Archive for March 8th, 2009

Genesis 9:18-29 “Noah’s Fall & the Curse of Ham”

Posted on March 8, 2009. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School

Genesis Class

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Gen. 9:18-29 “Noah’s Fall, cont. & the Curse of Ham”


Read Genesis 9:18-29



Introduction/review: Last week we began this study of the drunkenness of Noah and the sin of his son Ham, but we did not finish. We spent considerable time on the literary structure of this text because of how it is linked by Moses to the creation and fall stories of chapters 1-3 and rather extensively to the story of Lot in ch. 19. We saw that even in the NT both Jesus, in Lk.17, and Peter in his second epistle, link Noah and Lot. Then we began looking at Noah’s sin in some detail. We saw that the particular words that Moses used in the story may actually indicate that Noah was the first to cultivate grapes and make wine, but then we briefly examined what Scripture says about the use of wine. We realize that the consumption of wine is not forbidden or looked down upon at all, but drunkenness is always condemned and warned against.


And that is where it gets a little uncomfortable for me. I was raised in a strict Baptist home by Christian parents who did not drink alcohol. I remember hearing many a sermon by old time Baptist preachers saying that the wine Jesus made was non-alcoholic wine- basically grape juice. I was always uncomfortable being around folks drinking wine, beer or other liquors when I was in college and the Army. I have a tendency to be a bit of a Pharisee and legalist so I have had to overcome my own prejudice in this area and recognize that what Scripture allows I should not forbid or judge.


I briefly mentioned the Temperance Movement and Prohibition in our nation’s history.


This movement began as a medical and social cause, became a political crusade and then the Church in America took it up. It ultimately failed because it was unbiblical in that it tried to outlaw that which God’s Word allows. The use of alcohol should have some government regulations and laws, taxes and licenses, but to outlaw it created a huge black market and allowed organized crime and its related violence to prosper.


It is here that we have a crucial question: Given that Scripture allows for the consumption of alcohol in moderation, yet warns us that “wine is a mocker and strong drink a brawler” (Prov. 20:1) should Christians exercise their liberty to drink alcohol? Someone last week pointed out Romans 14:1-4, 13-21 and 1Cor.10:31 “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I think the answer to our question is that we can exercise this liberty as long as we do not cause our brother or our children to stumble.


Last week I said that the main purpose of this text is not about getting drunk, although that is an issue because that sin by Noah led to the greater sin by his son Ham, just as in ch.19 Lot’s getting drunk led to the greater sin of incest. We looked at vs.21 and the idea that Lot lay uncovered in his tent. We realize right away that there is something about the text that is unusual because being naked in one’s own tent, bed-chamber, bed room is not a problem. But Scripture does frequently link drunkenness with nakedness and immorality. So the text is hinting that something else is involved. By the way, this is one of the links back to Gen.3 because just as Adam and Eve ate and realized they were naked so here Noah drinks and becomes naked. What several scholars say is that this story may have a spectrum of meaning ranging from that Noah was engaged in marital relations to simply being drunk and asleep naked. But the key is what Ham did here, not what Noah did.


We will continue with our story and what Ham did in a bit, but first I want us to seek to understand what we can from Noah’s sin and apply it to our lives. This is where we left off last week.


II. Noah’s Sin

                  A. Exposition- (last week)


B.     Understanding and Application

1.      Notice that Noah has previously been described as righteous and blameless, finding favor in God’s eyes. Yet now he is a naked drunk. This teaches us that anyone can fall into sin. Abraham would follow his wife’s advice and take Hagar to bed, That led to all kinds of sinful problems even in our world today. Isaac, like his father, lied about his wife and that led to trouble. Jacob was a deceiver. David was a man after God’s own heart yet he committed adultery and murder. Peter denied Christ 3 times. Each one of us remains a sinner. Though we are saved, and have the Spirit living in us, and have a new nature, yet the old man wages war against us. We stir up our own lusts and we sin. Paul writes of his own struggles in Rom. 7.


Luther writes, Lectures in Genesis, vol.2, p.166, “But the intention of the Holy Spirit is familiar from our teaching. He wanted the godly, who know their weakness and for this reason are disheartened, to take comfort in the offense that comes from the account of the lapses among the holiest and most perfect patriarchs. In such instances we should find sure proof of our own weaknesses and therefore bow down in humble confession, not only to ask for forgiveness but also to hope for it. This is the true theological reason why the Holy Spirit makes mention of the extraordinary lapse of this great man…”

2.      Everyone does sin! From Gen.3 on we see one sinner after another. Rom. 3:10-23; Rom.7

3.      Notice that Noah fell into sin after the great time of testing. It wasn’t during the many long years of constructing the Ark and the people around him were making fun of him. It wasn’t during the flood and the many long months of wearisome labor caring for all the animals. It was after the great deliverance by God that Noah sinned. The victory had been won, the covenant sealed. Often that is the case, isn’t it. We are able to abide in Christ while undergoing the severest trials. But after God gives us the victory…we grow complacent in success and we fail.

4.      Noah fell into sin, not as a young man, nor in middle age, but in the autumn of his life. He started out strong, but perhaps the depression hit him. Maybe he grew weary of well doing. It is important that we do not try to subsist spiritually on past victories. Having pastored a church that consisted mainly of the elderly I can attest to there being older believers who jump into sin in their golden years or who just slowly drift away into sin after being very active and faithful in the Church in their younger and middle years. We must finish strong in our old age.

5.      We each persevere only by the grace of God. He holds onto us way more than we will ever hold onto him. Yet we are each called to persevere in the faith. We must have a spiritual plan to grow closer to the Lord all the way to the end of our lives.

6.      Arthur W. Pink, Gleanings in Genesis, Moody Press, Chicago, 1922, points out that the fact that the Scriptures reveal the faults of our heroes is a proof for its divine inspiration. I would concur.



 drinking and driving causes over 25,ooo deaths a year. overall 100,000 deaths occur each year due to the effects of alcohol.Correction: According to the NHTSA web site (, there were 43,443 alcohol related traffic fatalities in 2005 in the USA. As a comparison, AIDS claimed 18,000 lives in 2003.

How can alcohol be blamed for 100,000 deaths each year?

  • 5% of all deaths from diseases of the circulatory system are attributed to alcohol.
  • 15% of all deaths from diseases of the respiratory system are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30% of all deaths from accidents caused by fire and flames are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30% of all accidental drownings are attributed to alcohol.
  • 30% of all suicides are attributed to alcohol.
  • 40% of all deaths due to accidental falls are attributed to alcohol.
  • 45% of all deaths in automobile accidents are attributed to alcohol.
  • 60% of all homicides are attributed to alcohol.
  • (Sources: NIDA Report, the Scientific American and Addiction Research Foundation of Ontario.) Also see Alcohol Consumption and Mortality, Alcohol poisoning deaths, CDC report,


Alcohol-Attributable Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost — United States, 2001

Excessive alcohol consumption is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States (1) and is associated with multiple adverse health consequences, including liver cirrhosis, various cancers, unintentional injuries, and violence. To analyze alcohol-related health impacts, CDC estimated the number of alcohol-attributable deaths (AADs) and years of potential life lost (YPLLs) in the United States during 2001. This report summarizes the results of that analysis, which indicated that approximately 75,766 AADs and 2.3 million YPLLs, or approximately 30 years of life lost on average per AAD, were attributable to excessive alcohol use in 2001. These results emphasize the importance of adopting effective strategies* to reduce excessive drinking, including increasing alcohol excise taxes and screening for alcohol misuse in clinical settings.

Alcohol-Related Disease Impact (ARDI)* software was used to estimate the number of AADs and YPLLs. ARDI estimates AADs by multiplying the number of deaths from a particular alcohol-related condition by its alcohol-attributable fraction (AAF). Certain conditions (e.g., alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver) are, by definition, 100% alcohol attributable. For the majority of the chronic conditions profiled in ARDI, the system calculates AAFs by using relative risk estimates from meta-analyses (2,3) and prevalence data on alcohol use from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. For some conditions, especially those with an acute onset (e.g., injuries), ARDI includes direct estimates of AAFs. Direct estimates of AAFs are based on studies assessing the proportion of deaths from a particular condition that occurred at or above a specified blood alcohol concentration (BAC) (4,5). For acute conditions, a death is alcohol attributable if the decedent (or, as in the case of motor-vehicle traffic, a driver or non-occupant) had a BAC of >0.10 g/dL. AAFs for motor-vehicle–traffic deaths are obtained from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (6). YPLLs, a commonly used measure of premature death, are then calculated by multiplying age- and sex-specific AAD estimates by the corresponding estimate of life expectancy. For chronic conditions, AADs and YPLLs were calculated for decedents aged >20 years; for the majority of acute conditions, they were calculated for decedents aged >15 years. However, ARDI also provides estimates of AADs and YPLLs for persons aged <15 years who died from motor-vehicle crashes, child maltreatment, or low birthweight. Consistent with World Health Organization recommendations (7), the harmful and beneficial effects of alcohol use are reported separately.

In 2001, an estimated 75,766 AADs and 2.3 million YPLLs were attributable to the harmful effects of excessive alcohol use (Table). Of the 75,766 deaths, 34,833 (46%) resulted from chronic conditions, and 40,933 (54%) resulted from acute conditions. Overall, 54,847 (72%) of all AADs involved males, and 4,554 (6%) involved persons aged <21 years. Of the deaths among males, 41,202 (75%) involved men aged >35 years; of those deaths, 41,202 (58%) were attributed to chronic conditions. For males and females combined, the leading chronic cause of AADs was alcoholic liver disease (12,201), and the leading acute cause of AADs was injury from motor-vehicle crashes (13,674). In addition, in 2001, an estimated 11 lives were saved because of the potential benefits of excessive alcohol use, all of which were attributable to a reduced risk for death from cholelithiasis (i.e., gall bladder disease).

Of the estimated 2,279,322 YPLLs, 788,005 (35%) resulted from chronic conditions, and 1,491,317 (65%) resulted from acute conditions (Table). Overall, 1,679,414 (74%) of the total YPLLs were among males, and 271,392 (12%) involved persons aged <21 years. Of all YPLLs among males, 973,214 (58%) involved men aged >35 years, of which 53% were attributed to chronic conditions. Deaths from alcoholic liver disease resulted in 316,321 YPLLs, and deaths from motor-vehicle–traffic crashes resulted in 579,501 YPLLs.

Reported by: LT Midanik, PhD, Univ of California, Berkeley, California. FJ Chaloupka, PhD, Univ of Illinois at Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. R Saitz, MD, Boston Univ, Boston, Massachusetts. TL Toomey, PhD, Univ of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota. JL Fellows, PhD, Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, Oregon. M Dufour, MD, CSR Incorporated, Arlington, Virginia. M Landen, MD, New Mexico Health Dept. PJ Brounstein, PhD, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Svcs Admin, Rockville, Maryland. MA Stahre, MPH, RD Brewer, MD, TS Naimi, MD, JW Miller, MD, Div of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, CDC.


III. Ham’s Sin

  1. The range of possibilities
    1. vss. 21-24 have generated numerous interpretations, with a few very well substantiated from the text and some others more dependent upon the cultural context than the text. The range of interpretation goes from – Ham simply saw his father asleep on top of the covers, naked, and then showed extreme disrespect to his father by making crude comments about it to his two brothers-to-Ham castrated his father in a kind of coup d’etat to take over the family. Half way in between these are a couple of interpretations that are pretty good. (1) says that Ham had relations with his mother. But there is a slight variation in the phrasing of the text that may deny this possibility. In vs. 21 Noah is responsible for his own uncovering and in the Lev. passages that talk about incest, it is a son who uncovers the nakedness of his father. But the parallels with the Gen. 19 passage we went over last week do seem to point in this direction and the language seems flexible enough to many of the commentators to where this is a possibility. Some even suggest that Ham’s son, Canaan, is fathered by Ham through his mother.


A second interpretation is that Ham looked on his father with homosexual lust. This is derived by the word used in vs. 22 “saw” and its links to Eve in ch.3. Then Ham talked about it lewdly with his brothers.


Both of these scenarios do point forward to what the religion and character of the Canaanites would be in Moses’ day. Thus, what the main purpose of this passage is for Moses and Israel is an explanation of the origins of the Canaanites, their vile fertility cult which did include much sexual sin, and it would form a basis for the laws against such immorality. In essence it can be interpreted as a partial rational for the coming war of extermination against them.


And even if the Ham incident is merely Ham seeing his father drunk, passed out naked and making fun of him to his brothers, this a violation of what would become the 5th commandment, honor your father and mother. So again Moses is setting up something in his day by telling the history of Noah.


My personal position is that I think more happened than Ham simply accidentally seeing his father drunk and naked. I tend to think he saw his parents asleep after marital relations and lusted either for his father or mother and spoke about it to his brothers crudely. This displayed a serious character flaw and deep sinful pattern that would be passed down through the generations and explains the Canaanite behavior in Moses’ day which is the main purpose of the whole story.


Thus the story is not a simple morality story about not getting drunk. It is all about the roots of Canaanite culture that the Israelites were about to encounter. And it is a stern but subtle warning about generational sin. More to follow.


  1. The Curse of Ham
    1. The first thing to understand is that it was not a curse on Ham, rather it was a curse on Ham’s son, Canaan. Why? Ham’s sin was considered a generational sin, he disrespected his father, at least. If he in fact impregnated his mother, as Lot’s daughters were impregnated by Lot, then the offspring, Canaan, was logically cursed. The concept of the sins of the fathers being visited on the children is a biblical concept as stated in Ex.20:5 in the Ten Commandments.
    2. In common pop theology it is called the curse of Ham and historically it is linked to a belief that the African race was cursed in this way. It was common to use this passage to defend slavery and racism in the earlier days of our nation. Some of the commentaries I read had this view or reported it.
    3. However, for Moses’ purposes it was clearly directed at the Canaanites his people were getting ready to confront as I have stated earlier. The name Canaan itself means servant of servants, indicating the lowliest of servants. It is also interesting that Ham, one who failed to show proper respect to his father, would demand that respect from his son by naming him Canaan. Look at 1Kings 9:20-21 and you will that what is left of the Canaanites have become slaves.


  1. The blessings on Shem and Japheth
    1. Notice first of all in vs. 23 that Shem and Japheth worked together to preserve their father’s honor by walking into his tent backwards to cover him up. Notice how repetitive the verse is, emphasizing the care they took.
    2. The Shemites are the Semitic peoples, of whom the Jews are the most prominent members. The biggest blessing goes to Shem. The Japhethites are the Gentiles, most of us. Notice that they will be drawn to the Shemites, to dwell in their tents. Acts 14:27 mentions that a door had been opened for the Gentiles. Salvation is of the Jews and for any of us to come to Christ, we are in some sense fulfilling this prophecy by Noah!
    3. Noah is also using this passage to introduce the next toledoth section, ch.10


Conclusion: The main points of this text are these-

1.      After the flood, man remains a sinner. Any of us can fall into gross sin, even after a great triumph spiritually, even in our old age.

2.      Drunkenness leads to problems and shame.

3.      Sins can have generational impact. This is a scary thought when you look at how sinful our society has become.

4.      Moses is using the story to tie in with the Fall of Adam and Eve, Lot and his daughters, and to his own day, with the 10 commandments and the confrontation with the Canaanites.

5.      The prophecy points forward even to the gentiles coming to Christ.

6.      It does not give the least bit of warrant for any racist views today.

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