Genesis 9:20. And Noah began farming, and he planted a vineyard. 21And he drank of the wine, and became drunk; and he was uncovered within his tent. 22And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

Rav Richard

Chaimberlin

            Genesis 9:23. 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. 24And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. 25And he said, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." 26And he said, "Blessed be YHWH, God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. 27God shall en-large Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant."

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What was the sin of Ham? Regretfully, many read these verses and assume that Ham committed the sin of seeing his naked father in a disgraceful, drunken condition. As a result, a curse is placed upon all of Ham's descendants, predominantly the dark-skinned people of Africa. As a result, many felt justified in enslaving African blacks, and committing horrendous acts of injustice and persecution against our darker-skinned brothers and sisters. And Ham received this curse for seeing his father naked?? It should also be noted that the curse is not to Ham and all of Ham's descendants, but only upon his son Canaan, and Canaan's descendants. Why is the curse upon Canaan?

            To get a better understanding of what is taking place in Genesis chapter 9, I would suggest going to Leviticus 18:7-8 (NAS), which says, "7 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, that is, the nakedness of your mother. She is your mother; you are not to undercover her nakedness. 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness."

            We need to understand a Hebrew euphemism. "Uncovering someone's nakedness" means having sexual relations with that person, much like the euphemism in which "sleeping" with someone is a euphemism for having sex with that person. "Uncovering the nakedness of your father's wife" means having sexual relations with your father's wife. And this is considered to be "uncovering your father's nakedness."

            In Leviticus 18:16 (NAS), we read, "You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother's wife; it is your brother's nakedness." In similar fashion, when someone has sex with his brother's wife, it is con-sidered as uncovering his brother's nakedness.

            Such sins were to be dealt with very severely. We read in Leviticus 20:11 (NAS): "If there is a man who lies with his father's wife, he has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall be put to death, their blood-guiltiness is upon them." This does not necessarily mean that the man had relations with his own mother, as the father may have been married to another woman besides the mother of his children. The man "who lies with his father's wife... has uncovered his father's nakedness." The penalty for such a transgression is death for both the man and his father's wife.[1]

            Now do you see the sin of Ham? He had sexual relations with Noah's wife while Noah was apparently drunk with wine. This is perverse all by itself. However, to make matters worse, he went out and apparently bragged to his brothers about what he had done. Shem and Japheth were much more honorable men. They picked up a garment, walked backwards so as not to see, and covered their father's nakedness, that is, the nakedness of their father's wife.

            The consequence of this sexual encounter between Ham and his father's wife was a pregnancy resulting in the birth of Canaan. Noah therefore pronounced a curse upon Canaan and Canaan's descendants. He wasn't able to pronounce a curse upon Ham - the son who had perpetrated the sin - because "God blessed Noah and his sons..." [2] Noah was unable to curse one whom God had blessed. In much the same way, Balaam was not able to pronounce a curse upon Israel (Numbers 23:8) whom God had blessed.

            Why is this important? Like I mentioned before, millions of our dark-skinned brothers have suffered needlessly because of the misinterpretation of the curse, applying a racist curse upon all of Ham's descendants, when the curse was only upon Canaan. It's time to end this manmade curse, and re-examine what Noah said.



[1] See also Lev. 20:19-21.

[2] Genesis 9:1