Read Genesis 9:18-27
. What is the message of this strange story?
Noah´s act in his vineyard echoes Adam in the Garden of Eden. The two stories contain common motifs: eating of the fruit and resulting in nakedness; then a covering, a curse, and a blessing. Noah reconnects to his Adamic roots and, unfortunately, continues that failed history.
The fermentation of fruit was not a part of God´s original creation. Noah indulged, then lost self-control and uncovered himself. The fact that Ham “saw”
his nakedness hints at Eve, who also “saw”
the forbidden tree (Gen. 3:6
). This parallel suggests that Ham did not just “see”
furtively, by accident, his father´s nakedness. He went around and talked about it, without even trying to take care of his father´s problem. In contrast, his brothers´ immediate reaction to cover their father, while Ham left him naked, implicitly denounced Ham´s actions.
The issue at stake here is more about the respect of one´s parents. Failure to honor your parents, who represent your past, will affect your future (Exod. 20:12
; compare with Eph. 6:2
). Hence the curse, which will influence Ham´s future and that of his son Canaan.
Of course, it is a gross theological mistake and an ethical crime to use this text to justify racist theories against anyone. The prophecy is strictly restricted to Canaan, Ham´s son. The biblical author has in mind some of the corrupt practices of the Canaanites (Gen. 19:5-7, 31-35
In addition, the curse contains a promise of blessing, playing on the name “Canaan,”
which is derived from the verb kana´, meaning “subdue.”
It is through subduing of Canaan that God´s people, the descendants of Shem, will enter the Promised Land and prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, who will enlarge Japheth “in the tents of Shem”
). This is a prophetic allusion to the expansion of God´s covenant to all nations, which will embrace Israel´s message of salvation to the world (Dan. 9:27
, Isa. 66:18-20
, Rom. 11:25
). The curse of Ham will, in fact, be a blessing for all nations, including whichever descendants of Ham and Canaan accept the salvation offered them by the Lord.