Genesis 2011 - Lesson 9C

Chapter 9:24-29

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  • Today we move on from the Flood story and transition to the next toldat or genealogy in Genesis

    • But first we have some unfinished business in the family of Noah

      • Noah has unfortunately given into his flesh, become drunk and uncovered himself

        • Thus proving that Noah was not perfect, not sinless, though he was a man of great faith

      • Then his son Ham saw his father and magnified his shame

        • Ham celebrated his father’s sin rather than showing discretion and endeavoring to cover the shame

        • His brothers, on the other hand, show mercy and do their best to help their father recover his dignity

      • Next we watch Noah’s response to how his children reacted

    • Noah responds by making prophetic statements concerning the boys and the future of their respective family lines

      • As we read these pronouncements, remember that Noah would have understood the seriousness of what he was saying

        • Noah understood that his boys would repopulate the earth

        • He knew that each son would produce a multitude of people over time

        • Which explains why Noah chose such sweeping pronouncements 

      • And we must assume that Noah’s impetus to make these statements was the Spirit’s influence and direction

  • So now look at Noah’s response:

Gen. 9:24 When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 
Gen. 9:25 So he said, 
“Cursed be Canaan; 
A servant of servants 
He shall be to his brothers.” 
Gen. 9:26 He also said, 
“Blessed be the LORD, 
The God of Shem; 
And let Canaan be  his servant. 
Gen. 9:27 “May God enlarge Japheth, 
And let him dwell in the tents of Shem; 
And let Canaan be  his servant.” 
Gen. 9:28  Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. 
Gen. 9:29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died. 
  • As Noah awoke, he learns of his indiscretions of the prior evening

    • My English text says the “youngest” son 

      • But the Hebrew word can also be translated younger, which is more accurate since Ham is the middle child

    • Some of us may be able to identify with Noah, perhaps as a result of past decisions and indiscretions

      • The sinking feeling as we replay the previous night in our memory, piecing together what was said and done

    • In Noah’s case, he probably noticed that he wasn’t wearing his normal sleep attire

      • Instead, there was a cloak thrown over him, something he wouldn’t have done for himself under normal circumstances

        • It probably didn’t require much thought to recognize that someone else had covered him

        • And with that recognition, Noah would have been horrified and embarrassed and ashamed

      • Perhaps he approached the boys to apologize or to ask for an explanation

        • In the course of that discussion, v.24 says Noah knew or understood what his youngest son had done

    • And what Ham had done was disrespect his father

      • More than simply disrespect, Ham had shown a willingness to enjoy and even celebrate the sin of another

        • And in that behavior he had shamed Noah and himself

      • Ham’s example is a good one for us to consider ourselves

        • Do we glory in another’s sin?

      • Our first answer might be, “Of course not...”

        • But before we rush to that answer, let’s ask ourselves a few questions

        • When we learn embarrassing or shameful news of another person, do we ask ourselves who can I share this with?

        • If we’re out with friends and one person begins engaging in mischief, do we encourage them on hoping to see them do something outlandish or risk getting into trouble?

        • Do we look the other way when a friend breaks the rules or even the law rather than correcting them kindly and reminding them of their Christian witness?

    • In all these cases, and others like them, we repeat the mistake of Ham, certainly in manner if not in degree

      • We glory in another’s sin, encouraging, feeding it or at least enjoying it vicariously

      • Paul said he prayed that the church would act differently

Phil. 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 
Phil. 1:10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 
  • Paul’s concern for the church was that we wouldn’t be a Ham, so to speak

    • We would abound in love based on knowledge and discernment

      • Which would lead us to approve of excellent things

    • And we would be blameless until our judgment day, filled with righteousness

    • We are not blameless if, by association, we encourage others into sin - that was Ham’s problem

  • Noah certainly didn’t approve of Ham’s behavior, and in response Noah pronounces a curse

    • The first thing we notice is that the curse is directly against not Ham but Canaan

      • Since the beginning of this chapter, we’ve noticed that any mention of Ham has included the phrase “the father of Canaan”

        • Here we see why Moses has been making that connection throughout the chapter

        • Moses was helping us understand the connection between Ham and the curse Noah gives

      • Noah is upset at his son Ham, but Noah directs his curse at Ham’s son rather than at Ham himself

        • Why?

    • Do you remember what we learned in Chapter 3 concerning curses?

      • A curse is a pronouncement of eternal damnation

        • And when it comes from God (in this case by the power of the Spirit), it is a permanent and irrevocable verdict

      • Could God pronounce a curse – eternal damnation – upon Ham?

        • Remember Ham was one of the eight on the ark

        • Peter testifies that all eight on the ark were righteous by faith

2Pet. 2:4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 
2Pet. 2:5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a  preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
2Pet. 2:9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 
  • So if Ham is a man saved by God’s grace, then God cannot pronounce a curse upon Ham

    • This is the same situation as God faced with Adam and Woman in the Garden

    • Adam sinned yet God pronounced curse not upon him but upon the ground, Adam’s source

  • Similarly here, God pronounces a curse through Noah upon Ham but indirectly

    • In this case it lands on Ham’s son, Canaan

  • Remember, being a believer doesn’t assure us of a perfect life

    • A believer can sin, and a believer can find life taking terrible turns

      • Saving faith isn’t an insurance policy against the horrors of a sinful world

      • Looking in the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11, we might notice that the first three men listed were Abel, Enoch and Noah

        • Noah dies of old age, but not before enduring a traumatic disaster and an embarrassing sinful episode

        • Enoch is preserved from even experiencing death

        • Abel was murdered at a young age

      • If these men can experience such different outcomes in life yet be listed in the Hall of Faith, then we can know anything can happen to us

    • But no matter what happens, we’re assured that death won’t conquer and we will receive an eternal inheritance

  • So now we understand why Noah doesn’t directly curse his own son Ham, but why place the curse on Canaan?

    • The answer is simple, but it may not be satisfying for us – at least not at first

      • God is intent on bringing a consequence for this sin

        • And the consequence must come from Noah, the man who now represents human government

        • But it can’t come against Ham

      • And so it will flow from Ham to the next generation

        • And it doesn’t really matter where it lands

        • God is sovereign over the life of each person and He determines how each life will serve His purposes

      • In God’s wisdom and providence He determined that Canaan was the proper recipient of His wrath for Ham’s sin

        • You might say that isn’t fair, but remember that Canaan was born a sinner like every man

        • He was already on a path to judgment for his sins, like every unbeliever

        • Ham’s sin didn’t put Canaan under judgment

          • Canaan’s own sin did that for him

        • But God’s pronouncement means that Canaan will not receive God’s grace so as to overcome his sin

          • He will be left in his sin, cursed as everyone who dies a sinner will be

      • Yet still we ask why Canaan? Why not Ham’s oldest son Cush? Or the second or third children?

        • Many commentators have tried to answer that in inventive ways, but I think the answer is simple

        • When God responded to Adam’s sin in the Garden, He didn’t curse Adam, but He cursed the ground

          • God’s choice communicated that though Adam’s sin required God’s judgment, nevertheless God would turn that into good for those who love God

          • So by cursing the Earth, God was putting an end to our corrupted physical body, which came from the earth

          • And God was promising to replace the physical world, which itself was infected by sin

      • So now as God selects a son of Ham to curse, God selects the fourth son

        • And the number four in Scripture is the number associated with Earth

          • Like we see four compass directions, four seasons, four winds, four corners of the earth, etc.

        • Therefore, God repeats His pattern of cursing the earth, so to speak

  • And like in the Garden, the curse against Canaan ultimately has a positive impact for those who love God and are called by His purpose

    • The family that descends from Canaan will become poster children for depravity in the land later occupied by Israel

      • They were sexually depraved and idolators with extreme practices

      • And when God’s chosen people entered into the promised land under Joshua, God made Israel’s army an instrument of punishment

        • They were conquered by God’s people and they were in a position of slavery or inferiority until they were finally enslaved and destroyed by the Romans in 146 BC

    • Noah’s pronouncement said Canaan would be cursed, a servant of servants, the lowest servant

      • And he would serve the people who come from his brothers, meaning the families of Shem and Japeth

      • The Israelites came from Shem and the Romans came from Japeth

    • God’s wisdom is evident in this plan, as it ensures that the people disposed by the arrival of Israel in the land are a people properly destined for this outcome

      • Some have speculated that this curse is the source for the slavery of Africans over the centuries

        • Ham’s descendants populate Africa, so this thinking is an attempt to justify the enslavement of Africans by Europeans

      • But even a casual reading of Genesis shows us the flaw in that thinking

        • Ham wasn’t cursed, Canaan was cursed

        • And Canaan didn’t settle in Africa

  • Next, Noah turns to the other brothers who protected his dignity, and Noah pronounces blessing

    • For Shem, Noah blesses not Shem directly but the “God of Shem”

      • For Shem, the meaning of this blessing is clear

      • He will be the line of the Seed

      • The promise for a Messiah will come through Shem

        • And Shem’s blessing will be found in the line of Messiah

    • From Shem we get two notable lines of people present in the world today

      • First, we get the people of the promised seed; the Jewish people

      • Secondly,  we get the Arab peoples; the appointed foils for Israel

        • We learn more about the origins of these two groups in future chapters

      • Both these groups are considered Semites, because both came from Shem

        • But only the Israelites are the promised seed line

        • And then Noah repeats that Canaan’s family would serve the families of Shem

  • Finally, Noah turns to Japeth

    • Noah declares that Japeth and his families will be enlarged

      • Enlarged refers to both the number of them and their territory and wealth

        • The peoples who come from Japeth eventually settle Europe and Asia, and later North America

        • Obviously these territories represent the vast majority of the world’s population and the world’s wealth

    • And Japeth’s family would dwell in the tents of Shem

      • The phrase in Hebrew conveys a certain meaning

        • The word dwell in Hebrew (sheken) can mean to abide in 

        • Similar to shekan, which is neighbor

      • The sense is of shared benefit

        • But the tents will be Shem’s

          • Japeth will have the wealth and the numbers

          • But they come to Shem’s home and gain benefit from association with Shem’s dwelling

        • The sharing will be mutual, but the greater blessing will come from Shem and go to Japeth

    • The fulfillment of this prophecy can only be understood spiritually

      • Shem will produce the line of the Messiah through Israel

      • And Japeth will produce the bulk of the Gentile people of the world

        • And the Gentiles will receive blessing by dwelling spiritually in Israel, Shem’s descendants

      • And Shem will benefit from the association because the Gentiles will bring numbers and wealth to serve Israel in the Kingdom

  • Looking back at the three brothers, we can see each serving as a representative for the three major divisions of humanity, spiritually speaking 

    • Ham, as represented by his son Canaan, pictures the fate of the sinner

      • The one who glories in sin, and celebrates the flesh

      • This person will go to destruction paying the penalty for that sin

      • We would say the unbeliever

    • Shem represents the Jew

      • The seed line

      • God’s chosen people 

      • The people who bring salvation to the world

    • Finally, Japeth represents the Gentile believer

      • Those who own the world but give it up for the hope of Israel

      • The person who later enters the family of God by faith and is grafted into the promises of Israel

      • Who will dwell in Israel’s promised kingdom by association with God’s promises

  • To end this important chapter, Moses tells us of the end of Noah’s story

Gen. 9:28 Noah lived three hundred and fifty years after the flood. 
Gen. 9:29 So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died. 
  • Noah’s life span is 950 years, of which 350 occurred after the Flood

    • Noah lives long enough to see the world repopulated

      • The world has seen people settled from Europe to Africa to East Asia

    • And Noah’s son Shem, another passenger on the Ark, lived until Jacob was over 100 years old

      • Clearly, between Noah and Shem, there was plenty of opportunity for ancient men to hear the story of the flood firsthand, and record the details accurately

    • As news of his death spread, it must have been an important day

      • Noah was born shortly after Adam died

        • And now Noah was gone

        • And it’s been 2,000 years since the Fall in the Garden

      • Until this moment, we could connect human history back to the beginning of time through the lives of just three people (Adam, Methuselah, Shem)

        • After Noah’s death, length of lives drops dramatically

        • And in future generations, men will have lost that direct testimonial connection to the beginning of all things

      • And along the way languages are increased and distances grow, and men begin to create stories to fill in their gaps of understanding history

        • Myths and legends develop, idols increase

        • And so the mercy of God is revealed in His willingness to record these truths through the prophet Moses

        • So that even today, six thousands years or so later, we’re still able to understand the details of our origins

        • And more than that, we understand the hows and whys for the way things are

          • The source of sin, the consequences of men living apart from God

          • And God’s mercy to provide a promised solution, found in the Lord Christ