Genesis Day 19: When you’re reading the Bible, do you ever think, “That’s just weird”?
If you have been reading along, you may be concluding I am one of those “Bible people”—yeah, I am. After all, I just told you I believe the Flood really happened.
Here’s the deal. If I am going to take that sort of a stand, then I better be willing to deal with some of the strange parts of the Bible—like the verses we read today.
I am always learning about the Bible. There are parts I wrestle with.
So just what is going on in this part of Genesis 9?
Noah proclaims a curse for what Ham did to him because he “uncovered his nakedness” or “saw his father’s nakedness.” The tricky thing about that is how best to understand what this phrase means.
If you will look elsewhere, say in the book of Leviticus, in Leviticus 18, about what is prohibited to Israelites, it says, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your mother.” It means, “have sex with.” So, there is real possibility that Ham actually did something incestuous to his father Noah. If not, he almost did it, or came close to it, or gave the appearance of it. It is just tricky to understand exactly what he did. However, it’s pretty clear that it was very offensive to Noah, and it should not have happened.
Some people refer to this section as the “curse of Ham”, and if God curses someone, then there must be consequences. So, who are these people under the “curse of Ham”?
First off, Noah does not curse Ham at all but gives a curse on Ham’s son, Canaan.
It is a vehicle by which God talks about the future in a relationship of the Israelites and the Canaanites, so he says, “May Canaan be the slave of Shem,” verse 26 of Genesis 9. “And may God extend the territory of Japheth and may Japheth live in the tents of Shem and make Canaan be his slave as well.” You have a denigration of the Canaanites as a people and the Canaanites.
As you read through the Old Testament, you will again and again see the nation of Israel and the nation of Canaan in conflict (neither exist at this point in the story).
You might ask, “What does this incident have to do with what we have been reading?”
Well, perhaps, a few things. First off, Noah got drunk and naked—nothing good ever comes out of that. Then we get Ham’s offensive behavior. That leads to a family blow out. Then God engages.
I have been thinking about God’s response. God just did this really hard thing—He flooded the earth. Why? To rid it of corruption. Then His main man, Noah, gets drunk and immorality abounds. UGH!
Before I get all “holier-than-thou”, I need to remind myself that this pattern—humankind doing really bad stuff, God disciplining and restoring, humans following God for a little while, then humans straying to corruption again—this pattern repeats over and over again in the Bible.
We have seen it with Adam, with Cain, with Noah, and now Ham—and yet God does not give up on us.