Thursday, July 15, 2010
Covenants and curses
It would have been nice if the Noah story had ended with the beautiful image of the rainbow and God’s promise to never destroy the earth again.
Unfortunately, towards the end of Genesis 9 we have this awful story of the curse of Canaan which I could very well have done without.
It seems that after getting off the ark, one of the first things Noah did was to get completely drunk, take all his clothes off and then pass out in his tent naked. Noah’s son Ham then had the bad luck to stumble upon his father in this condition. Ham’s mistake at this point, supposedly, was to go and tell his brothers what he saw. Thus forewarned, the brothers then enter the tent backwards with a blanket over their shoulders and cover their father’s nakedness without looking at him.
The next part of the story is so astoundingly appalling by today’s standards as to be nonsensical. When Noah finally awakens from his drunken stupor and learns that his son Ham saw him in that condition he reacts by cursing Ham’s son (and Noah’s grandson) Canaan.
“Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.”
So, even though Noah is the one who gets drunk and makes a complete ass of himself; and even though Ham is the one who offends Noah by seeing him in this condition, it is the innocent Canaan and all of his descendents who must suffer Noah’s wrath for all eternity.
Horrible. Just horrible.
So naturally I reject this story outright. I refuse to believe that it happened this way. I think it is a slander on poor Noah meant to explain why some people are enslaved later on in history. I think a lot of the stories in the Old Testament are parables meant to explain certain conditions that existed at the time the Bible was written.
Telling people who are slaves that they are slaves because God wills it was probably a good way to keep them in line. But I reject the idea that God ever intended for men to enslave one another.