Drunk and Naked–Love Covers a Multitude: Genesis 9:18-29

Love Covers a Multitude of Sins by {studiobeerhorst}-bbmarie

The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.

Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!The lowest of slaveswill he be to his brothers.”

He also said,

“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory;may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”

After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.

Genesis 9:18-29

Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. (v.20) Noah spent most of the last 120+ years as a carpenter. He built the ark and, presumably, he built his house after the ark came to rest. He spent more than a year as a zoo keeper during his time in the ark with the animals. Yet verse 20 tells us that Noah is a man of the soil. It’s interesting how God sometimes gives us our work assignment for a season, then the season changes and we’re to work in a different field. If you’re not working at your church consider Noah’s seasons of carpentry and zoo keeping. He didn’t build forever — he built for a season. He didn’t care for the animals forever — he cared for them for a season. If you’re reluctant to volunteer in the children’s ministry at your church because you don’t want to be locked in, look at it as a season. Volunteer for a year or a month. See how it goes. It’s not forever. It’s just for a season. Noah’s season of carpentry saved all of humanity. Your season of ministry will also bear great fruit. Help for a season and see how God uses you.

When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. (v.21) I’m currently reading a book about Billy Graham titled The Preacher and the Presidents. This is a fascinating book about Graham’s considerable influence on every president from Harry Truman to George W. Bush. As I read I’m blown away by two seemingly contradictory messages. The first is how mightily God used the man Billy Graham to influence the world for His kingdom. The second is how human Billy Graham is. I won’t share any of the humanity of God’s annointed. And Mr. Graham certainly never fell into drunkeness. Yet he had his frailties and faults just like the rest of us. If you’re interested in learning about the remarkable life of Billy Graham and his relationship with the presidents check out The Preacher and the Presidents by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.

In verse 21 we see that Noah, the man of whom the Bible says before the flood, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God.” sins. (Genesis 6:9) Noah, the great man of God drinks in excess. The one who avoided the temptation to drink in excess while living among a people who likely indulged in drunkeness, now, separated from the debauch influences of the pre-flood society, falls into sin. How important it is to be mindful of our humanity. Often when we think we’ve successfully navigated through the season of temptation is when our guard is down and we’re most likely to fall.

Notice that as a result of Noah’s drunkeness he lay uncovered. That’s how it always is with drinking. No one disputes it. People are uncovered when they drink. Inhibitions are reduced when under the influence of alcohol. People say things, people do things that would make them blush were they sober. The likelihood of sin increases dramatically when we’re under the influence of spirits. The Bible doesn’t say it’s wrong to drink but from this point forward the Bible says it’s wrong to be drunk. It’s undeniable that where alcohol abounds sin abounds in greater measure. Whether you drink or not this fact remains, without regard.

Both the account of Billy Graham and the account of Noah are a source of great hope for you and for me. Here are two men who were mightily used by God. And you and I have something in common with them both: we’re human, we sin, we fall. Perhaps God will use you and I mightily as well for all these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. (1 Corinthians 12:11) Oh Holy Spirit determine to choose me and to choose this dear reader.

Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. (v.22) The King James Version puts it this way And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. (v.22 KJV) Some scholars believe that the words saw the nakedness are used as a euphemism for a sexual act as similar words are used in Leviticus 18:6. Others believe that it’s more along the lines of what’s described in Habakkuk 2:15, Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors, pouring it from the wineskin till they are drunk, so that he can gaze on their naked bodies! What’s not in question is that there was some type of sexual sin committed here on the part of Ham. Something damaging happened for verse 24 says that Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him.

Noah’s son. It’s always family or those who are closest to us who have the clearest view of our weaknesses.

Then we see that Ham follows up with a proclamation of his father’s nakedness. Ham told his two brothers. But why? Why did Ham feel compelled to talk about his father’s nakedness? Why do you and I feel compelled to talk about the weaknesses and shortcomings of those who are close to us? It’s our sin nature surfacing. “But I see it so clearly,” we think. “I just need to get this off my chest,” we say. “Others need to know the truth,” we reason. But oh the damage we do when we share about the weaknesses of others. We experience damage to relationships. We even experience damage to the trust of the person we’re sharing with. For if I talk about the weaknesses of others who’s to say that later I won’t talk about the weaknesses of the one I’m sharing with. Exposing the problems and weaknesses of others is damaging on so many levels.

Oh Lord keep us from the temptation of gossip.

But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. (v.23) In contrast to Ham, Shem and Japheth went to the trouble of taking a garment, laying it across their shoulders, then walking backwards to avoid looking upon their father’s nakedness. They didn’t want to look upon their father’s nakedness as Ham did. And they desired to cover their father so others wouldn’t see his nakedness as well. This is love in action. This is 1 Peter 4:8 being lived out by Shem and Japheth before 1 Peter 4:8 was written. God tells us above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8) When a loved one sins we have choices to make. We can join them (as Adam did with Eve), we can expose their sin to others through talk (or texts, or emails, or…), or we can, like Shem and Japheth, turn our face the other way so we won’t see the weaknesses of others. We can, like Shem and Japheth cover the weaknesses of others. Shem and Japheth chose to cover their father’s sin. And as we’ll see, they were blessed for it.

“Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” (v.24) Before we see Shem and Japheth blessed, we see Ham cursed. “But it’s Canaan, Ham’s son that’s being cursed,” you might say. I don’t know about Ham, but I’d rather be cursed myself than have one of my sons cursed. That’s how it is with sin. We might think that when we sin we’ll bear the consequences on our own but one of the myriad problems with sin is that it doesn’t just effect the sinner. The sin of Ham resulted in the culture of the Canaanites becoming one of the most debauch and perverse in the history of mankind. And as we’ve seen in the previous post Because You Have Done This the wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23) There was death to the relationship between Ham and his father. And ultimately death to the entire Canaanite culture as they were wiped out due to their strangely perverse society.

He also said,“Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” (v.26-27) Would you like to be associated with praise to the LORD like Shem? Would you like to see your territory extended like Japheth’s? Then live out 1 Peter 4:8 and cover your brother, cover your sister, cover your father and mother. Speak of peoples’ strengths. Cover their weaknesses. Over time people will notice. Over time people will associate you with God’s love. And over time your territory of influencing others for God’s kingdom will increase. Who doesn’t want that?

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Luke 6:36-37


Blue Letter Bible

Bible Gateway


Ray Stedman

The Preacher and the Presidents by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy

Jon Couson

Chuck Missler

Photo courtesy of  {studiobeerhorst}-bbmarie Click on: http://www.flickr.com/photos/74782490@N00/469815364

5 thoughts on “Drunk and Naked–Love Covers a Multitude: Genesis 9:18-29

  1. Shalom,

    While surfing the web, I came across ur article, which touched on the prophetic blessings & curse’s spoken by noah.

    In ur article you you have noah’s prophecy pertaining to japheth pointing to ‘Territorial Expansion.

    Can you explain to me if this is a secondary interpretation of Gen.9:27? I ask this, being that the Heb. Word there when used, pertains to mental enlargement,communication. See Pro.25:15; Psa.78:36; & Hos.2:14; !
    Please share, as we as christians, all have blind spots. I could have missed something is what i’m saying.

    Other than this, the article is very good. Hope to hear from somone soon.

    Blessings in messiah.


    • Thank you for bringing this up Al. I’m not a scholar and definitely wouldn’t presume to engage with you on the question. I think the message of the post though, is the same: Those who were gracious toward another’s problem and weakness were blessed, the one who didn’t show grace…

      You make a good point, and no doubt many scholars would agree with you.

      Thank you for your comment.


  2. Dear Sir,
    Thank you for your commentary on Gen 9:18ff.

    The more I study this bizarre account the more I am convinced that the events of the day were more ordinary than what conventional explanations describe.

    The term ‘nakedness’ is obviously a euphemism for sexual relations. I dare say the best explanation is as follows:

    Before the flood, Noah, a son of God, married Naamah, a daughter of man. Ch. 6. Years later after the flood, Noah and his Cainite wife drank too much before making love in their tent. As his father slept nearby Ham had sex with Naamah. Ham then went out to boast about his conquest in a power play against Noah and his brothers.

    Shem and Japheth in the spirit of Adam using fig leaves for covering planned a scheme. Instead of guarding the tent against intrusion they went in to plant evidence after the fact. A one man job, they went into the tent together as to not be tempted in the same manner as Ham. They, knowing their own sinful nature and the strong feelings evoked by viewing a beautiful naked woman, went in backward being careful not to see Naamah naked. They covered Noah / Naamah with an easily identifiable garment of Ham’s. Thus when Noah awoke he immediately knew what Ham had done. Nine months later Canaan was born to Naamah and was cursed by Noah.

    This is the best possible explanation which ties together all the information.



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