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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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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?“]

But Noah Found Grace

"But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." (Genesis 6:8-9)

“But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:8-9)

The heights of sinfulness and the depths of depravity that man reached in the days before the Flood had left God with no other possible course of action than an all-encompassing, worldwide judgment upon all mankind. None were repenting and turning to God at this time, there was nobody seeking God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with Him. The Holy Spirit contended with the hearts of men for 120 years prior to His unleashing of the flood waters, yet nobody heeded His call, no one believed God.

Except Noah.

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)

We are told in Genesis 6:8 that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. But why did he find grace? What was it about Noah that caused God’s favor to be upon him? Verse 9 tells us three things about Noah’s character: he was a just man, he was perfect in his generations, and he walked with God.

Noah Was A Just Man

That he was a “just” man carries with it two shades of meaning. First, he was just in the sense that he was loyal to God. While the entire world was living in a manner that was as far as possible from the things of God, while every other person on the planet was worshiping at the altars of idolatry and hedonistic pleasures, being actually worshipers of self, Noah remained loyal and faithful to the living God. At times, as we look at the world around us,  it is easy to think as did Elijah that we must be the only person in the world who still believes in and follows God Almighty (1 Kings 19:10). This wasn’t true in Elijah’s day (1 Kings 19:18), nor is it true today. But for Noah, it really was the case! He alone remained loyal to God in the midst of an entire world that had turned as far away from God as they could.

Second, the term just man signifies that Noah was justified in a legalistic sense. He was just and righteous because he lived up to God’s requirements. He met the holy demands of a holy God and was, therefore, deemed righteous and justified. And what were those requirements? Was it the fact that he built the Ark as God had instructed? No, he found grace from God before he did this. Was it that he answered God’s calling on his life to preach the Word to a lost and dying world? No. Again, God’s grace upon him preceded his answer to the calling, as well. Noah believed God. As God would later do in the life of Abraham, He imputed righteousness to Noah on the basis of his faith (Romans 4:3). Salvation has always been by grace through faith. This is precisely the manner in which Noah and his family were saved from the Flood.

Noah Was A “Perfect” Man

When we think of somebody being perfect, we think of somebody who never makes mistakes or errors. This is not the meaning here in Genesis 6:9. Noah was human and, as a human, we know that he sinned and made mistakes (we even have an example a couple of chapters later, in Genesis 9:21). The meaning here is that Noah was “upright”, he was “complete” and “whole.” In short, Noah was blameless. It wasn’t that Noah himself was perfect and without blame, but that is the way that God viewed him. God was holding nothing against Noah and laying no sin to his charge. Noah was justified and he was deemed blameless before God.

Noah Walked With God

As we saw in the case of Enoch, here again we have an individual who “walked with God.” Yet Noah’s walk with God did not take him directly to God’s house. God had something else in mind for him. If Enoch was a picture of the raptured Church being taken out of the wold before the judgment, then Noah is a model of the Jewish remnant who are saved through the Tribulation. Both are God’s people, yet each are called to serve God during a different era and in a different way.

What is important to see is that Noah did not find the grace of God because of who he was or what he did before God’s grace came to him. Noah in no way earned the grace of God, indeed, nobody ever can. It is not anything desirable or attractive or good within the heart of man that moves God to extend His awesome grace, God is wholly motivated out of His wonderful love. Whether or not we choose to accept and receive His grace is entirely up to us. Could Noah have rejected God’s grace along with all of his contemporaries? Sure. I do not pretend to know how that would have played out exactly, but I know that God could have found another way of fulfilling His promises even without the co-operation of a single human being. What if, perhaps, more people had embraced the grace of God and turned to Him? I see nothing that would have prohibited God from commissioning a larger Ark, or more of them.

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (James 4:6)

It was one who laid hold of the grace of God and was saved by it. One. What a deeply profound revelation of the grace and mercy of God that He would seek out and know the hearts of every single individual on the face of the Earth down to the very last one! God is not unjust, there was not a single innocent person who perished in the Flood. After trying the hearts of all mankind, there was but one who would humble himself and receive God’s grace .

The Holy Spirit is still seeking out and knowing the hearts of every individual on the Earth. It is still possible for anyone who desires to lay hold of His grace by faith. But, like Noah, we must believe Him in order to do that.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 12, 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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