Insights on the story of Noah

I want to refer readers to this excellent post in Meridian regarding Noah.

Most of us, I would guess, have been puzzled by these verses in Genesis 9 in the Old Testament:

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 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.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

Questions considered:

  • Was Noah drunk or in a vision in Genesis 9?
  • Was Noah in the tent of Yahweh at the time?
  • What is the significance of the wine in the story?
  • What does it mean that Noah was “uncovered?”
  • What about the garment?
  • What was it that Ham was condemned for seeing?
  • What was the significance of Noah’s “nakedness?”

Read the post over on Meridian. This post alone may be an excellent example of why studying the Old Testament is so important. There are so many potential layers of meaning.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

3 thoughts on “Insights on the story of Noah

  1. An interesting read, but I think as a Historical record, we don’t have much to go on. We’re talking about thousands of years of oral history blended with written history. We can really discern exactly how it all played out from the text. So as an apology or defense of Noah isn’t needed.

    I’d look at it like how the story is presented and what can I learn from it — not how can I recontextualize the story to make it fit within my view.

    So what can I learn:
    Good people work hard
    Good people working hard can overly focus on their efforts to their detriment
    We lash out at those we love when confronted with our vulnerability.
    Alcohol can compound all of this and cause us to make mistakes with tragic consequences

    I don’t need to make Noah into someone that never acted unjustly toward his children or grandchildren in order to respect his prophetic role and dedication to the Lord.

    I see this as a story of a man who worked hard, but ignored his family and drank too much, and lashed out at them in his shame when his vulnerability was made public.

    Noah was not beyond need of the atonement. His story so ancient and relevant to what it means to be a human its literally replayed in one form or another in nearly all families across history. We can recognize this common pathology and grow from it, without tearing down Noah, for to do so we also implicate ourselves. Or we can craft a narrative that preseves his perfection and doesn’t provide much learning experience other than pointing at others for the source of wrong in the world.

    What if it were true that we all deeply and desperately needed a savior to atone for us? It is.

  2. Sute, although I can understand how you come to your interpretation, I can’t say it holds up very well. First and foremost, there is no indication that the Lord was angry at him for getting drunk. There is also no indication the Lord refused to honor the curses or the blessings. Everything about the scene indicates a ritual story. Although the meaning of the details cannot be explained with certainty, I do believe that Ham and not Noah did something wrong.

  3. Where does it say the Lord was angry? I never said that. It doesn’t need to say it. I’m just saying read the verses on the screen and take them as they are.

    Thre lessons are there. I get that subsequent apologists from the Jess down to the Catholics and Protestants have sought to reframe the story.

    But the story just *is*.

    And I find far greater humanity, meaning, redemption, and connection back to Christ through this episode than erecting a bunch of ritualistic scaffolding around it to save Noah from being a human with frailties. He’s clearly a great man who did great things. I hope we can admit he might gave done bad ones too.

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