Ham’s Apostasy and the Noahic Covenant

One covenant often passed by is the covenant God made with Noah in Genesis 8:20-22; and even more passed by is the apostasy of Noah’s youngest son Ham, from that covenant. In Genesis 6:18 God tells Noah and his family of the covenant to come (after the flood) saying, “I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” After the ark was made, the animals and Noah’s family were in it, and the waters came and went, God then gave a series of commands for Noah and his family’s new beginning (found between Genesis 9:1-15). Then, confirming His covenant to Noah, God says in Genesis 9:16-18:

“When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.” The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth.”

Here the new beginning of mankind is upon those that God found favor in—Noah and his family. Yet the fall of man still has its effect upon those that have been given everything, and so it is that Ham’s apostasy takes place. After all that God had done—saving Ham from the flood, saving his wife, coming into covenant with him and his family—he still had the desire to live his own way, and not the way of God who came into covenant with him. We see that within only a few verses after God gives those out of the ark his sign (bow) of the covenant, Ham had already forgotten about it. After the giving of the covenant, the story of Ham’s apostasy is the very next account written in history by Moses in Genesis 9:20-27:

“Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”

To what is was Ham exactly saw and told to his brothers is not given in the text, but by verse 25, Ham’s own father knew exactly what had happen to him, and curses his own son, and his son’s linage and land in Canaan.

Lastly, there is a similarity between Ham and Cain’s apostasy. Just as they were both individuals breaking the covenant which God had made with their fathers Adam and Noah, like Cain, Ham’s apostasy not only affected himself, but also his lineage and land. One of the most important facts about Ham’s apostasy is in Genesis 9—the foundation of the earliest monarchy in Babylonia by Nimrod, Ham’s grandson. The primitive Babylonian empire was thus Hamitic, and of a cognate race with the primitive inhabitants of Arabia and of Ethiopia. How is this important? It was here that Ham’s individual apostasy and the curse that was upon him for leaving the covenant becomes a corporate problem. The curse placed upon Ham at the end of Genesis 9 affects his lineage and land, which would later lead to the Jews’ subsequent extermination of the Canaanites—those of whom were from the line of Ham. Although God had promised in the Naohic covenant to never destroy the earth again, he never promised to not allow those that are in His covenant Israel to destroy those that are not (namely Ham) and the land in which the Canaanites dwelt.

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2 Comments on “Ham’s Apostasy and the Noahic Covenant”

  1. Nate says:

    Have you read Gagnon’s understanding of this text? He gives 7 reasons why Ham committed homosexual rape against his father. According to this view, Ham was trying to dominate Noah in order to force him to give him the covenant line. Thus the telling of the brothers and the severity of the curse.

    They are quite compelling arguments. Check out the book.

    See The Bible and Homosexual Practice by Robert Gagnon, (Abingdon Press) pp.63-71.

  2. Nate, “Ham was trying to dominate Noah in order to force him to give him the covenant line.” That sounds like a great great read! Thanks!


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