LDS Growth Ancient Ethnography, Culture, and History

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Recognizing that race is a nebulous concept which often defies objective measurement, and that all people represent a mixture of various lineages, we are left with a question which can be more readily answered: what color were the Egyptians, Sumerians, and other early peoples? This question must be approached carefully and respectfully, as questions of color and race have often been misused. Yet as we explore this question, we find considerable evidence that documents the great contribution of black or negroid peoples to the humanities from the beginning of time to the arts, the sciences, linguistics, and other areas of human endeavor. These findings, properly documented, would fill an encyclopedia, and challenge the traditional views of Western societies of the preeminence of Caucasian peoples in these disciplines. All societies in the history of the world, we will see, owe a deep debt to the contributions of negroid peoples dating back to the dawn of time.

The question arises, what were the negroid races of antiquity? While recognizing that nations from Egypt to Sumeria were melting-pots at the crossroads of civilizations, historical and scriptural records nonetheless allow us to make certain generalizations about the predominant ancestry of specific nationalities based upon that which is known of their ancestors.

After the great flood, the descendents of Shem, Japeth, and Ham, the three sons of Noah and their wives, populated the earth (Genesis 10). Genesis lists the progeny of each of the three brothers; the sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan.

It is generally accepted that Cush, the ancestor of the Ethiopians and sub-Saharan Africans, was black. His name is translated as "dark" by Hebrew scholars. Scriptural references corroborate the dark skin of Ethiopians in Biblical times (Jeremiah 13:23). Yet here the proponents of the idea that "Cush [father of the Ethiopians] was black, Canaan [father of the Canaanites] and Mizraim [father of the Egyptians] were white" swallow serious inconsistencies of their belief with logic, genetics, and scripture. If we accept the Genesis account that the earth was peopled by the three sons of Shem, Ham, and Japeth, on what basis would one son of Ham be black and another white? It defies logic to believe that Cush is the exclusive ancestor of the black peoples among Noah's descendants, as Cush is just one of the sixteen grandsons of Noah (Ham had four sons; Shem had five and Japheth seven), whereas negroid peoples represent 20-25% of the modern world's population when we include not only black Africans but also many of the peoples of India, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Melanesia, New Zealand, Australian aborigines, African peoples of Brazil and the Caribbean, and so forth. Proponents of this theory offer objections to other explanations without providing a rational and coherent framework for understanding what scriptural and historical data do support. If we admit that Cush was black, should that recognition not lead us to consider the likelihood that his father and brothers were also black? If we recognize that Ham and his four sons were black, that puts us at four of the sixteen grandsons of Noah (25%) which is more consistent both with scripture and with the observed distribution of negroid peoples in the world today, allowing for considerable intermixing in later generations.

Considerable data supports the conclusion that Ham and all of his sons were black:

  • 1. "The seed of Cain were black" (Moses 7:22);
  • 2. "There was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan" (Moses 7:8).
    This refers to the people of Canaan prophesied by Enoch who lived chronologically before the great deluge. They are distinct from the Canaanites who descended from Ham.
  • 3. The mother of Ham, son of Noah, appears to have been distinct from the mother of Shem and Japheth. The Book of Moses records that Noah "begat Shem of her who was the mother of Japheth, and when he was five hundred years old he begat Ham" (Moses 8:12). The author makes a special point to note that Shem and Japheth had the same mother. If Ham had the same mother, there would have been no need to make such a distinction.
  • 4. Hebrew tradition as recorded in the Genesis Rabba midrash and the eleventh century Jewish commentator Rashi maintains that Naamah, sister of Tubal-cain (Genesis 4:22), was taken by Noah as a second wife to preserve Cain's posterity, and that she became the mother of Ham. The Book of Jasher identifies Noah's wife Naamah as the daughter of Enoch, which would not refer to Noah's ancestor Enoch (she would have been his great aunt!) but to Enoch the son of Cain identified in the Moses 5:43. Both of these accounts agree that her name was Naamah and that she was a descendent of Cain. In early languages, the words son and daughter could be used to refer not only to one's child, but to one's descendants. There is therefore no reason to suppose these accounts to be in conflict. Naamah is mentioned in Genesis 4:22 as the sister of Tubal-Cain, descendents of Cain through Enoch and Lamech. As other women are mentioned in the Genesis account only as mothers (and even these are omitted in many cases), and daughters and sisters are not mentioned except when they are relevant to the story (i.e. we know of Dinah the sister of the twelve sons of Israel only because of her rape and the subsequent sack of Sechem), the isolated mention of Naamah as a sister without mentioning her husband, her posterity, or her involvement in any episode is highly unusual. It seems likely that accounts of her role were sufficiently well known among the early Hebrews that the Genesis author did not feel the need to repeat, just as one would not need to explain the relationship of a great aunt. Both accounts point to Ham's mother being a black descendant of Cain or Canaan. LDS scripture does not explicitly state that view, but the data it provides is certainly consistent with that tradition.
  • 5. The name of Ham, mistranslated as "hot" in the LDS Bible Dictionary, has been more correctly rendered by my father David Stewart Sr. as "burnt" or in other words black. This is supported by Egyptian Khem or Kem (Ham) = black. Egypt was also referred to as Kemet, the black land (or the Land of Ham); there is some controversy among scholars over whether this referred to the black soil or to the people, but that the early Egyptians were dark has been increasingly recognized and is addressed in my article on the race of the Egyptians.
  • 6. The name of Egyptus, daughter of Ham and founder of Egypt, means "that which is forbidden" (Abraham 1:23).(Latin Aegyptus, from Greek a (not) + guptos (permitted) = forbidden; presumably a borrowing from earlier times). Why does her name, and that of the entire nation of ancient Egypt, signify that which is forbidden? Remember those in the antediluvian world who "had not place among" the residue of Adam's seed (Moses 7:22), and in more recent scripture (2 Nephi 5:21)?
  • 7. All the Egyptians were descendants of Ham:
    "Now this king of Egypt was a descendant from the loins of Ham, and was a partaker of the blood of the Canaanites by birth. From this descent sprang all the Egyptians, and thus the blood of the Canaanites was preserved in the land." (Abraham 1:21-22)
    Ham's son Canaan was Mizraim's brother, not his ancestor, and had his own seed. It would be nonsense to talk of the Egyptians "preserving" the blood of an individual who was not their ancestor. This passage (Abraham 1:21-22) can reasonably only refer to the antediluvian Canaanites, who scriptures have already stated were black (Moses 7:8). It appears that "Canaanite" appears to have been used anciently as a generic term for person of black lineage, in much the way that "African" is used today.
The most logical and consistent way to interpret these data points is as follows:
  • 1. The descendants of Cain and the antediluvian people of Canaan were black.
  • 2. Noah married a black woman who was the mother of Ham; Shem and Japeth were sons of another mother as scripture implies.
  • Ham, having a black mother, was black.
  • The sons of Ham, Cush. Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan, were all black, as were their descendants.
Wasn't that simple? Now we do not have to contrive convoluted and unsupported theories about why Cush was black and his brothers white, or how Mizraim's seed "preserved" the blood of his brother from whom they were not directly descended.

In future articles, we will discuss who these black descendents of Ham were, and will mention some of their many contributions to the world.