Race Fact #35: The Meanings of Ham

The name of Noah’s son Ham has only been interpreted to mean “black” and this black is in a physical sense– not black eyes or black hair but black skin specifically.  Ham’s name is said to represent a race, that is socially colored black people.  However, J. Daniel Hays provides several meanings to provide a broader interpretation:

“Associating Ham with the Black race actually requires two questionable steps.  First, one has to assume that the name Ham comes from the Egyptian word for ‘black’; second, one has to assume that the significance of this relation is that the colour term black refers to a race of people and not something else.  Both steps are dubious.  There are several other equally compelling options for the meaning for Ham.  Ham may be related to the Hebrew word for ‘warm’ (hamam) or to the Hebrew word ham, ‘wife’s father- in- law.’  It is quite likely that the name has absolutely nothing to do with the colour black.”

~ J. Daniel Hays, From Every People and Nation: A Biblical Theology of Race, p. 57-58

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