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The beginning of the covenant; Faith vs. Faithlessness

Genesis 9:25 - Why did Noah curse Canaan?

Postby Real Doors » Tue Sep 26, 2017 3:03 pm

Why did Noah curse Canaan in Genesis 9:25? I'm having a hard time following exactly what made Noah upset and assumed it was some kind of a translation issue.
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Re: Genesis 9:25 - Why did Noah curse Canaan?

Postby jimwalton » Thu Nov 02, 2017 7:57 pm

It is not explained to us, and we are left to interpret. There are no less than 9 possibilities here:

1. A redactor in a later era changed the text.

2. Canaan was the real perpetrator and Ham an accessory. (Note that Canaan was cursed, but Ham had no share in the blessing.)

3. It's an illustration of visiting the sins on the children (Ex. 20.5). In biblical material the patriarchal pronouncement generally concerns the destiny of sons with regard to fertility of the ground, fertility of the family, and relationships between family members (Gn. 24.60; 27.27-29, 39-40; 48.15-16; and all chapter 49).

4. Ham was punished in one of his sons because he had sinned against his father, and he was punished in that particular son because Canaan most strongly reproduced Ham’s sensual character.

5. "The real reason must lie either in that Canaan was already walking in the steps of his father's impiety and sin, or else to be sought in the name Canaan, in which Noah discerned, through the gift of prophecy, a significant omen; a supposition decidedly favored by the analogy of the blessing pronounced upon Japheth (v. 27), which is also founded upon the name" (Keil & Delitzsch). (Though we don't need to understand these as prophecies originating from God. There is no "Thus says the Lord..." These are Noah's words, not God's. Even so, they may be telling us something about Canaan.)

6. Ham had committed a sin against his family, therefore his family is cursed. See also David after the Bathsheba adultery (2 Sam. 11 and following).

7. It was an act of mercy, cursing only ¼ of Ham's progeny.

8. Ham had already been blessed by God (9.1), so Noah passed the curse down to his son, Canaan. (Milgrom)

So you can see the theories are all over the place. We can be certain that Canaan is not singled out without cause. The writer isn't telling us everything, just choosing the parts of history relevant to his point: negative press on the Canaanites.

> Why was Noah so upset?

OK, so Noah becomes hammered and lays naked inside his tent (9.21). We are not told why. But then we're told Ham "saw his father's nakedness." There are some possibilities here as well:

1. It's a euphemism for castration. Ham castrates his dad while he is anesthetized with booze. Doesn't make sense to me, but, hey, it's one of the choices.

2. Ham sodomizes (rapes) his father. Same word is used in Lev. 20.19. This could be why Noah is so angry, fer sher.

3. Ham has incest with his mother (prohibited by Lev. 18.7, which I know comes later). If while Noah was drunk and asleep, Ham slept with his mother, then Canaan would be the child. This interpretation has no evidence, however. We see it elsewhere in Scripture (ee also Reuben in Gn. 35.22; Absalom in 2 Sam. 16.21-22; or even Lot’s daughters in Gn. 19.30-38), and is attested in royal contexts in an Akkadian text from Ugarit.

4. He saw his father naked and didn’t cover him (the issue is human dignity, following the teaching about man being in the image of God). Cf. Ex. 20.26.

5. Ham is up to some kind of sexual sin, and he tries to get others to join him (maybe his brothers, maybe his son Canaan).

Obviously, we don't know all of what we going on here, but the point is to show the beginning of Canaan's separation from Israel.


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