Noahs curse

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they
saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant
Genesis 9:20‭-‬27 KJV

  1. Why did Noah curse Canaan for his Fathers sin?
  2. Just seeing someone naked seems a rather minor offense. Why such a serious curse?
    Does “uncover the nakedness” mean have sexual relationship with?

@manbooks Great questions! There are a number of explanations for exactly what Ham did, and it is uncertain which one is correct. Regarding why his descendants were cursed, this is a common theme in Scripture that a father’s behavior often influences his descendants. However, the Scripture is also clear that a child will not be punished for his father’s behavior if the child repents.

Ezekiel 18:20 - The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

  • incest with his father’s wife, possibly in a move to gain power
  • castration of his father
  • he did indeed simply not cover his father up, which as the NET Bible notes was a serious offense in ancient times

Saw the nakedness . 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. (See the account in Herodotus, Histories 1.8-13, where a general saw the nakedness of his master’s wife, and one of the two had to be put to death.) NET Bible

Christ grant you wisdom :slight_smile:

The Curse of Canaan and Generational Sin

In the ancient world, it was generally recognized that a father’s character impacted his descendants. That did not mean that God would not forgive his descendants if they behaved differently. In the case of Ham, he behaved reprehensibly, and so the curse assumed his descendants would do the same.

As we see in Genesis 15, even when a nation is wicked God gives them time to repent before judgment.

Genesis 15:16 - In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.

Heb “Do not excel!” The Hiphil of the verb יָתַר (yatar) has this meaning only here. The negated jussive is rhetorical here. Rather than being a command, it anticipates what will transpire. The prophecy says that because of the character of the ancestor, the tribe of Reuben would not have the character to lead (see [1 Chr 5:1](javascript:{})).

Genesis 49:3-4 - “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
my might, the first sign of my strength,
excelling in honor, excelling in power.
4 Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel,
for you went up onto your father’s bed,
onto my couch and defiled it.

Exodus 34:6-7 - Yahweh—Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth, 7 maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving wrongdoing, rebellion, and sin. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ wrongdoing on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.

  • 3 or 4 generations refers to national judgment - when a nation continues in wickedness for a number of generations, God visits judgment upon them - it is not referring to individuals
  • when a father sins, his children are more likely to be caught up in that same sin - whether it is idolatry or drunkenness - and sin has its own consequences. As the article I linked below says - consequences, not curses, are passed down to future generations
  • God always forgives anyone who comes - no matter their background

Hey @manbooks! Such interesting points.
There’s actually something that goes unnoticed in the text.

In fact, Japheth was the youngest of them. So, apparently Noah didn’t mean Ham. But there’s a language that Old Testament uses where a grandson, being the youngest member in the family, can be called son. So, in this verse, He meant Canaan. What many commentators deduced from such a verse is that Canaan was the first to see Noah naked and told his brother.

As @SeanO said, back then it was different. But he could have seen him by chance. So it’s not the act of ‘seeing’ that represented the problem but rather that he rejoiced in seeing Noah in that humilaiting state and didn’t cover him himself but just went around to mock him.

There’s no indication that this actually happened in this situation.
The concept of curse is a bit derived from surrounding cultures and religions, the mesopotamia for example. Those cultures often viewed that if the land gave crops then the gods are blessing them, and if it didn’t then they are cursed. It was their way of imposing power and authority on their gods. So, we can see that the israelities could have borrowed some of these expressions while contemplating on their relationship with Yahweh. But that doesn’t mean that in several cases that was the case, like the ten strikes of Egypt.
Paul says

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
Romans 5

So, by one sin, a cascade of unfortunate events can take place creating an ongoing reality of evil all around us. So, even the best will be affected by the transgressions surrounding us causing us to fall at times. That doesn’t negate the fact that we have free will, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. That’s why Paul call life with Christ a ‘race’. So can a generation be affected by a single mistake? Absolutely. If we trace it back we can find one single mistake that was even done by a good intention. There’s a miniseries that was recently released “Chernobyl”, and it actually depicts perfectly how a man who just wanted a ‘promotion’ caused that much of damage. How lies, cost a nation and the soviet union itself the generations it followed. Children died, people left their homes and suffered many diseases. It took only a few to affect many.
I hope this helps in any way.


I recently started using a new study Bible from Faithlife. I cannot summarize it without skewing the what the author is conveying. Would interested is the groups comments.

Two difficult interpretive issues arise in the incident between Ham and Noah: understanding the nature of Ham’s offense and making sense of why Ham’s son, Canaan, was cursed instead of Ham (see note on v. 25). The text of v. 22 may be literally rendered as “Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father.” However, this could be an idiom—it may not be about Noah being nude, but an incident that greatly insults Noah. Ham’s offense could be explained as voyeurism, castration of Noah, sodomy, or incestuous rape of his mother.
The voyeurism view is often defended by what Ham’s brothers, Shem and Japheth, do in the wake of the incident—they walk backward into the tent and cover their father’s nakedness. This act doesn’t explain the offense, though; it simply shows their respect for their father. There is no OT prohibition against seeing one’s father naked, so this interpretation would have likely been foreign to the original reader; likewise, no such prohibition appears elsewhere in ancient Near Eastern law.
Against the idea that Ham’s offense was voyeurism, the Hebrew phrase which may be literally rendered “saw the nakedness” appears elsewhere in the OT referring to illicit sexual contact and intercourse. To “see [ra’ah in Hebrew] the nakedness [erwah in Hebrew]” of someone is used in the Law (Lev 18; 20) to prohibit certain sexual relations. This idiom suggests that Ham’s offense may have been of a sexual nature, perhaps homosexual rape of his father or paternal incest. However, no combination of the relevant Hebrew words—ra’ah (“see”), galah (“uncover”), and erwah (“nakedness”)—occurs in the OT in reference to homosexuality. The Hebrew phrase for “uncovering the nakedness of [a man]” actually refers to sexual intercourse with a man’s wife. For example, in a literal rendering of Lev 18:7, “the nakedness of your father” means “the nakedness of your mother”; in Lev 18:14, a literal rendering of “the nakedness of your father’s brother” is clarified as “his wife” and “your aunt” (see Lev 18:8; 20:11, 20, 21). Although the usual expression in Leviticus is to “uncover [galah in Hebrew] the nakedness,” both idioms are used in parallel in Lev 20:17. Therefore, Ham’s offense may have been maternal incest and the forcible rape of his mother. This explains the curse of Ham’s son that follows (see Gen 9:25–27; compare note on v. 25).

Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 9:22–24). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

And from the same commentary on the curse:

Ham’s crime of maternal incest would have been an attempt to usurp Noah’s position as leader of the family clan. This explains why Ham would announce what he had done to his brothers—he was asserting authority over them (v. 22). The fact that Canaan was cursed suggests that Canaan was the offspring of Ham’s sexual intercourse with Noah’s wife. The son bore the punishment for the crime of his father. The curse on Canaan forms the backdrop to the later antipathy between Israel and the Canaanites.

There are several instances in the OT of sexual intercourse being used to usurp authority. For example, Absalom’s public intercourse with his father’s concubines (2 Sam 15:20–23) was intended to show ownership of the king’s harem (and hence the kingship). David did the same with Saul’s concubines (2 Sam 12:8) as part of the transfer of authority. When Adonijah tried to acquire Abishag (1 Kgs 1:3–15; 2:17–22), the request was taken by Solomon as an attempted usurpation of his position (1 Kgs 2:22). Adonijah may have presumed that Abishag had been David’s sexual partner in old age, so taking her as his own wife may have been a devious attempt to regain the succession he had lost. Solomon responded to this treasonous move by executing Adonijah (1 Kgs 2:23–25).

Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 9:25). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

Not what I learned in Sunday school.


Hey @Jimmy_Sellers
Actually, even older citations from medieval judaism torah have this wide spectrum of interpretations. But I have two barriers that make it hard for me to believe that sexual assault occured.
Th first one is that the text is taking is literally in v.23 when it says that Shem and Japheth covered their father with a garment…etc
The second one:

I think that a time gap between the insult and Noah’s realization of what happened, is not at all indicated by the flow of the text. Ham had 4 children, Noah was specific, he didn’t just say ‘Cursed be your son’.

There is nothing sunday-school-material about it at all :smile: