The prayer of Noah

When we think about Noah and his prayer life, we remember that God talked to Noah quite a bit:  God gave instructions to Noah before the Flood, and God made a covenant with Noah after the flood was over.  When we read God speaking to Noah, we imagine responses for Noah, but the odd thing is that we imagine them.  God speaks to Noah, but scripture does not record if Noah responded to God with anything except obedience.

Genesis 9:25-27 is the only prayer of Noah that is recorded, and like the first two prayers, it hardly seems a worthy example:

Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
he will be to his brothers.

Worthy of praise is the Lord, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem!
May God enlarge Japheth’s territory and numbers!
May he live in the tents of Shem
and may Canaan be his slave! (NET)

The only recorded prayer of Noah is a prayer that one of his grandchildren be cursed, and that two of his three sons be blessed.  The prayer is odd in that Canaan is cursed, and Ham is not, even though Ham was the person who shamed his father, why would Noah want to curse the son for the sin of his father?

One thing that this prayer does is it sets up the ongoing story of Israel.  Canaan meant something to the people of Israel.  The Hebrew people moved to the land of the Canaanites, and conquered most of it.  Over time, they intermarried with the Canaanites and adopted the language of the Canaanites, so that the Hebrew scriptures are written in the language of the Canaanites.  Not unsurprisingly, this assimilation included (at times) the adoption of the Canaanite gods.

Shem (Israel) and Canaan lived together for thousands of years — while there was integration, the fact Jesus mentions the final judgement of Tyre and Sidon (as light compared to the final judgement of various Jewish cities) shows that even at the time of Jesus a distinct Canaanite culture (and whole cities of Canaanites) still existed.

Noah’s only recorded prayer was a curse: and this curse did describe the way of things throughout the kingdom periods, but in many ways, Israel became Canaanite by conquering.  When we read the genealogy of Jesus, we see several women named — three of these women were Canaanites.  Noah’s prayer might have shown things the way they appeared, but over time:  Canaan might have been Shem’s slave, but over time Canaan became Shem’s family.


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Pastor at Raysville Friends Church

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