Here at the end of Genesis nine, we have one of the more puzzling accounts in Genesis. The stage is set by telling us some time has gone by. Ham, Noah’s youngest son, is older, and has had four children1.
So, Noah starts farming again on the re-manufactured earth. He has planted a vinyard, and it’s been long enough that he has been able to make some wine. Probably celebrating a good crop (or something), he gets totally sloshed. So drunk that he passes out.
And, it’s worse than that. He uncovered himself in his tent. Now, the word uncovered implies in some kind of disgraceful sense. It is used a couple dozen times in Leviticus seventeen through twenty. These are all passages about it being a violation of Israel’s Law to uncover people you’re related to (like, your father’s wife, your brothers wife, etc.)
So, we don’t know what Noah was doing when he passed out, but it left him in a disgraceful state. In fact, the word typically means some kind of sexual violation has occurred.
Somehow, Ham comes upon Noah in his tent, and sees that he is uncovered. Now, this could have been simply an accident. He may have walked into the tent to talk to his father. We don’t know.
But, we do know what he did when he saw his father, uncovered in his tent: he told his brothers. And that was bad. Remember, this is a disgraceful uncovering that has occurred.
Telling his brothers was not a good action. He should have turned aside, closed up Noah’s tent, or any of a number of things. But, telling his brothers is not on that list. He was essentially poking fun at his father.
His brothers do the right thing: they cover their father up, so his nakedness is no longer uncovered. But, to prevent themselves from seeing it, they walked in backwards to cover Noah up.
Afterwards, Noah realizes what has happened. He probably asked about it, since he knew it wasn’t himwho brought that covering into his tent. Finding out, he curses Canaan.
Canaan? But, it was Ham who did the deed. Why curse Canaan? Stay tuned …