Article # 8
Archeology can easily identify the first city, which was enormous by comparison to settlements. It has a much more difficult time understanding why it was built. Irrigation is supposed to explain the transition from farming communities to cities but it falls short. Something much bigger is going on here. The first cities did not all grow at a normal rate. The Bible gets down to the heart of the matter and provides the real reason why so many people abandoned their independent way of life and suddenly accepted relative servitude to obtain financial security. It all began with Ham.
Even the children of good people can sometimes disappoint us. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. According to Genesis, Ham disrespected and dishonored his father, so Noah pronounced a prophetic curse on him, saying that his children would be the servants of his brother’s children. People who refuse to acknowledge their wrong usually end up angry at their accuser. As anger is repressed, it turns into bitterness. Ham had no remorse. Bitterness grew and took root (Hebrews 12:15) and had consequences to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5). One man would not humble himself and deal with his shame, and entire nations paid the price.
How would Ham react to his brothers when he was told that his children would be their servants? Human natures tells us that he would try to prove them wrong. A bitter son would raise his children to be the exact opposite: powerful leaders, even masters of others. Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan, Ham’s boys, had a chip on their shoulders, baggage that they would carry all their lives and pass on to their own children. The Bible is the best resource for anthropology, the study of man. By it, we understand that domination was the motivation for building the first cities and empires. How then do we see this drama play out in archeology?
Excavations of the earliest settlements in the Fertile Crescent show peaceful, egalitarian societies with a high level of cooperative trade relations. Family values prevailed. Work ethic was strong. Women were treated as equals. People didn’t lock their doors. All this would change when the Sumerian cities invented kingship. Rulers belonged to an elite family that would bestow the privilege of overseer to loyal followers, who would in turn hire workers to be paid out of the communal fund. Organized farm projects and manufacturing shops flourished. Wages were secure, but manipulation and abuse ensued. Common people sold their souls for a guaranteed income, which explains how the ziggurats and pyramids were built.
A dynasty is a bloodline succession that determines the ruler of a country. Where did this concept begin? It didn’t begin with Shem or Japheth. It began with Ham who intended for his heirs to always rule over nations. Cush’s son Nimrod began the dynasty that is symbolized in the famous Sumerian King List. Mizraim founded the first Egyptian Dynasty that continued in thirty-one dynasties for over two thousand years. The other sons, Put and Canaan, exercised rulership in less dramatic ways. The abuse of power would only grow worse.
It’s interesting to note that God raised up Abraham to be a blessing to all the nations of the world. Abram began in Ur of Sumer, traveled to Canaan, and visited Egypt. When the dynasties of Ham were at their worst, God had a light ready to shine in the darkness. God did not immediately rain fire down on Egypt or Babylon but allowed his people to be crushed to bring forth a sweet savor of mercy. God is present in every nation and for every nation. God is patient and loving and big enough to deal with even the most wicked dynasty of Ham.