Noah's blessing concerning Japheth and Shem, and his curse upon Canaan, the son of Ham, is the next significant event in the process of salvation. But while the covenant of God with Noah was the foundation of the succeeding history of nature, the world, and salvation, Noah's blessing and curse is its prophetical ground-plan, its programme for the races in that history.
i. Thc accursed and unblessed condition of the Hamites.
"Accursed be Canaan: let him be a servant of all servants under his brethren" (Gen. 9: 25). On account of the shameful sin of Ham (ver. 22-24) the family group of the Canaanites is here given over, in Canaan, Ham's son, as their ancestor, to be cursed, and the Hamite race generally to be unblessed.
In the most fateful manner the history of the world has corresponded to this prophecy. In Palestine, through the Semitic jews, especially under Joshua (Josh. 9: 21-27; Jud.1:28-30, 33, 35) and Solomon (I Kings 9: 20, 21), the Canaanites were subjugated; and in Syria and North Africa, as Phoenicians and Carthaginians, they were conquered by the Japhetic Persians, Grecians, and Romans. But the other Hamites, who were not indeed cursed, but were assigned to a lack of blessedness-after a prosperous development in the beginning (especially under Nimrod, later by the Phoenicians and Egyptians~have again and again had to groan under the yoke of oppression especially the negro, the last particularly in America after the introduction of slavery. Not till after the North American civil war of 1861-1865 was slavery abolished in the United States. Even now it still prevails in great portions of central Africa, especially in the Mohammedan States.
ii. The Semites as spiritual intermediary of redemption.
It proved different with Shem. The most glorious blessing was apportioned to him "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem"(Gen. 9: 26). This form of praise, which expresses the blessing, not actually as " blessing," but as praise to the God who blesses, has its basis (as Luther long since remarked, "propter excellentem benedictionem") in the height and boundlessness of the promise to Shem.
Jehovah is the God of Shem; that is, the Semitic race is the bearer of His especial revelation. For Japheth God is Elohim, the creator, maintainer, and universal ruler (Gen. 9: 27); but for Shem He is Jehovah the covenant God and Redeemer (see the Appendix-"The Names of God"). Thereby Shem becomes the recipient and channel of His special redeeming grace, and henceforth the promise of spiritual salvation is concentrated in lus descendants.
This salvation is brought to completion in Christ, for He, the Redeemer, as son of David descends through Abraham from Shem (Luke 3: 36); even as He Himself has said in the gospel of John (4: 22), "The salvation comes from the Jews"; and as His greatest apostle testifies, the "noble olive tree" of God's kingdom is "their olive tree (Rom. 11:24; comp. Eph. 2:1l-22; Rom. 15: 27; Gal. 3: 9, 14). So God's temple of His New Testament revelation rests upon the rock foundation of the Old Testament revelation given through God's prophets (Matt. 5: 17, 18; John 10: 35; Acts 24: 14; 26: 22), and in Christ the blessing of Shem has become the gospel for the world.
iii. Great Extension of Political and Intellectual influence of the Japhethites.
Japheth's blessing consists of three parts.
(1) "God give spreading out to the spreader out" (Gen.: 9:27), or "God make it wide to the wide." The play on the words "He makes wide" (Heb. japht) and the name Japheth should be reproduced in the translation. Japheth was the father of the Medes (Heb. Madai, Gen. 10:2), and the Greeks. In Hebrew the name is Javan, with which compare the Grecian description of themselves on the west coast of Asia Minor as Ionians. Consequently Japheth was the father of the Romans, Persians, and generally the Indo-Teutonic race. The Persians are kinsfolk of the Medes; the Romans are related to the Greeks. The Indians (Aryans) and the Germanic nations are connected with the Persians; with the Romans are connected the Romanic nations (Italians, French, Spaniards, etc.); with all, though more distantly, the Slavs and many others. Taken together they are all styled "Indo-Germanic" (Aryans).
But this means that, according to the testimony of Old Testament prophecy, great extension of political and intellectual influence is thc privilege of the Japhetic peoples. The Prophetic racial programme has so appointed. World history has brought about the fulfilment in overwhelming manner. In the first instance, indeed, the fulfilment took a reverse course, for sinful man is in perpetual rebellion against God.
In the ancient Orient not Japhethites but Hamites and Shemites were, for tens of centuries, the ruling civilized peoples. In the Nile valley the Hamitic Egyptians ruled. 1 On the Euphrates and the Tigris (in Accad, Shinar, Babel and Nineveh), subsequent to an earlier civilization in Sumeria, Nimrod the Cushite, (thus a representative of the Hamitic race, which in Canaan and his descendants should become a "servant of all servants "), even became the first man in history to found a world empire (Gen.10: 8-12). Thus in him the subservient race attained to supremacy.
1The Egyptians(Heb. Mizraim) are Hamites, according to gen. 10:6, and see Psa. 78:51; 105:23,27. They name themselves Kemet. The transition to the (Hamitic) negroes is the Nubian-Fula race, who are indeed very dark-skinned but in features are distinguished from the negro proper.
According to the exact wording of the passage Nimrod was not the builder of the city of Babel (see Gen. 11) but the founder of the world empire of Babel, in that he, on the foundation of the already existing cities of Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, from Shinar as the beginning of his empire," extended his power to the north, that is Assyria (Gen. 10: 8-12). Also later, as the power of the Hamites waned and was apportioned among others, it was still not as yet Japhethites but, according to the testimony of history and Scripture, Semites who became the immediate heirs of the Hamitic world rule.
In the Nile Valley, the Hamitic Egyptians remained the rulers (Gen. 14: 1-4; 10:22); in Mesopotamia it was the Semitic Elamites, and, since Hammurabi, the Babylonians (about 1900 B.C.). Then in Babylon the Kassites, and in Egypt (till Pharaoh Amasis, about 1600 B.C.) the Hyksos attained to power (about 1750 B.C.). In the Near East the Assyrians followed (about 1750-612 B.C.) and the New Babylonians, the latter under Nebuchadnezzar especially. But these all were Semites or Hamites, and already nearly two thousand years had passed since Noah had uttered his prophecies (about 2350 B.C.), and yet his predictions as to the peoples were still not completely fulfilled.
Then at last the decisive hour of the Japhethites struck. Under Cyrus the Persian the Japhetic race entered the arena with victorious strength. Semitic Babylon fell (538 B.C.), Belshazzar, the son and representative of Nabonidus, was slain, and the Japhethites became the lords of the Orient. Since then no Semitic or Hamitic race has succeeded in breaking the world supremacy of the Japhethites. The conquest of Babylon and the victory of Cyrus (the "shepherd" and "anointed" of the Lord, Isa. 45: 1; 44:28) over Belshazzar the Semite, and also the simple words of Daniel 5: 30, "In that night was Belshazzar, the king of the Chaldeans, slain," embrace an event of mightiest significance in world history-the decisive collapse of Hamitic-Semitic world sovereignty and the laying of the foundation of the Japhetic world rule. Only a few years later Cambyses, the successor of Cyrus, conquered Hamitic Egypt and established there likewise the Japhetic rule (525 B.C.). The Persian empire also was indeed not permanent; still, when the Greeks (333 B.C.) and the Romans (especially in the second century B.C.), the Teutons (A.D. 476), and the Latins took over the inheritance, it remained, through all individual changes, always in Japhetic hands
Thenceforth the Japhetic race carried the palm of culture and even as they ruled the earth geographically and politically, so also did they intellectually and culturally. While in its highest conception the blessing of Shem consisted in the concentration of all spiritual and saving powers, the blessing of Japheth included the widest extension of all intellectual and worldly powers. The blessing of the one was heavenly light, the blessing of the other was earthly success.
But for their vigour the Indo-European peoples were indebted to the idealism of their conceptions; the Greeks to their striving after beauty and truth, as in their art and philosophy respectively; the Romans to their reverence for order and justice, as in their State; and the Teutons to their adherence to liberty and fidelity. Through all these they became intellectually leaders of humanity and promoters and patrons of higher culture
(2) But also spiritually Japheth was to attain to blessing Therefore is it said: "Let him dwell in the tents of Shem" (Gen 9: 27). For the very reason that Shem had been immediately before designated as the channel of revelation, dwelling in his tents can signify nothing else than partaking in his faith and the reception of the Japhethites into the fellowship of his spiritual salvation. 2 In fact the blessing promised to Shem has reached less to Hamitic and principally to Japhetic peoples (Gal. 3:14)
2Thus already Jerome, Calvin, LUther, almost all the church fatherx, and further, Lange, Keil, Delitzsch, and others.
The fundamental start for this was the dream-vision of Peter in Joppa (Acts 10: 9-17), which taught that the removal of the wal1 of division between Jews and heathen, which in principle had been completed already on the cross (Eph.2: 14), was now historically carried out in the person of the Roman Cornelius; and thus, as regards the fulness of salvation, by this means a Japhethite the first from among the nations, was allowed to enter the tents of Shem without joining the nation of Israel
Then a further turning-point in the same direction was that other vision of Paul, when in Troas he saw a man of Macedonia who called to him: "Come over, and help us" (Acts 16: 9, 10). Who knows what course the history of the world and the church might have taken if at that time the great apostle had been sent east, to India or China, instead of to the west About the very time in which Paul made his missionary journeys a truth-seeking emperor of China, Ming-ti, sent an embassy to India, from which occasion Buddhism entered China (A.D. 61-67). But it is the incomparable significance of that dream-vision in Troas that with it the hour had struck for the bringing of the message of salvation over to Europe, so that now Japhetic Europe was appointed to be the chief theatre for the wonders of the gospel and the citadel of the message of the kingdom of the heavens, and that night hour in Troas became the hour of spiritual sunrise for the western peoples.
(3) "And let Canann be his servant" (Gen. 9: 27). The fulfilment of this prophecy has been attained only through gigantic conflicts.
The Phoenicians and Sidonians are among the descendants of Canaan; the fact that they and other Canaanites had Semitic language and culture does not contradict the testimony of Gen. 10: 15 as to their Hamitic origin. Relationship of language never absolutely proves race relationship, and vice versa; for in the first place, the confusion of tongues at Babel is an historical fact, and secondly, in the course of history, peoples, through migration and otherwise, have often changed their language, as for example, in the early Middle Ages, the Normans, the Lombards, and the Franks. The Phoenicians in particular, according to their own assertion, came from the Indian ocean (Herod. I, 1; VII, 89). Thus they must have passed through the central Semitic language area, and, on the way, in the course of time, evidently must have acquired the Semitic speech.
These Phoenician peoples belong to the descendants of Canaan. They are, as it were, the "Normans" (North men) of antiquity. Their strip of coastland in the north-east of Palestine, thickly peopled, was like a continuous city. Thus, as early as 1200 B.C., partly from love of adventure, partly from business interest, they began to found foreign colonies, especially in the western Mediterranean; and there quickly flourished in North Africa the aristocratic and capitalistic city of Carthage ("New City").
At the same time the Roman State was developing in Italy. Collision was unavoidable. It had to end in the destruction of one or the other rival. The first war led to the conquest of Sicily by the Romans (264-241 B.C.). The second was in the hghest degree dramatic (218-201 B.C.). For when the Carthaginians, under the leadership of the heroic and gifted Hannibal, broke into Italy through the Alps and in brilliant victories at the Ticinus (218), at the Trebia (218), at the lake of Trasimeno (217), and above all at Cannes (216), had destroyed the Roman armies, and Hannibal was now expected at the gates of Rome, it looked indeed as if the old prophetic word, " Let Canaan be his servant," which had been so brilliantly fulfilled through Cyrus (538 B.C.), should now be put to shame, for a conquest of the Japhetic Romans by the Phoenician Carthaginians would have signified nothing less than the establishment of a Hamitic world-empire.
But at length the decision fell. At Zama, south of Carthage, the armies met (202 B.C.) and-Publius Cornelius Scipio, the Roman, was the victor. Had Hannibal conquered, then probably no Roman empire would ever have arisen. But in the antagonism between Hannibal and Scipio there was at the same time embodied the racial collision between Semitism and Hamitism with Japhetism. For the language, religion, and culture of the Carthaginians was Semitic, while their race and blood were Hamitic. By their defeat, their political racial rivalry was for ever decided. Nothing in later centuries could alter this; neither the onslaughts of the Huns (A.D. 375-455), especially Attila (the battle on the herds of Catalan, near Troyes, 451); nor the Arabs' invasion (7l1-732; the victory of Charles Martel near Tours and Poitiers 732); nor that of the Mongols (the golden horde, under Jenghis Khan in the thirteenth century; the battle of Liegnitz, 1241); nor the Turkish wars, from the conquest of Constantinople (1453), the battle of Mohace in Hungary (1526), to the siege of Vienna (1683).
With Nimrod began, with Hannibal ended the drama of Hamitic world empire, and Scipio's brilliant victory sealed conclusively the work of Cyrus, the establishment of the world-rule of the Japhetic race. "Let Canaan be his servant"-this it is which stands written, as with letters of fire, over the battleheld of Zama.
Thus in unique manner has world history justified the prophecy. Its course follows exactly the determined plan. All contrary activities of man collapsed and God had His way. Noah had been His prophet concerning the peoples. The names of his sons had become symbols and tokens for the future. The descendants of Ham (= heat) inhabited the hot lands; the sons of Japheth (extension) spread themselves out over the earth, and the generations of Canaan (the subdued 3) had to submit themselves to Japheth and Shem. But in the line of Shem (The Name) the name and nature of the Redeemer were revealed, and in Jesus Christ, the Lord, who bears "the name which is above every name" (Phil. 2: 9), the name of the Father is now glorified for ever (John 12 :28; 17: 4; Phil.2 :9-11).
3Comp. the cognate verb in Jud. 4:23, to bow, to submit.
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