The following is based on Genesis 9:18 – 17:27; Ezekiel 37-38; Luke 3:33-37 (Complete Jewish Bible and New International Version)
REMEMBER that the Bible was not meant to be a world history. It is a historical record of what happened in one family line. And though Adam and Eve had many other sons and daughters after they were commanded to leave their perfect home in the Garden of Eden, the only “branch” on the family tree that is traced completely in the Bible is the lineage that runs from Seth to Jesus, son of Mary … Son of God.
So far we’ve seen this much of Adam and Eve’s family tree:
Adam and Eve ==> Seth ==> Noah ==> Shem
Here’s what’s important about Shem and his two brothers:
“The sons of Noach [Noah] who went out from the ark were Shem, Ham and Yefet [Japheth]. Ham is the father of Kena’an [Canaan]. These three were the sons of Noach [Noah], and the whole earth was populated by them.” (Genesis 9:18-19, CJB)
According to the Torah — the Bible’s Old Testament — after the worldwide flood, Noah’s three sons had an unfortunate encounter with their father. Noah got drunk on wine that he made from grapes produced by a vineyard that he planted, and the result was not pretty. I’ll let you read the details (few that they are) in Genesis 9:20-27.
Bottom line: When Noah awoke from his stupor, he got so angry with his youngest son, Ham, that he cursed him … specifically, he cursed Ham’s son, Canaan, and that whole branch of the family tree! Now Ham had three other sons besides Canaan — Cush, Egypt (Mitzrayim) and Put — but Noah (for whatever reason) chose Canaan to curse because of the “evil” done by Canaan’s father, Ham. (“Not fair!” we say…. But of course, we remember, things don’t always seem fair in this “fallen world” and we don’t know the cultural details of the situation. So it’s probably best not to judge, except to say that Noah and his sons were imperfect human beings, and perhaps they didn’t realize the literal meaning and power of spoken words to the Lord God.)
The curse on Canaan went like this: “ Then he said, ‘Blessed be Adonai, the God of Shem; Kena‘an will be their servant. May God enlarge Yefet [Japheth]; he will live in the tents of Shem, but Kena‘an [Canaan] will be their servant.'” (Genesis 9:26-27, CJB) For us in the 21st century, it’s important to note that Ham’s son, Canaan and his descendants were, from that moment, destined to become slaves to their uncles and cousins — the two other main, supporting branches of the family tree!
(According to Bible scholars, the descendants of Japheth spread north of the mountains of Ararat (located north of Mesopotamia and east of modern-day Turkey — Assyria and Babylonia / European and Russian countries); the descendants of Shem (Semites) spread to the west and south into the Middle East and Arabia; the descendants of Ham went south into Egypt and Africa.)
The prophet Ezekiel wrote that at some point in history — which has not yet occurred — the three key brothers’ direct descendants, namely Magog, Meshek, Tubal, Persia, Cush, Put, Gomer, and Beth Togarmah, “plus many nations with them” will come against ISRAEL (the chosen, direct descendants of Shem). Hopefully we’ll get to that eventually. But if you’d like to dig deeper right now, I suggest you do an internet search for those specific names.
What you need to know for now (and for the purpose of this study) is this: From Shem we’re going to skip over multiple generations to his direct descendant Abram, who — like Noah — was tapped at just the right moment in history to maintain a “holy” (“set apart”) branch or lineage that would eventually lead to Jesus (Yeshua).
TIME OUT …
I need to take a moment here to explain something VERY IMPORTANT about Abram and his wife Sarai.
I’ll let you read the entire account for yourself in Genesis 12 through 17. For now, let’s just be aware that Abram made several unfortunate — and very human — choices that included his wife, Sarai. One of those had to do with God’s promise to give the two of them a naturally born son. Here is what ADONAI (THE LORD) actually said to Abram:
“Get yourself out of your country, away from your kinsmen and away from your father’s house, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, I will bless you, and I will make your name great; and you are to be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, but I will curse anyone who curses you; and by you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3, CJB)
The problem was that Abram and Sarai thought they had misunderstood the Lord God. Perhaps, they thought, He had meant that since they were both so old, Abram should have a son by a concubine — a practice that was culturally accepted (and permitted by God) at that time in history. So Abram had a son — his firstborn — with an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar. And they named him Ishmael.
FOR NOW, if you’d like to check out the details, read Genesis 16 and 17. And be sure to get this: Ishmael, Abram’s oldest son, was from the union with Hagar of Egypt. Ishmael is not a direct ancestor of Jesus — as we will see, coming up!