Genesis Chapter Nine
1. And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”
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18. And the sons of Noah, who went forth out of the Ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth; and Ham, he is the father of Canaan.
19. These are the three sons of Noah; and of them was the whole earth overspread.
20. And Noah began to be an husbandman, [lit. a man of the ground] and he planted a vineyard.
21. And he drank of the wine and became drunk; and he uncovered himself within his tent.
22. And Ham, (the father of Canaan,) saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren outside.
23. And Shem and Japheth took the garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father, and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
24. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25. And he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brethren.”
26. And he said, “Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be their servant.”
Printed above is the well-known story of Noah and his drunkenness, and the ensuing prophecy. It is not a story that receives much advertisement, because of its embarrassment. In this number, we shall show that there is hidden truth in the account, partly hidden by virtue of translation, and partly by tradition enshrined in figures of speech. In our fellowship we are currently going through Genesis in our Wednesday evening Bible Studies, and felt it appropriate to share our findings with a wider company of God’s people.
The application of a little logic is helpful in unravelling the hidden truth. This is why verse one is included in the account. Notice that God spoke to Noah and his sons, saying “Be fruitful and multiply”. It was not just to the sons, BUT TO NOAH HIMSELF. It must therefore be assumed that Noah expected to have further offspring after the Flood. No matter how old he was, (and he was 600 at the Flood) there is no real argument for supposing that he could no longer produce children. However, even though God spoke to Noah in this wise, no children were forthcoming for some years, and Noah must have begun to think that he (and perhaps his wife) were past the child-bearing time of life. However, some ancient writings tell us that Noah’s wife, whom they name Emzarah, was considerably younger than Noah.
Coupled with this is the persistent assertion in ancient Jewish writings that Noah wanted, and indeed expected another son after the Flood. Where did this tradition arise? Is there any ground for it? Clearly we cannot say, but the tradition is strong, strong enough to believe that God had promised him another son, and we believe that this is helpful to our enquiry.
When we come down to verse 18, the story of Noah’s family continues. On first reading there is nothing strange. Shem, Ham, and Japheth certainly went forth from the Ark. But at the end of the verse we find the statement, [as printed in the A.V.]“And Ham is the father of Canaan.” Now why should this remark be placed here? It would have been helpful if the A.V. translators had given us the true force of the original, as printed above, namely, “And Ham, HE is the father of Canaan.”Immediately a situation is presented, not overtly, but clearly enough to be recognised, that there was some DOUBT about the true parentage of Canaan. Why? And in the next verse we read “These are the three sons of Noah – -.” It is as if in the process of time questions were being asked about Canaan, questions that almost suggested Noah was Canaan’s father.
This thought may seem outrageous and presumptuous, but the story that follows enables us to grasp the truth of the matter. Noah became a husbandman and vinedresser after the Flood. In the process of time he culled a harvest and made wine. When the wine was mature he drank some of it, and we are told that he became drunk. Now all this would take time, probably several years for the vines to produce a vintage, and then more time for the wine to mature. This is why we said at the outset that Noah certainly didn’t have any more children for some years.
Before proceeding further, Genesis reveals that after the Flood there was a very rapid decline in longevity. If a graph be plotted of the ages of the patriarchs against their dates of birth, the decline may be seen to be approximately EXPONENTIAL, in other words, if an average of 900 halved to 450 in say 200 years, then in the next 200 years it would halve again to 225, and in the next 200 years halve yet again to 112 and so on. (These figures are not meant to be accurate, but exemplary). Scientists are familiar with this type of ‘decay’ process. It occurs in a variety of processes, once the “stopper is pulled from a system”.
What is true of human life-span must also have been true of other life-processes, including the fermentation of grape juice by yeast. Furthermore, the now vigorous action of the yeast would produce more alcohol than was known BEFORE the Flood. We may confidently assert that Noah would have been taken by surprise by the potency of his firstfruit vintage. The taste of wine, in the first mouthful, can be very attractive, and without caution too much can be drunk rapidly without realising the disastrous effects that materialise after maybe five minutes. Did this happen to Noah and his wife? Our suggestion is that it did, and that it accounted for what followed.
In a drunken condition the elderly pair retire to their tent. And it is a well-known fact that such inebriation breaks down human reserve, and so we find the record telling us that Noah was “uncovered within his tent.” Such private actions are not often recorded, simply because they are private. But on this occasion, it was not so private. The next verse tells us that Ham “Saw the nakedness of his father”. What does this mean? Is this ALL that happened? In verse 24 we are told that Noah eventually became aware of what his younger son had “DONE to him.” Now DOING is more than SEEING, so what are we meant to understand?
It is a shame to have to penetrate this sordid tale and unveil the truth that is hidden by the figure EUPHEMY, but sometimes it is necessary so as to dispel erroneous ideas.
In Leviticus 18:8 we read, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife: it is your father’s nakedness.”And in 20:11 we read, “The man who lies with his father’s wife has uncovered his father’s nakedness,- –” Here is the clue to the whole matter. At last we know what it was that Ham, Noah’s younger son, DID to him. There is a further hint in the Hebrew word “saw”, a word that contains the idea of “looked at” or “gazed”. It was not simply that Ham happened to be passing, heard the noise of his father’s and mother’s voices raised in their drunken state, and casually glanced at them, lying naked in their tent. The next verse helps as well. “He told his two brethren without.” Literally, it says that he ‘told’ ,(a forceful word that connotes perhaps delight, or even bragging) his brethren OUTSIDE. This word OUTSIDE means ‘in the public place’, or as we might say, ‘out in the street’ . There was no hint of Ham trying to hide anything. What he did, he did purposefully, disgracefully, and even intentionally, and afterwards bragged about it openly to his two brothers.
And so at the beginning of verse 22 we find the same statement made as in verse 18, “And Ham, the father of Canaan.” As a result of his improper relationship with his mother, Ham became the father of a male child through his mother. This was a very shameful deed, and was the cause of the uncertainty mentioned at the beginning of this account. People were asking,“Who then is Canaan’s father?” And the truth had to be declared, no matter how shameful and embarrassing it was for Noah, and in particular his wife.
Coming now to verse 23, we find an immediate response from Ham’s two brothers. They are very upset at what has happened, but they also want to expose the crime. They hear no noise from the tent. Clearly father and mother are sleeping from their wine. They discuss what to do, but dismiss the idea of broaching their father directly about it. There is another way. A man’s outer cloak was in those days also his bed-covering. We are told that they “took a garment”. The HebrewSimlah is indeed the outer garment, or cloak, of the type we have just mentioned. Furthermore, the Hebrew here should have been translated, they “took THE garment.” It was not just any outer garment, but a special one. Which one was it? Verse 24 tells us. When Noah had awoken from his wine, “He KNEW what his younger son had done to him.” How did he know? Some have inferred that God spoke to him. And of course God DID speak to him sooner or later, but it is clear from the context that the first thing that Noah’s eyes fell upop was this OUTER GARMENT and it was HAM’S outer garment that the brothers had placed over their naked mother. There would have been no shame involved in seeing their father naked, but a great deal of shame would have attached to seeing their own mother undressed. Hence the idiomatic Hebrew presents this shocking tale in veiled terms, so as not to outrage to reader’s sensibility.
Some considerable time later Noah made certain clear prophetic statements, which begin in verse 25. There is no reason to suggest that verse 25 follows verse 24 either immediately, or the same day. In fact it must have been quite a while later, probably after the birth of the baby, which turned out to be a boy. Noah’s wife had been humbled. By the laws of those days, a humbled wife could never again enjoy the intimacy of married life with her husband. Another example of this occurs later in Genesis, where Reuben defiles his father’s concubine Bilhah. In Jubilees 33:8 we read that when Reuben defiled Bilhah, Jacob slept with her no more. See also Jashar 36:13-15. In Deut.22:30 we read, “A man shall not take his father’s wife, nor discover his father’s skirt.” And in Deut.27:20-23 such a violation of the sanctity of marriage attracts a curse. The Mosaic code was of course not a NEW code, but rather a written declaration of many laws that were as old as the fall of man. Hence we find Noah pronouncing curses in the context of his present wretched state. There is no doubt that God was Himself the Author of what Noah said.
What is the meaning of the name ‘Canaan‘? It is ‘the humbled one’. How fitting! He names the child, born to his own wife, humbled through the act of incest, ‘the humbled one’. And he says prophetically of the line of Canaan, “A servant of servants shall he be to his brethren.” The expression “a servant of servants” is the figure Polyptoton, very frequently found in Genesis. It means “the lowest, most abject of servants.” Who were Canaan’s brethren? The answer is found in the following two verses. “Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant.” “God shall enlarge Japheth – – and Canaan shall be their servant.” Yes, Shem and Japheth were Canaan’s (half) brothers. Ham was not mentioned by Noah. No doubt long before this he had been banished from his household.
The true Canaanite character is expressed in such Scriptures as Genesis 15:16, 19:5, Lev.18 & 20, and Deut.12:31 Theevents of this chapter of Genesis have their on-going effect. Exactly 100 years after the Flood, in the year that Peleg was born, Noah divided the earth between his sons by lot. It was for this reason that Eber called his son Peleg, meaning ‘division’. And. in this act of division, Shem was allotted the central portion of the earth, roughly south of the Black Sea, and north of the Red Sea; Japheth was allotted the northern reaches of the earth, and Ham the southern. This is why the Bible calls Egypt (and by intimation, the rest of Africa), ‘the land of Ham’.
However, there were two men in the family of Ham who were dissatisfied with their lot. One of these was Nimrod the son of Cush the son of Ham. Instead of taking up his rightful abode in what was called ‘the land of Cush’ (Ethiopia, which then included much of what is now the Sudan) he decided to live in the lower reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and became responsible for the Babel incident. He was therefore invading the land of Arphaxad, known as the Chaldeans. (The name Arphaxad in the Hebrew is Arpa-Chesed, and the Chaldeans (in Hebrew) were the Chesedim.) This territorial transgression was a sinful event that caused generations of rebellion, and gave way to a spiritual evil that God called ‘Babylon’ of which Jeremiah prophesied many things in ch.51, and also John in Revelation 18.
The other dissatisfied man was Canaan. He was allotted a portion on the north coast of Africa to the west of Phut (Libya) and stretching to the Atlantic coast. However, he grew up with a twisted mind and felt himself to be more a part of Noah and Shem than of Ham, due to his mother’s position in the family. As a result, he invaded another portion of Arphaxad’s territory, the part that afterwards became known as ‘the land of Canaan’. According to the Book of Jubilees his near relatives cautioned him about this invasion, saying that it would attract the judgment of God. But he heeded them not. The future history of the land and people of Canaan has been clearly set forth in the historical portions of the Old Testament, and it shows why God commanded the children of Israel to dispossess them in the days of Joshua. It was not just the fact that Canaan invaded this land that brought forth God’s judgment. Time had shown that the Canaanites were a very wicked people, given over to the foulest kinds of idolatry, and the land had become the centre of another invasion of fallen angels, who were the progenitors of the giants of the land of Bashan, and who originally built Hebron, which, as Genesis points out, was formerly called Kirjath-Arba (the city of Arba, and Arba was of the extraction of the Nephilim.) When the spies returned to Moses they reported seeing the cities of the land strongly fortified and its inhabitants of enormous size, and it instilled fear into their faithless minds.
At this point we close this exposition. Our purpose has been twofold. In the first place, the actual facts of the vineyard story needed to be extracted. And in the second, their effect on the continuing story of Genesis had to be evaluated. Someone once said that Genesis is the seed-plot of the Bible. Another that Genesis is the foundation stone of Scripture. Both are correct. Without a good grounding in the content of Genesis, the rest of the Bible is but imperfectly understood. There is no other book in the Bible that can claim to have such a grand scope, its history covering over two thousand years. No wonder that in these days of declension from the faith, scholars have sought to impugn the testimony of this vital document. But to us (and this is our own testimony), we delight in Genesis, and accept its genuineness in every detail, and pray that the Lord will continue to reveal His mind and purposes through our meditation in His word.