There is an amazing teaching tool that God has placed in Scripture in Gen 9-10. The teaching tools we have seen so far, are, 1) the Hebrew language, 2) patterns, 3) breaks in patterns, and 4) repetition. These chapters of Genesis illustrate the chiastic structure.
“Chiastic structure” is a name assigned by theologians. It describes a narrative device in which a series of elements or events occur, and then they are repeated in reverse order, usually around a central pivotal point or axis which is not repeated. The blessing on Noah and his sons in Gen 9:1-7 is a good example:
1A – 1st element: Gen 9.1, be fruitful and multiply;
1B – 2nd element: Gen 9.2, protection of the lifeblood of man from animals;
CENTRAL AXIS: Gen 9.3-4, “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.”
2B – 2nd element repeated: Gen 9.5-6, protection of the lifeblood of man from man;
2A – 1st element repeated: Gen 9.7, be fruitful and multiply.
I write out chiastic structures with an increasing indent of elements (if I knew how to code it to display properly in this blog, I would). It helps me keep the elements straight. Also, when you look at it written out that way, the indents form sort of an arrow shape that points to the central axis. It is kind of like God’s way of putting neon flashing lights around something He considers important, and saying, “Look at this! Don’t miss this!”
Now these two chapters contain elements within a larger chiastic structure, which begins with the history of the Flood:
1A: Gen 6.9-12, the righteous contrasted with the wicked;
1B: Gen 6.13-8.14, God judges sin by the Flood;
1C: Gen 8.15-9.17, God blesses the righteous;
CENTRAL AXIS: Gen 9.18-29, the curse on Canaan;
2C: Gen 10.1-32, the seed of the sons of Noah (the result of God’s blessing);
2B: Gen 11.1-9, God judges sin by confusing the tongues;
2A: Gen 11.10-32, righteous Shem contrasted with the wicked nations.
For further study: One purpose of a chiastic structure is to draw attention to and highlight the central axis. Why would God want to highlight Gen 9:3-4 as in the first example? Why would God want to highlight Gen 9:18-29 as in the second example? Ask God to show you — be persistent! We can discuss it in the comments to this post.
Finding Messiah: I apologize that this is a little longer today, but hope that it proves to be as fascinating for you as it was for me!
The name “Canaan” is from Strong’s H3665, kaph-nun-ayin, a primitive root. In the ancient Hebrew pictographs, the kaph is the open palm, the hand used to bless others rather than to work or fight. The nun is the seed, so also, son, generation, continuation. The ayin is the eye, so also, to watch, look, see, know, or understand.
The kaph-nun combination paints the picture of the opening (kaph) of the seed (nun), so the going down of the root to provide a firm foundation for the plant above the ground. The verb form, then, means to stand, as the root provides the support that enables the plant to be upright; the concrete noun means a root; and the abstract concept is sureness. So interesting!
Now when we add the ayin, the eye, on to that picture, we get the going down of the eye; i.e. to bow the head, to humble oneself, to be humbled, or to be brought into subjection. The name “Canaan” actually means “lowland.” So what does this have to do with Messiah?
Remember Noah’s prophecy:
“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren;” Gen 9:25
Of Jesus Christ the Word says:
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Mat 11:29
“… Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Phi 2:5-8
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree;” Gal 3:13
The curse on Canaan is a veiled prophecy of the means by which the Promised Seed would redeem us. He brought Himself down, He humbled Himself and made Himself the Servant of servants to His brethren. In so doing, He became a curse for us, when the sin of the world was placed upon Him, and died.
The next time Canaan plays a prominent role in the Old Testament, we find that the sin of the Canaanites has grown so great, that God executes judgment on them by causing their death as a nation. This is another veiled prophecy in the same manner: the wages of sin is death – but the One who died, is the Servant of servants to the brethren, the One who caused His eye to go down.
For further reading:
Table of Nations: Genesis 10 (I don’t necessarily agree with everything here, but there is a lot of valuable reference material, tables, and maps).
The sixteen grandsons of Noah
In the days of Peleg
After the Flood by Bill Cooper (the entire book is online, and I highly recommend it)