And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. 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. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years.(Genesis 9:20-28)
Like a new Adam, Noah stepped off of the Ak into a new “heavens and earth”. All of us who live in the post flood world, descend from Noah, so in that way also He is a type of Adam. As All of humanity was “in Adam” in the garden, so all post flood humanity were in THe ark, in Noah or his three sons.
We come now to the account of the “fall” of the new Adam, this time brought about not by forbidden fruit, but by drink.
Noah drank wine, and in his excess he passed out naked within his own tent. This unfortunate incident proved to be a test of the character of Noah’s three sons. What do you do when you discover ‘the nakedness’ of someone set over you?
Ham drew attention to it, calling his brothers into the tent to behold their father in this state of humiliation. Shem and Japheth wanted to preserve their father’s dignity, refusing to behold their father in such a state.
We have to look at the biblical view of what nakedness means, in order to truly understand this story. In Divine revelation, Clothing has a practical function, but also it has to do with the concept of dignity, honor and authority. Thus, the exposure of someone’s nakedness has to with the diminishment and even the possible removal of respect and honor.
Ham didn’t necessarrily do anything sexual to his father, but the desire he demonstrated for his brothers to see the spectacle of the nakedness of their own father, reveals a resentful desire to see his Father’s honor diminished. It was an atempt to “take the old man down a few notches” in the esteem of his brothers. In other words it was an expression of rebellion, and resentment at his Father’s authority.
When Shem and Japheth did the opposite of Ham, not only were they honoring Noah their Father, by refusing to entertain a degraded image of Him, they were honoring the God of their father as well.
Likewise Ham’s act of rebellion, seeking to show his father in a diminished light, revealed a heart that was already defecting from the God of Noah. The phrase “Ham… told his brothers”, literally means “Told his brothers with delight”. He assumed that they also would find some kind of pleasure in the degraded expose of their father also.
When Noah woke out of his drunken stupor, he soon realized, “What his younger son had done to him”.
The ensuing prophecy, was directed first to Ham, (although spoken to Ham’s son Canaan),then Shen and Japheth.
Why was the curse directed to Canaan? He didn’t say “Cursed be Canaan”, but “Cursed is Canaan”. It is not a deterministic prophecy, but a prophetic observation. Noah could see by the Spirit of prophecy, that the perverse streak of rebellion revealed in Ham, was already rapidly progressing in Canaan, and would ultimately consume his descendants.
Such rebellion would only lead to servitude,”A servant of servants shall He be…”. It is important to note that this is not the so called curse on the negro race, (There is no such thing) for Ham had sons, Phut,Mizraim, Cush, and Canaan, who was the youngest son, and the only one in Ham’s family who was cursed.
To Shem Noah prophesied “Blessed be the Lord God of Shem“. The Semitic people would be the custodians of the knowledge and name of God, for He literally uses the covenant name “Blessed be Jahweh, the Elohim of Shem…”. Shem knew the Lord by covenant.
It is interesting that the three major, monotheistic religions which have strongly influenced the world, come from the Semitic people. Judaism and Christianity of course, and the dostortion of those two, Mohammedism.
But Noah repeats the earlier curse, “And Canaan shall be His servant”, which at the time of the writing of Genesis, was in process of fulfilment. The Canaanites had subdued the land given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, building cities and clearing fields which Israel was soon to inhabit.
To Japheth the Word of the Lord comes as a pun, for Japheth means expander. “God shall expand the expander…”. The Japhetic nations would explore, colonize, and spread out across the earth, both geographically and intellecually. The entire western Hemishere was discovered, colonized and developed by the sons of Japheth.
But Japheth would “Dwell in the tents of Shem”, that is his people would be largely impacted by the revelation given to Shem, and thus share in the spirituality of Shem, worshipping his God,appropriating his blessings, and as it turns out, allowing the book of revelation of Shem’s God, the bible to affect his civilization. To this day we speak of our Judeo Christian western culture.
The order of thes sons of Noah, in the prophecy is telling. Ham isn’t mentioned at all, his son Canaan is. Then Shem and finally Japheth. The Divine record will tell us that the earliest World empires were Hamitic, including Egypt. Then for a brief time Shem’s descenants built world dominating cvilizations such as the Sumerians and Babylonians.
But at the end, the world is dominated largely by Japheth’s children.From Persia, to Greece to Rome and the West.
The book of Acts has three individual conversion stories, showing the universality of the gospel. In Acts 8 a son of Ham comes to saving faith in Jesus, the Ethiopian eunich. In Acts 9 we hear the story of Saul of Tarsus a Jew,(Semite). Finally we read of the conversion of Cornelius in Acts 10, a roman son of Japheth. Jesus died for all of us sons of Adam!
There is much about this mysterious chapter I do not yet grasp, and admittedly this telling leaves as many questions as it does answers, but we can’t force scripture, we can only wait to recieve fuller revelation.