What's your interpretation of Genesis 9:18-27? It's probably that Ham was punished for seeing his father naked. Or that Canaan was punished for Ham seeing his father naked. Or that Ham not only saw his father naked, but that he also mocked him for it in front of his brothers. Well, all of these interpretations are wrong. First, let's see what the passage says, then we'll analyze some passages that share similarities to this one.
18 Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.
20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 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.
24 So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. 25 Then he said: "Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren." 26 And he said: "Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. 27 May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant." [Genesis 9:18-27; NKJV]
Here's a question: Why is it that Canaan, the son of Ham, is the one receiving the curse? Shouldn't it be Ham receiving the curse since it's Ham that sinned? Also, how does Canaan fit into this event other than being the one receiving the curse? Genesis goes out of its way to point-out the fact that Canaan is the father of Ham. Why?
Here are some similar passages. First thing to note about the following passages is their link to sexual relationships.
If a man takes his sister, his father's daughter or his mother's daughter, and sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a wicked thing. And they shall be cut off in the sight of their people. He has uncovered his sister's nakedness. He shall bear his guilt. [Leviticus 20:17; NKJV]
Jerusalem has sinned gravely, Therefore she has become vile. All who honored her despise her Because they have seen her nakedness; Yes, she sighs and turns away. [Lamentations 1:8; NKJV]
35 'Now then, O harlot, hear the word of the Lord! 36 Thus says the Lord God: "Because your filthiness was poured out and your nakedness uncovered in your harlotry with your lovers, and with all your abominable idols, and because of the blood of your children which you gave to them, 37 surely, therefore, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved, and all those you hated; I will gather them from all around against you and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness. 38 And I will judge you as women who break wedlock or shed blood are judged; I will bring blood upon you in fury and jealousy. 39 I will also give you into their hand, and they shall throw down your shrines and break down your high places. They shall also strip you of your clothes, take your beautiful jewelry, and leave you naked and bare. [Ezekiel 16:35-39; NKJV]
In these passages, "seeing someone's nakedness" is in the context of sexual relationships. Compare that to passages about providing for those in need:
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh? [Isaiah 58:7; NKJV]
"When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You?" [Matthew 25:38; NKJV]
To "see someone naked" means to see that a person has no physical clothing on their bodies. But to "see someone's nakedness" means to have sexual relationships with that person (always a male to female relationship). Note that when Joseph was testing his brothers, he used the phrase "see the nakedness of the land" in the context of a vulnerability (Genesis 42:9-12) in a nation's defensive capabilities.
We should also note the link between "seeing" and "uncovering" someone's nakedness, like in Leviticus 20:17. They mean the same thing. And Leviticus 18:7-8 makes it clear what "uncovering someone's nakedness" really means:
7 The nakedness of your father or the nakedness of your mother you shall not uncover. She is your mother; you shall not uncover her nakedness. 8 The nakedness of your father's wife you shall not uncover; it is your father’s nakedness. [Leviticus 18:7-8; NKJV]
Again, these are Hebrew idioms that have to do with male to female sexual relationships, not whether the person is physically naked. For some reason, the Old Testament uses only idioms when it comes to discussing sexual relationships.
This means that what Ham actually did not only involved seeing his father physically naked, but also having sexual relationships with his mother! And that's where Canaan fits into the picture. Canaan's mother is Noah's wife! So it's no wonder that Canaan receives the curse instead of Ham. Note that none of the rest of Ham's sons are cursed. In fact, one of his sons, Egypt, is actually favored by God.
Now, what about seeing someone naked? That is not a sin at all. And, until recently, was considered a normal part of every day life. I leave you with this poem from the YouTube channel "Renewed Mind".
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