Why did Noah say cursed be Canaan; servant shall he be unto his brethren?
Genesis 10:22 - 25
ESV - 22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram. 23 The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.
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I would say that, even if Ham viewing his father's nakedness would be regarded as unintentional or an accident, he did nothing to alleviate or correct the situation on his own, with no one else even having to know about the situation. In addition, he then compounded Noah's embarrassment or disgrace (and also left himself open to a perception of disrespect) by telling his brothers about the situation. (The fact that Shem and Japheth purposely averted their eyes when covering Noah indicates to me that there was apparently a pre-existing prohibition or penalty (or at least a stigma) associated with the viewing of a parent's nakedness. As far as cursing Canaan (Ham's son), rather than Ham himself, although the Bible does not specifically indicate it, perhaps Canaan was somehow involved in the incident and shared Ham's guilt. Alternatively, perhaps it could be a precursor of later indications on multiple occasions in Scripture that God visits the iniquity of fathers upon their children to the third and fourth generation (Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9). (Also, perhaps the judgment pronounced upon Ham is somewhat mitigated or more narrowly focused by the fact that it included only Ham's youngest son Canaan, and not his other sons mentioned in Genesis (Cush, Mizraim, and Put). This might then be interpreted as a prophetic pronouncement, since the idolatry and wickedness of the Canaanites (whom the Israelites subsequently defeated and displaced in occupying the Promised Land) is dwelt on far more extensively in the Bible than any misdeeds done by the descendants of any of Ham's other sons.)
Genesis 9:20-21 relates something that happened to Noah after the flood. The builder-turned farmer became drunk. Climate conditions on earth became different, as possibly indicated in Genesis 8:22, with fermentation likely a new process or working at a faster rate. It seems that Noah got caught by the changing conditions. Genesis 9:22-25 seems to relate the inappropriate situation of Noah. In the chapter ‘Noah’s Vineyard’ in his book ‘Unless the Lord Builds the House,’ Arthur Eedle presented a different view that, at first, does not seem acceptable. He noted in Genesis 9:18, that right after naming the three sons of Noah, there is a strange remark that “Ham was the father of Canaan.” Then in Genesis 9:19, Noah’s three sons are mentioned again with the idea that only by them was the earth populated. It seems as if there was doubt about who the parents of Canaan were, suggesting Noah was the father of Canaan. These words were intended to clarify the matter. When it says Noah became uncovered in his tent, it is not saying he lay there exposed. He ‘became uncovered’ which is a euphemism, a polite, proper way to speak of an improper behavior. Genesis 9:22 states that “Ham was the father of Canaan.” The fact is repeated again, and then it says Ham “saw the nakedness of his father.” For an understanding of what Ham did, one must read what was later incorporated in the Law, Leviticus 18:8 and 20:11. Ham fathered a son, Canaan, by this deed. Japheth and Shem brought in an outer garment that served as a blanket or bed covering at night. Arthur Eedle suggested that it belonged to Ham. Ham likely had no argument about it as he had told his brothers what he had done, perhaps boasting. Shem and Japheth appropriately covered their mother with it. Note it was not Noah who they covered, but “the nakedness of their father.” In this way, Noah, when he became sober, would know what Ham had ‘done,’ Genesis 9:24. When Noah realized what Ham had done, he did not curse him, who was already blessed, Genesis 9:1, but cursed Canaan, Genesis 9:25. Canaan, whose name means ‘humbled one,’ would not have any honor or position but the opposite – of being a servant of servants. There is no logical reason for Noah to have singled out Canaan except that Ham had produced a son in this way. Even in this curse, Noah, in a subtle way revealed that Canaan was the brother of Shem and Japheth. Eedle cites a tradition that Canaan was allotted an area west of Phut (Libya), but not happy with it, he invaded Arphaxad’s territory which became Canaan. Years later, the judgment of God came upon the Canaanites because of their wickedness. What seemed like an inappropriate incident in the life of Noah was actually a very atrocious and heinous act committed by Ham. The unusual and odd statements and the euphemisms bring out what really happened in this situation.
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