Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
Select a thought to read by choosing a collection, the month, and then the day:
“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.”
Noah, in Genesis 9:25
Noah cursed Canaan and his descendants to be slaves of the descendants of Canaan’s two uncles, Shem and Japheth. The Bible records part of the fulfillment of that curse in the book of Joshua. When Shem’s descendants, the Israelites, were in the process of conquering the land of Canaan, they enslaved many Canaanites after Joshua angrily cursed them.
Noah’s curse, however, was not just that the Canaanites would be slaves, but that they would be slaves of slaves. And when we look carefully at what the Bible says, we understand that this is exactly what Joshua cursed them to be. His words were, “Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God” (Josh. 9:23).
Previous to this, God had chosen the men of the tribe of Levi to be the servants of the priests of Israel. The priests would carry out the sacrifices and other ceremonial rites of the Law, while the Levites were responsible for providing the support services that the priests needed. When Joshua cursed the Canaanites to be the slaves of the Levites, he was cursing them to do the hardest tasks which, otherwise, the Levites would have to do as servants to the priests.
This is what Joshua meant when he told the Canaanites that they would be “bondmen”. The word “bondmen” refers to the lowest class of slaves, the ones given the most difficult and menial of jobs. The most difficult of jobs for the Levites were the cutting and hauling of wood for the sacrifices that were continually being offered by the priests and the digging of wells and the hauling of water for the temple service. These are the jobs that Joshua removed from the Levites’ shoulders and placed on the Canaanites.
So, Noah’s curse finally came to pass, about a thousand years after it was uttered.
Several hundred years later, Solomon renewed this “servants of servants” accommodation with the Canaanites when he was in the process of building the temple of God in Jerusalem. He made bondmen of the Canaanites so that they could relieve the Levites. Again, they were made “servants of servants”. The Canaanites did such things as cut the trees, saw the lumber, and haul the heavy boards for the temple, and their masters, the Levites, were freed to serve their masters, the priests, in other, less strenuous ways.
God promised His people that if they would obey His commandments, He would “make them the head and not the tail.” Few better examples of God’s faithfulness to His word could be offered than this one, when He made the Canaanites slaves of the slaves of God’s priests. By doing that, He showed His people what he was able to do for them if they would walk in His light, for where else in the ancient world would you find slaves (such as the Levites), who themselves were made masters over the enemies of the Lord?