The following day at three in the afternoon Dr Quinton was just enjoying his cup of tea when Dr Marcus West showed his head round the Annexe door.
“Mind if I join you, Stephen?”
“It’s my pleasure, Marcus. Draw up a chair. Shall I get Mary to bring you some refreshment?”
“No. I’ve just had mine. But thanks all the same. I wanted to talk to you about that fascinating subject you shared with me yesterday, and which has caused me to spend no small amount of time in recollection.”
“Have you found something new, to add to what we’ve already observed?” asked Quinton.
“Yes, I think I have, and furthermore it adds greatly to your own exposition.”
“I’m all ears. I love to hear something new, something that helps me understand the Scriptures more intelligently.”
“It all hinges on the motive Ham had of carrying out his dastardly deed. If you recall, I think you said something about his mockery, almost as though he wanted to give his father the son he was too old to sire himself.”
“Yes, and I must admit that I’ve always found that to be the weakest part of my argument, there being little or nothing to get one’s teeth into, so to speak.”
“I think I have a line on it. I was reminded of some comments that were made by Jewish rabbis, which were recorded in the Mishna, to the effect that an unlawful marriage or union legally entitles a man to the primogeniture of inheritance, even if his birth position doesn’t warrant it.”
“My goodness! That’s a new thought. I think you’ve got something there. Please tell me more.”
“Well, it occurred to me that certain happenings in the lives of David and Solomon bare this out. May I recount certain details, which I’m sure you must already be aware of?”
“Certainly. I shall be your attentive student.” They both laughed.
“David committed adultery and murder, and the lady in question was Bathsheba, the grand-daughter of Ahithophel, a trusted adviser to the King. Now this man must have been offended with David for his action, and it seems to come out in later history, because after the rebellion, he switches sides, and starts to give advice to Absalom. The first thing he recommended was to build a tent-like structure on the flat roof of David’s palace, the very roof where the King first saw Bathsheba, and to lay with David’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. When this had been accomplished, Ahithophel wanted to take a company of soldiers on a night mission to capture and kill David, so that Absalom might be king. This however was thwarted, by the advice of Hushai, another adviser to the King, who pretended to be helping Absalom whilst being a secret agent of David. Ahithophel, realising that his defection would sooner or later berecognised by David, went home and hanged himself.
“After the death of Absalom, David grew old and unable to maintain proper control of his realm. Being confined to bed, they brought a young woman by the name of Abishag the Shunemite to keep him warm. During these last days, Adonijah, Absalom’s younger brother by their motherHaggith, declared himself king whilst his father was still alive. But David’s choice was in Solomon, and when this was made plain, Adonijah realised his own position was in grave danger. Solomon, however, promised him his life as long as he committed no evil. It worked for a while, but together with the High Priest Abiathar, and Joab, a plot was hatched wherebyAdonijah might take over the kingdom from Solomon. He went to Bathsheba and asked her to approach Solomon with a request, that he might have Abishag to wife. Solomon had already learned of this plot through his own secret service, and saw through it straight away. ‘He might just as well have asked for the kingdom directly,’ was Solomon’s answer, and had Adonijah put to death for breaking the agreement.
“Now in both of these instances, we find scheming plots to overthrow the existing government by means of irregular and illegal liaisons with a king’s own concubines. They knew full well that should they succeed, they would have been able to claim kingship, and nobody could deny their claim. So I am wondering whether this might help us in determining Ham’s action. He was not the firstborn, which was Japheth, and yet he wanted desperately to control the world when his father died. The drunken scene provided him with the ideal opportunity, and he took it. What is more, he made sure his brothers knew about it, because it was absolutely necessary to publicise his act, so that his claim to the first-born privilege should be recognised.
“The outcome was of course to his absolute disadvantage, as it was in the case of Absalom and Adonijah, but if I’m not mistaken, this age-old law must have been known and recognised from the earliest days, and explains the latter part of the intriguing story about Noah and his drunkenness. What do you think, Stephen?”
“I’m astounded. . . . I think you have provided the key to the last remaining problem in the story. It had never crossed my mind about the marriage contract and its legal thrust. But I’m quite sure you are right. Ham must have been eaten up with jealousy, and determined to wrest the privilege out of his brother’s hands. He never saw the possibility of it boomeranging on his own head. . . . Marcus, I’m even more excited now, and determined that you shall make a full record of all this for posterity.”
“That I can promise you, but whether they will accept it at the J.T.S. is another matter.”