Archive for the ‘Slavery’ Category

If we study the history of the world’s great monuments, we find mixed information about the treatment of the laborers who built them. There is probably a little truth to all sides of the story. Some ancient workers may have benefitted from jobs while many others, elsewhere involved in the same projects, were slaves. The same situation continues to exist around the world today. Only God knows the whole story.

The Bible doesn’t  tell us plainly that slaves were used in the building of the tower of Babel, but there’s little doubt that they were. It can’t be assumed that all workers were treated equally, even though the world was called “one”, and had one language (Genesis 11:6).

Nimrod (Genesis 10:8-12) is assumed to have begun the building (Genesis 11:6) of the “tower to heaven.” The meaning of his name is uncertain, but it is probably derived from a combination of the Hebrew words “Namar,” (Stained, or Spotted) and “Radad,” which means “Conqueror.” Some biblical names have been altered through transliteration, or translation into other languages, and may not be the original name.

Throughout history, conquered people have often been forced to serve as slaves. A semi-voluntary union with powerful rulers, or surrender to coercion over a period of time, often leads to enslavement. In the day in which we live, the world’s citizens are well on the way to being monitored by computers. I think this is primarily a misguided response to terrorism and crime. At a certain stage, a few private meetings of world leaders will result in the clicks of a few buttons, and the world’s population will be enslaved by the Antichrist (see part 1 of Antichrist’s Control in my May 2011 archives). It’s important to remember that the Antichrist will be trusted and revered at first, and his deception only revealed when it’s too late.

I believe that God postponed the end, and spared ancient slaves some blood, sweat, and tears, by interrupting the building of the tower of Babel. Whenever God intervenes, or when he doesn’t, there is always some overriding reason for the course that he takes. The confusion of language at Babel had far-reaching effects. Could not God have foreseen that codes developed from obscure languages of American Indians, would alter the outcome of the World Wars of the twentieth century?

In particular, the Allies and the U.S. achieved several strategic victories because Hitler’s army could not unravel radio transmissions based on the language of the American Navajo tribe. This played a huge role in ending Hitler’s quest for world domination.

It’s likely that God gave Adam and Eve some form of writing to represent human speech, and that most of their early descendants may have been able to read and write. Later, the multiple languages of Babel made translation necessary. Incidentally, two branches of human language, the Hamitic, and the Semitic, get their names from two of Noah’s sons. This is more accurate historically than many would like to admit.

Pictographs are thought to be the oldest form of writing, and certain alphabetical symbols do appear to have been derived from them. It’s yet possible that an older form of writing existed. Pictographs could also have begun as an attempt to bridge language barriers, or to communicate with others who could neither read nor write. They are used in that manner even today. Thus, it could be that they have always existed simultaneously with other forms of writing.

Parts of the Bible date back to the origins of human writing, and the use and transformation of pictographs into letters of various alphabets would automatically create a code that would allow multiple layers of meaning to be communicated by any writer aware of the possibilities. Some writers of the Bible allude to the ancestral meanings of the little symbols that we call letters. I assume that ancient secular writers may have done this also.

One result of the creation of multiple languages at Babel was a kaleidoscope of cultures, making it more difficult for world conquerors to bring all of mankind under complete control. Conquerors who did manage to create world empires were not able to sustain them. The confusion of man’s language at Babel has hindered some of the terrible things which man has imagined to do (Genesis 11:6). Thank God for that. Looking back at the world’s empires, there are none that I would want to be living in.

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The Bible doesn’t tell us why Noah got drunk (Genesis 9:20-29). Neither do we know how many years after the flood that this event took place, but it must have been several. Noah’s wife isn’t mentioned, and it’s possible that she might have died. The flood that destroyed the old world was an indescribably traumatic event, and perhaps Noah had been weakened by time and depression. Perhaps the first drink or two wrecked his judgement.

When the Bible doesn’t go into detail concerning an event, we should be careful of writing our own speculations in stone. Sometimes the original languages of the Bible offer clues concerning the rest of the story, but meanings of words can also change over time, so there are always places where we can become confused.

Anyway, inside his tent, Noah undressed for bed but passed out before he covered up. His son Cham (Ham), saw him naked in the tent, and told his brothers, Shem, and Japheth, who took a blanket, and covered their father. According to the Bible they walked backward until, I suppose, they found his feet. Ham should have covered his father when he first found him, instead of telling the whole world about it.

I’ve heard all kinds of speculative preaching about this Bible passage, accusing Ham of many things beyond what the Bible tells us. Ham, at the least, was disrespectful to his father. When Noah awakened, and understood what had happened, he was angry with Ham, but it sounds as if his anger was directed more against Ham’s son Canaan. I think that’s a misinterpretation however. I think it’s also a clue to the real story, and that behind the scenes, Noah was already having difficulties with Ham.

It would understandably be embarrassing for Ham to find Noah in that condition, but he may have taken advantage of the situation to humiliate his father. Ham’s wrong may not have been so much in telling his brothers, as in the way that he told them. He could have ranted about what a curse it was to have descended from such a father. Noah might then have retaliated in anger that Canaan was cursed to have a father such as Ham, who would leave a poor heritage to his descendants.

It makes sense to me that what actually happened was something of this sort. According to the Strong’s Concordance, the name Canaan means “humiliated,” which is likely another clue to the meaning of the story. That would not likely have been the original name of this son of Ham. The spelling of his name is different from that of a grandson of Shem (ref. Luke 3:36, and “Cainan,” in my archives of June, 2012), and also from that of the son of Enos in Genesis 5:9-14.

I don’t think that Noah would really have wanted to see all of Ham’s descendants become servants or slaves. At any rate, history has not specifically worked out that way, and tribes and nations which descended from Ham have subjugated other nations as often as not. For example, Egypt, a nation descended from Ham, enslaved the Israelites who were descendants of Shem. Canaanites (the Phoenicians), who lived in the area invaded by Israel after their deliverance from Egypt, also subjugated the Israelites for many of the decades of their existence together.

Over the course of history, leaders and prominent citizens have often sought to make slaves of their own people as well. These things are examples of the sin and greed preached against throughout the Bible. Some have tried to use this passage to justify the taking of human beings as slaves, just as people have always sought justification for their actions, and atheists are right to condemn those who have done so. Many atheists however, deliberately make use of such things to distort the interpretation of the Bible.

The Bible warns us against this also. Events are often reported in the Bible much as they would be in the news, and the reader is expected to exercise good judgement. The Bible doesn’t promote slavery, but it does predict its continuing existence until the time of the end (Revelation 6:15).

The words of Noah seem to me to be more generally true of the spiritual heritage of his descendants than of physical slavery. In Genesis 9:26, Noah mentions “the Lord God of Shem.” Shem, believing in one God, impressed monotheistic beliefs upon many of his descendants, while many nations descending from Ham have served a pantheon of “gods”. Jesus, the Messiah, entering this world through the virgin birth, was a descendent of Shem.

The serving of false gods often leads to a loss of freedoms. A heritage of rebellion against God, at least in the short-term, seems also to have run in Ham’s family. Nimrod, who established the city of Babylon, where God interrupted the building of the tower, was a descendent of Ham. Much of the labor on the tower would no doubt have been forced, as it has been in the building of many of the great monuments of man.

There are things that happen in families that affect later generations. A heritage of poverty affects many families, and poverty leads to borrowing. Borrowing has now become the American way of life, but Proverbs 22:7 says that the borrower is a servant to the lender. I understand the truth of that saying far too well.

Our heritage can bind us every bit as much as the chains of slavery. Note here that I recognize that much of monotheism is also based more upon spiritual imagination than upon reality. The Islamic terrorists who recently kidnapped 300 Nigerian schoolgirls (reports vary on the number) are either totally deceived by their heritage, or they are making use of that heritage to further their own personal agenda. According to the news, they have threatened to sell the girls as slaves if their demands aren’t met. The slave industry is very much alive in our day, and God only knows how many young girls around the world are kept as sex slaves. The term “wife,” often has little real meaning beyond being a convenient title.

The heritage of sin survived the flood. Ham must have rejoiced inwardly to see his father stumble, and that made a sad situation worse. There are usually many outside factors that contribute to the inconsistent behavior of humans, and though he didn’t look the part, this was the same Noah who had “found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” He built the ark that carried his family to safety, while all others perished.

Though he was at least somewhat inconsistent, it is imperfect people who need grace and hope; not perfect people. When people who realize their imperfections see the imperfections of the “heroes” of the Bible; it gives us hope. The Bible has been the source of hope to billions of people over the centuries, many of them slaves, for it has convinced them of deliverance to come (Luke 4:14-21).

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