Questions From Readers
● On page 326 of the book Life Everlasting—in Freedom of the Sons of God, there is an illustration of Noah’s three sons, showing one with skin darker than that of the others. How is it determined that one was dark-complexioned? From whom did the Negroid peoples descend?—S.D., U.S.A.
The illustration mentioned presents three men slaughtering an animal. The three men represent Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s three sons. (Gen. 10:1) The one with skin darker than the others represents Ham. Ham’s name means “swarthy” or “brown,” and it also carries the suggestion of “hot.” In The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopædia, Volume II, page 754, the comment is made: “The general opinion is that all the Southern nations derived their origin from Ham (to which the Hebrew root Khawm, not unlike the Greek. . . , burned faces, lends some force).” A Dictionary of the Bible, by James Hastings, relates the Hebrew word for Ham to an Egyptian word meaning “black” and shows that this Egyptian word is an allusion to the dark soil of Egypt as compared with the desert sand. It seems reasonable that if Ham received his name at birth, probably he was a child with skin that was somewhat darker than that of his brothers, and the illustration indicates this.
Ham had four sons: Cush, Mizraim, Put and Canaan. The descendants of Mizraim, such as Philistines and Egyptians, were not Negroid. (Gen. 10:6, 13, 14) Canaan also was not Negroid, neither were his descendants. However, Ham’s son Put is shown on Bible maps as having settled in the east of Africa, his descendants being Negroid. (Nah. 3:9) As for Ham’s son Cush, he is very evidently a principal progenitor (perhaps along with Put) of the Negroid or dark-complexioned branch of the human family (Jer. 13:23), as indicated by the areas of settlement of certain of his descendants. (Gen. 10:7) This fact disproves the theory advanced by some who incorrectly endeavor to apply to the Negro peoples the curse pronounced on Canaan, for Canaan, the brother of Cush, did not produce any Negro descendants but, rather, was the forefather of the various Canaanite tribes of Palestine. (Gen. 9:24, 25; 10:6, 15-18) Since it was from Ham that the dark-complexioned peoples descended, the aforementioned illustration appropriately depicts Ham as being somewhat darker in skin color than his brothers, in harmony with the meaning of his name.
● Was the prophecy of a famine by the Christian prophet Agabus to be fulfilled earth wide? Does secular history record such?—J.E., U.S.A.
Agabus, together with other prophets, came down from Jerusalem to Antioch of Syria during the year of the apostle Paul’s stay there. Agabus foretold through the holy spirit “that a great famine was about to come upon the entire inhabited earth [Greek, oikouméne].” (Acts 11:27, 28) Concerning the use of the word oikouméne in this text, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament states: “The word here used . . . usually denotes the inhabitable world, the parts of the earth which are cultivated and occupied. It is sometimes limited, however, to denote an entire land or country, in contradistinction from the parts of it; thus, to denote the whole of the land of Palestine in distinction from its parts, or to denote that an event would have reference to all the land, and not be confined to one or more parts, as Galilee, Samaria, etc.” An example of the use of this word in its limited scope, to denote an entire realm or kingdom, is Luke 2:1: “Now in those days a decree went forth from Caesar Augustus for all the inhabited earth to be registered.”
It appears that the Christians in Antioch understood the prophecy of Agabus as applying to the land of Palestine, since the next Ac 11 verse (29) states that they determined “to send a relief ministration to the brothers dwelling in Judea.” As the account states, the famine “did take place,” the prophecy being fulfilled during the reign of Emperor Claudius (41-54 C.E.). (Acts 11:28) The Jewish historian Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, XX, 2, 5; 5, 2) refers to this “great famine” and indicates that it lasted for three or more years.