Thank you for joining us, I am your host Randy Duncan, and we are making our way through the book of Genesis verse by verse
In the last episode, we made it through 17 verses, which seemed to lead us down all sorts of interesting paths. We discussed races, the death penalty, the rainbow as a sign from God, and even the speed of light. Which brings us now to verse 18
18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.
Now we touched on this a bit in the last episode, insofar as that we are all related to Noah if you go back far enough. But from there, we are all related to one of his three sons, Shem, Ham, or Japheth.
So which are you most likely related to? Well, Shem is the father of the semitic peoples, including the Israelites, Ham, the father of the African peoples, two of the first great civilizations, ( Egyptians and the Babylonian) as well as the Canaanites, and then Japheth the father of the European peoples. Now of course, there is a lot of interplay there and blurring of lines, but that is the basic breakout. There is a more specific description in chapter 10 when we get to what is commonly called the Table of Nations, and so I will wait until then to dig a little deeper
I would also mention here, notice verse 18 throws in the fact that Ham was the father of the Canaanites. Here is sort of an introduction to the Canaanites, who will prove to be a very immoral people, reflecting the immoral actions of Ham, their father, as we will read about now.
20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
Ok, there is a lot to unpack here. First, we see Noah begins by planting a vineyard. At some point, he becomes drunk off of his produce. Noah gets drunk off of his wine.
Now, there are some Christians who attempt to say that the wine back then was merely grape juice. The problem with that, is that Noah gets drunk. I’ve seen a lot of people get drunk after drinking wine. I have never seen anyone get drunk off of grapejuice.
Furthermore, fermentation is a natural process of perserving, and there was no refrigeration. Bottom line, this was indeed wine.
And that is not an inherently bad thing. There is nothing wrong with wine. The Bible tells us wine is beneficial (Judge 9:113, Ps 104:15, Prov 31:6, 1 Tim 5:23)
Wine is used as a symbol of blessing (Gen 27, 28, 37, Prov 9:2, Isa 25:6, Matt 26:28-29)
Wine is even produced by Jesus himself at the wedding in Cana. This is where he turned water into wine. It was his first miracle recorded by John! (John 2:9-10)
So there is nothing wrong with wine. Getting drunk off of your wine, well, that is a different story. There are so many verses instructing against drunkeness that I will not belabor that point here.
But v20-21 tell us that Noah lay uncovered in his tent, and that his son, Ham, “saw the nakedness of his father” and then he goes and tells his two brothers
Interesting, before the Fall of Adam and Eve, in the beginning, they were unaware of their nakedness. And now here is Noah, after the judgment, in the new beginning, unaware of his nakedness
But this is a very difficult passage in scripture. What exactly happened here?
Well, there are different thoughts and interpretations regarding this passage, because it may not be as straightforward as you might think.
The straightforward, first thought, reading is simply that Ham walked in and saw Noah naked, and then went outside and told his two brothers. Then they came and covered Noah. Then when Noah realizes, he pronounces a curse. But is it that straightforward?
As I said, there are various interpretations of these few verses. But let me start with this. There are at least three other interpretations in addition to the straightforward way one might read this. These three other interpretations, you may have never heard, but they have historical Rabbinical support.
The first interpretation is that Ham saw the nakedness of Noah’s wife. And to see the nakedness of Noah’s wife was the same as Noah’s nakedness is the thought. Some believe that Ham actually slept with Noah’s wife, who would have also been his mother, or stepmother, and that Canaan was the offspring of that union. Which is why you see Noah cursing Canaan. But Leviticus makes it clear that one way to understand the nakedness of the father is in terms of the nakedness of the mother. Leviticus also suggests that sexual relations with one’s mother or stepmother can be described as “uncovering the nakedness of the father”
In the Torah, which are the first five books of the OT, there is support that “uncovering nakedness” or “to see nakedness” implies sexual activity
The second interpretation is that Ham actually catstrated Noah. In order to justify this interpretation, some will point to the fact that Noah had no more children. They will also point out that V24 says that “When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him”……so the text tells us that when Noah wakes up, he realizes something has been done to him. As a result, he curses Canaan. They argue that this is a bit too extreme if all Ham did was walk in his tent and see him naked
A third interpretation is that Ham was involved in some sort of homosexual act against Noah, or that Ham commits sodomy against Noah. Again, some make the point that when Noah wakes up, he realizes something has been done to him, and he then curses Canaan, which seems too extreme for just looking upon his father’s nakedness.
Other more conservative interpreters argue that people who believe this are guilty of adding to the text, and special pleading, as they argue that the text has been purged of more sordid details, perhaps in an effort to protect Noah’s dignity.
Another interpretation is that Ham was guilty of looking at his father’s nakedness. The Hebrew word used here for “saw”, Heb (rrrah-ah”when it says that Ham “saw” the nakedness of his father, it can mean to “look at” searchingly”, to inspect”, or to consider”, IOW, you are looking it over, you’re checking it out. This is not an accidental or casual glance
And so if this was the case, then Ham is guilty of a form of sexual voyeurism. Voyeurism of this sort violates one’s dignity, it violates their privacy. Worse still, this would have dishonored his father Noah, a man he should have had great respect for.
If this was the case, then Ham actually makes matters worse because he went out and told his two brothers also. Which brings up a couple of more questions/scenarios. Some believe what Ham was doing was gazing upon his mother’s nakedness, which remember, can be described as the nakedness of his father, and was contemplating having sexual relations with her while she and Noah were both drunk and naked. He then goes outside to suggest it to his two brothers.
Fortunatley, his two brothers have more honor than Ham does. They thought it a sin to even see their mother or father naked, and so they got a garment, put it over their shoulders, and walked backwards into the tent so that they would not see, or be tempted in any way.
In fact, Ham’s two brothers emulate God in that, once Adam and Eve realized they were naked, they were ashamed, and hid themselves, what did God do? He covered them. Here too, Shem and Japheth cover the nakedness ,the shame, of their father Noah.
It does make you wonder though, if Ham’s sin was not castrating Noah, and it was not a sexual violation against Noah, then how did Noah know what had been done to him? Was there some physical evidence that informed him? Or did he realize that someone had come in and covered him, and then he asked about it? Perhaps his two other sons, Shem and Japheth, simply told him. You see, where the scripture reads that “Noah woke up and realized what had been doen to him” is what opens up the door on all the other conjectures and interpretations we have gone through. But again, these are not recently made-up conjectures. These have rabbinical support. It doesn’t mean they are correct, it just means that we at least need to consider them.
Whatever happened in this episode here, one thing we realize is that Ham did something wrong. Something so wrong that it resulted in Noah pronouncing a curse. But some interpretations, even though there may be rabbinical support for them, seem to be somewhat blurred still. I would not be too dogmatic concerning any of these interpretations, and simply realize that Ham acted in a sinful manner, regardless of what it was that he actually did. And realize too, how quickly after the judgment humanity has fallen back into sin. It sure didn’t take very long!
It is quite revealing to realize that Ham was witness to all that God had brought about, meaning, the judgment, His grace and mercy in saving Noah’s family, His promise to never again do the same. But what does Ham do at the seemingly first opportunity? The same thing the Israelites did after seeing all of the miracles God had performed in the exodus from Egypt, the same thing many who witnessed the miracles of Jesus did…they sinned. They forgot. They gave in to the desires of the flesh, the weakness in their spirit, the desires of ther heart. At the first sign of difficulty, they gave in. At the first opportunity to satisfy the pleasures of the flesh, they succumbed.
I can tell you this, if you give in at the first challenge or difficulty, you will not walk with God for very long. Because this life is full of challenges and hardships. Life is tough. Life is wrought with suffering and pain.
But I am glad our Lord did not distance himself from that pain, but chose to be a part of it. Christ suffering the death on a cross tells us that He can relate to our suffering, our struggles, our pain. It tells us that He is not distant and cold and unable to relate with what we experience. No, our Lord is fully engaged and has become a part of suffering for us.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” 26 He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant.27 May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”
So again, Noah awakes from his drunkenness, and realizes something has been done to him. We have talked about the possibilities. But what about the cursing of Canaan? Canaan did not do anything. Ham was the guilty party. So why did God place a curse on Canaan, Ham’s son?
Ah, but God did not. What does the text say? Noah cursed Canaan, not God. Now, it turns out that the Canaanites eventually become so perverse and evil that God will use the Israelites to drive them out of the land. The Israelites and Canaanites did indeed become enemies. But this curse came from Noah, not God. It may be one of those instances that people brought about out of their own emotions or desires, but which God allowed to serve his own purpose, such as Joseph’s brothers selling him into savery in Egypt, and then God raising him to 2nd in command behind Pharoah.
But also, the curse and blessings of all three sons falls to their descendents, not to them individually. In addition to the Canaanites, Ham’s descendents include some of Israel’s most bitter enemies, such as the Egyptians, Babylonians, and Assyrians.
A couple of other comments on the curse of Canaan. This verse was used by some in the past to justify black slavery. These people argue that Ham was the father of the black race, and since he was cursed to be enslaved, then therefore, they were cursed to be enslaved. Well, that is ridiculous, for at least three reasons.
First, scripture in no way even hints at Ham or the Canaanites being black. Second, Ham is not cursed, Canaan was. Third, God is not the one who curses Ham, Noah did that, all on his own. To build an argument based on something in scripture that God was not a part of is a weak argument. That is another example of why you never take a single verse in scripture and attempt to build your entire theology around it.
28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.
If you have not listened to the episode where I covered chapter 5, and you wonder about Noah living to the age of 950, I would encourage you to check out that episode. But notice, from now on, the ages will begin to decrease rapidly, until we get to the age God told us, that the age now would not pass 120 years on average. All you have to do is keep reading, and you will notice the ages begin to decline from this point on, until they settle into about what we see today.
I will leave you with this. I have given quite a bit of thought to death. To our mortality. The last time I checked, none of us are getting out of this alive! And I believe that, regardless of what age you die, whether it is 55, 75, or 105, you are going to look back at your life and say, “wow, I can’t believe it went by so fast”.
And we know that God has placed that upper limit of around 120 years to live. And I am aware of biological systems, the chemistry and physics that come into play, and the 2nd law of thermodynamics that we are all bound to and results in corruption and decay. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that creation itself will one day be set free from its bondage to corruption. But why 120?
Imagine if God had allowed Hitler to live to be as old as Noah, 950 years! Hitler was responsible for murdering 6
million people. He died when he was 56. Joseph Stallin, the Soviet ruler until 1953, was responsible for murders of around 50 million of his own countrymen. He died when he was 74. Can you imagine how much more evil just these two men could have brought about if they lived 500 years?
You see, death places an upper limit on how much evil a person can committ. It may be a lot, but it is limited.
But 55 or 75 is not enought time you might say! Well, it is enough time to figure things out. It is enough time to look at the world around you, to contemplate the meaning of life, to wonder how the universe came to be in the first place, to think about God, morality, consciousness, good and evil, the life and history and witnesses and miracles of Jesus.
The Greek philosopher Socrates said that “The unexamined life is not worth living”. I think he was on to something. I pray that at some point in your busy life, you will stop, or at least slow down long enough to consider the most important issues concerning God and the truth claims of Jesus. And undertake a serious effort to test them against any other worldview or ideology that has ever existed.
Thank you for joining me, and until next week, God bless!