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Noah’s Sin, Ham’s Sin, And The Curse Of Canaan

"Drunken Noah" (Michelangelo - Sistine Chapel)

“Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside.” (Genesis 9:20-22 ESV)

There are quite a few things that we can learn from this singular incident recorded about Noah’s life after the Flood. First, it is noteworthy that this incident is the only thing that we read about Noah after he builds his altar to the Lord and makes his sacrifices upon it. Verse 28 tells us that he lived another 350 years after the Flood, yet this is the sole incident that the Word of God records during that entire time. What a powerful reminder of how our sins so often carry a legacy that remains far after we would have ever imagined they would. We should always remember that the indiscretions that we give into during a brief moment of passion can bring lingering and lasting consequences. When we are in Christ, our sins are forgiven and our eternal Salvation is not forfeited, but there are many times that our sinful behaviors carry unintended repercussions that can cause us great sorrow for a long time.

Sin Is Still A Problem

Lest we think that the judgment of the Flood remedied the problem of sin and changed the hearts of men- turning them from their sinful ways- this passage records not one but two offenses. Noah, who had been called “a just man” and “perfect in his generations” (Gen. 6:9), drinks the wine of his vineyard to the point of passing out in a drunken stupor. Regardless of how close God’s people walk with Him, no matter how long they serve Him in this world, until we put off this flesh and dwell forever in His presence in the age to come, we remain susceptible to the temptations of sin. Why? Because sin comes from the heart of man. Sin comes from the desires of the flesh which we are never separated from during this life.

In addition to Noah’s drunkenness, we are also told of his son Ham’s impropriety. Ham saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers (verse 22).

What Exactly Was Ham’s Sin?

There has been much speculation about what it was specifically that Ham did that would be sinful in this matter. All sorts of immoral, lewd, and perverted misdeeds have been suggested in order to explain where Ham went wrong. Personally, I think that it reflects more on the twisted imaginations of the commentators who read such innuendos into the text rather than bringing clarity to the narrative. I see no reason to surmise that anything else happened other than what the Bible says happened: Ham saw his father naked, passed out in drunkenness, and he went and told Shem and Japheth about it. So what was the problem with what he did?

It has always been the practice of the unrepentant to mock and ridicule the people of God when they fall into temptation. They rejoice and revel in the failures of those who seek to live a godly life and obey the Lord. Accusations of “hypocrisy” are hurled, even today, by those of the world whenever a servant of the Lord stumbles in their walk with Christ. Shem and Japheth sought to cover up their father’s shame, they wanted to uphold his integrity even in his moment of weakness. They knew that they were not beyond temptation themselves and, rather than joining in with Ham’s celebration of their godly father’s missteps, they reverently covered Noah’s nakedness and refused to look upon his humiliation. Sadly, just as it was a member of Noah’s own family who was quick to delight in his disobedience, it is so often those in our own “family” of the Body of Christ who are the first to run and tell others of our indiscretions rather than helping us put our garments back on.

Why Was Canaan Cursed?

"Noah Cursing Canaan" (Gustave Doré)

“And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” (Genesis 9:24-25)

It seems a little confusing at first glance that Noah, after he awakens from his sleep and learns what was done to him by Ham, proceeds to pronounce a curse on Canaan, Ham’s son. Why should Canaan be punished for the sins of his father? I think that there are two reasons that the Bible records this the way that it does:

1.) It Was A Prophecy More Than A “Curse”

Noah does not say anything along the lines of, “Because of what was done to me: cursed be Canaan…”

His words are meant to be interpreted as prophetic rather than punitive. Like father, like son – the old saying goes, and that is the point being made here. Canaan and his descendants after him would be guilty of displaying this same attitude toward God’s people and would, therefore, earn the curse of God upon themselves, as well. Rather than humble themselves before the hand of God and turn to Him in repentance, the Canaanites would make it a habit to mock, scorn, and defy the children of Israel as they later would enter into the land of Canaan. In reality, they were guilty of mocking God Himself because it was not the ability of the people of God that was ridiculed, but the ability of God to act on their behalf. It is really the same thing today when the skeptic mocks and ridicules the Christian: he is not attacking the person himself so much as he is disparaging God’s ability to move in that person’s life.

2.) Relevance

The second reason that the passage records the curse upon Canaan is for the very simple fact that the Book of Genesis was originally written by Moses to the children of Israel, as they were preparing to move into the land that God had promised them – namely, Canaan. We are not told how the Lord dealt with Ham for what he had done because, frankly, it was not relevant for the Israelites to know, nor is it really any of our concern. Ham’s name is not mentioned in chapter 9 apart from the statement that he was the father of Canaan. Ham was of no relevance to the children of Israel, but Canaan sure was! It was crucial for them to know that they were dealing with an enemy that bore the curse and judgment of God upon them.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 8, 2009]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

**English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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The Sign Of The Rainbow

Suðuroy Rainbow2 (Photo By: Erik Christensen)

“And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-13)

What comes to mind when you see a rainbow? For most people, rainbows elicit happy feelings: “warm fuzzies”, if you will, as they look upon these beautiful and colorful natural phenomena. But they should also serve as a solemn reminder about the reality of the judgments of God.

In Genesis 8:20, we saw that Noah built an altar to the Lord, an altar in recognition of God’s mercy and grace. The rainbow was God’s response to Noah’s altar. Some have misunderstood what the text is telling us in Genesis 9:13. We are not told that God created the rainbow at this time, but that God set the rainbow as a token of His covenant. Rainbows appear as tiny particles of moisture in the air act as prisms, refracting rays of light from the sun. What an awesome sign of God’s mercy as the rainbow reveals that the clouds of rain are departing and the sunlight is shining back through. Rainbows are clear indicators that the rains are ceasing and clear skies are returning!

Although man, from the vantage point of Earth, is able to behold the rainbow and consider its significance, verses 14-16 tell us that God said that He would see the rainbow when He brought the clouds of rain and that it would serve as a reminder to Him of His covenant to never again destroy the whole Earth by water. Obviously, God does not need to be reminded of anything, but we should understand that the value of this sign is from God’s perspective looking upon it, not from ours. Unlike other signs given under other covenants (such as the sign of circumcision given under the Abrahamic Covenant), this sign requires no response on the part of man to validate it.

“And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:11)

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

Never again will the Lord destroy all living things from the face of the Earth with the waters of a flood. At the end of this age, God will consume the Earth with fire. The Flood served as a reminder to man that sin carries with it judgment. The rainbow is a reminder to man that God’s judgment is currently being withheld. The day will come when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to judge a sinful and fallen world. As it was in the days of Noah, when people were going about their lives giving no thought to obeying God, so shall it be when the Lord returns (Matthew 24:37-39).

When we look upon a rainbow, let us not boast in our hearts that the sun will shine again that we might live to sin another day. May we look upon the sign of God’s covenant with Noah and rejoice in gratitude that God has spared us from a judgment which our own sin has earned. Let us not be as the scoffers who despise the grace and mercy of God, but let us humble ourselves before the Lord at the very sight of a rainbow and offer up praise to Him that He did not appoint us to perish in the days of the Flood and, by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall not perish in the coming judgment, either.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 5, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

What Does The Bible Say About The Death Penalty?

Gallows (Line Drawing By: Pearson Scott Foresman)

“Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made man.”  (Genesis 9:5-6)

During the modern era, the application of capital punishment, for even the most heinous of crimes, has become very controversial in the industrialized nations of the world. It has been called “barbaric”, “inhumane”, “cruel”, and an antiquated relic of a less civilized era. There are those who object to the use of it under any circumstances: thinking of themselves as enlightened and sophisticated, while the proponents of the “death penalty” are vengeful and bloodthirsty.

Since even some sincere Christians are whole-heartedly opposed to the implementation of capital punishment, it is worthwhile to consider what the Word of God has to say on the matter. In the “Noahic Covenant”, God lays out some fundamental changes in how man is permitted and instructed to behave with regards to the taking of life. As we considered last time, man was now afforded the liberty to consume meat and , thus, take the lives of animals for food consumption. Additionally, man was also issued the responsibility of acting on behalf of the Lord Himself by executing capital punishment on those guilty of capital crimes: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.”

In order to determine how this command applies to those living today or if it is even still valid at all, let us examine a few points of consideration in relation to it:

Since This Is Given In The Old Testament, Doesn’t The New Testament Override Or Even Revoke Its Implementation?

Many people either discount entirely or else severely “water-down” any and all commandments and instructions that appear in the Bible before Matthew 1:1. Obviously, a great many of the commandments that appear in the Law of Moses (contained in Exodus through Deuteronomy) were given specifically to the nation of Israel and are not in force for the believer today. Laws concerning the Tabernacle, Temple Sacrifice, Dietary Laws, the Ark of the Covenant, etc. have all been superseded by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. But we must remember that the words which the Lord spoke to Noah and his sons occurred before the Law of Moses was given.  These edicts were not issued within the context of the Theocratic government of the nation of Israel, but were universally given to every living person on the Earth at the time. Although that was only eight people, verse 9 of Genesis 9 clarifies that God is speaking to them and to all of their seed after them. This would include everyone who would ever live after them.

Does The New Testament Give Any Support For Carrying On Capital Punishment?

“For [government authorities are] a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for [they do] not bear the sword for nothing; for [they are] a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. (Romans 13:4)

There is never a time in the New Testament when any apostle or even the Lord Jesus Christ Himself would decry the “injustice” or “barbarism” of capital punishment. They never set about to enact social reform, they never preached about the evils of the criminal justice system. If anyone ever had a valid reason to object to the unfairness and injustice of criminal execution, the apostles Paul and Peter certainly did as they languished away in Roman prisons – awaiting their cruel fates. But they never protested the use of capital punishment itself, even though they were innocent men, guiltless of any crime worthy of death (as, of course, our Lord was too). In fact, Paul even tells the Roman governor Festus, as he lays out his defense against the charges made against him:

“If, then, I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything worthy of death, I do not refuse to die…” (Acts 25:11a)

No, Paul preached and lived the words that he penned in Romans 13:4. God is the One Who puts governmental authorities in power for the carrying out of justice. This includes capital punishment.

But What About The Teachings Of Jesus?

Many believers object to seemingly harsh penalties like capital punishment because of the Lord’s teachings about “turning the other cheek” or “doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But the Lord was referring to personal behavior between individuals with these teachings. We are in no way supposed to enact a sort of “vigilante justice” and take matters into our own hands. Retribution and punishment belongs to God (Romans 12:19), not to the individual. But He has delegated some of this authority to governmental powers for the carrying out of justice. Capital punishment is to be employed by a society, as represented by their leaders, not by private lynchings.

Summary

It is the opinion of some that we demonstrate an enlightenment and civility as a society when we forgo the use of capital punishment. Modern sensibilities dictate, they say, that we must behave in a morally superior fashion than our ancestors. The Russian novelist, Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote: “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.” But is it morally acceptable to allow the most violent members in a society to kill without fear of reprisal? Without a very real fear of severe retribution, what would deter those without conscience from following their most base passions? Sadly, we are witnessing this very thing in many modern societies.

I am not writing this article as a political argument in favor of capital punishment. My interest, as always, is to share what the Word of God teaches. But if I may be at liberty to express my own opinion, I believe that it is abundantly evident that swift and appropriate punishment for crime serves as the greatest deterrent. This is not based on a sort of primal “bloodlust” or an extreme sense of vengeance, it is simply the realization that if a would-be murderer knows for a fact that he is going to forfeit his own life by taking another, he is going to think twice before doing it. It is terrible that the death penalty is ever necessary to be carried out, but as long as there are those who so degrade human life to the point that they believe they possess the right to terminate it at will, then it is a society’s God-given responsibility to act appropriately and protect the rest of its citizens from such wanton brutality. This is what I believe to be true and it is what the Word of God teaches here in Genesis 9.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 4, 2009]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

God Permits The Eating Of Meat

Cow on the Täschalpe, Wallis, Switzerland. (photo by Michael Schmid)

“Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.” (Genesis 9:3-4)

After Noah and his family depart from the Ark and set out to replenish the population of the Earth, God sets down a few key changes in the covenant He makes with them. The first of these is that man is now permitted to eat meat in addition to plants and vegetables.

Apparently, before the Flood, God had not sanctioned the eating of meat. Whether or not this rule was followed, we do not really know. It is unlikely that – given the grave depravity that mankind had fallen into prior to the Flood – people had much respect for this prohibition of God since they had showed no deference to the Lord in anything else. The Lord mentions in verse 5 the sanctity of the lifeblood of the animals which would seem to suggest the flagrant disregard for it that had likely been shown toward all life (animal and human) in the past.

The respect for and value of life, in fact, is the commonality between the two major changes that are laid down here in the “Noahic Covenant” (the other concerns “capital punishment” which, Lord willing, I plan to talk about next time). At first glance, it might seem a little ironic that the Lord, Who has just annihilated every living thing on the planet apart from those in the Ark of Noah, would now be talking about the great value of life. But that is precisely what He is doing. Why? Because in all truthfulness, God alone retains the right and discretion to choose when life, any life, should be terminated. Although Cain, Lamech, and countless unnamed others had failed to understand that God alone holds the prerogative to decide when a life can be ended, Noah did. This is why God explains to him now under what circumstances man is delegated this authority.

“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.’” (Leviticus 17:11)

Blood, representing the life of the animal, is what is required for atonement under the Law of Moses. Ultimately, it points toward the Blood of the Lord Jesus Christ which was spilled for the covering of the sins of the world. But not only is prohibition made here against the eating of an animal’s blood, it is also an inference made toward the humane slaughter of livestock in preparation for consumption. Man is not given carte blanche to barbarously devour any game or livestock in any manner he sees fit. No, care is to be taken to humanely slaughter the animal and then prepare the meat to be eaten in a wholesome, sanitary way.

One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. (Romans 14:2-3)

Some have made the abstinence from eating meat a spiritual or religious issue. Even certain denominations that name the name of Christ preach that the Bible endorses a strictly vegetarian diet. For many non-Christians, this practice (sometimes referred to as “vegan”: which carries vegetarianism to a moral or religious level rather than strictly a dietary preference or physical health issue) is really nothing more than a neo-paganism that exalts animals to an equal, or even superior, level with mankind. For Christians, it is strictly a personal matter between each of us and the Lord. There is no Biblical basis for preaching that other Christians should refrain from eating meat for spiritual reasons. Foregoing the eating of meat for health reasons, or reasons of conscience (such as the justified objection toward the inhumane practices of many in the agricultural industry, which clearly violate God’s instructions for proper animal husbandry) is perfectly acceptable, but we are in no way at liberty to be dogmatic to other believers about their own dietary habits.

Having said this, however, there is another extreme that many people, even some believers, go to and that is to totally disregard the sanctity of animal life. Animals are not created in the image of God as man is, but they are still creatures of God. The Lord has delivered them into our hand for food, but that in no way gives us the right to mistreat or abuse them. Mankind is to exercise a dominion over them that precludes the wholesale extermination of entire species to the point of extinction and the indiscriminate encroachment into and destruction of their habitats. We are to be good stewards of the resources that God has provided, and that includes livestock and wildlife.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 1, 2009]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

From Ark Builder To Altar Builder

"Leaving The Ark On Mount Ararat" (Raffaello Sanzio - Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican)

“And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” (Genesis 8:20-21)

Noah did two very interesting things when he came out of the Ark:

  1. He built an altar
  2. He made offerings to the Lord

“Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.” (Genesis 6:22)

As we see in Hebrews 11:7, Noah was a man of faith. He carefully obeyed all of the instructions that God gave him and he built the Ark to the exact specifications that the Lord told him. But we see in the first two actions that Noah performed after disembarking from the Ark a subtle difference. These two actions were voluntary, God had not given him instructions to do them.

It is very telling about what kind of a person Noah was that his first priority was to tend to the things of God. After spending  a year aboard the Ark, it would seem that the first  step would be to set about building shelters to live in and providing for all of the necessities of survival in a new, desolate world. But Noah would not build a place to live in before he built a place to worship God. This time, God gives no blueprint of what His altar should look like, nor does He even encourage Noah to build an altar at all. It is the heart filled with gratitude toward God’s saving grace that is compelled out of pure thanksgiving to honor the Lord of Heaven in such a way. What a contrast between Noah and the world that he had been born into: those who perished in the Flood had failed to acknowledge God at any time or in any way and here we see that Noah put God above all else!

Secondly, Noah made burnt-offerings unto the Lord of one each of the clean animals from the Ark. As one in seven days were a Sabbath dedicated to the Lord, one in seven of these clean animals would be given to the Lord, as well. We are told in verse 21 that Noah’s offerings were a “sweet savour” to the Lord, that is, God accepted his offerings. Like the altar that Noah built, we learn in the Book of Leviticus that a “burnt-offering” is characterized as a voluntary offering, not a required offering (Leviticus 1:3). Although the burnt-offering is voluntary, it speaks of atonement for the one making the offering. In Noah’s actions we see his voluntary recognition of his own sin and his need for atoning sacrifice.

Then we read something rather peculiar in verse 21: “…The Lord said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.” It seems that God’s diagnosis of the heart of man did not change after the Flood from what it had been before the Flood (Genesis 6:5). So what had changed? The difference was a recognition of sin on the part of man. We can only speculate, but Noah had likely made offerings unto God even before the Flood. But now, after God has judged the entire world, Noah’s offerings to God take on a whole new meaning.

Noah’s burnt-offerings to God represent how man will ultimately be reconciled to God. These “sweet savour” offerings point to the “Sweet Savour” offering that alone can make full remission of the sins of man possible (Ephesians 5:2). Man is still sinful with a heart filled with evil imaginations, but if we will voluntarily acknowledge our sins to Him and accept the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ as payment for those sins, we can receive God’s mercy and grace rather than His judgment.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 30, 2009]

**All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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