Noah and the Curse

Does the story of Noah and Ham justify racism and slavery? Many used to think it did. Does it support the prudish view that you are not to see another person naked? Many today think it does. Upon closer examination, however, it does neither.

It comes down, like so many other objections, to simple Hebrew euphemisms. Watch the short video to see the explanation:

A perspective of Michael Heiser’s that I would agree with comes from his “The Naked Bible Podcast” (I love the name, and it’s not even a naturist podcast!) Here is a downloadable transcript. This great episode about this oft misunderstood passage rehashes the scholarly work of Bergsma and Hahn found here.

What IS clear is that there is something way beyond simple nudity at play here. And yet, this remains one of the most common objections of all against the practice of non-sexual social nudity. There’s not much else to say about this that is not covered already by the video or the podcast link.

One other resource that would be beneficial to anyone who brings this story up against Christian naturists would be “Who Said You Were Naked?” by David L. Hatton. While it does not bring up this story, it is a clarion call to those who have had those knee-jerk reactions like this of body shame and porno/prudery in their theological framework to think more deeply and be more body friendly like the God who created us is.

On page 192 he says:

When Gnostic prudery’s enchantment is broken, a mental veil is lifted. The blind legalism of deceptively “opened” eyes is replaced by a human-friendly vision of our incarnate nature. Body shame insulated us from a proper perception of ourselves. Body acceptance mentally restores not only a human-friendly attitude about our embodiment, but a Creator-honoring perspective on His handiwork.

A variety of resources and evidences confirms this awareness. One is a careful, thoughtful review of Scripture itself, but only when done with the culture-tinted spectacles of prudery removed. Then we will see that, unlike today, those in Bible times were familiar with routines that made occasional nudity a normal part of life. A human-friendly rereading of the Bible can also show us how God uses our physical sexuality to symbolize His divine plan for human salvation and how our bodies visually reflect certain divine attributes or convey divine message about Himself.

I agree with Hatton, not only on these points, but also the conviction he has written about– that once you know the truth, you must speak the truth as a way of making restitution for the wrong and harmful interpretations the church has historically baptized as gospel.

See all posts and videos in the “Objections” series here.

13 thoughts on “Noah and the Curse

  1. jeffnkr

    EXCELLENT! I think this is the correct interpretation of the passage! However, many years ago, I heard a pastor preach on this passage. He did not give the interpretation of Ham engaging in sexual intercourse with his mother, but he did suggest something about Canaan. He said that Noah didn’t say, “Cursed is Canaan,” but, “Cursed BE Canaan.” Canaan was the product of Ham’s sin, but as is the case of all of us, he didn’t have a choice in the matter. We don’t get to choose our parents. The pastor said that because of Ham’s attitude – disrespect and contempt for his father, Canaan would be affected by Ham’s attitude. Ham sinned, and again, as is the case of all of us, sometimes others suffer because of our choices. This pastor said that perhaps Noah had some compassion towards Canaan because of the unfortunate circumstances of Canaan’s birth.


  2. Loyal May

    Very good article Phil. As I have studied that text and comparing words, that is my conclusion.
    I have checked with others who are excellent Bible students, and they just warned us since the text doesn’t say it, it’s best not to make a dogma out of it.
    But it certainly makes more sense than the traditional approach.


    • Phil O.

      Maybe, just maybe the text does say it. Just we as Westerners and not Hebrews don’t get it due to our lack of understanding of Hebrew euphemisms. That said, the simplest explanation is often the correct one, but the common use of this objection does not stand up to scrutiny, making the idiom the simplest explanation in my opinion. Thanks for the comment. We appreciate you!!


    • jeffnkr

      God tells us the failures and shortcomings of His sons and daughters, in order that we will not strive to be like THEM. The tendency for many people is to idolize someone who they think is better than them. God knew full well what David would do when he met Bathsheba, yet He called him, and anointed him as the future king of Israel, while he was a shepherd, tending his father’s sheep. David’s father Jesse didn’t even call David in, when the prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s home to anoint David; Samuel had to ask for him to be brought in. God gave Solomon wisdom, knowing full well what would happen in the future when Solomon acquired 700 wives and 300 concubines. All the disciples and apostles were fallible men and women.
      The failures and shortcomings listed are never justification for behavior and beliefs contrary to God’s teaching in His Word. Paul’s exhortations to slaves to obey their masters does not justify slavery. NOWHERE does Paul exhort the wealthy to take others against their will, make them into slaves, and mistreat them. NOWHERE does God say in His Word that men can take multiple wives; it only savs that some men did. AT NO TIME did God tell Sarah to tell Abraham to take Hagar as a concubine and have a son by her.
      Rather, we are told about the failures and shortcomings of Old and New Testament saints in order that we can learn from their mistakes.


  3. Paul B

    I was reading the Naked Bible Podcast transcript and noticed something they didn’t say. Actually very few of these kinds of articles point this out. In Leviticus, all the “uncover the nakedness” commands are about heterosexual sex. Leviticus 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. ESV It seems you can only uncover the nakedness in a heterosexual context


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s