Biblical People

Biblical People: Ham 

Of Noah’s three sons, the Bible lists Ham second, even though he is, in fact, the youngest. Scripture only gives us one story about him. It’s his role in the account of his father’s drunken stupor.

It’s Ham who discovers his father inebriated and naked. He could have discreetly covered his dad. He doesn’t. Instead, he tells his brothers. Though we don’t know Ham’s motives, we doubt he seeks their advice on what to do.

More likely he approaches them with the glee of a gossip, sharing the tantalizing tidbits of what dear old dad has done. In short, he’s laughing at his father and expecting his brothers to join him.

While Ham does nothing to help alleviate his dad’s situation and prevent future embarrassment, brothers Shem and Japheth do both.

When Noah sobers and learns what happened, he blesses Shem and Japheth for their proper response but not before cursing Ham. We don’t know why, but Noah directs his displeasure at Ham’s son Canaan, pronouncing Canaan will be the lowest of slaves to his brothers.

And later, while blessing Japheth, Noah specifically proclaims Canaan will be the slave of Japheth. This makes us wonder if Canaan wasn’t also involved in his father Ham’s folly.

Ham has four sons. In addition to Canaan, he has Cush, Egypt, and Put. From Canaan we have the Canaanites, a recurring irritant to God’s chosen people, the Israelites, who descend from Canaan’s uncle Shem.

The only other reference we see of Ham occurs in Psalms, where it talks about the tents of Ham and the land of Ham, presumably where some of Ham’s descendants settled.

Whether we’re the youngest in our family or not, what can we do to rise above our station to act with integrity? When we see someone’s misfortune are we quick to tell others about it (gossip) or do we keep it to ourselves?

[Read about Ham and his brothers in Genesis 9:18–27. Discover Ham’s family tree in Genesis 10:6–20.]

Learn about more biblical characters in Old Testament Sinners and Saints, available in e-book, paperback, and hardcover. Get your copy today.

A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 1,000-page website to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.

By Peter DeHaan

Peter writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and make a faith that matters. Learn more at