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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 1:8 Of Canaanites and Conversion

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Hamites
8 The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.

Here the Chronicler follows Moses by listing the family of Ham. Shem (the ancestor of Israel) will come last. In very general terms, Japheth’s people went north, and Ham’s people went south. South here means the northern parts of Africa, and the lands we call the Middle East today.

Cush is the name for the people who lived south of Egypt (Psalm 68:31). In modern terms, we should think of Sudan, or at least northern Sudan, as this region, although some translations like the King James Version and certain passages of the Latin Vulgate have “Ethiopia” for Cush (Genesis 2:13; Esther 1:1). When the descendants of Cush are named, they will include regions to the east, in and around Arabia, so the territory of Cush was not limited to Africa or the Sinai peninsula. One prophet, Zephaniah, says that his father was Cushi, or perhaps “the Cushite” (Zephaniah 1:1), a suggestion that is reinforced by the fact that Cush is included in the prophecies of his third chapter (Zephaniah 3:10).

Mizraim is the Hebrew name for Egypt. Its has three syllables:

  1. mitz- (as in “mitts” or the name Mitsy)
  2. -rai- (as in rye or the name Ryan)
  3. -yim (as with the endings of cherubim or seraphim).

Mizraim is a dual word (English has singular or plural, but some languages have word forms meaning “two” of something). It refers to the two lands of Egypt: the Nile Delta in the north along the Mediterranean Sea, and the upper region in the mountains to the south. In Egypt, navigation along the Nile was almost unnecessary. The river’s current takes a boat north to the sea, and a sail takes a boat south to the cataracts or waterfalls.

Many of the earlier dynasties of Egypt lasted only a few decades, and some of them may have overlapped. Perhaps the Pharaohs of the Old Kingdom (the Thinnis period and the Age of the Pyramids) were simply the immediate family members of Mizraim himself, the grandson of Ham, when they took up residence on the banks of the Nile in the 25th or 24th centuries BC. When we consider that from Adam to Seth the world’s population went from 2 to 10,000 in 130 years, it is probable that three couples (Shem, Ham and Japheth and their wives) could have produced fifty to a hundred thousand people born between the 25th century BC (the time of the flood?) and the 22nd century BC (the end of the Age of Pyramids). That would mean thousands, or even tens of thousands of people in Egypt driven to produce lasting monuments such as the pyramids.

Put seems to have been a nation to the west of Egypt similar to modern Libya, although the Hebrew text of Nahum 3:9 distinguishes between Put and Libya. Was one to the south and the other to the north, but both west of Egypt? About Put, Luther says: “About Put there is nothing certain. I, therefore, assume that he, too, quickly perished on account of sin.”

Canaan of course gave his name to the land that became Israel. From Lebanon in the north to the borders of Egypt, Canaan’s boundary was the highland east of the Jordan. It was a small but important place, the narrow road through which armies would pass north to south and south to north. God wanted his people to inhabit this place, since he called Abraham to migrate there not long after Canaan’s descendants the Hittites and other people had settled there (Genesis 15:20). Was Canaan more beautiful then than it is now? Or was it simply the ideal anvil on which to forge his people, hammering and tempering them as he saw fit? They had ample opportunity to show their faith by resisting the idolatry of the many nations all around, and of course they frequently failed in those tests. God promised to drive out the Canaanites before the Israelites (Exodus 34:11; Deuteronomy 7:1).

There are many terrible and threatening prophecies against the descendants of Ham, especially the Canaanites. “The Word of the Lord is against you, O Canaan, land of the Philistines. I will destroy you, and none will be left” (Zephaniah 2:5). And again, “The company of the Israelite exiles who are in Canaan will possess the land as far as Zerephath” (Obadiah 1:20). But the Lord no longer uses his faithful people to destroy enemies with weapons or war. He wants us to carry his word and the saving message of the gospel into every corner of the world. “Go and make disciples of all nations” has no room in it for hatred or violence against anyone on account of their belief. The church is not to be an instrument of aggression, but to be a launching point for messengers and missionaries. For just as wicked and worldly as the Canaanites became, so the gospel has the power to change hearts, to make the ungodly into godly and righteous, and to bring salvation and peace where there was once only depravity and death. “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). For “if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps God’s decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live. He will not die” (Ezekiel 18:21).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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