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Old Testament

The Pentateuch

How did Noah’s wine making have disastrous results?

One day, Noah imbibed a little too much. “He drank some the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent.” (NRSV, Genesis 9:21) Ham, one of Noah’s sons, saw Noah naked, and told his two brothers, Shem and Japheth. Shem and Japheth were not amused. They took a garment of some sort and, walking backwards, into the tent, covered up their father without looking at him. When Noah woke up and learned what Ham did, he cursed Ham’s son, Canaan: “Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” This particular Bible passage does not say why it was that Ham’s son—and not Ham himself—who was cursed. One theory is that Canaan was there and saw what Ham did, yet did nothing to protect his grandfather’s dignity. Another theory is that Noah cursed Ham’s son because while Ham might have endured his own punishment, it was more painful to see his innocent son and descendants punished.



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