20. "And Noaḥ began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine, and was uncovered in his tent. And Ḥam, the FATHER OF CANAAN (Cenaan), saw the NAKEDNESS (naked wife) of his father, and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a (the) garment (or cloth), laid it on both their shoulders, and went backward and covered the NAKEDNESS (naked wife) of their father. ..." (Gen. 9:20-23 NKJV). Noaḥ was drunk and passed out. The text says that "he was uncovered in the midst of his tent." That is a Hebrew figure of speech and means that Ḥam uncovered his mother, Noaḥ's wife Naamah, inside their tent (Deut. 27:20, Yasher 5:15). Later, "Ḥam ... SAW THE NAKEDNESS (i.e. naked wife) of his father." The CAPITALIZED WORDS are also a euphemism for sex (Lev. 20:11, 17). Those statements have a literal or non-literal meaning in Hebrew. Context let's us know which meaning is meant. Consider that Genesis re-iterates that Cenaan is the son of Ḥam (Gen. 9:18, 22). Hence, Naamah conceived Shem, Yapheth, Ḥam and Cenaan. Noaḥ was the father of her first three sons but he was not the father of Cenaan; which was the result of incest and also either adultery or rape. Cenaan was the half-brother of Shem, Yapheth and Ḥam.
Additionally, Noaḥ's prophetic curse is also an indicator that the non-literal meaning is meant. Though one may object to a child paying for the sins of a parent, the Bible does indicate that God does or did operate that way in the beginning (Ex. 20:5-6; 34:6-7; Num. 14:18).
Genesis 9:23 says that Shem & Yapheth took THE garment (dress, cloth) & walked backwards & covered the NAKEDNESS (naked wife) of their father. This is in accordance with Leviticus 18:7-8 which God said not to uncover and hence see a mother's nakedness. Noaḥ would have been clothed so the fact that his wife had her clothing on top of her naked body or was covered with THE [blood] cloth (Deut. 22:17); could have alerted Noaḥ to what happened. Please note that the word "THE" is often left out in the translation.
Cenaan and his descendants were to be servants; serving Shem, Japheth and their progeny. Cenaan was in actuality serving his half-BROTHERS Shem and Yapheth along with their descending families (i.e. Shemites, Yaphethites). Maybe he was also serving his half-brother / father Ḥam. Nevertheless, Ḥam was not to get any upper hand by having his southern territory (portion) plus any portion of the territory of Shem or Yapheth. God was to extend Yapheth's territory with the Yapethites living in the tent's of the Shemites. Naamah, Cenaan's mom, may have left her husband Noaḥ to be with her fourth son in the land of Cenaan because (Josh. 15:41) mentions a Cenaanite city called "Naamah."
1st Note: The word galah "he uncovered" is in the Hitpael conjugation (yithgal - "[&] he was uncovered" or "he uncovered himself" [Gen. 9:21]). The Hitpael conjugation can give a verb a reflexive meaning or a passive meaning. Usually the Niphal conjugation gives a verb a passive meaning (ex. "he WAS uncovered") & the Hitpael conjugation gives the verb a reflexive meaning (ex. "he uncovered HIMSELF"). However, the Hitpael conjugation often carries both a reflexive and a passive meaning depending on the context. That's even if a verb is already used in the Niphal form to designate the passive meaning. So the fact that galah appears in it's Niphal conjugation ("niglah - he was uncovered") many times in the Bible (1 Sam. 3:21; Isa. 53:1; etc.), doesn't mean that its Hitpael form was used to gives it only a reflexive meaning. The word arah "he uncovered" is a synonym for galah, and it's HITPAEL meaning can be "WAS uncovered" (Lam. 4:21) and "uncovering HIMSELF, lifting HIMSELF up, flourishing" (Ps. 37:35). The Bible also has an example of the word arah in the imperfect Niphal pronunciation at Isaiah 32:15: "until a spirit from on high SHALL BE POURED OUT on us ..." Literally that statement says: "until a spirit from on high SHALL BE UNCOVERED on us ..." Thus, the statement "was uncovered," can be expressed in either a verb's NIPHAL or HITPAEL forms.
2nd Note: Shem was the firstborn of Noaḥ (Jubilees 10:14). We also know this because Shem is said to be the "OLDER brother of Yapheth" (Gen. 10:21). In Hebrew grammar, when a definite noun is in the construct state and has an adjective, the adjective also is definite and comes after the following second noun. (Examples: Deut. 11:7; Jud. 1:13; 2:7; 3:9; 9:5; 2 Ki. 15:35; 2 Chron. 27:3; Neh. 3:30; Jer. 13:9; 36:10; Ezek. 10:19; 11:1; etc.). So the statement: "Shem ... the older brother of Yapheth" in correct Hebrew grammar would be worded as it is as: "Shem .. [the] brother of Yapheth, the older." The words "the older" describe "[the] brother [Shem]" not "Yapheth." Ḥam was the youngest son of Noaḥ (Gen. 9:24).
3rd Note: (Deut. 22:30) "A man shall not take (marry) the wife of his father; and he shall not uncover the [cloak] skirt of his father." That's a different way of saying what happened to Noaḥ. Ḥam should not have taken his father's wife. He had uncovered his father's skirt, or how Genesis words it, "[Noaḥ] was uncovered." He saw his father's nakedness; which isn't literal. He saw Noaḥ's wife naked.
The following are a couple of examples when the word "nakedness" doesn't refer to an individual person's "nudity," but something else. This is to show that we aren't just to assume that the "nakedness of so-and-so" automatically always refers to their literal nudity. Consider when the word "nakedness" should be interpreted as "dishonor, shame, reproach, etc." When the servants of King Artaxerxes complained that the Jews were building the wicked and rebellious city Yerushalem, they claimed that if it would be built and its walls would be completed, the Jews wouldn't give tribute. Afterwards, they literally said this to the king: "... and it was not meet for us to SEE THE NAKEDNESS (reproach, dishonor) of the king, therefore we have sent and have informed the king." (Ezra 4:12-14). The CAPITALISED WORDS are a shortened alternate statement for: "... SEE THE [shame of the] NAKEDNESS of the king, ..." (see 1 Sam. 20:30). It's a visual statement and hence the word "nakedness" can be translated as "shame, disgrace, etc." to carry the shortened statement's meaning into English. Another example is when Yoseph accused his brothers of coming to SEE THE NAKEDNESS (shame, bare or defenseless areas) of the land of Egypt (Gen. 42:9, 12).
Is the Bible Against Homosexuality? by Preacher Mattai © 2016. All rights reserved.