The Sin Of Ham

It is written:

“One day Noah made some wine. He got drunk, went into his tent, and took off all his clothes. 22  Ham, the father of Canaan, saw that his father was naked and told his brothers who were outside the tent. 23  Shem and Japheth took a robe, put it across their shoulders, and walked backward into the tent. Then they covered their father without looking at him. 24  Later, Noah woke up. (He was sleeping because of the wine.) When he learned what his youngest son Ham had done to him, 25  he said, “May there be a curse on Canaan! May he be a slave to his brothers.” (Genesis 9:21-25)

What was the nature of Ham’s sin against Noah?

First, notice that the sin involved the “nakedness” of Noah. Throughout the Old Testament, uncovering the nakedness of a person was a euphemism for sexual sin (cf. Leviticus 18:6-19).

Second, Noah knew what had “been done” to him (implying that this was more then just his sons gossiping about his being drunk and naked).

Third, some of the earliest Jewish commentaries espouse the belief that Noah had been sexually assaulted by his son Ham (or perhaps by his grandson, Canaan).

“Ham: One of the sons of Noah. According to Midrash Tanchuma, Noah did not curse Ham, but his son Canaan. That Ham, Shem, and Japheth have another brother is based on Genesis 9: 19–25, where Noah begins his curse poem, “Cursed be Canaan …” Other sources conclude Ham either castrated or sodomized Noah to merit the curse of his son (Sanh. 70a; Gen. R. 36). The subjugation of the Gibeonites, descendants of Ham, in Joshua 9: 23 fulfill the curse. In the Zohar, Ham is the personification of the sefirah Gevurah in the generation of the Flood and Canaan the demonic energy that is spawned from the left side of the sefirotic tree (I: 73a).” (Geoffrey W. Dennis, The Encyclopedia Of Jewish Myth, Magic, & Mysticism, 189 (Kindle Edition); Woodbury, Minnesota; Llewellyn Publications)

Scholar Wenham concurs:

“The nature of Ham’s offence is unclear. See Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 198–202. Also Gagnon, Bible and Homosexual Practice, 63–71. I would now favour homosexual incest as more likely than its alternatives. These sins are often attributed to the Canaanites in the OT (see Lev 18).” (Gordon Wenham, Rethinking Genesis 1-11: Gateway To The Bible, 51 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Cascade Books)

The Bible is clear in its’ condemnation of all sin, including drug abuse and sexual immorality. It is also clear regarding God’s willingness to forgive all who will repent, no matter their sin or wickedness (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

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