Day 17: Noah …became drunk

Read Genesis 9:18-29

This is an icky story.

I don’t like it.

The idea of Noah getting sloppy drunk, undressing, and then falling unconscious: it just repulses me.

Ham ‘sees’ his dad’s nakedness, and tells his brothers about it. The brothers won’t even look at their dad, instead they work together to cover him without seeing him. Then Noah wakes up and learns what Ham did and curses Ham’s son – all very strange.

As with so many of the small stories here at the start of the big story, I have more questions than answers. What does it mean that Ham ‘saw’? Of course he saw. His dad was lying there naked. But there must be more to it based on the responses of his brothers and his dad. Then, Noah curses Ham’s son – Canaan – instead of cursing Ham directly. Why?

I don’t know.

But two things are clear, so let’s stick with them: Noah gets stupidly, embarrassingly, drunk; and Canaan gets cursed.

The curse on Canaan will be worth remembering as we go on, because it will have long and lasting effects; and that’s all I’m saying now.

The drunkenness of Noah – oh, that disappoints me!

I wanted him to be better than that.

I have pictures of him in my mind: walking with God while the whole world runs after the dragon; building a monstrosity of a boat; patiently waiting weeks and months to get off the boat; and burning a sacrifice to God in a clean new world. In all these pictures he is larger than life, broad-shouldered, big-hearted, far seeing, and wise: the perfect hero.

Now I have to add another picture: drunk, and passed out in his tent. It doesn’t fit.

But what did I want, sinlessness?


I wanted one person to be totally untouched by the craving, or at least completely triumphant over it. It would have made the story so tidy: the dragon drowns in the flood and the world is repopulated with sinless people. That’s how I would write it.

But God is writing a different story. In His, the people have evil hearts – all of them. “Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (8:21). In God’s story, there is still a dragon and no one is free from his poison, not even Noah.

My story wouldn’t have worked because Noah never was sinless. Eventually, I would discover this and be shocked, my story ruined. God is not shocked. I love that about him: he is never shocked by our ugly cravings and never caught off guard.  He knew all along what was in Noah.

Yet he loved him.

Yet he used him to save the world.