Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 9:21-23

Genesis 9:21-23
When he drank some of the wine, he got drunk and uncovered himself inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his fathers nakedness and told his two brothers who were outside. 23 Shem and Japheth took the garment and placed it on their shoulders. Then they walked in backwards and covered up their fathers nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so they did not see their fathers nakedness.
(NET Bible)

How the Canaanites became sexually depraved

Anyone who reads today’s story must confront the reality of our own tendencies. Events happen, and people make bad choices resulting in sin. The question is: what happens next?

What is God’s reaction to those who spread the damage of sin even further? How does God respond to those who try to limit the damage of sin? What are the long-term implications of the answers to these questions?

While the Bible takes a favorable view toward wine, drunkenness is always shown to be sin. Victor Hamilton notes, “The two incidents in Genesis describing drunkenness ([Gen. 9:21] and 19:31ff) become the occasions for sins of debauchery.”[1]

The author of Genesis reached into his literary bag and pulled out a rare Hebrew form to express the gravity of Noah’s action in uncovering himself inside his tent. Only one Hebrew verb in a hundred takes this form, and such forms occur just 38 times in the fifty chapters of Genesis. Many of these instances are dramatic events: Adam and Eve frantically hide from God amidst the trees of the garden (3:8); the flaming sword whirls about to bar the man from re-entering the garden (3:24); Enoch walks with God (5:22) and is taken away without death; God is highly offended by the violence which prevails in the earth (6:6); Noah walks with God like Enoch (6:9); drunken Noah uncovers himself in his tent (9:21).

The facts presented in the previous paragraph imply that the sin of Noah’s drunken nudity is more important than the simple words of the verse might lead us to think. This event is a big deal! The NET Bible Notes explain: “It is hard for modern people to appreciate why seeing another’s nakedness was such an abomination, because nakedness is so prevalent today. In the ancient world, especially in a patriarchal society, seeing another’s nakedness was a major offense.”[2] Noah’s drunkenness and resulting nakedness present Noah’s sons with an opportunity to show their inner qualities.

Ham sees the nakedness of his father Noah, and, instead of covering Noah, Ham spreads the problem further by telling his two brothers (Gen. 9:22). They did not need to know; that they are told increases their fathers shame and dishonor.

Shem and Japheth become part of the solution by acting to cover their father without further dishonoring him (Gen. 9:23). The fact that they go to great lengths to keep from seeing Noah demonstrates their desire to protect him. It may be this very incident that leads Peter to say, “Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).

A second thought about the serious of Noah’s sin and Hams response is the context in which it happens. God has previously destroyed the world for sexual depravity and violence. With unfortunate speed, the world starts down a sinful path again. Will God again destroy what he has made? We tend to be blind to that possibility because we know how the story ends.

Before we leave this section, note that the author of Genesis again asserts that Ham is father to Canaan (Gen. 9:22). The NET Bible Notes explain, “The Canaanites, Hams descendants through his son Canaan, were cursed because they shared the same moral abandonment that their ancestor displayed.”[3] We will get to the curse in due course, but the author of Genesis wants us to see that the deep sexual sin of the numerous Canaanite peoples finds its source in this incident. Noah’s folly of drunkenness led to his nakedness. Encountering his father in this state brought out the moral abandonment in Ham; the father’s choice became the shared conviction of the son.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1990) 321.

[2] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 9:22.

[3] NET Bible Notes for Genesis 9:18.

Exposition of Genesis 1-11: Genesis 9:18-20

Genesis 9:18-20

The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Now Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the sons of Noah, and from them the whole earth was populated.
Noah, a man of the soil, began to plant a vineyard.
(NET Bible)

The re-development of humanity

Most of us have never given a second thought to where we came from. Perhaps that sentence makes you think of your parents or where you were born. You might even be among the small group of people who have studied their family tree. Mine goes back about 400 years to England, near Cambridge.

But where did England come from? And how did humanity develop into what we are today? Does our identity stop with our family of origin or does it go much deeper? Why are we oblivious to how things began?

Kenneth Mathews tells us the purpose of Genesis 9:18-19 by saying, These two verses subtly shift the narratives eye from Noah to the sons and their role in the future progression of Gods blessing for humanity.[1]

Keep in mind that the first five books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) explain the events between the creation of the world and the preparation for Israel to invade Canaan. These five books explain to the Israelites how they came to be a people and how they were chosen to be the people through whom God would reach the world.

Returning to our verses, we note that Noah and his sons are the new origin point for all humanity alive today. We must also consider that from one of these sons, Shem, will ultimately come Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. Throughout Genesis the story always contains the story of the family that will include the Messiah; the narrative about other lines ends abruptly. Genesis is not merely a history of the world; it is a theological history of the world for the period it covers.

While we are noticing things, let the name Canaan resonate in your mind. Before Canaan was a place-name, it was a mans name, the man who became the ancestor of the Canaanite peoples who play such a big role in biblical history. How did they become so sexually depraved? Stay tuned!

We know that Shem is the ancestor of the Israelites (and Jesus) while Ham is the ancestor of the Canaanites. How this alignment, one people distinguished and one reviled, eventually came about is a story that will soon emerge.

Genesis 9:19 looks ahead to chapter 10 in which the author of Genesis will present the Table of Nations, showing the spread of humankind. For the moment the author merely states that Shem, Ham and Japheth are the three from whom the nations and peoples dispersed. Gordon Wenham says, The obvious contrast with the small number who emerged from the ark shows that the command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (9:1, 7) was indeed carried out by Noahs descendants.[2]

Before Adam was created, the narrator observed, There was no man to cultivate the ground (Gen. 2:5). When Noah leaves the ark, he is the one who takes up the mantle of Adam in filling that role. He did so by planting a vineyard (Genesis 9:20). Wenham notes, It is interesting that the vine comes originally from Armenia, which is where the biblical ark landed.[3]

In this statement about Noah we again have a blank slate: a man and his vineyard. Will Noah improve on the record of Adam? In tomorrows post, the author of Genesis will give attention to a particular incident that shapes all following events.

Copyright 2011 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from material created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.


[1] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1996) 413.

[2] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Word Incorporated, 1987) 198.

[3] Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 198.

Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:16–17

Genesis 9:16–17
“When the rainbow is in the clouds, I will notice it and remember the perpetual covenant between God and all living creatures of all kinds that are on the earth.” 17 So God said to Noah, “This is the guarantee of the covenant that I am confirming between me and all living things that are on the earth.”
(NET Bible)

A commitment we can count on

When God makes a commitment, he keeps it! The problems all lie on our side, because “flesh” is notoriously weak (Rom. 8:3). So, what we need to rely on first are those things God does entirely on his own. Those divine actions are often expressed in covenants between God and man.

What other forms of God’s grace may we rely on? How does prayer fit into this picture? What divine covenants cover those who have never trusted in Christ for salvation?

Today’s passage restates the message of Gen. 9:14–15 in slightly different words. The added element (as in Gen. 9:12) is the word “perpetual,” which ties the promise to us as well!

God does not have a problem with forgetfulness, so it comes as a linguistic surprise to be told God remembers something. When something comes to God’s focused attention, stand by!

It is time to learn a lesson about Hebrew words in contrast to English words. In English, when we say “remember,” it simply means that we have an event, thing or person come to mind. We might, for example, remember a book we once read or a birthday party we enjoyed as a child. But when God is the subject for the Hebrew verb “remember,” it means an event, thing or person comes to God’s mind and he does something about it. For example, in Genesis 8:1, God remembers Noah and the creatures on the ark and causes the flood waters to recede. Later God remembered Abraham and took his nephew Lot out of Sodom before destroying it (Gen. 19:29).

The same element of action also is integral to other Hebrew verbs. When God feels compassion, he shows kindness. When men turn and believe in the Lord, their lives are expected to actually change. Hebrew verbs are concrete and action-oriented, but English often stops with conceptual meanings.

When the NET Bible says that God confirmed his covenant with “all living things” (Gen. 9:17), it actually translates the phrase “all flesh.” The phrase “all flesh” occurs 13 times from Gen. 6:12 to Gen. 9:17. In Gen. 6:12 God said that all flesh had corrupted its way, and in Gen. 9:17 he confirms a covenant with all flesh after the flood. Speaking of covenants, the word “flesh” does not occur again until Genesis 17:11 when God tells Abraham what he must do to confirm the new covenant God made with him.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived fr