The Book of Genesis records an instance of Noah cursing his son Ham's descendants to be slaves. Although there is no biblical evidence that Ham was the "father" of African peoples, various Jewish, Christian and Islamic writers came to believe that he was, and their association helped to justify centuries of African enslavement. When did this interpretation creep in? In this sweeping and ambitious work, Goldenberg shows that early Jewish sources actually had positive or neutral associations for Africa and for Ethiopians (sometimes called "Kushites"), but that postbiblical writers such as Philo and Origen began associating "blackness" with darkness of the soul. Goldenberg's final chapters painstakingly trace the historical trajectories for "the curse of Ham" and "the curse of Cain" in Western thought through the 20th century. (Supporters of slavery thought that the "mark" that God put on Cain after he murdered Abel was black skin. The linguistic discussions in this book can be highly technical, but the research is meticulous and important.
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Winner of the 2005 Meritorious Publication Award, University of Cape Town
"[A] sweeping and ambitious work. . . . [T]he research is meticulous and important."--Publishers Weekly
"Goldenberg's study is clearly a work of mature scholarship on an important theme. . . He writes in an accessible style and makes complex matters intelligible to nonspecialists. In fact, I often became so engrossed in his argument that I thought I was reading a detective story."--Daniel J Harrington, America
"Goldenberg has produced what may well become the definitive study of race and slavery in the Old Testament texts. . . . In a work particularly valuable for its comprehensiveness and philology, Goldenberg's research is monumental; the writing is clear as a bell; the arguments are not only cogent, but honest. . . . In short, this is a wonderful book and I hope that it finds many readers."--Molly Myerowitz Levine, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"For so massively erudite a work this book is remarkably accessible. Goldenberg is sufficiently persuaded of the importance of the case he is making- that the Bible does not measure people's worth by the color of their skin--not to encumber the main body of his book with the kind of extended academic argument in whose thickets most readers would soon be lost. . . . [He has a] conviction that a scholarly work, if it has something important to say, should not be just for scholars."--John Pridmore, Church Times
"An outstanding and comprehensive study."--Choice
"[A] masterly book. . . . With scrupulously meticulous and erudite scholarship, Goldenberg examines a plethora of source material and is a competent and assured guide through this labyrinth."--Desmond Tutu, Times Higher Education Supplement
"The Curse of Ham will clearly have a significant impact on the perennial debate over the roots of racism and slavery and on the study of early Judaism, Christianity and Islam. My view is that this volume ought to be required reading for all Black scholars. Biblical exegetes, theologians and clergy will all find this a valuable resource."--Michael N. Jagessar,Black Theology
"[This] book is the result of thirteen years of steady research and presents what is often highly technical scholarship and linguistic analysis in a readable, cogent manner. . . .The Curse of Ham represents an important step towards increasing the ability of those who view the Bible as scripture to avoid continuing this error."--Stirling Adams, BYU Studies
"Goldenberg has delved into the murky story which forms the focus of Genesis, Chapter 9: Noah's emergence from the flood, his drunken stupor, and his subsequent embarrassment at his son Ham's viewing of his nakedness. This is not only a meticulously documented work but an extraordinarily well-written inquiry...His purpose is to ascertain how this verse was transformed from a curse directed at Ham's son to a blanket condemnation of an entire race."--Arnold Ages, Chicago Jewish Star