From time to time in our lives, we have power and authority over other people. Employers, teachers, coaches, and parents all have authority over other people. What is the proper use of that power? Can we use it to serve our interests? What does the Bible tell us about how to use that power?
Genesis 10 lists a family group that suffered for centuries because an ancestor used his power to curse them. In our culture, we don’t commonly talk about placing curses on people; however, Old Testament examples of curses illustrates that perhaps we place curses on people more often than we realize. Let’s take a look at the history of the Canaanites and see what we learn about ourselves and our treatment of other people.
Let’s start in Genesis 9. Noah had planted a vineyard, gotten drunk, and uncovered himself. What did Ham see and what did he do?
Gen. 9:22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside.
What did Noah do when he found out what had happened?
Gen. 9:24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him.
Gen. 9:25 So he said, “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brothers.”
Noah cursed Canaan and he made Canaan serve his brothers. Even though Ham did the deed, Noah did not curse Ham, he cursed Ham’s son. In our culture, when we think of cursing, we think of using swear words. In Biblical culture, when they cursed someone, it meant that they were placing a curse on that person and something negative was supposed to happen to the cursed person. In the case of Noah and Canaan, the curse meant that Canaan would serve his brothers.
Notice the names of Canaan’s descendants in the next several verses.
Gen. 10:15 ¶ Canaan became the father of Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth
Gen. 10:16 and the Jebusite and the Amorite and the Girgashite
Gen. 10:17 and the Hivite and the Arkite and the Sinite
Gen. 10:18 and the Arvadite and the Zemarite and the Hamathite; and afterward the families of the Canaanite were spread abroad.
Gen. 10:19 The territory of the Canaanite extended from Sidon as you go toward Gerar, as far as Gaza; as you go toward Sodom and Gomorrah and Admah and Zeboiim, as far as Lasha.
Ex. 23:23 “For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them.
Ex. 23:28 “I will send hornets ahead of you so that they will drive out the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites before you.
Ex. 33:2 “I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.
Ex. 34:11 ¶ “Be sure to observe what I am commanding you this day: behold, I am going to drive out the Amorite before you, and the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite.
Deut. 7:1 ¶ “When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you,
Deut. 20:17 “But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you,
Josh. 3:10 Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will assuredly dispossess from before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite.
Josh. 24:11 ‘You crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho; and the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Girgashite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Thus I gave them into your hand.
Ezra 9:1 ¶ Now when these things had been completed, the princes approached me, saying, “The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites have not separated themselves from the peoples of the lands, according to their abominations, those of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians and the Amorites.
Throughout the Old Testament time period, the Canaanites were earmarked for rejection and destruction. This was a result of the curse that Noah put on Canaan.
Now look at what the New Testament says about placing a curse on someone.
Rom. 12:14 ¶ Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rom. 12:17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
Rom. 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
The Bible tells us not to place curses nor seek revenge. Noah’s curse on Canaan is only one of many Old Testament examples of people cursing other people so that something bad would happen. Many times the curse came true. However, the New Testament specifically tells us not to curse other people (nor seek revenge).
At first glance it may seem that this is not a problem in our society because we don’t commonly use the term “place a curse on …”. However, if we are a coach or teacher and we mistreat or ignore a particular player or student because we don’t like him, haven’t we in effect “put a curse” on him because we are using our power to treat him detrimentally without cause? Furthermore, if we play favorites and give special treatment to a particular player or student, haven’t we in effect cursed all the other players and students? If a parent or grandparent has a favorite child or grandchild and gives preferential treatment to the detriment of their other children or grandchildren, isn’t that the same as placing a curse on some and not others? If a parent or grandparent includes some descendants in their will and not others, isn’t that the same as cursing some descendants? If a manager or supervisor uses their power to mistreat a particular employee or keep that employee from getting a promotion or raise, haven’t they in effect “put a curse” on that employee?
Noah had the power to curse his descendants and he used it to permanently put the Canaanites in subjection to others. None of us have enough power to negatively affect a family for centuries, but from time to time we are in a position to detrimentally affect other people. The Bible tells us not to curse people, and even though we don’t use the word “curse” to describe our actions, we need to be careful that we aren’t in effect cursing people without realizing it. Sometimes people need discipline and it is okay to give discipline; however, cursing people is not okay and we need to be careful that we don’t use our power and authority in a way that ends up cursing other people.
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