shaming-of-noah-smallerSo, “Why is Noah Mad at Canaan?” This question came up recently so here’s a brief answer to it. After the flood God made the Noahic covenant and then we have this passage in Genesis chapter 9.

18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

Cursed be Canaan;
    a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
    and let Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth,
    and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
    and let Canaan be his servant.”

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.

Noah was blessed by God, and in a moment of sinful weakness, he got drunk by means of the grapes from the vines he had planted. While drunk, he passed out naked in his tent. Ham entered the tent and found him, but rather than respecting his father’s body by turning from him or covering him to hide the shame and nakedness from others, he went to tell his brothers about it.

This doesn’t appear to be a moment where Ham accidently saw this situation and looked away. Nor does it appear to be a moment where Ham thinks to himself, “Oh, I don’t know what to do. Let me check with my brothers”. Instead, this is a sinful perversion. It’s unclear whether it was a “Hehe, guys, take a look at this!” moment of mockery at his father’s expense or whether it was a more inappropriate encouragement for the brothers to come look upon their father’s naked body. You might think, “That’s gross!” or “That’s mean.” Yeah. That’s the point. Whether it was to make Noah the subject of a joke or to look inappropriately at his naked appearance, it was perverse and Ham – the Father of Canaan – is the one who did this and led to the curse. Some suggest that Canaan was involved somehow in the incident and that there was more than a visual aspect to this situation, but Scripture doesn’t lay it out in so many words. We can only look at the evidence and speculate. All we know for sure is that Ham did something and Canaan was cursed for it.

Many commentators suggest that Noah was being prophetic since the people of Canaan later became known for sexually immoral behaviors and generally not being the most upstanding people (see the bulk of the stories involving lands in Canaan). In this passage, we have a son of Noah who perversely looks upon his father’s nakedness and then tries to encourage others to do the same. This results in a curse over Ham’s son Canaan and the people of that line. There is no clear answer why Canaan was cursed rather than Ham, or why the other sons of Ham didn’t receive a direct curse. Then again, we don’t have a clear answer why God chose a simple man like Abraham to be the father of many nations that would bless the Lord.

Here are some good links with more detailed information that make more Scriptural and historical connections than I went into here.

Thoughts? Questions? Let me know.