Summary: Wine is mentioned for the first time in the Bible, and it is connected with drunken behaviour. But it is Ham’s disrespect, not Noah’s failures that feature in this story.
Genesis 9 – Part 4 – AM I SUPPOSED TO RESPECT MY OLD MAN IF HE’S AN IDIOT?
By now you remember the story – Noah gets drunk and gets naked in his tent. He behaves badly. He fails in terms of his witness to his family. He fails God in that he’s way out of control.
Wine is mentioned for the first time in the Bible, and it is connected with drunken behaviour. But it is Ham’s disrespect, not Noah’s failures that feature in this story. What? Am I supposed to respect my father, when he behaves like an idiot?
Genesis 9:22 just says that Ham "saw the nakedness of his father." The POSB commentary says “The Hebrew means more than just looking at his father; it means that he saw with pleasure, joy, and satisfaction.”
Did Ham commit some sexual sin with his drunken father? Some people think so. Some would say this is the first homosexual act mentioned in the Bible. Except it isn’t mentioned. Look at the passage. I don’t see it there. Do you?
Just because he LOOKED at the nakedness of his father with a sense of pleasure does not mean that he COMMITTED A HOMOSEXUAL ACT. To me, this speaks more about Ham having pleasure in the sense of MAKING FUN OF HIS FATHER and when he finds him drunk and naked, he thinks it is an opportunity to HUMILIATE HIS FATHER in front of his brothers. His brothers didn’t agree and treated their father with HONOUR AND RESPECT. They went to a lot of trouble to cover Noah’s nakedness. (What seems strange to me is that Noah is in his tent, right? Why did they have to cover him up at all? Just leave him to sleep it off!)
In Genesis 9:24 (NLT) it says “When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done.” You might say, “Well, there it is. Ham had DONE something to Noah.” To me, the fact that Ham had “done” something, does not imply some sexual act was committed, but simply that Ham dishonoured his father probably by making a joke of his nakedness and drunkenness. What is clear is that he did something bad enough to incur Noah’s negative response to him. Noah curses him and his son Canaan.
Ham told his brothers about his fathers drunkenness and nakedness. The POSB commentary says “The word for "told" (wayyaggedh) means that he told them with delight (H.C. Leupold. Genesis, Vol.1, p.346). He actually got joy and satisfaction in telling them. He was able to ridicule and mock his father's behaviour, to show scorn and contempt in the hope that his brothers might feel ill will toward their father as well.” If that’s true, what did Noah do that was so bad to deserve such scorn? He got drunk in his tent. What’s so wrong with that? Why would that attract scorn? Besides, the law against drunkenness wasn’t even invented yet. I know it’s not good for him to be drunk, but at least he wasn’t AT THE WHEEL OF A CAR. It wasn’t as if he needed a designated driver and didn’t get one. It wasn’t as if he was having A DRUNKEN BRAWL in the main street outside the pub. It wasn’t as if he was ABUSING HIS WIFE IN A DRUNKEN RAGE. At least we are not told of anything like that and surely the writer would have mentioned it.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am the last person to condone drunkenness. I don’t drink alcohol myself and don’t encourage anyone else to drink either because it is such a problem today in Australia. I don’t want to associate myself, as a Christian, with what I consider to be a cultural sin. Getting drunk is stupid not funny, and a sin, not a way to have a good time. You might get the idea that I don’t like drunkenness. Your right. The Bible doesn’t like it either. God makes it clear that it is wrong to get drunk.
I’m not condoning drunkenness by any means, but the interesting thing is that DRUNKENNESS DOESN’T APPEAR TO BE THE ISSUE IN THIS STORY. It seems the big SIN is the way Ham treated his father. Ham thought his father’s drunken behaviour was an opportunity for ridicule.
It doesn’t appear that Noah’s nakedness was the real problem either although Ham’s brothers thought he should be covered. When Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them animal skins to cover themselves after their feeble attempt with fig leaves. But nakedness is not a sin as such. It’s the behaviour of a naked man in a drunken state that might well be the problem and it normally is. It’s obvious that drunken behaviour lowers the inhibitions, but again Noah is in his tent trying to sleep it off.