We’ve certainly covered much ground in our time in Genesis so far. We’ve seen the beauty of the beginning in Genesis 1-2 as God made all things and called everything that is into existence by His mighty Word. At the start of Genesis 1 there is only God and by the end of Genesis 2 there is all creation, filled with all the creatures, and with Adam and Eve ruling over it all. We’ve also seen the horror of Genesis 3 as sin entered God’s good world, through the disobedience of our first parents, which corrupted all things, and spread death and misery to all things. For this our parents, who had often enjoyed perfect and sweet communion with God, we’re banished from the garden forever. The situation would be hopeless except for God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 to one day send a Snake Crusher to save God’s people by slaying the great serpent of old, the Devil.

As Adam and Eve go out east of Eden, we then saw things turn from bad to worse. Mankind spreads out and grows. We see the birth of culture, the arts, and the rise of civilization. But we also see brutality, arrogance, and wickedness run wild. To call this wickedness widespread would not be adequate. Sin was the air this world breathed. So much so that God decided to wipe all out in the flood, all that is, except one man and his family. Of course it was here where we met Noah, who found favor with God, who was righteous before God, and blameless in his generation. God was going to begin again with him. And so the same waters that drowned the human race were also the waters that carried the ark, saving Noah and his family from judgment and wrath. A new covenant was made in this new world. New worship happened as they exited the ark. In Noah a new beginning was truly happening. What a thing to see! Surely this righteous and blameless man would start out well in this new world, right? 

That’s where we jump back into Genesis this morning. So see Genesis 9:18-27…

The passage begins in v18-19 saying, “The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.” This short and simple introduction to our passage today shifts the focus away from Noah (who the past few chapters have centered on) toward Noah’s sons and all future generations.[1] Two quick items stand out here. First, notice in v18 we see the mention of Ham’s son Canaan. The importance of this name being here is monumental because Israel, the original audience, first read Genesis on their way to the land of Canaan. So, this means they would’ve learned for the origin and history of the land God had given them here in this account.[2] Second, in v19 notice it speaks of the peoples of the earth being dispersed or populated from Noah’s sons? This means Gen. 9:1 happened. Remember 9:1? There Noah received the same command Adam received in Gen. 1:28, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Which not only shows us how Noah is a new kind of Adam, but that Noah’s sons were fruitful, they did multiply, and they had filled the earth.[3] This might seem a small item to call attention to, but it shows us today what we’ll see throughout chapter 10, from one small family the whole earth was populated.

Now that our text has been introduced, the main thrust of this passage begins. See first…

Noah’s Sin (v20-21)

“Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.”

It’s not surprising after being the man of the ark and being on the sea for so long that Noah now becomes a man of the soil. So He does. In two quick verses we read of Noah planting a vineyard, producing his own wine, and drinking so much of it that he ends up naked and passed out drunk in his tent. My oh my, what in the world is going with Noah? Is this the same Noah we’ve been reading of in the chapters before this? The righteous man, who was blameless in his generation, who found favor with God? Some actually do believe this isn’t the Noah we read of before, and say this is a clear contradiction in Scripture because this Noah is so different from the earlier Noah. But, that seems dishonest, and just flat out wrong. Just because Noah was once righteous and blameless doesn’t mean he’ll always remain to be so. Many who fight to live holy lives in wicked generations are overtaken by the sins they once avoided.[4]

So we’re faced with the question of why. Why did Noah do this? Why was Noah drunk and naked? Is this evidence of great struggle, a kind of PTSD after watching God destroy all humanity in the flood? Or had Noah snapped after way too much family time on the ark? Or maybe it’s more innocent than we think. Did Noah, out of inexperience, simply not know what that much wine would do to him?[5] Or, maybe he and Mrs. Noah were having a nice evening together, had some wine, and what’s described here is the result of a romantic evening?[6] Well, it does seem speculation could run amuck here. I actually don’t think any of these options explain this episode. The best explanation to me is simply that Noah sinned here, and sinned greatly. v20-21 come at us quick, but planting a vineyard and growing your own wine takes time, years even. So Noah was a seasoned man of the soil. He would’ve known what wine did to someone. It is perhaps more likely that he began to drink after becoming a man of the soil and slowly his drinking got out of control. And by drinking to the point of uncovering himself, Noah brought shame and disgrace onto himself.

So, yes this was a new world, but the sin that had called forth God’s wrath and judgment in the flood shows itself to be alive and well in Noah as he lays there in his sin drunk and naked.

And Noah isn’t the only one to sin in this incident. Move on now to v22-23 where we see…

Ham’s Sin (v22-23)

“And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 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.”

We don’t know why but for some reason Ham walked into Noah’s tent and found him lying there naked in the aftermath of his drunken state. This might seem a simple mistake or accident but if you look down a few verses, to v25, we find it says Noah learned what his youngest son “had done to him” which then brought forth curses from Noah against Ham’s son Canaan. So we’re left asking the question: what did Ham do to Noah?[7] Here are some of the options put forward throughout the ages. Some believe Ham committed a homosexual deed to his father. Others believe Ham castrated Noah. And still others believe Ham physically abused Noah. Now, before we rule out any of these options as too extreme we ought to remember this is the book of Genesis. There are many cases of extreme and vile sins committed between family members that are frequently sexual in nature in Genesis. But those instances are describe the sexual deeds done while v22-23 doesn’t. So, I think we can rule these options out. But that still leaves our question, what then was Ham’s sin? As the text continues I think it’s clear that Ham’s sin wasn’t so much in his seeing the nakedness of Noah, but in his delighting in sharing it with his brothers.[8]

Why do I say this? Notice the contrast between v22 and v23. Ham’s actions are described quick and fast but the actions of his brothers are described slow and repetitive. Compared to the speedy description in v22, it’s as if we get a play-by-play account of what Shem and Japheth did to cover Noah in v23.[9] They took a garment, they laid it on their shoulders, they walked backwards, without seeing Noah’s nakedness, because their faces were turned backwards, and they covered him up. This might be difficult for us modern Westerners to get this, but honoring father and mother, what would eventually become the 5th commandment in Exodus, was one of the marks of supreme loyalty in this culture.[10] In our culture honoring parents seems a hard sell, especially when they sin. We might leave and never return if our parents sin grievous enough, that would’ve been unthinkable in this culture. So, in covering Noah Shem and Japheth honored Noah by covering his sin. Ham could’ve covered Noah up and honored his father, but instead he chose to leave Noah in his nakedness and go tell his brothers about it. By doing this, Ham further uncovered his father’s nakedness, and dishonored Noah. Shem and Japheth are as commendable as Ham is reprehensible here.

So again, this was a new world, but the sin that had called forth God’s wrath and judgment in the flood shows itself to be alive and well in Ham as he dishonors his father, uncovering his nakedness to his brothers.

Lastly see v24-27…

Noah’s Response (v24-27)

“When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”

When Noah woke up from his wine, a phrase indicating this was an alcoholic induced stupor, he learned what Ham had done to him. And Noah responded with cursing and blessing. The curse comes first in v25. This stands out because the first recorded words we have from Noah in Scripture are, “Cursed be Canaan.” Which brings up the biggest question about this curse. It was Ham who did the sinning in the previous verses, why then is it Ham’s son Canaan who receives the curse? I must admit this question baffles many scholars and commentators, and many simply say they don’t know why this happens.[11] But others give it a go and try to figure it out.[12] So, here are some options commonly put forth on why Noah curses Canaan in v25. First, in Genesis 9:1 God had already pronounced a blessing on Noah and his sons so that could be reason enough why Noah couldn’t curse Ham, God had already blessed him, and Noah couldn’t undo that, leading him to curse his son instead. Second, Noah’s youngest son Ham sinned against him, so in an ironic twist Noah cursed Canaan because Canaan was Ham’s youngest son. I don’t really like these two options. The first seems like a curse by technicality, and the second seems too vindictive of Noah. So, third, here’s what could be the best reason. The sons of Noah embody the character of their descendants. Ham’s sons were Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan. All of these sons would go on to grow into peoples that are the epitome of evil. Thus, Noah’s curse on Canaan represents God’s judgment on the Canaanites, which just so happens to be the land Israel is heading to as they read this for the first time. That seems to best to me, because it would’ve explained to Israel why God was cleaning house with the peoples of Canaan by bringing them into it. Which is what it means when Noah says three times here that Canaan and his people will be subject to his brothers.

v26-27 follow next with the blessing to Shem and Japheth. For Shem, the blessing Noah gives is not so much about Shem as it is about the God of Shem, that He should be praised and blessed for being Shem’s God. Noah is thankful here for seeing to and caring for Shem and His descendants. Israel as a people will come from this line and God will indeed use them and lead them for His fame and show Himself to be their God. For Japheth the blessing is for God to enlarge him, and allow him and his descendants to dwell in the tents of Shem. Initially this reality seemed foggy but ultimately this gets clearer in the New Covenant. Because the descendants of Japheth are the Gentiles, you and I, and it is only in Christ, the Messiah, that we Gentiles come into the promises of the God of Israel.

After all of this the passage ends with Noah’s eulogy in v28-29, “After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.”


What do we make of this account? Let’s make these applications as we end.

First, while it certainly isn’t the main thrust of this passage there is something to be said about the combo of drunkenness and nakedness. Frequently, the Bible pairs these two together on many occasions, and speaks of how shameful such behavior is. Church, this is fairly straightforward. The Bible never says drinking alcohol is sin, it says wine is a good gift that gladdens the heart, and Jesus made the best wine at the wedding in Cana. But the Bible condemns drunkenness in many places. And that drunkenness often leads to nakedness and sexual deviance means we ought to be all the more vigilant to stay far away such activity. And don’t miss that for Noah, this fall came after he fought the fight of building the ark and surviving the flood. So perhaps, Noah thought he was safe and thought the fight was over, but it wasn’t. Put in the right situation Noah the righteous man became Noah the drunk naked man. We must take caution, because Noah teaches us that anyone, when put in the right circumstances, is capable of anything. One author put it like this, “Mark it very well: Satan may go hardest after you in the moment of rest, in the time of triumph, in the season after the storm, when you think “we did it, we made it, we arrived, we passed the test,” and then you get drunk and pass out, naked in your tent.”[13]

Second, Ham’s dishonoring of his father also teaches us much. It seems Ham took perverse pleasure in sharing his father’s folly to his brothers. In this Ham sinned by dishonoring his father, and sinned by spreading the word of Noah’s sin to others. Many of us today are eager to honor our parents insofar as they don’t make a mess of their lives or ours. But if that happens, if they sin against themselves or us, we are quick to leave them in the dust. Ham couldn’t care less about Noah here, while Shem and Japheth did and actually took steps to make up for their father’s embarrassing mess. Would you do this? Have you done this for others? Did you know it is sin to devilishly delight in spreading around the sins of others?[14] Have you done this? Have you heard this being done by others? When word of another’s fall from grace is eagerly spread? Maybe its clothed in words of concern for this person, or as a prayer request. We have something to learn about how to react to the sins of others here. Ham displays what not to do, while Shem and Japheth show us what to do. We must endeavor to be those who aren’t too keen to expose the sins of others but seek to cover the sins of others. What else does 1 Peter 4:8 mean when it says “love covers a multitude of sins”?

Lastly, see the parallels between Adam and Noah here.[15] Adam was made from the ground, Noah became a man of the ground. Adam was once naked and ashamed, Noah was naked and was both shamed and ashamed. Both Adam and Noah have descendants dealing with strife from their own sins. Both the Adam and Noah passages include words of blessing and curse. And most importantly, both Adam and Noah had their sins covered.

Lesson? Yes, this post flood world was a new world, but the sin that had called forth God’s wrath and judgment in the flood is alive and well in us. Praise God that in the fullness of time another Adam would come forth, the Last Adam, the Lord Jesus Christ, who deals with all sins once and for all by His death on the cross. Now, all of humanity exists in two groups of people. Those whose sins are covered and those who are not. Are your sins covered? Or do you feel naked and ashamed, exposed for all to see? Run to Christ, His love covers a multitude of sins.

[1] Bruce K. Waltke, Genesis (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Academic, 2001), 147.

[2] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, NAC (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H, 1996), 413.

[3] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, WBC (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1987), 198.

[4] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2004), 150–151.

[5] Derek Kidner, Genesis (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008), 110.

[6] Victor P. Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, NICOT (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1990), 322.

[7] Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 418.

[8] Ibid., 419.

[9] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 200.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Hamilton, Genesis 1-17, 325.

[12] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 201-202.

[13] Kevin DeYoung, A New Start, Same Old Sin, sermon, 12.6.2020.

[14] James Montgomery Boice, Genesis 1-11 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1982), 399.

[15] Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 414.

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