Genesis 9:18-19… Now the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem and Ham and Japheth; and Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was populated.
These two verses form the prologue for the section that follows (vv. 20-29). The three sons of Noah are once again mentioned by name. Some have speculated that the boys were triplets given what Genesis 5:32 says: “When Noah was 500 years old he became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” From that passage it might appear that the boys are triplets, and even though Genesis 10:21 speaks of Shem being the older brother of Japheth, twins (and presumably triplets) in the Bible are given their respective birthrights in relation to the time they emerged from their mother’s womb (cf. Gen. 25:23; 27:4). It simply is not stated whether or not these boys are triplets, but it makes little to no difference one way or the other.
The last phrase of verse 18 says, “And Ham was the father of Canaan.” The point of this rather peculiar insertion is to point the reader to the main theme in the passage: the eventual curse of God on Canaan and his offspring. The narrator is setting the stage in the prologue for what will not only happen in the verses that follow but for what will happen in the history of the Jews that will follow. Remember that following the Exodus from Egypt God directed Moses and the Israelites to completely annihilate the Canaanites from the Promised Land (modern day Israel and Palestine). The relevance here is that they did not destroy all of them like God commanded, and to the present day the Canaanites (Palestinians) still continue to plague Israel.
Verse 19 is straightforward, mincing no words about where the human population originated after the Flood. Our common ancestor is Noah and his unnamed wife (both of which come from Adam and Eve). The fact that the narrator uses the past tense verb, “was populated,” means that though this specific account was likely written by either Noah or one of his sons, it was Moses who at least edited the account and who was in a position to state the fact that all peoples on the earth came from these three sons of Noah. After all, he was one of those people.
Of course since all people originated from the three sons of Noah, whom God blessed (9:1), all are created equal. All races come from one of the sons of Noah. Dr. Henry Morris says, “All the physical characteristics of the different nations and tribes must, therefore, have been present in the genetic constitutions of the these six people who came through the Flood in the ark. Somehow, by the regular mechanisms of genetics – variation, recombination – all the various groups of nations and tribes must have developed from this beginning.”
Food for Thought
On planet earth today most would agree that there are anywhere from three to six major “races” of people. There are approximately 150 significant nations today and 3000+ languages and dialects. Even though there is great diversity among people groups we all come from one common ancestor. The ancestor isn’t a tree or an amoeba in the primordial soup ten million years ago; it’s from one of the sons of Noah – the descendant of Adam – God’s son (Luke 3:38).
Barriers between racial distinctions exist for a purpose, and tearing them down is unnecessary. Unfortunately mankind has built barriers between the races, issues of superiority, that are not glorifying to God. God blessed all of Noah’s sons, and no matter which one you descend from you are made in the image of God and have great worth as a result. God must have known that racism would eventually come about through man’s depraved mind, but He uses this as a testing ground to see how we’ll get along with others. How are you doing in that regard?
Genesis 9:20-21… Then Noah began farming and planted a vineyard. 21 And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.
One of the great things about the Bible is that it does not attempt to cover over the shortcomings of godly men and women. Abraham lied at least twice, Judah solicited sex from a supposed prostitute, David committed adultery and murder, and the Apostle Peter denied even knowing Jesus Christ, to name just a few. In Genesis 9:21 Noah, a man who walked with God, who found favor with God, and a man through whom all people of the earth would trace their ancestry, is said to be drunk from too much wine. How could this be?
On one hand this account, which likely takes place long after the Flood, is just an honest account of a righteous man who had a moral lapse and got drunk. On the other hand, maybe Noah was a drunkard who loved God. After all, alcoholism is a choice, but it becomes a disease.
There is another possibility proposed by some. Maybe this was the only time Noah got drunk, and maybe it wasn’t wholly his fault. The explanation might lie in the conditions of the new earth following the Flood. The pre-diluvian earth was encased in the vapor canopy (“the waters above”) that kept the earth at a uniform temperature – no wind, no rain, no extreme cold or heat. This goes a long way in explaining how rain forests, animal fossils, and remnants of fruits & berries are found frozen in Siberia and surrounding areas. The atmospheric pressure of the pre-Flood earth was about 2¼ times greater than afterward, and this new air pressure difference would have considerably increased the fermentation rate of grapes. Fermentation occurs when CO 2 escapes from grapes. However, when air pressure increases CO 2 fails to escape (e.g., bottle caps on carbonated drinks prevent the gas from escaping, but when they’re taken off the fizz fades). The pre-Flood vapor canopy may very well have acted like a bottle cap, and the increased air pressure slowed the release of CO 2. This would have slowed the natural process of fermentation. In other words, prior to the Flood fermentation would have taken far longer, and Noah would have been able to drink of the vine without getting drunk. After the Flood, the fermentation process increased, and Noah would have been taken by surprise at how little it would take to make him drunk. D.G. Lindsey of Christ for the Nations says, “Drinking alcohol in the pre-Flood atmosphere would have been like a man today drinking at sea level. On the other hand, drinking in the post-Flood atmosphere would be like a person drinking today at an elevation of 10,000 feet or more, where the air pressure is 2¼ times less than at sea level.” In reference to the ark coming to rest on the mountains of Ararat, Lindsey says, “The base of the mountains begins on a high plateau over 3,000 feet above sea level. Not only was the atmospheric pressure 2¼ times less at sea level after the Flood, but Noah most likely was not at sea level. He was probably living at least several thousand feet above sea level in the high regions of the Ararat Mountains. The air pressure could have been as much as 2½–3 times less than it was before the Flood… Now Noah’s tolerance for alcohol decreased by 66–75%.”
Verse 21 says that Noah, in his drunkenness, “uncovered himself inside his tent.” In other words, he was naked as a result of becoming drunk but all in the privacy of his own tent.
Food for Thought
Whatever Noah’s situation might have been, the Apostle Paul teaches us in Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Noah’s drunkenness should not be seen as a license to drink to excess any more so than King David’s adultery gives license for murder and extra-marital sex. Both are sinful in God’s eyes.
Genesis 9:22-23… “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it upon both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him.”
For whatever reason Noah got drunk in the previous passage, he is now “uncovered” (v. 21) as a result inside his own tent. Now as this man who walked with God lay naked in the privacy of his own tent, his son Ham comes in and “saw the nakedness of his father.” Nakedness in the OT is always associated with shame and sin. Adam and Eve, prior to their sin in Genesis 3, were naked and unashamed, but immediately afterward they realized they were naked and had to be clothed by God. To be uncovered, then as it is now, involves dishonor and the potential for exploitation. Though many translators attempt to interpret what Ham did as a euphemism for sexual misconduct (sodomy with Noah or the rape of Noah’s wife), this is clearly adding to the text. The best way to understand what Ham did is to take it for what it actually says: “He saw the nakedness of his father.” Ham is not a little boy at this point. If he got on the ark at 20 years of age, then he’s over 120 at this point. What the text is saying is that just seeing Noah in his naked state was an immoral thing for Ham to do. The Hebrew word for “saw” literally means “to look at searchingly.” What Ham is doing is known as voyeurism – an obsession with seeing the sexual organs of another person. He appears to be a prurient (one who is obsessed with sex), and his prurient voyeurism violates his father’s dignity and his privacy. Worse yet, Ham’s prurient voyeurism is of a homosexual nature in that he gazes upon the naked body of his father. What Ham does next, according to verse 22, is to tell his brothers what he saw. It is likely that Ham did this in such a way that demeaned Noah all the more. His tone was likely sarcastic as he boasted of seeing Noah in a drunken stupor and laying naked in his tent. It’s as if he’s glad to have found his saintly father this way so as to chide him or to justify his own sinful desires.
Verse 23 shows a sharp contrast in the character of Shem and Japheth compared to Ham. Instead of gloating over their father’s shame inside his tent following Ham’s account, they took a blanket and covered the nakedness of their father. The fact that they “walked backward” so as to not see the naked Noah, and “their faces were turned away so that they did not see their father’s nakedness” attests to the fact that “nakedness” here is just that. They didn’t want to see their father in this state, so they covered him without looking at him as Ham had done.
Verse 24 is Noah waking up and realizing what Ham had done to him. Realizing he was now covered, he learned what happened, and even though he must have been ashamed of his own actions, he certainly realized the magnitude of Ham’s in comparison. Whereas Shem and Japheth showed respect for their God and their father, Ham had mocked both, and Noah knew it.
Food for Thought
Nakedness in the modern day is unfortunately no big deal to most. It’s everywhere you look today. Instead of men and women being scorned for posing nude in magazines and movies, they’re glorified. Mankind has fallen a long way indeed from the godly standard of prudence and dignity. There are more men addicted to soft and hardcore pornography as a result of the internet than ever before. Prurient voyeurism is at its apex. But God hasn’t changed, and even though He tolerates these behaviors now, His justice cannot and will not be thwarted. He is a holy God, and even though our culture tolerates decadence, God won’t. Pray that you are not part of this crisis.
Genesis 9:25-28… So [Noah] said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brothers.” 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.”
After Noah realized what Ham had done to him by gazing upon his nakedness and making a mockery of him to his brothers, Noah places a curse on Ham’s line. Now it is not known exactly why Noah curses Canaan, the son of Ham, instead of Ham himself, but the fact remains that this line was cursed by Noah as a result of Ham’s behavior. It is probable that Noah was well aware of his grandson’s immoral behavior, and since God had already preserved Ham on the ark and blessed him (9:1), the curse Noah gives to Canaan seems justified. However, the question remains as to whether or not the curse just applies to the youngest son of Ham (Canaan) or to Ham’s entire line that would include his other grandsons Cush, Mizraim, and Put (cf. 10:6). It is assumed by most that Canaan inherited Ham’s moral decadence, and since curses and blessings have the son’s descendants in mind, then it makes sense that the curse would fall to Canaan as opposed to Ham. Canaan likely did inherit the sexual tendencies that Ham struggled with, and these tendencies evolved into a society that became so evil God commanded Moses and Joshua to completely annihilate them and take over their land in the 15th century BC. Approximately 2,000 years after Noah pronounced this curse upon the man Canaan, his descendants had indeed become the sexually decadent people that prompted Noah’s curse of his grandson. These Canaanites, the descendants of Ham’s son, were among some of Israel’s most bitter enemies: Egypt, Philistia, Assyria, and Babylon. Whereas Noah’s righteousness appears to have been carried on in Shem and Japheth, his own immorality is carried out in Ham’s line, and as a result “the Canaanites were to suffer the curse and the bondage not because of the sins of Ham, but because they themselves acted like Ham, because of their own transgressions” (Cassuto, 155). This curse pertains not to their ethnicity strictly but to their morality, for the line of Jesus Christ the Messiah also contains a Canaanite prostitute named Rahab (cf. Matt. 1:5).
Verse 26 also contains a blessing from Noah. He blesses the LORD (Hebrew Yahweh), the personal name of God that He be recognized and seen as holy in all of Shem’s life and in his victories. Of course Shem is the father of the Jews (Semites), and it is through this line of people that the Messiah will come (fulfilled in Jesus Christ). Verse 27 expounds on the blessing, and Japheth (father of all those of European descent) is “enlarged” by God – a term that likely refers to his numbers and his territory. For him to “dwell in the tents of Shem” simply means that he will have fellowship with Shem and be on friendly terms.
Food for Thought
Verse 25 says that Canaan will be a servant of servants to his brothers. If we take this as pertaining to the three major people groups (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) then there must be relevance today. Consider this: the descendants of Ham include the Egyptians and Sumerians – founders of the first two great empires of antiquity. The Phoenicians and Hittites also descend from Ham as great nations including many others. Dr. H. Morris says, “If one traces back far enough, he will find that practically every basic device or system needed for man’s physical sustenance or convenience originated with one of the Hamitic peoples.” Though the Hamites have begun many great works, the Japhethites and Semites have come along and developed them in greater detail. In this sense, the Hamites have truly been the “servant of servants.”
I) Believers must respond morally to immoral behavior (20-23)
A) Noah’s Behavior (20-21)
1) “Man of the Soil” – Master of the earth; Lord of the earth
2) Planted Vineyard (20)
(a) Wine is God’s provision; it “gladdens to soul” (Ps. 104:15)
(b) Wine “cheers both God and men” (Judges 9:13)
(c) Wine is a symbol of the blissful Messianic age (Isa. 25:6; Zech. 8:12; Jn. 2)
(d) To be avoided by those who serve in the Temple (Lev. 10:9)
(e) To be avoided by those in leadership positions (Pro. 31:4-5)
(f) Degrading effects of wine: Drunkenness & Nakedness
B) Moral Abandonment (22)
1) Violation by Ham but curse on Canaan
2) Looked upon his naked father and sneered at him
3) Ham acted in prurient voyeurism
4) He “saw” the nakedness… but did not “uncover” it (describes evil conduct of Canaanites in Lev. 20:17).
5) By “looking” at Noah’s nakedness Ham destroys Noah’s honor
C) Righteous Conduct (23)
1) Shem and Japheth are the antithesis of Ham’s hubris
2) Shem and Japheth act nobly in the face of immorality
II) God blesses the Righteous but Curses the Immoral (25-27)
A) The Curse on the Immoral (25) [To curse: a means for seeing the will of the Lord prevail]
1) Slavery: “Servant of servants” – Subjugation and loss of Freedom
2) All Canaan’s descendants embodied the sinful behavior of Ham (who act like Ham)
3) The vile sexual behavior of the Canaanites (Lev. 18:1-23) reminds the Jews of Ham
4) These Canaanites weren’t cursed b/c of Ham but b/c they acted as he did
5) Rahab the harlot was a Canaanite who is in the line of the Messiah
B) The Blessing on the Righteous
1) Shem’s GOD is blessed, thus the man himself is blessed
2) As the Israelites encountered the Canaanites they were to know they had been subjugated to them
1. Perpetual slavery awaits those who choose decadence over righteousness
2. God prepared the land of Israel for the Semites. Today they fight w/ the Hamites!
3. This ancient story is a reminder to us about the slavery that sin brings and the blessing that obedience to God ushers in.