand, at times Judah prevails, but the schism always resurfaces. Our sages even speak of two messiahs, each with a role to play in the final fulfillment of Israel’s mission—a messiah descended from Joseph, and a messiah from the royal house of David, from the tribe of Judah.
The conflict has its roots in Jacob’s marriages to Leah and Rachel. Jacob’s preference lay with Rachel—she was his first love and the one he regarded as his primary wife. But Leah was the first he married, the first to bear his children, and the one to emerge victorious in the sisters’ competition to provide Jacob with the most sons. All of Leah’s six sons were born before Rachel’s firstborn, Joseph; Rachel had a total of two children, as she died while giving birth to her second son, Benjamin.
As Jacob’s firstborn, Leah’s son Reuben is initially slated for leadership in all areas of Jewish life. But Reuben sins, and his firstborn’s rights are transferred to three of his brothers: the priesthood goes to Leah’s third son, Levi; the kingship to Leah’s fourth, Judah; and the “birthright” (the right of the firstborn to a double portion in his father’s heritage) to Joseph. Thus Joseph’s descendents comprise two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, and receive two territories in the Holy Land.
(Reuben’s sin is itself an outgrowth of the Leah/Rachel rivalry, as Reuben interferes in his father’s marriage arrangements in protest of Jacob’s giving precedence to Rachel’s maid, Bilhah, over Leah.)
Jacob transfers his love of Rachel to her son Joseph, demonstrating his greater preference toward him over his brothers—as he had demonstrated his preference of Rachel over Leah. The brothers’ jealousy is augmented by Joseph’s dreams, which Joseph insists on repeatedly describing to them and to his father—dreams which foretell his mastery over them.
The sons of Leah are determined to prevent this at any cost. Shimon and Levi plot to kill Joseph; Judah prevents this, but oversees his sale into slavery.
But the brothers’ victory is short-lived. Soon they find themselves in Egypt, at the mercy of a harsh viceroy who, unbeknownst to them, is their banished brother. They prostrate themselves before him in fulfillment of his dreams. Judah confronts Joseph, but finds his considerable physical might and intellectual prowess bested by his younger brother. Then comes the moving scene in which Joseph reveals himself to them and is reconciled with them.
Joseph is now the undisputed leader of the fledgling nation. He is their protector and their source of sustenance. Even Jacob bows to him.
When the people of Israel emerge from the Egyptian exile, it is under the leadership of Moses and Aaron, both Levites. But it is Joshua, a descendent of Joseph, who leads them in their conquest of the Holy Land. Several generations later, another descendent of Joseph, Gideon, liberates them from foreign rule and governs them. For 369 years the Tabernacle, which as the forerunner of the Holy Temple serves as the spiritual epicenter of Jewish life, is situated at Shiloh, in the territory of Joseph. When the people of Israel ask for a king, a descendent of Rachel, the Benjaminite Saul, is endowed with the crown.
Then, after centuries of Josephian ascendancy, the pendulum swings once more. David, the scion born in Judah, but of the Ephraimite (Joseph) line, is anointed as king; his struggles with King Saul are a replay of the age-old Leah/Rachel rivalry over the leadership of Israel.
For seven years David reigns in the Judean city of Hebron, while a son of Saul is the recognized king in the north. But then the sovereignty of David is accepted by the entire people of Israel. David makes his capital in another Judean city, Jerusalem. His son Solomon builds the Holy Temple on a part of the city which straddles the boundary between Judah and Benjamin. The schism seems to be healed, the people united, with the leadership firmly in the hands of Judah.
But once more the conflict resurfaces. Following Solomon’s death, Jeroboam, a descendant of Joseph, leads a revolt against the royal house of David. He even gets other tribes descended from Leah to join him in the renunciation of the Judean leadership. For the next 240 years, the Holy Land is split into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel, encompassing ten breakaway tribes under Josephian leadership, and the southern kingdom of Judah. (Interestingly, the tribe of Benjamin remains loyal to the Judean throne.) The sons of Joseph are simply not prepared to accept the sovereignty of Judah.
The breach persists to this day. A century before the destruction of the first Temple, Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, overran the northern kingdom of Israel and exiled the ten tribes to an unknown place. They were never heard from again. The rest of Jewish history, as we know it, is the story of the surviving tribes of Judah and Benjamin, a significant part of Levi (whose priests and Levites lived in cities throughout the Holy Land), and a small number of Jews from the other tribes who lived in the kingdom of Judah.
But the prophets promise that there will come a time when the rent halves of the people of Israel will be reunited. The messianic age will be heralded by a messiah from the tribe of Joseph and a Davidic messiah born into the tribe of Judah; ultimately, however, the sovereignty of Israel will be established once and for all. In the words of the prophet (Ezekiel 37:22–25): “I will make them into one nation in the land . . . and a single king shall be over them all . . . My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have a single shepherd . . . and My servant David shall be their prince for ever.”