The mention of Noah’s drunkenness is no accident here, and it is no sign of God’s approval just because he doesn’t condemn Noah for it. God doesn’t have to condemn Noah for it. His drunkenness left him in an embarrassing and vulnerable situation. In another story soon to follow, a man named Lot is coerced into having sex with his own daughters. It happened too while he was drunk. The writer of Proverbs will wisely observe: “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper” (Proverbs 23:29 – 30).
The Bible does not condemn the use of alcohol, it only warns directly and by example that abuse (drunkenness) will lead to shame.
What did Ham do to his father?
We are not told. Perhaps it was as little as making fun of his father’s condition. Perhaps it was much much more. Regardless, dishonoring a parent was a capital offense in the Old Testament.
Why was the curse on Ham’s son, Canaan? Remember that Genesis was written for Israel as she was about to enter the land of Canaan. She had been told to exterminate the Canaanites, and their sins had been cataloged by God. This text simply speaks to the origins of their shameful behavior. God wanted Israel to know the shame reached back much further than their own time.
How we behave does not only affect us. Our example serves as a guide and an encouragement – for good or ill – to those who look to us for guidance and in that way, everything we do outlives us. Be careful what you gaze at, what you say, how you act. Someone is watching, and as your brother’s keeper, you are responsible.