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Ask Donnell: Why Did Noah Curse His Grandson Canaan?

Ask Donnell: Why Did Noah Curse Canaan, the son of Ham?

We received the following question from Roshawn;

"Good night Angel and Donnell,
In Genesis 9:24 Noah cursed his grandson and not his son Ham- why? What did Ham “do” to bring this curse unto his generations after him? What really happened in the tent? Thanks."

Great question Roshawn. This is one of those accounts in Bible history that we struggle to understand in Western culture. Throughout the scriptures it's clear to see many major differences between the Middle Eastern cultural mindset of that time and our modern/ post-modern way of thinking on this side of the earth. Principles of honor, ancestral tradition, family legacy, strong community along with multi-generational blessings and curses are foreign to most of us outside of our understanding of The Bible.

Jeremiah 6:16(NKJV) - Thus says the Lord: “Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

In our society we do not value many of the same things they valued and some of what's important to us now did not matter much to them. Thankfully, we have The Bible and within it is outlined the ancient path. As we adhere to its teachings we will see where we have strayed from that path so that we can return. (Jeremiah 18:15) With that being said, let's first talk about Noah.

Genesis 9:18-29(NKJV) - Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. Then he said: “Cursed be Canaan; A servant of servants He shall be to his brethren.” And he said: “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, And may he dwell in the tents of Shem; And may Canaan be his servant.” And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.

I've heard and have also been involved in several debates about the consumption of alcohol in the Christian community. This story in Genesis gives the first account of anyone drinking wine in The Bible and it's not a good one. Noah's decision to drink alcohol blurred his sensibility resulting in him ending up drunk and naked in his tent. What should have been a moment of personal enjoyment started a chain of events which eventually resulted in a curse being brought upon the family line of one of his sons. Remember, the scriptures say that from these three was the whole earth populated after the flood. Genesis 10:6 says, "And the sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, and Phut, and Canaan." So the curse was upon one of Ham's four sons. Was it really worth it?

Ephesians 5:18(NLT) - Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,

By The Law of First Mention, which is a theological principle, because of the account of Noah's misfortune in Genesis 9:18-29 The Bible teaches that alcohol can destroy families. That's what happened then and it's still happening now. The entire situation could have been avoided if Noah was not drunk with wine. He would have been in his right mind and none of this drama would have taken place.

In the same way, many situations people face today can also be avoided if they stop letting spirituous liquors control their minds. The lives of many people will be preserved if drivers resist the urge to drink and drive. Many drunken brawls at bars and clubs will not take place. Many unnecessary drunken sexual encounters at or after parties will be avoided. Many fathers will remain sober and maintain the respect of their children. Many people will preserve their dignity. Alcohol can take control of a person's mind the same way a demon does.

Proverbs 20:1-3(NKJV) - Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise.

Proverbs 23:29-35(NLT) - Who has anguish? Who has sorrow? Who is always fighting? Who is always complaining? Who has unnecessary bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out new drinks. Don’t gaze at the wine, seeing how red it is, how it sparkles in the cup, how smoothly it goes down. For in the end it bites like a poisonous snake; it stings like a viper. You will see hallucinations, and you will say crazy things. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast. And you will say, “They hit me, but I didn’t feel it. I didn’t even know it when they beat me up. When will I wake up so I can look for another drink?”

A person who is under the control of alcohol is under the control of a spirit. Isn't it interesting that alcoholic beverages are also called spirits? Why? Maybe because alcoholism is like demonic possession. When you're drunk you're under the control of something else and it's not The Holy Spirit. Regardless, some people in The Church will continue to defend their use of alcohol until something tragic happens to stop them.

Yes, there are people who drank wine in The Bible and it seems to be allowed in moderation. Yes, Jesus turned water into wine. However, over and over The Bible tells us what happens to those who drink alcohol and end up drunk. With all of that information we should be able to make an informed decision. If we can't figure it out for ourselves when the message is so clear it's because we don't want to figure it out, we just want to drink. If that's the case, nothing can be done.

I do want to address the argument which states that alcoholic consumption is acceptable in moderation. What's the definition of moderation? One glass? Two glasses? One shot? One bottle? A slight buzz? A major buzz? Is the person drinking the alcohol providing the definition of moderation? The mere fact that alcohol blurs your senses means that the person drinking the alcohol cannot be the same person who defines the limits of moderate consumption. What if the person can really hold liquor? Is it still moderation if the drinks keep flowing?

Believe me, I have seen several Christians drunk with wine who probably thought they were drinking in moderation. They thought they were alright with the heavy stench of alcohol on their breaths, glassy eyes and their senses altered. However, the alcohol was playing games with their minds. Maybe a quick cell phone video clip could help them see the effects of their "moderate" drinking. Before you ever think you've had enough alcohol one glass can lead to two glasses which can lead to three which can eventually lead to some bad decisions. Is it really worth it?

Proverbs 31:4-7(NLT) - It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink, they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed. Alcohol is for the dying, and wine for those in bitter distress. Let them drink to forget their poverty and remember their troubles no more.

Isaiah 5:21-23(NLT) - What sorrow for those who are wise in their own eyes and think themselves so clever. What sorrow for those who are heroes at drinking wine and boast about all the alcohol they can hold.

I guess some could say that Noah couldn't hold his liquor but they can. Well, go for it! That's something to be really proud of. Now that we've discussed Noah's role in starting this whole thing, let's answer your question about Ham and Canaan. What did Ham do wrong? He dishonored Noah by telling his brothers about their father's nakedness instead of covering him. The moment Ham discovered his father drunk and naked in the tent he should have covered him up and ended it there. Instead, he made the decision to broadcast it to his brothers outside bringing embarrassment to Noah.

Exodus 20:12(KJV) - Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Ephesians 6:1-3(NKJV) - Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.”

If you want to die young, dishonor your parents. If you want to live long, honor them. Not only that but honoring your parents causes things to go well in your life. That's a promise from God and He watches over His Word to perform it. Exposure to the nakedness of family members beginning with parents was a sign of dishonor so much so that in Leviticus 18 it became law. Many laws that were coined in Leviticus were already understood within Jewish culture but they needed to be emphasized or else people would operate without restraint. This was one of those laws. Ham's brothers obviously knew that dishonoring Noah by seeing his nakedness was wrong so they walked backward into the tent and covered him. So how is this relevant to our lives?

Our job is to cover our family members especially our parents. There are things we may know about them that will bring them great shame and disgrace that should never become public information. However, people do it all the time. They get offended then put people's private business on blast for the whole world to see. Couples get divorced and tell their former spouse's private affairs to others. Children fall out with their parents and reveal family secrets. We dishonor each other when we take advantage of vulnerability and exploit it instead of covering it.

Some things we say to others are just too much information (T.M.I.). We should make it our business to protect the honor of our families and that also extends to the family of God. What happens in The Church stays in The Church. If we have issues we should deal with them then heal together and move on. We should handle our stuff internally and not turn our church family into a laughing stock for the world. If we won't do it to our blood relatives we should not do it to those who are related to us by The Blood of Jesus.

Now to answer the final part of your question. Why did Noah curse Canaan, Ham's son instead of Ham? It's simple. That's how curses work. By cursing Canaan, Noah really cursed Ham. In their culture, little was more important than family heritage. We're not sure why Noah chose to curse Canaan and not any of his other three brothers but that's what happened. The curse Ham received extended beyond his own generation and that's a much worse curse than one that ended with Ham. It's the type of curse that gets someone's attention. Ham knew it was bad when he was assured that it would continue in his son's life. Unfortunately, that's what he got for dishonoring his father.

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