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The whole earth is now populated, and these verses alerts us to the fact we're not just talking about these 3 individuals anymore. We're talking about how those individuals becoming families, then tribes and then nations, and then ultimately the whole human race. Perhaps the significance of this incident is bigger than the individuals involved. Noah’s grandson Canaan will later produce a family and these people became the Canaanites.
Noah becomes a farmer and then he plants a vineyard. When we started this section of scripture a few weeks ago we were introduced to Noah as a preacher of righteousness. He then became a boat builder and after being captain of a boat for while he now becomes a farmer and an owner of a vineyard. Noah was clearly, a man who was adaptable.
Verse twenty-one says he drank the wine he had made he became drunk, and then he falls asleep naked in his tent. I don’t believe this is a case of Noah drinking and getting drunk without realizing what he was doing. Because in Matthew chapter 24 Jesus talks about the fact that, before the flood there was eating and drinking, and this is put within the negative context of how God viewed that sinful society. Noah wasn’t ignorant, he had witnessed the negative effects drinking too much had on people before the flood. The shame in this, was not that he drank wine, but that he drank to excess and thereby lost self-control, which in turn resulted in shameful immodesty. This story, this incident should warn all of us of the potential danger of getting drunk, both for the drinker and for the drinker’s family. Up to this point Noah is described a just man who was, perfect in his generation. In chapter 6 Noah he was also described as a preacher of righteousness, and we are also told, he walked with God. So, we all need to take heed lest we fall.
Ham the father of Canaan sees his father naked and doesn’t cover him up, rather he goes and tells his brothers outside. The Hebrew word “saw” used here means to look meticulously, to consider closely. This was not an accidental look he gazed with intent maybe even a sense of self-satisfaction. Obviously, something's not right here. The main problem is that because he failed to cover his father up immediately it was deemed a shameful act, a gross violation of Noah's honor. Rather than immediately protecting his father’s dignity he went and shared the situation with his brothers and dishonored his father in the most profound way. Ham’s sin was that he showed no respect or honor for his father. However, there's more than that because he then he goes and tells his brothers. Ham’s actions dishonor him, both as a parent and as some have suggested as a head of the community, and a preacher.
Shem and Japheth, then take a garment and covering their faces back up and cover Noah. Thereby the other brothers covered the father's nakedness without looking upon it. In doing it that way they preserved their father’s purity and maintained respect for him.
The Noah awakes from his wine induced stupor and immediately knew what his son had done. Then he says; “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” The curse falls not on Ham’s but on Ham’s son Canaan. Ham is the one who sinned against Noah, but the curse falls on his son not him. The curse upon him is that he would be destined to be a servant. He was not only to be a servant, but a servant of servants, the lowest type of servants. This story is the seed of something that blossoms later. Ultimately this curse would be fulfilled on the Canaanites who later inhabited Palestine because we will see that later in the bible that the Israelites go in and conquer the land of the Canaanites.
The passage then takes an interesting twist when we appear to be going to go from a curse to a blessing. Blessed will be the descendants of Shem who will have Ham’s descendants as their servants. Ham was the father of the Canaanites. Shem was the forefather of the Jewish people. Their descendants were the Jewish nation. So again, we're giving the seeds of something that's going to blossom later. One day the Canaanites will be subservient to the Israelites and that how God will blesse Shem. God will enlarge the family line of Japheth and it will be fulfilled in the growth and spread of the descendants of Jacob. He is also to dwell in the tent of Shem. To dwell in the tent of someone implies friendly sharing of hospitality and sharing blessings between the two. To share one’s tent is to share spiritual blessings of the knowledge of God. The descendants of the other brother, in other words the Jewish nation, they were the ones given the word of God and they in turn were to give it to the other tribes and nations and ultimately the world.
This is what's important here, this is what the chapter is all about. There is a curse, but there is also a blessing and those with the blessing are supposed to bless others with that blessing. The Cardinal truth of the scripture is that God curses sin and He blesses those that are obedient and those he blesses are called to bless others.
The main theme of this passage is blessing. God cursed the line of Canaan with servitude because they showed disrespect towards Noah. However, he blessed Sham and Japheth because they showed respect of their fathers’ vulnerable condition. I believe the real point of this passage is not the nakedness it's not the drunkenness it's not even the curse or the blessing although that's a big part of it. The point of the passage is it the promise to the Israelites was they were to enter into the land of the Canaanites and when they did not hesitate to render the inhabitants their servants because God had declared already that they were to become such servants. Coming under the servitude of the Israelites was a way back in for some of them individually to come under the blessing of God again.
One of the problems of this passage is that doesn't sound fair to the modern ear, but there is another issue going on here. It does indeed say several times in the Old Testament, that the sins of the fathers are punished in the children.
It says to be most specifically. “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me”.(Ex 20: 5b) Yes, but did you notice the whole verse “of those who hate Me”. The reason they got judged is because they committed the sin as well. The Sin it isn't that the father sinned, and the children got punished Instead the father's sinned and the sons followed the father and committed the same sin and because of that there was judgment. The Canaanite people constantly lead Israel astray throughout the Old Testament and they imposed a continual threat to Israelite holiness. We see this characteristic beginning in Ham, but these descendants are not cursed with bondage because of what he did. They were cursed because of what they did.
This passage ultimately teaches that sin leads to slavery There's a curse and the curses is only enacted when you choose to sin. Jesus said in John chapter 8 he “who commit sin is the slave of sin”. This passage is talking about the fact that sin is like a curse that leads to slavery. However, there is also the point in the passage that God blesses. God also blesses those who are faithful, however that blessing should always lead to you blessing others.
What a great lesson, don't sin, or you will end up a slave to sin. Instead be blessed and then go and bless others. When God blesses, us we are meant to go and bless others, we are meant to throw open wide the doors of our tent and call others in to experience that blessing.
Has the Lord blessed you? Then go and bless other people.
Avoiding the Road to Slavery