Genesis tells the story of the severe punishment handed down by Noah to his grandson because of his son’s actions. On the surface, the actions of Ham look trivial when taken in the context of the degraded world today, but the deeper we dive, the more atrocious his actions appear.
This post will break down what Ham did and the justification for the severity of the punishment dealt by Noah and God.
18. And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
19. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.
20. And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21. And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
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.
24. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.Genesis 18-27
The passage detailed that Ham saw his father’s nakedness and told it to his brothers, who subsequently covered their farther without looking. Consequently, Noah cursed Canaan, the first son of Ham, making him and his descendants servants of servants. The question of why this action deserves such brutal punishment screams to everyone who reads this passage.
Ham seeing his father’s nakedness brings the immediate vision of Ham seeing his father without clothes. However, the scriptures taken in context and using the famous line upon line and precept upon precept (Isaiah 28:10-13) show that it is not referring to this simplicity. The union of marriage makes two become one (Genesis 2:24); therefore, seeing a man’s nakedness also refers to seeing his wife’s nakedness.
Seeing someone naked or even uncovering someone’s nakedness (Genesis 9:22. Leviticus 18:8, Leviticus 18:14, Ezekiel 16:36, Ezekiel 22:10-11, Leviticus 20:18, Ezekiel 23:9-11) is more than seeing them without clothes. It is also the act of having sexual intercourse; therefore, seeing Noah’s nakedness is paralleled with having sexual intercourse with Noah’s wife. Ham committed an unforgivable sin before it was commanded as such and performed the ultimate disrespect of a man and, even worst, his father.
Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.Leviticus 18:14
The Severe Punishment
As to why Ham did this, being the youngest son, needs to be clarified, although it follows the pattern of usurping leadership. This pattern is seen with Absalom sleeping with David’s concubines (2 Samuel 16:21-22) to demonstrate to the tribe of Judah that he was now ruling the kingdom.
Nonetheless, Ham did an outstandingly horrible act, and thus his punishment, although at first, it seemed severe, was justified. We must not slack in judgement, and Noah, through his prophetic judgement, demonstrates the depth of which adultery is looked down upon in the eyes of God.
As usual, the meaning of simple things in the scriptures can be very misleading if you do not follow the simple principle of Isaiah. Line upon line and precept upon precept. Ham’s action was rightly severely punished and God has promised that the sins of the parents will be visited upon the children (Numbers 14:18, Exodus 20:5).
Everyone has the chance at life, irrespective of the sins of their parents (Ezekiel 18:4-9). Although we may suffer, we can be redeemed through our actions.