What Is the Sin of Ham?

Like many of us I usually remember Noah for building the Ark, and of course being the one chosen to survive the Great Flood. I also would remember him being drunk, because it was interesting to read of a man of God in that state. The one thing that never really stood out to me was the sin of Ham. Several commentators will refer back to rabbi saying that the sin of Ham was sexual in nature. That is a little hard to believe, the text does however say he saw his father’s “nakedness”. The Hebrew word being used here for “nakedness” is rwh, this word is used fifty-two times in the Old Testament, and 49 out of 52 it is translated nakedness, the other times it is translated indecency or naked. Two of the strongest views about this subject, or at least well argued were Bruce Waltke and John H. Walton.

Walton takes the stance that we can possibly infer from the text that Noah was not alone in his tent saying, “Since the “nakedness of the father” can include the nakedness of the mother and since the nakedness of the father is a euphemism for coitus (throughout Lev. 18 and 20), is it possible that both Noah and his wife have become drunk and, falling in to unconsciousness after intercourse, lie exposed in the tent?” (Walton 2001, 348) He also goes onto suggest that the sin of Ham is hinting at impregnating his mother.

I do believe that Bruce Waltke makes a much more believable point in saying, “His voyeurism, however, is of the worst sort. Voyeurism in general violates another’s dignity and robs that one of his or her instinctive desire for privacy and for propriety. It is a form of domination. Ham’s, however, is perverse, for his homosexual voyeurism. Worse yet, he dishonors his father, whom he should have revered in any case (Ex.21:15-17; Duet. 21:18-21; Mark 7:10), and then increases his dishonor by proclaiming it to others.” (Waltke 2001, 149)

Basically the sin of Ham was the dishonor of viewing his father naked and then trying to include his brothers in the same dishonor by telling them of the state of their father. Some commentators go onto say that the reason Noah curses Canaan is due to the perverse nature of Ham, and the Canaanite peoples adopted a similar attitude and lifestyle.

Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis- A Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001.

Walton, John H. The NIV Application Commentary on Genesis. Grand Rapids,MI: Zondervan, 2001.

 

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