Cursed Be Canaan (Genesis 9)

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Service Notes

  • Order of Service: Divine Service 3
  • Hymns: LSB #830, 831, 618, 619, 933

Sermon Text

“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” Wait a minute! What's Canaan got to do with this?! Ham sinned. His son Canaan gets cursed? Isn't there a Bible verse that says, “The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father for the iniquity of the son”? That verse exists. And thank you for reading the prophet Ezekiel. But the question remains, Is Canaan cursed forever?

Ham's sons walked in their father's example. An example of demanding obedience when the father would not give it to those who were over him. Ham fathered four sons: Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan. From these four descended the great nations of the Middle East. From Cush: Sheba, Ethiopia and Babylon. From Mizraim: Egypt and the Philistines. From Put: Libya. From Canaan: the most prolific peoples of the ancient Middle East. Whom God commanded to be annihilated because of their abominations.

But Israel did not keep God's commandment. The Israelites got to a point where they were satisfied with the amount of land they had conquered. They were satisfied with the blessings they had already received. Although their cup was filled, they did not want it to overflow.

How often have you been satisfied with less than what God wants to give you? How often have you become complacent with God's goodness? Far too often. I'm guilty. You're guilty. We become complacent with our lives.

As Americans, we have falsely believed, for far too long, that we live in a Christian nation. And now, this Christian nation has declared acceptable the Canaanite abomination of homosexuality. Sodom and Gomorrah's founders were descendants of Canaan. The Canaanites have gained a foothold into further corrupting the Christians.

Just as Israel failed when they refused to annihilate the Canaanites, Christians have failed. We have failed, but we are not out. I have heard several times this last week, we are in the “little season” of Satan's deceiving the nations before Christ returns. America has been deceived by the same evil forces who led the Canaanites into all their abominations. Lord, have mercy on us.

But God has had mercy on us. Even when we are complacent, He always wants to give more. Opposite Canaan's curse, Noah blessed his two older sons: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.” Noah's words are important here. He blesses God in reference to his sons. But he uses different names for God. Relating God to each of his sons in their own blessing.


For Shem, Noah used the name YHWH. Shem's lineage would bring Abraham. The promised Seed descended from Shem. YHWH's blessing is invoked over Shem to show God's deliverance. God delivered Noah and his family through the Flood. God delivers those who believe in Him. Shem and his descendants called on God's name so Noah's blessing would come on them.

For Japheth, Noah used the name Elohim. The name God used as the Creator. “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.” God's creativity is invoked in Japheth's blessing. Japheth's descendants moved out into the coastal regions and into Europe. To Japheth's descendants God promises a return. “Let us go to the house of the LORD!” is the faithful cry of those who dwell in the “tents of Shem.” The Creator gathers together those who have been scattered throughout the world.

But this gathering is not just for Japheth's descendants. It is for all Noah's descendants. Ham's included. Even the Canaanites would be gathered. Canaan would not be cursed forever. The Canaanite woman in Sidon received mercy. Even though she calls herself a dog. She wanted nothing more than the crumbs that fell from Jesus' table. And Jesus gives so much more.

She acknowledged her sinfulness. Everyone is a sinner. You're a sinner. I'm a sinner. You can't point your finger at anyone else without realizing that three more are pointing back at you. You cannot call yourself a Christian in this sinful Canaanite culture without admitting that you are also a sinner. The Canaanites around you influence your thoughts and ideas. And you allow that influence.

Want God's influence on your life? Want God to bless you like Shem and Japheth? Dig into God's Word. Be like Shem and Japheth. Call upon and proclaim God's name. Confess what is good, right and salutary. Condemn what is vain and worthless. Then God's blessing will begin to overflow your cup.

As we continue through this sermon series in Genesis, the narratives become intertwined. Their length adds to their complexity. I encourage you, as a sign of your further digging into God's Word, to bring your Bibles to worship. Not all the texts for the sermons will be able to be printed without making the print small or the bulletins thicker. Bring your Bible. Let us search it together to find God's Word for us. God's Word of influence.

Canaan was cursed, like Cain, because he refused to listen to God's Word. He refused God's influence. He became “a servant of servants.” But God's influence didn't leave him behind. God Himself came down to earth. He took on flesh. He took on Canaan's curse. He became a true “servant of servants.” The curse has been lifted. The Canaanites can be saved. But it takes faithful, Bible-believing, truth-digging Christians to bring the pure Gospel to them for their salvation. May God bless you in this vocation in this troubled time. Amen.