9:25 So he said,
The lowest of slaves 3
he will be to his brothers.”
9:26 He also said,
“Worthy of praise is 4 the Lord, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem! 5
May he live 7 in the tents of Shem
and may Canaan be his slave!”
1 sn For more on the curse, see H. C. Brichto, The Problem of “Curse” in the Hebrew Bible (JBLMS), and J. Scharbert, TDOT 1:405-18.
2 sn Cursed be Canaan. The curse is pronounced on Canaan, not Ham. Noah sees a problem in Ham’s character, and on the basis of that he delivers a prophecy about the future descendants who will live in slavery to such things and then be controlled by others. (For more on the idea of slavery in general, see E. M. Yamauchi, “Slaves of God,” BETS 9 : 31-49). In a similar way Jacob pronounced oracles about his sons based on their revealed character (see Gen 49).
3 tn Heb “a servant of servants” (עֶבֶד עֲבָדִים, ’eved ’avadim), an example of the superlative genitive. It means Canaan will become the most abject of slaves.
4 tn Heb “blessed be.”
5 tn Heb “a slave to him”; the referent (Shem) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
6 tn Heb “may God enlarge Japheth.” The words “territory and numbers” are supplied in the translation for clarity.
sn There is a wordplay (paronomasia) on the name Japheth. The verb יַפְתְּ (yaft, “may he enlarge”) sounds like the name יֶפֶת (yefet, “Japheth”). The name itself suggested the idea. The blessing for Japheth extends beyond the son to the descendants. Their numbers and their territories will be enlarged, so much so that they will share in Shem’s territories. Again, in this oracle, Noah is looking beyond his immediate family to future generations. For a helpful study of this passage and the next chapter, see T. O. Figart, A Biblical Perspective on the Race Problem, 55-58.