NO PROMISES TO CANAAN
It was after the Mandates of the Promises were made clear and specific that God proceeded to confirm His covenant with Noah and his sons. And again, the sacredness of life was reasserted in the following words of the Lord, “I now establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you…. Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood, never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth. This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:8-17). Please note that is was Noah and not God that cursed Canaan and cut him off from the blessings. Under the Covenant with Noah, saint and sinner prospered.
The inclusion of the earth into the covenant was not new but important. Adam had specific instructions of safekeeping it, but failed. Noah and his sons had learned that without the earth, life could not exist. In order to preserve life, man must preserve the earth. When this planet was called into being, God also regarded it as being good. It was part of the Promises and inherent to God’s Mandates. The Covenant was intended to protect the interdependence between life and earth, and man had been given the responsibility to maintain it. In fact, man was and still is part of the earth, and it is high time that he treats it with more dignity.
Now we come to the question, how did Noah and his descendants respond to the challenge of a new world? Noah started out being faithful to the soil. We are told that he planted a vineyard and produced wine. While there was nothing wrong with wine itself, after all Jesus made some himself; but there was with the lack of human restraint. Very much like the first couple, the fruit of this tree got the better of Noah. The second father of mankind became inebriated and he too turned up naked. Like his ancestor, he too blamed others for his exposure. This time, it was not his wife or some animal but his grandson who had absolutely nothing to do with his grandfather’s drunkenness. In his curse on Canaan, Noah set a precedent in which the innocent would suffer. In the beginning, God installed the curses and the blessings for His own use. There was no evidence that the Creator had turned this function over to man. We have Noah simply taking over the role of a priestly function. Sinful man began to determine who would be blessed and who would be cursed. With this act, he set himself up as a spokesman for God and began to expect the Almighty to carry out his orders (Genesis 9:20-27). The curse has become a form of judgment that severely handicapped Canaan, Noah’s grandson and his descendants. Ham saw his indiscreet father and Shem and Japheth threw a garment over Noah by not turning their eyes toward their father. For their deeds, the two were blessed and Canaan received the curse for his father Ham. “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers. Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend the territory of Japheth; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave” (Genesis 9:25-27).
The curse on Canaan did not affect him or his father immediately. Ham’s descendent included men like Nimrod and places or kingdoms like Babylon, Assyria, and Nineveh. Canaan’s offspring produced the Hittites, one of the first most powerful people of the ancient world and his children build the land of Canaan that became the envy of the Semites. The Canaanites were tolerant people and friendly to new comers that wanted to live among them and the curse may have had something to do with their attitude. The curse was powerful medicine to the descendants of Noah. Noah was regarded as a favored of Elohim and his words of enslaving Canaan must have hunted the grandson and his offspring. When Abram, a Semite and a recipient of the blessings showed up, he too was cautious not to offend the inhabitants in spite of being a powerful nomad. He had a larger fighting force than Sodom or Salem. When invaders plundered these small kingdoms and took his nephew Lot hostage, Abram defeated these highwaymen and returned what they had taken to the kings of Sodom and Salem. For the privilege of being of service and living in the country, Abram gave a tenth to the king of Salem, priest of “The Most High God.” He purchased a burial ground but never settled in one area or built a permanent town or city. He prospered as a nomadic businessman. He did not use the curse, only the blessings and believed they were linked with God’s Promises (Genesis 12:1-3). It would take another four centuries before the Canaanites would invoke the course with the help of Balaam against the Semites that were returning to take over Canaan. He could not curse Jacob’s seed but he could seduce them (Numbers 22-25).
The tragedy of Noah’s only violation was that it affected future generations. What Noah had done was exactly what our fathers and we are doing. He did not curse himself or his sons because that would have ruined his lifestyle. He wanted someone else to pay for his mistake and he did it in such a way that he would not experience any inconvenience during his life. This is precisely how the last two generations of our time have dealt with mother earth and with our nation’s debt. We are taking from the earth at an alarming rate without putting anything back and we have indebted this nation for generations to come. We too have cursed our grandchildren with our drunkenness and nakedness.
Noah’s lack of restrained affected other aspects of the Promises. In fact, it hit the very heart of the Promises, namely the preservation of life. Take the man Nimrod, known to us as a might hunter and warrior, descendant of Cain. This man began to regard himself as a mighty hunter before the Lord. What he did, however, contradicted the Words of the Lord, that man must not take life (Genesis 10: 8-12). After Nimrod, many have come claiming that they had received special contradictory orders from God. What strikes us as peculiar is that there was no word of approval or disapproval of Nimrod’s heroics by God. And the reason was quite apparent. This man hunted for pleasure and that meant the shedding of blood. Soon this proved trivial for mighty hunter Nimrod, and he turned to hunting man. He became a warrior and all that a warrior was, was a killer. He took it upon himself to eliminate those who did not share his views or offended him in one thing or another. Thus we have a replica of man breaking the very law that preserved God’s Promises.
When you have war, you also have divisions and hostilities. It is not surprising that it did not take very long and the earth was split between two brothers Peleg and Joktan (Genesis 10:25). One would think that the earth was still virgin and large enough for man to branch out, instead, we find humans seeking to reunite and consolidate. They began, very much against God’s order to multiply and spread out, to build a tower. Speculations suggest that they wanted to be close to heaven, but what was closer to the truth was, that they refused to face the challenge of the world before them. Like their father Noah, they were not thinking of the future but of themselves and their immediate needs (Genesis 11:1-9). Instead of exploring new territory, they began to conquer and confiscate established settlements. What the children of Jacob did to the people of Canaan had been repeated multiple times in history. My own place of birth was handed to the Poles in 1919, back to the Russians in 1939 and after the fall of the Soviet Union, back to the Ukrainians. All this happened in my lifetime and I was taught to believe that had to be sanctioned by Elohim, the God of the Bible. Someone’s interpretation does not coincide with the God Jesus proclaimed.
We know the outcome of that first grant attempt to human unity. Elohim confused their language, they ceased building the tower and those who did not partake called it mockingly Babel, namely confusion. Confusion became the trademark for future generations. Strangely absent from this period was any word or message from Elohim. As promised, God left man their rainbow in the sky to remind him that Elohim was keeping their Promises. If only man could look up and remember God’s Promises are not only written in the rainbow but also in his heart. In spite of the course of Noah Canaan prospered and Shem (Jacob) covet it because it had become a land of milk and honey. Unfortunately, their sins did not allow them to harvest what they had sown.