Ham's Sin

Discussion in 'OT Historical Books' started by vkochetta, May 2, 2008.

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  1. vkochetta

    vkochetta Puritan Board Freshman

    I have been working through the OT Series on the RTS/iTunes site by Richard Pratt.

    He mentioned that Ham's sin might have involved homosexual activity with Noah.

    I had not come across this before and doesn't seem to be in the texts of the English translations I have looked at.

    Are there Hebrew vocabulary or OT euphemisms that might be pointing to this?


    --- Vinny Kochetta
  2. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    Just the normal notion that the Hebrew euphemism typically refers to sexual activity. Sexuality activity between two men . . .
  3. Thomas2007

    Thomas2007 Puritan Board Sophomore

    I've heard that before, it is incorrect and a failure to properly exegete the text. They are reading their own interpretation into it about his father's nakedness - when Scripture defines the meaning of these terms.

    The text tells you precisely what Ham did. He fathered Caanan. It tells you that in verse 18, "and Ham is the father of Canaan;" then again in verse 22, "And Ham, the father of Canaan."

    Ham uncovered the nakedness of his father, which Leviticus 20:11 tells us means: "And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness..."

    Canaan is a brother to Ham, Shem and Japeth - and Ham is his father. (Genesis 9:25-27) Now, go back and re-read Genesis 9:18-29 and this section should make a lot more sense, beginning right there at verse 18 when it introduces the sons of Noah, but is sure to point out that Canaan is the son of Ham.
  4. Blueridge Believer

    Blueridge Believer Puritan Board Professor

    Can't prove it but I believe there was something unclean done.
  5. BobVigneault

    BobVigneault Bawberator

    So Thomas, if Ham 'slept with his mother then what does it mean that Shem and Japeth, walked backwards and covered their father's nakedness? This is interesting.
  6. Blueridge Believer

    Blueridge Believer Puritan Board Professor

    Bob Vincent recently covered this in a podcast I got. I thinks he's on the money.

    SermonAudio.com - Ham
    Last edited: May 2, 2008
  7. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I believe Canaan is clearly the "guilty" person here.

    I don't believe Ham is the "youngest" son, rather, Canaan is the "youngest," the same as in a list of the sons of David (Mt.1) Jesus is the "youngest" Son of David in that list. Canaan is also a son, albeit a grandson, of Noah, and to this moment in the text, the youngest one listed.

    Canaan is cursed, ergo Canaan is the guilty party (of whatever), unless it can be shown otherwise. My guess, though far from dogmatic--it was a case of publicized contempt of the patriarch, a violation of the 5th commandment (to speak a little anachronistically). In other words,, something that would have been better kept a private sin on Noah's part, became public fodder for mockery.

    Ham is ashamed. Ham cannot fix the situation. Ham must get his brothers to solve the problem. FAR too much has been read into Ham's "telling his brothers." If one has not already decided Ham is guilty of something, this is not a part of the problem, but a means to a solution to the problem.

  8. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    It seems to me to have been a sexual act. If not, very much is made of just "seeing naked". These things shock our modern western sensabilities but seem to be part of the biblical record. I think the same thing can be seen in Ruth and with David and Abishag.
  9. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    Look at Robert Gagnon's website for info.
  10. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    I'm not sure about the motives of the people Vinny is reading/talking to, but I was simply answering his question, not expressing agreement with that view.
  11. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Surely, "seeing the nakedness of someone" is not always the same as having sexual relations with someone. It can mean that, but it does not have to mean that. In the text of Genesis itself, it is clear that Noah lay uncovered in his tent. He was naked in his tent. This makes it extremely unlikely that Ham had sexual relations with Noah's wife. The subject of nakedness is Noah himself. Therefore, the usual interpretation of Noah being there naked, and Ham happening upon him naked makes the most sense. The contrast of Ham's behavior with Shem and Japheth's behavior makes it clear that Ham's behavior was not honoring to Noah, whereas Shem and Japheth were honoring. It is not too much of a stretch, then, to suppose that when Ham talked about it with his brothers, it was in a "Hey, did you see our dumb dad? He's lying there naked in the tent! What a sot!" kind of way. It was not a sin to happen upon Noah naked. It was what he did do and what he did not do that made him at fault. Remember also that sin is covenantal, especially honoring one's parents. Just as Ham the son of Noah did not honor Noah, the curse came upon Ham's son. The punishment fits the crime. See here for my sermon on the passage.
  12. vkochetta

    vkochetta Puritan Board Freshman

    I think the comment I heard from the lecture was mostly as an "aside" and not really the main point of his lesson. He didn't give any rationale or support.

    Not knowing Hebrew and being unfamiliar with their cultural phrases, I thought I'd throw the question out there.

    Some of the replies tie in Lev 18:9 and Lev 20:11-20 for similar uses of language.

    Although I am comfortable with the plain reading of the text, the perspective that it was a physical violation does seem to explain the harshness of the curse.

    I'm always learning and always open to godly, thoughtful input. Thanks for your replies

  13. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    It is certainly a possible reading of the text. However, the harshness of the curse can also be explained by the fact that honor and shame were much more important to that generation (especially given the connections noted in my sermon between Adam and Noah), and nakedness was much more serious then than it is to us. The consciousness of Adam's nakedness would have been heavy on Noah's mind, especially since there was only one link necessary genealogically between Noah and Adam. I.e., Noah would have been talking with one person who knew Adam. The Adam connection also makes the simple nakedness interpretation much more convincing.
  14. Calvin'scuz

    Calvin'scuz Puritan Board Freshman

    This is similar to the explanation I've heard, namely that the father was responsible for the negligent acts of his son. So if Noah would have cursed Ham for what was done he would have brought condemnation upon himself. Therefore, to place the shame on the actual perpetrator (Ham), he cursed Canaan (the son of Ham) so that Ham would be condemned for his own act. If this is the correct viewpoint, it appears to be a purely forensic solution for attributing blame and condemnation.

    Hey....but I could be wrong.
  15. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    Are we imposing our sensibility on the text? The Leviticus passage should be enough for us. We all accept scripture interprets scripture. It should be as shocking to us that a people is cursed for the sin of looking on a drunk father naked. It just does not make sense. Yes it says Noah fell asleep naked but this is no less a part of the euphemism as is the act and the description of the act and of the brothers not participating in the same act. We as moderns are well aware of euphemisms used to describe sexual acts. It may well be that biblical writers used them as we would, to be less vulgar and or to shield the graphic description from the youth. The later makes sense as the books of Moses would have been read to the masses. I understand the suggested interpretations but think they are based(not intentionally) on predetermined thoughts rather than bare acknowledgement of the text. :2cents:
  16. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    We all seem to be tossing out our observations here, without berating one another for different opinions, which is a good thing. I think it gives those without commentaries several options to think through.

    For my part, the least ambiguous piece of the narrative is the first verse of the pericope: 9:18. There four of Noah's "sons" are named as the introductory words. Even if there were questions regarding the 3 immediate sons' birth order, Canaan was born after the flood. Canaan is the youngest son in this context. Noah curses Canaan for what his youngest son did to him--whatever that was.

    This whole matter culminates in Moses' day with the Israelites preparing to expel the Canaanites from the land--i.e., curse fulfilled.
  17. staythecourse

    staythecourse Puritan Board Junior

    Thanks. That's the way I have always interpreted it as well. The way the story is told, with the brothers purposefully not viewing their naked father makes it simple to envision. I was aware of the definition of uncovering a fathers nakedness with incest and usually prefer to have Scripture interpret Scripture, but I have to make an exception for it here because of the brothers remedy of Noah's dishonorable (naked and drunk) state.
  18. kalawine

    kalawine Puritan Board Junior

    You've got it. I see no way around your interpretation. Everyone else seems to be either using a modern mind set to interpret a biblical text (a no-no) or they are telling what they "think." Scripture does a great job of interpreting Scripture!
  19. staythecourse

    staythecourse Puritan Board Junior

    Good point, but how do we then interpret the brothers backing up with a covering? It makes no sense to me with the incest interpretation.
  20. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    For consideration, see Matthew Poole's Synopsis, Genesis 9, which is available online for free here.
  21. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    Here are texts that use this language: Of all, which of them indicates explicitly sexual intercourse?
    Gen 42:9 And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them. And he said to them, "You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land."

    Lev 20:17 "If a man takes his sister, a daughter of his father or a daughter of his mother, and sees her nakedness, and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace, and they shall be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has uncovered his sister's nakedness, and he shall bear his iniquity.

    Deu 23:14 Because the LORD your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you. (indecent is same word for naked)

    Isa 47:3 Your nakedness shall be uncovered, and your disgrace shall be seen. I will take vengeance, and I will spare no one. (here, the terms are disjunctive, but appear in parallel)

    Lam 1:8 Jerusalem sinned grievously; therefore she became filthy; all who honored her despise her, for they have seen her nakedness; she herself groans and turns her face away.

    Eze 16:37 therefore, behold, I will gather all your lovers with whom you took pleasure, all those you loved and all those you hated. I will gather them against you from every side and will uncover your nakedness to them, that they may see all your nakedness.

    Nah 3:5 Behold, I am against you, declares the LORD of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame. (different word for nakedness)

    Hab 2:15 "Woe to him who makes his neighbors drink-- you pour out your wrath and make them drunk, in order to gaze at their nakedness! (different words for both gaze and nakedness)​
    Feel free to add to the list, but please note whether the language is identical or related.

    My point is one that was made before by someone else:
    One reference in Leviticus does not provide all you need to make Noah's a case of sexual assault, or incest. Beside which above, it was 20:11 that was appealed to, a verse using the active language of "uncovering", as it does numerous times in Lev. 18 & 20; but not using the language of "seeing" (as found ONLY in 20:17, out of the whole two chapters).

    Several steps are being taken in the process of "correlation" with regard to the father's nakedness in Lev. 20:11. That "uncovering" is being put down in place of "seeing" (the word found in Gen. 9:22), as if it was just a synonym. Noah's wife is being gratuitously introduced into the whole affair. This, in my view, is not judicious "analogy of Scripture" interpretation, but emphasizing similarities (in two texts!) at the expense of marked differences, nor letting the entirety of the Scripture witness come to bear.

    Gen 9:21 uses the "uncovered" term, but passively of Noah of himself. Here's another example of the word for "uncovered": Exo 20:26 "And you shall not go up by steps to my altar, that your nakedness be not exposed on it." Here is "uncovered" being used simply for "exposure."

    The point of nakedness in all these passages is the exposure of it. There is only a narrow range where this kind of exposure is not shameful. Otherwise it is shameful to everyone involved. But I cannot see any necessity of inferring a case of illicit sexual behavior in all of these instances, not even metaphorically. The "looking" seems sufficient, except where it clearly implies a prelude to sexual activity.
    Last edited: May 3, 2008
  22. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    Just a way of saying they refused to participate after being invited to do so.
  23. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    Bruce, Thank you for running up the passages. At a general glance there seem to be common characteristics of shame, sexual activity and even forced sexual activity. Seems much more than bare exposure even in the case of the spies. Not necessarily sexual there but a covert uncovering as spying implies. These texts to me confirm that inappropriate sex possibly rape was involved in the Noah account.

    Hold on to your hats,:wow: I also think we are to see sex here too. Again, with out normal sensibilities we would not even detect it. How could Naomi hatch such a plan?

    3 Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don't let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do."
    5 "I will do whatever you say," Ruth answered. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor and did everything her mother-in-law told her to do.

    7 When Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he went over to lie down at the far end of the grain pile. Ruth approached quietly, uncovered his feet and lay down. 8 In the middle of the night something startled the man, and he turned and discovered a woman lying at his feet.
  24. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    There are two problems with interpreting Ruth in this fashion (which is becoming somewhat common among modern interpreters). Firstly, Boaz was asleep. Secondly, such action is immoral, and would hardly receive the kind of praise that Boaz gives Ruth. Now, it is possible that uncovering the feet means more than taking Boaz's sandals off. At the very least, Ruth being there on the threshing floor with Boaz is a compromising position (otherwise, there would have been no need to leave before dawn). However, it goes well beyond the text to say that Ruth had sex with Boaz on the threshing floor, in my opinion.
  25. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    Lane Hi, Sorry I left this out.

    9 "Who are you?" he asked.
    "I am your servant Ruth," she said. "Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer." Are we to say Ruth was merely cold? It just does not make sense.

    1. Boaz woke up.

    2. You are saying it "cant" be a certain way. I believe this is the mistake. Again trying to sanitize the text based on presupposition. We all know bible characters do not always act as we say "rightly". In this same vein we do not find David condemned for his many wives and concubines nor do we see the practice of slavery condemned. I am not suggesting these things are right in God's eyes just saying we need to recognize texts without assuming things "can't" be because God seems silent on them.

    3. I think Ruth leaving early signals much more than "a compromising position"

    4. We can't throw out ideas just because they seem to receive a modern consensus. Baby with the bath water.

    :2cents::2cents: sorry, 4 cents worth
  26. staythecourse

    staythecourse Puritan Board Junior

    To me the purity of honorable Boaz and honorable Ruth is completely tarnished in the idea that sexual intercourse took place between the two on the threshing floor.

    Boaz and Ruth were honorable people to the point that you cannot find sin in their lives (as far as I am concerned) in the whole story. They were reputable. Ruth was showing high submission to Boaz with the sleeping at his feet and giving him chilly toes. When she told him to cover her as a kinsman redeemer he was moved by the entire act (without sex) and love prompted him to marry her (in so many words).

    Henry and I agree (him being more beautiful in speech than myself) and says

    Lets not tarnish the Scripture or characters (our forefathers and mothers) when wording may not call for it.
  27. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Your arguments do not answer my position. My position is that it is possible that Ruth uncovered more than Boaz's feet (though the text is not forced in this direction: it could be that uncovering the literal feet was seen as a compromising position). When Ruth asked Boaz to spread the corner of the garment over her, she was asking for marriage. A proposal of marriage does not prove that sex has taken place ahead of time. The shame involved in being discovered together would not have been any different whether they had sex or not. This is (ironically) where your modern jadedness towards things sexual is getting in the way. You think that the shame involved could only be explained by the idea that they actually had sex. I am saying that the shame could equally have come from the fact that people who would have discovered them together would have thought that they had had sex. That explains the text equally well. So I am not trying to sanitize the text by my presuppositions. I am fully aware that the Bible tells the unvarnished truth about the sin of believers. But your scenario does not fit the words of Boaz when he praises Ruth for her hesed, her covenantal faithfulness to the people of God, and therefore her faithfulness to God. Your scenario has Boaz calling evil good. And since the Bible nowhere corrects Boaz's faulty understanding of Ruth's actions, your interpretation winds up making the Bible call evil good.
  28. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    Brother Bryan, we just disagree. Whether your interpretation is right or wrong, your words make my point. You are assuming what cannot be and starting your interpretation from there. This does not prove you will end up wrong but suggests an error in method and a bias for an outcome. in my opinion Mr. Henry shows great imagination in his opinion. I am not aware of any biblical record showing the ancients concerns of the modesty that he suggests.
  29. A5pointer

    A5pointer Puritan Board Sophomore

    Lane, I think you are reading morality into this praise where it may not be warranted or expected. Could it be her covenant faithfulness is expressed by her return to Israel from Moab forsaking her natural decendants for Israel's, culminating in the taking of a Jewish kinsman?
  30. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    The context forbids such an interpretation. Boaz actually says that there is more kindness at the end than at the beginning. I don't how to interpret this other than to say that Ruth's entire actions from coming with Naomi to what she just did are all characterised by hesed. But this latter end is more hesed than the beginning, plainly drawing a contrast between Ruth's previous kindness and this consummate kindness. Show me one instance where hesed is used in the Bible without morality being involved.
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