Day 55: Drunkenness, Shame and Slavery

Genesis 9:20-27

Noah began to be a farmer, and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and got drunk. He was uncovered within his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it on both their shoulders, went in backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were backwards, and they didn’t see their father’s nakedness. Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done to him. He said,

“Canaan is cursed.
He will be servant of servants to his brothers.”
He said,

“Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Shem.
Let Canaan be his servant.
May God enlarge Japheth.
Let him dwell in the tents of Shem.
Let Canaan be his servant.”

I have a tendency to try to figure out everything and passages like this one remind me how futile that is. Even though God tells us so many things in His word and allows us to discover many things using science and reason, there are many more things that He doesn’t tell us.

This passage leaves out quite a bit of detail and it is easy for me to speculate as to what those details are but it is wise for me to pay attention to what God did tell us here rather than to speculate about what He didn’t tell us.

Noah got drunk for some reason. It is interesting that, up to this point, drunkenness was not mentioned in the Bible. Why this is, is unclear and some have speculated about this but I would like to avoid that right now. What is clear is that being drunk didn’t work out well for Noah or his family. He ended up embarrassing himself, and his son participated in that embarrassment somehow. It sounds to me that there were other details about this story that God purposefully chose to not share with us, because whatever went on caused God to punish Ham.

The strange thing is that God punished Ham’s son Canaan and his children. They were now to become slaves of the families of the other two sons. Some have assumed that Ham was a dark skinned man and this has been used by many people to justify slavery. I want to make it clear that there is little proof of the fact that Ham’s skin was dark, but even if it was, it is important to see that Ham was not cursed. Canaan was cursed. What’s interesting about this is that Canaan’s family has already been destroyed, starting at the time of Joshua. There is no justifiable reason for anyone to say that anyone is cursed to slavery today. I want to repeat that it is completely wrong to think that God justifies slavery today and it is especially sinful to judge other humans based on external appearance. (See James 2:1-7)

As believers, we are all equal brothers and sisters and have been elevated out of this world into a heavenly position in Christ. We are not even close to slaves, but because we have been given so much that we don’t deserve, we should offer ourselves as slaves to Jesus Christ because we know that He is the only one worth living for and the only one that can help us live a godly life.