And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.…
Mankind have a common calling as human beings, to which we give the name of culture. This comprehends all influences from without that form the human character and create history. The world of mankind is a complex product which several elements have helped to form. The names of these progenitors of the new race are significant of great principles of thought and action, which have guided the progress and shaped the destinies of mankind. We have here those effective powers which have been at work throughout the whole course of history.
I. RELIGION. This is represented by Shorn, which signifies "the name," i.e. the name of God with all its fulness of meaning for man. The knowledge of that name was to be preserved through Shem, for without it the race must fail to reach its highest perfection. Shem is mentioned first because religion is the chief glory of man, the only source of his true greatness, and the only worthy end of his life. Consider religion:
1. As a system of thought. It has certain truths addressed to the intellect, heart, and conscience. Religion comprises —
(1) The knowledge of God;
(2) the knowledge of man;
(3) the knowledge of things.
2. As a rule of life.
3. As a remedy for sin.
II. THE SPIRIT OF WORK AND ENTERPRISE. This is another factor which enters into the culture of the human race. It is represented by Japheth, which signifies "enlargement." There was in him an energy by which he could overcome obstacles and expand his empire over the world. This spirit of work and enterprise has given birth to civilization. The union of external activity with mental power is the source of man's greatness and superiority in the world.
1. It is necessary to material progress. In the division of human labour the thinkers stand first of all. Mind must survey the work and plan the means by which it is to be accomplished. But for the practical work of life, there must be energy to carry out the thoughts of the mind, and render them effective in those labours which minister to prosperity and happiness.
2. It is necessary to mental progress. By far the larger proportion of human knowledge has been acquired by the actual struggle with the difficulties of our present existence. The battle of life has drawn out the powers of the mind.
3. It is necessary to religious progress, The knowledge of spiritual truth must be expressed in duty, or man can have no religion. Doctrines are only valuable as they teach us how to live. Activity without contemplation has many evils, but united with it is the perfection of spiritual life. True thoughts of God and ourselves must be manifested in that energy by which we contend with evil, and perform our duty.
III. THE POWER OF EVIL. This is represented by Ham, who is the picture of moral inability — of one who knows his duty, but is unable to perform it. A large portion of the energy of mankind is spent in contention with evil, in neutralizing the labours of one another, and but a poor remainder issues in useful work. This power of evil accounts for —
1. The slow education of the race.
2. The monstrous forms of vice. These are developed even in the midst of the best influences and restraints.
3. The limited diffusion of religion.
4. The imperfection of the best. Still, our great hope for the race is that evil is not the strongest power in it.
(T. H. Leale.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.