Cursed Be Canaan
"Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father's nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: 'Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.' And he said: 'Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem, and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant'" (Gen. 9:18-27).

Although we do not know the names of any of the wives, we know that the four men who exited the ark were Noah and his three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth). The text states that Noah "began to be a farmer", which seems to suggest that he had not done such before. During the prior hundred years, I wonder if he would have even had time for such because of the extensive labor and time the construction of the ark required. Noah also planted a vineyard and later got intoxicated. One assumes that he did not intend to get "drunk", but nevertheless he did and embarrassed himself significantly before his family. There is some ambiguity in the text regarding the precise wrong doing of Ham. Was his offense merely seeing his father naked? Probably not. It seems more likely that the offense was that he saw and then told his brothers--with delight! Although Noah is to blame as well, Ham did not honor his father with his behavior here. After Noah slept off his drunken stupor, he "knew what his younger son had done to him" (9:24). Here again we are left with more questions than answers. How did Noah know Ham had done something to him? Did the other brothers report him? Did something else happen physically that is not detailed in the text? We will probably never know. What we do know is that Noah was very upset about the situation. He pronounced a curse on Canaan (Ham's son)--which is also curious to us. Why curse the son and not the guilty father? Or, was Canaan involved in some way? Ultimately, the curse is more on the descendants of Canaan. They would become servants historically as other passages clearly indicate (cf. Jud. 1:28ff; I Kings 9:20,21). Shem and Japheth have the decency to discreetly cover their father in his naked, drunken state. For that Noah blessed them.

"And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died" (Gen. 9:28,29). Although he lived nearly a millennium, we know very little about Noah in reality. We know he walked with God and was delivered by grace through faith to repopulate the Earth after the global flood. The central act of his fidelity is seen in constructing the massive ark and doing things exactly as God had instructed him (cf. Heb. 11:7). We see him showing his gratitude to God with numerous burnt offerings upon exiting the ark. And sadly, we see him here with a singular blemish (drunkenness) in the divine record concerning this otherwise godly man. One lesson to be extracted for today is that even those who find grace in God's eyes will not live perfectly. Everyone makes mistakes--even Christians (cf. I John 1:8; Rom. 3:23)--though we should strive to live as righteously as possible. A second lesson is that intoxicants are very dangerous and deceiving! They should be avoided (except for medicinal purposes). The one who strives to remain sober-minded at all times will not have to worry about exposing his nakedness or bringing shame to himself in some other fashion while under the influence. How many people have shamed themselves in one way or another in the history of the world after deciding to take a drink (without any intention of ever getting "drunk")? Only the Lord knows the answer to that question, but the number is far too high! The wise will learn from Noah's experience and abstain from intoxicants.