May 8, 2006

The Father of Canaan

Genesis 9:18–23

“And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside” (Gen. 9:22).

Having sworn that the woman’s seed would bruise the serpent’s head (Gen. 3:15), God made sure to preserve a people to give birth to this seed of the woman. Despite a humanity devoted to evil (6:5), God gave grace to Noah, keeping him safe in the flood. Though this judgment did not purify man’s heart (8:21), the Lord vowed never again to flood His world. Instead, He sustains the natural order, the very order in which He always intended to accomplish redemption (8:22–9:17). Today’s passage confirms that Noah would not be the one to solve the problem of sin. After the flood it is righteous Noah who is the first one to commit a transgression! Quickly he falls, becoming drunk off of wine (vv. 20–21).

Noah’s sin is not in drinking the wine itself, as the beverage is a gift from God (Deut. 7:13; Ps. 104:14–15; 1 Tim. 5:23). But, like many things, wine can be abused. Thus, the priests were ordered not to partake before offering sacrifices (Lev. 10:8–9). Drinking to excess, due to an overindulgent heart, is also condemned (Prov. 23:20; Eph. 5:18). As John Chrysostom says in his Homilies on Genesis (29.10): “Dreadful sins arise not from wine as such but from intemperate attitudes of human depravity that undermine the benefit that should naturally come from it.” Noah committed this latter error, loving wine more than the wine-giver.

Noah also erred by uncovering himself in a manner that made self-exposure to his sons a possibility (Gen. 9:22). The Bible says self-exposure brings a potential for shame (Lam. 4:21–22) and forbids it at the wrong place and time (Ex. 20:26). This is what is in view here; any suggestion Ham and Noah had sexual relations is unlikely.

The respect God orders us to give our parents explains why Ham is cursed by his father (Gen. 9:23–27). To honor one’s parents is a high duty laid upon mankind with dishonor sometimes punishable by death (Ex. 20:12; Lev. 20:9). Rather than cover Noah and shield him from further shame, Ham not only left him naked, he gossiped about his father’s state to his brothers. Tomorrow we will examine the curse this great sin brought upon Ham’s descendants.

Coram Deo

Noah shows how even the upright can fall into sin, especially after enduring a trial. Matthew Henry writes, “Sometimes those who, with watchfulness and resolution have, by the grace of God, kept their integrity in the midst of temptation, have, through confidence, and carelessness, and neglect of the grace of God, been surprised into sin, when the hour of temptation has been over.” Be wary after enduring one temptation that you do not give in to another (1 Cor. 10:12).

For Further Study