Nibley suggests that the priesthood restriction is related to matriarchal succession rather than race.

Hugh W. Nibley

Hugh W. Nibley, Abraham in Egypt: The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 14 (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2000), 587

Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, Deseret Book
Hugh W. Nibley
General Public

In the ancient records the blood of Ham is a mixture, always containing more white than black. The mingling of Egyptian and Canaanite is attested in a number of ancient sources, as in Abraham 1:21. Josephus tells us that the countries occupied by Ham stretched from Syria and Mounts Amanus and Lebanon to the ocean. And while Ham is the ancestor of Pharaoh in Genesis 10:6-20, the line also includes the Philistines, from whom Palestine gets its name. Recent studies of the genealogy of Cain by Johannes Gabriel and Robert North emphasize the claims of such desert tribes as the Kenites and the families of Kenaz and Caleb to belong to the family. Though the Hamites are as conspicuously Asiatic as African, the oldest African stocks as well—Libyans, Tehennu, Berber—were not only white, but often referred to as pale-skinned and redheaded. J. Karst detected "an extension of the chain of Hamite people: Kushites, Egyptoids and Libyo-Hamites," in enclaves all over the Mediterranean and the islands clear to Spain. Linguistic evidence inseparably intertwines Hamites and Semites the further back in time one goes, their vigorous rivalry being evidence in the earliest Egyptian hieroglyphics, as shown by H. Stock. W. Vycichl finds Semitic traits in the beginning in North Africa, "perhaps due to a wave of Hamitic tribes coming from Asia via the Strait of al-Qantara as the Arabs came later." "The Hamitic invasion," he concludes, "certainly came from the East," though "originally ... the Hamitic languages were not a single block as were the Semitic."

These few observations, kept to a minimum, should be enough to make it clear that there is no exclusive equation between Ham and Pharaoh, or between Ham and the Egyptians, or between the Egyptians and the blacks, or between any of the above and any particular curse. What was denied was recognition of patriarchal right to the priesthood made by a claim of matriarchal succession.

BHR Staff Commentary


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