Monday, 13 March 2017

A Bible passage revisited.

 You know how it is? You read something in the Bible, read it stacks of times, know it all your life. And then suddenly, there you are at a marvelously advanced age, read it one more time and bingo! You suddenly see what it’s saying and its application in real life.

Well that happened to me today.

My readings for personal devotion this last little while have been travelling through the book of Genesis. This morning in the bath (acts as a kind of Thinking Centre for me) I was mulling over some of what I’d read.

In our house we have a lot of people and one main bathroom, so in the mornings it’s helpful for the others to be able to get in and clean their teeth or whatever they need to do. Not being someone with issues about nudity I therefore generally leave the bathroom door open when I’m in the bath.

And I was thinking about the story in Genesis 9 about Noah and his youngest son Ham. I guess if a Jew* calls his son Ham in the first place there’s bound to be trouble, isn’t there?

So Noah plants a vineyard, makes a load of wine, imbibes a generous amount and gets blind drunk, staggers into his tent and passes out cold. Not being in a fit state to pay attention to his dignity, he is blissfully unaware that the skirts of his robes are all over the place, leaving his crown jewels exposed for anyone who comes along to see. Which Ham does. And then rushes out to tell his brothers Shem and Japheth. This is the equivalent of Ham snapping a photo on his i-phone to post on Facebook for a laugh.

His brothers see the situation differently. They take the dignity of their father seriously. So they don’t see exposed what should not be, they walk into the tent with their faces turned aside and a coat laid between them on their shoulders to shield Noah from their view. They lay the coat upon him, and leave him safe and sound in the tent until such time as he has slept off his drunken stupor and wakes up with a crashing headache and a mouth like a stream bed in the dry season.

The next bit is what I sat in the bath turning over in my mind – in  Genesis 9.24, that talks about “When Noah woke up and found out what his youngest son had done to him”.

So Shem and Japheth obviously made known to Noah exactly what had happened – no sniggering behind his back.

And Noah is livid; he curses Ham and blesses Shem and Japeth.

And in the bath, I thought – you know, that is seriously unreasonable. Why is Noah angry with Ham? Surely he brought it on himself. Surely this is Noah’s problem, not Ham’s. What does he mean, “what his youngest son had done to him”? If you don’t want bad things to happen to you, take responsibility – don’t get drunk. If Noah had been sober there’d have been no indignity to behold, and whose fault is that?

So I took the passage into my prayers – always a good idea if you want to actually get anywhere useful with the Bible – and what came to my mind when I did that was, “Brock Turner.”

And suddenly I understood.

This story is about not taking advantage of each other, even (or maybe especially) when we are vulnerable or stupid or blind drunk.

This is about taking seriously the dignity of the other members of our human family – watching out for them, having their backs.

This is the biblical text to have in mind when we think about rape culture.

No matter what the victim was wearing (Noah didn’t bother with underwear apparently), no matter if the victim is drunk, you look out for each other.

No voyeurism, no laughing and calling others to come and look, no pics on Facebook, no taking advantage.

Made me see the passage in a totally different light.


* Please don’t write to me explaining that Noah was before the establishment of Judaism. I know. It’s a joke.


Ros said...

Thank you :-)

Whilst I ponder many things in the bath, this has never been one of them! I like your conclusion, though. Once upon a time I discovered Leviticus 19:14 where it says,'do not curse the deaf.' I liked that for the same reason. It's about having respect for the vulnerable.

Of course, the idea reaches its climax in the crucifixion, when Jesus himself is exposed to the world - and ridiculed for it. Apparently, this disqualified him from being a son of God once and for all. Except it didn't.

And, one day, not so long ago, when I was pondering that in the bath, it occurred to me that clothes are recurring theme in the Bible, right from Adam and Eve through to Revelation. In fact, in Jesus' parable of the lost son, among the first things the father says when he returns is, 'bring the best robe and put it on him...'

Such a special, gentle, love, to cover his son's 'nakedness' with honour and respect when he least deserves it...

We have an amazing God!

Pen Wilcock said...




Elin said...

I have curious thing going on with showers vs. baths. When taking a shower my brain seems to be more efficient and more active while it almost stops thinking if I am bathing (If I am not disturbed which rarely happens with an absent-minded husband and two kids. Last time the whole family was in the bathroom because we also don't lock the door when we bathe and the 4 year old was running and dancing in there. I had to tell them to get the heck out of there the nicest way possible).

I prefer showers because my brain is more likely to get stuck than need to be quiet and the showers don't just make me clean, they also allow my brain to release itself. My husband is the other way around and almost only take baths.

I think it is weird for my husband sometimes when I come out of the shower a changed person because now I have reached some insight he never expeccted.

Pen Wilcock said...


"I come out of the shower a changed person" - I know just what you mean! That's how I am in the bath. How interesting about the difference for you between the shower and the bath!

Jenna said...

Actually, Noah cursed one of cHam's sons. cHam had 4 sons: Mitzarim, Phut, Cush, and Canaan.

Gen 9:24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.
Gen 9:25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
Gen 9:26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
Gen 9:27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

The errant notion that God cursed Ham supplied the fuel for slavery of Africans of all stripes in North America. Canaan was a progenitor of Phoenicians who instead lived on the sea coast in Palestine. Esau took his wives from that people.

There is something even deeper going on here with this curse.

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you, Jenna. x