Genesis 9:20 - 25
ESV - 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.
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Genesis 9:20-25 tells us, 'Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw ...
This story of Noah leaves out a lot of detail since it may involve the inheritance of the sons. The whole episode seems to be recounted in the Bible to explain why Ham received no blessing and Canaan was cursed. Perhaps Noah was not content with only three sons and wanted more to guarantee his line would be flourishing. We then have wine used to remove psychological barriers and nakedness as evidence of a failed reproductive attempt. In ancient times the attempt would have a much more ritualistic and spiritual meaning that it could ever have now. Also, ingesting certain drinks for sacred purposes is known to have occurred in ancient religions. The ritual failed because the wine was doctored by Canaan to cause unexpected intoxication in Noah and he wasn't able to perform. Noah knew who had prepared the wine and why it was doctored. Noah then had to give up any idea of more sons because he had been defeated by the trickery of his son Ham and grandson Canaan. Canaan was too clever for his own good in knowing how to adulterate the wine and received a righteous curse for himself and his descendants. We realize that if Noah had succeeded, the inheritance portions for the three brothers would have been lessened. Normally the first born would receive the greatest share and the others proportionally less. However, birth order can be refuted where great sin is involved. A good example of this is the sin of Reuben which removed him from the first-born status; Joseph was then the substitute for the first born. Ham and his sons were probably the only ones concerned with the inheritance issue and they were the ones who lost their birth order. The bible lists the three brothers perhaps in true birth order - Shem, Ham and Japheth, but it isn't quite certain. Ham could actually have been the real first born. Because Ham didn't help out in covering his father's nakedness after he saw it, he was later placed by Noah in Japheth' prior position. After this incident Shem was first, Japheth second, and Ham last for inheritance purposes. The bible recounts repetitive failure of the first born when subject to difficulties. Cain, Esau, and Reuben are primary examples of the idea. To this Ham may be possibly added, but we have no direct Biblical proof. Canaan is listed as the fourth born of Ham, but likewise may have originally been the first born. It is sometimes wondered why there are so many examples of failure recounted in the Old Testament. The Christian answer is that they constitute compelling evidence of the need for a savior, even where men have sincerely given their very best effort in the best of circumstances. It often takes nothing less than the influx of the Holy Spirit to enlighten men as to their real spiritual situation on earth.
Let's take a look at what scripture says. Genesis 9:18 "And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. Genesis 9:19 "These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread." Genesis 9:20 "And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:" Genesis 9:21 "And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent." Genesis 9:22 "And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without." Genesis 9:23 "And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness." Genesis 9:24 "And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him." v. 18 Ham is the father of Canaan. (again called to our attention in v. 22) v. 21 Noah was drunk and "was" uncovered in his tent. (Although scripture isn't clear I believe the inference is that someone uncovered him). v. 22 Ham "the father of Canaan" saw Noah's nakedness and told his brothers. There is no implication Ham was guilty of anything other than seeing his father naked. Did Ham simply walk into Noah's tent, accidentally seeing his nakedness? Was he somehow involved or was he there in response to a commotion he heard? I.e. was he there presumptuously or ignorantly? The Bible doesn't tell us. According to Strong's the Hebrew word for younger is kä·tän'. Outline of biblical usage is: I.young, small, insignificant, unimportant. Chronologically, the three sons are always listed Shem, Ham and Japeth. Granted, Ham was younger than Shem but according to Biblical usage of the word "younger" in this context Ham was not the youngest. Referring to an extended family member as a son or daughter is relatively common in scripture. The most obvious is in Matthew 3:23 "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli," Matthew 1:16 clearly states that Joseph was the son of Jacob: "And Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ." There is no error or discrepancy here. Although referrd to as son In Matthew 3:23, Joseph is Heli's son in law. Genesis 9:24 "And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him." The younger son referred to was probably Canaan because in the very next verse we read v.25 "And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." He did not curse Ham, he cursed Canaan. The Bible doesn't tell us what exactly happened. It was obviously disgraceful. Some would argue Canaan's was a generational curse, a result of what Ham did. I do not see evidence to support that. Exodus 34:7 "Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation." As with all of us, our sin and lack of providing a Godly environment for our children shows up in generations to come. Deuteronomy 24:16 "The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin."
The Book of Jubilees,* since being found amidst the Qumran Community's Dead Sea Scrolls, has brought additional insight into the cursing of Ham, as well as other passages beyond that found in our Bible. For instance, Gen 10:25 tells us the earth was "divided" during Peleg's day, but is unclear as to its exact meaning. Many commentary writers ascribe this to the division of tribes caused by the Tower of Babel judgment (Gen 11:2-8), while many modern commentators ascribe it to the continental drift theory, saying what occurred in Peleg and Joktan's day, was a massive trans-world earthquake, which resulted in the separation of the continents. They base this conclusion on their translation of "Peleg" which they say can mean "earthquake," though it's primary meaning is "division." The book of Jubilees: ch 9, however, explains that in Peleg and Joktan's birth year, Noah, in order to prevent territorial disputes (Joktan means "dispute" according to Hitchcock's Dict. Of Bible Names), had his 3 sons draw lots to determine the boundaries of their lands. To ensure its meaning, they were bound in advance by a blood oath, never to transgress that which was allotted them. Shem inherited the central lands, Japheth the northern, and Ham the southernmost. The land lottery was immediately repeated by Shem, Ham and Japheth, who further subdivided those territories amongst their progeny. Ham’ s portion was beyond the Gihon towards the south, and was hot (Jubilee 9:22-24).(This is in complete harmony with the historical and geographical records of the races on the earth today.) Jubilees further states Canaan found his land displeasing, so he left it and seized for himself the Levant, but not without controversy, for "Cush and Mizraim his brothers said unto him: 'Thou hast settled in a land which… did not fall to us by lot: do not do so; for if thou dost do so, thou and thy sons will fall in the land and (be) accursed through sedition; for by sedition ye have settled, and by sedition will thy children fall, and thou shalt be rooted out forever. Dwell not in the dwelling of Shem; for to Shem and to his sons did it come by their lot. Cursed art thou, and cursed shalt thou be beyond all the sons of Noah…' But he did not harken unto them, and dwelt in the land of Lebanon from Hamath to the entering of Egypt, he and his sons…. And for this reason, that land was called 'Canaan.' (Jub 10:30-35)." Noah's cursing of Ham (Gen 9:18-27) is another passage of Scripture, missing details for our full understanding. For instance, we are given the details of Hamm's offense – mocking Noah's nakedness – but nothing is said of Canaan's role in this, if any. Since Scripture indicates we are each punished for our own sins (Ez 18:20, Deut 24:16), it is doubtful Canaan received such wrath without cause. Another thing we do not know, is exactly when this event occurs, though we have some evidence it is toward the end of Noah's life. Verse 18, referring to the brothers, says: "of them was the whole earth over spread," while verse 28, simply concludes Noah's life. Since these verses directly precede and follow the story of Canaan's curse, it seems fairly reasonable to believe these events were at the end of Noah's life, after the division of the earth by lots and the expansion of the 3 tribes over the earth. Based on all the evidence, it appears Noah's curse fell upon Canaan because of his violation of his blood oath, and occurred before Ham, because of the disrespect he showed his father, Noah. *Jubilees is primarily a historical and genealogical text, and though generally classified as Apocrypha or Pseudo-Pedigrapha, the sheer numbers of Omron copies lend credence to its respectful acceptance in the Essene community during the inter-testamental period. Although not canonized, it is valued for its historical references, such as the names of the patriarchs wives, and was quoted by many of the early church fathers.
In my opinion, all the discussions here are based upon assumptions. There is no persuasive clue what Ham (or Canaan) technically did to Noah. And you will find no perfect answer here. If Ham did perform sexual indecencies to Noah (as many others have GUESSED), or if it was Ham that uncovered his father, then why did he tell his two brother's outside? Isn't this a shame, and shouldn't it be done in secret? Or do you think he is inviting his brothers to join him? Such questions will keep popping up unceasingly. Anyway, if the Bible doesn't tell us the details, it means it is not so important. God is hiding it from us, for our benefit.
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