So, why do we call this passage “the sin of Ham” when it seems to be, based on frequency of word usage, all about the nakedness of Noah? That seems rather puzzling to me. Well, the short answer is that Ham’s son, Canaan, is cursed so severely that we put all of our attention on what Ham did rather than on Noah and how he got drunk, passed out, and wasn’t aware that he was exposed in his tent as he passed out. The text is in Genesis chapter 9, right after the big flood had settled down and the Lord promised never to judge the earth with a world-wide flood.
Apparently, the narrative is just too abbreviated. When dealing with Noah’s nakedness, the author wanted to move quickly from Ham’s treatment of his father – he was highly dishonoring of his father by leaving him uncovered and sharing his amusement at this fact with his brothers – to the sudden cursing of Ham’s progeny, the Canaanites.
Now, the proposals as to what the “sin of Ham” really was range from the perverted to the, well…even more perverted. Was Ham looking at and enjoying sexually his father’s nudity – the voyeuristic option. Or, perhaps due to repressed anger, did he commit a sexually violent act and castrate his father? Or did he rape his father while the latter was passed out. That’s door #3, better known as the “paternal incest” theory. Finally, a new interpretive door being opened, did Ham rape his mother, what is called the “maternal incest” theory?
Well, either Freud has tremendous explanatory power over this text or our culture has become so imbued with Freudianism that we are willing to read the text just about however we can to make it fit. I’m not going to cite all of the sources who maintain this sort of exegetical response as reasonable. Trust me, they are out there. It’s sad and strange, but through much of church history it would seem that commentators are so focused on the “sin of Ham” that they nearly forget about the “nakedness of Noah” and how he reacted harshly against the shame of his nakedness. Hey, a patriarch having to admit that he depended on his sons to prop him up after a bit too much drinking the night before was a big deal in that culture. Even today in our “enlightened” culture, I can easily see a father overreacting to try to protect his pride around his boys.
I certainly do not want to give the impression that figurative and symbolic meanings cannot legitimately be drawn from this text. They can. But isn’t deriving the idea that Ham was becoming sexually gratified by viewing his father’s nakedness a bit more than this text would support?
As to the ultimate spiritual meaning of this text, we may be only able to venture educated or plausible guesses. Which is fine. I’m cool with that. But let’s focus on what the text indicates – that Noah’s nakedness was dealt with dishonorably by one son and honorably by two sons – rather than putting so much emphasis upon what the text does not indicate – what sort of sexual fetish Ham might have had in order to provoke the cursing of so many generations. When it comes right down to it, Noah may have made a rash move by cursing Ham’s progeny, just as Saul had made a rash vow that nearly cost him his own son (I Sam. 14:24-46).
Here’s the full text of this narrative in the English Standard Version:
Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 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. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said:
Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants shall he be to his brothers. (Gen. 9:20-25; ESV).
Have you ever wondered how you can safely browse on the Internet without any outsiders spying on your Internet or web browser data? Is there a simple and cost-effective way to protecting your online privacy? How about “ethical hacking,” is that a contradiction in terms or an oxymoron? Recently released on audio, Hacking: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to the World ofHacking explores these concepts and offers some “how-to” advice for “noobs.”
Scottish philosopher and empiricist, David Hume, really opened the proverbial “can of worms” with his insightful reflections on inductive reasoning and how it often leads us astray, particularly in false believing that future events will resemble past events. Is there a solid justification for this intuitive belief or must it remain a passionate but unreliable guide for our future observations? JM Kuczynski explores one possible response to the “riddle of induction” with his release of The Problem of Induction (audible link here). In related news, a forthcoming release of this author’s book, Quine on the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction, on audio book is imminent.
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