This is a Bible study on Genesis 9:18-29.

Source: The Outlook, 1980. 3 pages.

Genesis 9:18-29 - Noah and His Sons After the Flood

Noah, because of his faith, was the greatest man of his day. He was obedient to the divine command­ment to build an ark. He condemned the ungodly men of his day by his obedience to God's commands. His is an honored place among the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.

The world had been cleansed from the wickedness of men and a righteous man with his family were now the only inhabitants of the earth. But, though Noah was heroic in his faith during the years of crisis, this strength of faith is not unbroken in the comparatively peaceful time after the flood. The Scriptures never idolize the saints of God but show their weaknesses as well as their strengths. Each one's life loudly proclaims Paul's statement: "By grace are ye saved through faith ... and not of your­selves."

The writer once more calls our attention to the fact that Noah and three sons came forth out of the ark and the names of the sons are repeated once more. Whether Noah had more children later is not mentioned. The three who are mentioned are the ones from whom the whole earth will be populated. Special mention is made of the fact that Ham is the father of Canaan to make the following verses understandable.

Noah's Drunkenness🔗

Now that the earth is dried the natural labors of man must be taken up again. Noah "began to be a husbandman" which simply means that he began to till the soil again so that there might be food to eat. Cain had already engaged in this type of work and, no doubt, this was the occupation of the majority in the early history of man. Not only does he till the soil for the production of food, he also planted a vineyard.

The process of making wine is already known to Noah and he drank of the wine. This in itself is not evil and we read no word of condemnation here. But, he drank to excess "and was drunken." Drunkenness is always condemned in the Scriptures and the fol­lowing verses make it clear that this act of his has results which span generations and ages.

This man Noah who had stood so strong during all the many years the ark was being built; this man who had worshiped his God with sacrifices when he left the ark; this man who had received the glorious promises of God after the flood; this man now, in the comparative safety of his own home, falls into grievous sin!

Contrast in Reactions of Noah's Sons🔗

In his drunkenness, Noah lies uncovered in his tent. The sense of shame has been removed by his drunken state. His son, Ham, comes into the tent and see the nakedness of his father and, according to the orig­inal, takes delight in seeing his father in that state and in telling it to his brothers. He gives evidence of an immoral attitude. There are those who believe that Ham engages in more sinful actions and refer to the words which are written in verse 24 that Noah "...knew what his youngest son had done unto him." However, the text makes mention of nothing further than that he had seen the nakedness of his father and had spoken of it to his brothers. This sin is serious enough.

The brothers Shem and Japheth reveal a far dif­ferent attitude. They do not delight in the sin of their father, but cover him and make certain that they do not see his nakedness by walking backward into the tent with a garment on their shoulders and so cover his nakedness. No words are recorded that they condemned the attitude of Ham but their actions certainly condemn his. They have respect for their father even though he is drunk! Noah's actions do not merit the respect of others but he is still their father.

Curse on Canaan🔗

When Noah "awoke" he realized what had happened. All kinds of fanciful ex­planations have been sought for this. Some even wonder whether this knowledge came by special revelation (!). Surely, the man is able to see that he is now covered in a way which was different from the way he had fallen into this "sleep." He may also have inquired concerning the actions of Ham. Ham is here called "his youngest son." This does not agree with the order in which his sons are always named. Re­member, the Hebrew has neither a comparative nor superlative degree and these words may refer to him as the "small one" or as younger than Shem.

The words which are uttered by Noah when he realizes what has taken place are first of all called a curse. The latter words are words of blessing. They are spoken by the father of these sons but also by the head of the human race at this time. They are not to be understood as pronouncing vengeance on the one who has committed this sin against him but, rather, a prophetic word concerning the future. We must remember that a father and grandfather is speaking here who has no desire to pronounce curses on the members of his own family. However, the Spirit of God lays hold on him to speak the prophetic word for the times to come. This makes this passage so important for the understanding of later history. The following chapter reveals "the genera­tions of the sons of Noah"; the key to the under­standing of the history of these families is found in the words which Noah utters here. That history hasn't just "happened" but it developed according to the curse and blessing uttered by Noah. Noah speaks prophetically, i.e., the word of God, and the future history shows that His word always stands!

It seems strange that the curse is pronounced on Canaan, the son of Ham, even though it is his father who has committed the sin. Why is this? Some have thought that the same attitude was found in Canaan which was shown by his father Ham. Yet, the text doesn't make mention of this at all. In the following chapter we are told that Ham had at least four sons. One of these receives the curse. The whole family of Ham is not cursed — but only one fourth! By this very fact the curse which is pronounced is re­stricted. Not one third of the population of the world will lie under the curse, but a much smaller fraction.

The question as to the nature of this curse must also be considered. For many years there was an interpretation found in certain circles that it was essentially the curse of slavery pronounced on the black race. There is no proof for this kind of inter­pretation whatsoever. In fact, the following chapter makes it very clear that this is an impossible inter­pretation (10:15-19). The curse which is pronounced on Canaan is that he will be "a servant of servants" to his brothers. This is the Hebrew way of express­ing the superlative. He will be completely enslaved to his brothers. It seems as though the word "brethren" must be taken in a very restricted sense, i.e., his own blood brothers, because his servanthood toward Shem and Japheth is described in a different way. Canaan became the father of those nations which inhabited Palestine and surrounding areas in later times. These peoples were conquered by the Israelites under Moses and Joshua. When the "ini­quity of the Canaanites was full" the curse pro­nounced here had run its course.

Blessings on Shem and Japheth🔗

Not only does Noah pronounce a curse on Canaan on this occa­sion, his prophetic view also includes the families of his other sons. Blessings are pronounced on Shem and Japheth.

The blessing on Shem and his generations is given in a strange way. In fact, the blessing is not pro­nounced on Shem directly but we read: "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem." These words are in­tended, however, to show, in contrast to Ham, that Shem will be blessed. It is noteworthy that the name "Jehovah" is used in this connection. We must be careful not to read into this name all that it is shown to mean in later times, but we may also not deal with this text as though this name did not appear. It seems to reveal here that Shem will stand in a very close personal relationship with his God. He is and will be the God of Shem. All the blessings which he and his posterity will receive are to be found in their close association with their God. Canaan will be father to those who worship idols and oppose the people of God. Shem will be father to those who are God's people. The seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15 is beginning to be clarified and will be made clearer as history unfolds.

Canaan will be the servant of Shem. God will be served of those who oppose Him and His people. The various peoples of Canaan will not be able to stand when Israel, a people enslaved for hundreds of years and wanderers in the wilderness for eighty years, comes to take the land of Canaan!

Shem becomes the father of the Semitic people and Japheth of such people as the Medes and the Greeks etc. Only one of the two can become the father of those who will later form the people of God; but a blessing is also given to Japheth and it is a blessing which may not be minimized. First of all, God will enlarge Japheth so that he will greatly in­crease in number. The numerous offspring is always considered a great favor of God in Biblical times. He will dwell in the tents of Shem, which does not mean that he will take space away from Shem, but that somehow he will thus share in the blessing of Shem. Later God's blessing will rest primarily on His people, Israel, but is it too much to say already at this early date that the descendents of Japheth, though not Israel, will share in the blessing promised to His people? This aspect, of course, is not fully realized until New Testament times. Noah's prophetic vision is broad and deep and glorious!

Canaan will also be servant to Japheth and his posterity. All the people beyond the borders of Israel will not be dealt with in the same way. Canaan will be in servitude to Japheth as well as Shem.

Noah's Further Life🔗

The chapter closes with the information that Noah lived another three hun­dred and fifty years after the flood began. His life was one of the longest on record — 950 years! Some believe that he lived until the time of Abraham but this cannot be said with certainty. Noah was one of the greatest men who ever lived — but, he died. He experienced marvelous salvation and spoke of future glory, but didn't live to see it.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Wine and its use is not condemned in Scripture (see Psalm 104:15). Is it, nevertheless, better to leave it alone? Drunkenness is condemned in Scripture. Is there a relationship between drunkenness and alcoholism?
  2. Why was the sin of Ham so grievous?
  3. Do the curses and/or blessing of parents always have an effect? Explain.
  4. Why is Canaan cursed rather than Ham? Is this not a violation of the principle that a son shall not be punished for the sins of the father?
  5. Has God favored certain nations outside of Israel — even in Old Testament times?

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