Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth."
With the great flood, the only human life remaining on planet earth was Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives. The racial makeup of these wives is not known or mentioned in the Bible. If, however, racial characteristics are physical variations God allowed to help different peoples adapt to the habitat in the varied regions of the world, these wives could be the sources of the three races. Some scholars have postulated a racial breakdown of the three sons, with the Semitic peoples (such as the Jews), descending from Shem, the black peoples from Ham and white peoples from Japeth.
When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said: "Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers."
Because Ham means 'dark' or 'black,' some have incorrectly theorized that Ham was cursed with blackness because of the sin of the 'youngest son.' Since Canaan is specifically named as the guilty party, it is likely that the crime (likely a homosexual act or action) was committed by him personally. The 'youngest son' refers to the grandson, a common literary practice in Biblical writings. This curse definitely does not cover all of the Hamitic peoples, just the Canaanites. Additionally, all Hamitic peoples were not 'black' or negro: the Babylonians were a Hamitic people.
Are black people the result of a curse on Ham?
Discussions found in our other articles, such as "How did different skin colors come about?" show clearly that the blackness of, for example, black Africans, is merely one particular combination of inherited factors. This means that these factors themselves, though not in that combination, were originally present in Adam and Eve. The belief that the skin color of black people is a result of a curse on Ham and his descendants is nowhere taught in the Bible.
Furthermore, it was not Ham who was cursed, but his son, Canaan (Genesis 9:18, 25, 10:6). Furthermore, Canaan's descendants were probably mid-brown skinned (Genesis 10:15-19), not black.
False teaching about Ham has been used to justify slavery and other non-biblical racist practices. It is traditionally believed that the African nations are largely Hamitic, because the Cushites (Cush was a son of Ham: Genesis 10:6) are thought to have lived where Ethiopia is today. Genesis suggests that the dispersion was probably along family lines, and it may be that Ham's descendants were on average darker than, say, Japheth's. However, it could just as easily have been the other way around.
Genesis 9:1 Rahab, mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1, was a Canaanite. A descendant of Ham, she must have married an Israelite. Since this was a union approved by God, it shows that the particular "race" she came from was not important. It mattered only that she trusted in the true God of Israel. Ruth, a Moabitess, also features in the genealogy of Christ. She expressed faith in the true God before her marriage to Boaz (Ruth 1:16). The only marriages God warns against are God's people marrying unbelievers.1