Genesis 9 & 10

OK, I was right the first time. God did originally intend for humans to be vegetarians. In Genesis 1 God gives all the green plants to the humans and other creatures as food. Here in Chapter 9 God tells Noah and his sons, “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and just as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.” (9:3, NRSV) Take note that God does not mention any of the food laws that are to come.

God also tells them, “Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.” (9:6, NRSV) Is this a straightforward endorsement of capital punishment or a more philosophical statement along the lines of, “what goes around comes around”? Are we supposed to murder a murderer? That’s what it sounds like.

God makes a covenant with Noah and his sons, and the sign of this covenant? A rainbow! “I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clods over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.“ (9:13-15, NRSV)

I like this. Even without any religious connection I am awed by rainbows. Just imagine how the ancients who believed it to be a sign of the covenant felt.

The remainder of Chapter 9 is an unusual story that I think is not mentioned often in Sunday school. Noah plants a vineyard, drinks his wine, gets drunk and passes out naked. His son Ham sees his father and goes to tell his brothers. They bring “a garment” and shielding their eyes cover their naked father. When Noah finds out what Ham did, he curses Ham’s son Canaan rather harshly.

I am not really sure how to take this story. I figure the first part is about respecting your parents, which makes sense. But I am not sure what moral I am supposed to learn from the second part. Should children be held accountable for the sins of their parents? Maybe another passage in support of original sin?

Chapter 10 lists the descendents of Noah. The next version of the genealogy, to include this chapter, will be posted tomorrow.


Mark Weston said...

I'm certainly no scholar, but if I recall, Joshua conquers Canaan pretty handily. Issues of nakedness / morality aside, it seems like Noah is prophectically cursing Ham's son (not sure why the son instead of the father) to foreshadow the later fall of Canaan.

When you get to the story of Lot, I believe there's something similar. The incestuous offspring of Lot become the nations of Moab and Ammon - also sinful and defeated spiritually and militarily by the Israelites.

Perhaps it's nicely setup so you can point to the story and be like "Now, kids, THAT'S why we don't like the Canaanites! Back to work!"

jdk said...

Mark, I absolutely agree. Perhaps the Israelites conquering the Canaanites was a true historical event, and the writers of the bible included this curse to justify it. What disturbs me, however, are the moral implications of this story.

How is it moral for Canaan to be cursed for Ham's sin? What does this say about the "fairness" of God?

Angie Jackson said...

The "curse of Ham" was used as justification for black slavery in the US. Christian slave traders claimed (as did later Jim Crow southerners) that black skinned people were descendants of Ham, and therefore recipients of this curse. I guess if God curses you, that means it's okay for white folks to own you?

This "morality" gets hard to follow. Notice that Ham walking in on drunk-naked dad is the one who gets cursed, not drunk-naked dad (again like the Lot story).

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