Genesis (Part 41)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find the previous posts HERE.

Genesis 9:18-29 (ESV)

18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

20 Noah began to be a man of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. 21 He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan;
    a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem;
    and let Canaan be his servant.
27 May God enlarge Japheth,
    and let him dwell in the tents of Shem,
    and let Canaan be his servant.”

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.


The start of this section reminds us again who Noah’s sons are. We also learn the name of Noah’s grandson (Canaan.)

“From these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.”

The word for earth comes from: אֶרֶץ ʼerets, eh’-rets; from an unused root probably meaning to be firm; the earth (at large, or partitively a land):—× common, country, earth, field, ground, land, × natins, way, + wilderness, world.

(When we get into the discussion about whether the entire globe was populated via Noah’s sons, keep this word in mind. It might mean “world/planet” in the way a modern reader would mean it. But it might also mean “land” and therefore be more regional.)

In verse 20, we see something interesting. Noah became a man of the soil and he planted a vineyard. Let’s look more closely at the translation.

soil = אֲדָמָה ʼădâmâh, ad-aw-maw’; from H119; soil (from its general redness):—country, earth, ground, husband(-man) (-ry), land.

If you’ve read through with me so far, that word should be familiar to you. This is the word from which “Adam” derives. It’s also the thing God cursed after Adam’s sin and again after Cain’s sin.

Noah represents a prototype for a new Adam. He is a man of the soil (of the Adam) and he plants what we see here translated as vineyard. However, the Hebrew root is interesting.

כֶּרֶם kerem, keh’-rem; from an unused root of uncertain meaning; a garden or vineyard:—vines, (increase of the) vineyard(-s), vintage. See also H1021.

Vineyard can also be translated as “garden.” The new Adam, Noah, takes up the original Adam’s occupation. He tends a garden.

It appears that Noah was the first to make wine after the Flood. At least a couple of commentaries suggest that Noah did not make the wine on purpose.

From Pulpit Commentary:

Genesis 9:20

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:Verse 20. – And Noah began to be an husbandman. Literally, a man of the groundVir terror (Vulgate); ἄνθρωπος γεωργὸς γῆς (LXX.); Chald., נְּבַר פָלַח בְּאַרְעָא = vir co-lens terramagriculturae dediturus. Cf. Joshua 5:4, “a man of war;” 2 Samuel 16:7, “a man of blood;” Genesis 46:32, “a man of cattle;” Exodus 4:10, “a man of words.” And he planted a vineyard. So Murphy, Wordsworth, Kalisch. Keil, Delitzsch, and Lange regard ish haAdamah, with the art., as in apposition to Noah, and read, “And Noah, the husbandman, began and planted a vineyard,” i.e.caepit plantare (cf. Gesenius, ‘Gram.,’ 142, 3; Glass, Sacrae Philologiae, lib. 3. tr. 3. can. 34). Neither interpretation presupposes that husbandry and vine cultivation were now practiced for the first time. That Armenia is a wine-growing country is testified by Xenophon (‘Anab.,’ 4:4, 9). That the vine was abundantly cultivated in Egypt is evident from representations on the monuments, as well as from Scriptural allusions. The Egyptians say that Osiris, the Greeks that Dionysus, the Romans that Saturn, first taught men the cultivation of the tree and the use of its fruit.

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:

Verse 20-21

(20, 21) Noah began to be an husbandman.—Rather, Noah, being a husbandman (Heb., a man of the adâmâh), began to plant a vineyard. Noah had always been a husbandman: it was the cultivation of the vine, still abundant in Armenia, that was new. Scarcely aware, perhaps, of the intoxicating qualities of the juice which he had allowed to ferment, he drank to excess, and became the first example of the shameful effects of intemperance.


Does it really seem likely that Noah did not know what he was doing when making wine? The text does not say so. But it also does not say it was not an accident.

In any case, the rest of this chapter is genuinely strange and represents one of the great mysteries of the Bible.

First, I want to bring attention to the name Canaan.

כְּנַעַן Kᵉnaʻan, ken-ah’-an; from H3665; humiliated; Kenaan, a son a Ham; also the country inhabited by him:—Canaan, merchant, traffick.

Why is he named “humiliated”? Does Noah name his grandson? If so, does it have to do with the events here?

One theory regarding this story is that Ham slept with Noah’s wife (i.e. his own mother) while Noah was passed out. To make this conclusion, its proponents infer some details that are not in the text. Ham went in his father’s tent and found his father naked. Ham also “found” his mother. Canaan is said to be the result of that event. Noah’s other two sons covered up his father, and presumably also their unmentioned mother, without looking at them.

I want to also draw your attention to something else you may have noticed. We are not told the names of any of the women in this story. We do not learn of their names before, during, or even after the Flood. Who is Noah’s wife? What are the names of the wives of Noah’s sons? Isn’t the absence… conspicuous?

The most commonly held belief, regarding the name of Noah’s wife, is that she is Naamah. There is not a lot of evidence for this claim – but then there is not a lot evidence for anyone’s claim about Noah’s wife. In Genesis 4:22, Naamah is mentioned in the line of Cain’s descent. She is actually the last name mentioned in that line of descent. Choosing to name a woman, last, is unusual and therefore suggestive of a purpose. The next chapter lays out the line of Seth that concludes with Noah.

I’ll borrow from Answering Genesis to bring forward some of the history with respect to naming Noah’s wife:

  • The Jewish writing known as Genesis Rabba (c. 5th century AD) states, “Naamah, daughter of Lemech and sister to Tubalcain, was Noah’s wife.”
  • The work known as the Book of Jasher, mentioned in Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18, also calls her Naamah. However, the text we currently call the Book of Jasher is considered to be a forgery and not the same as the work mentioned in Scripture.
  • The non-canonical Jewish work known as the Book of Jubilees (c. 2nd century BC) has been called “Little Genesis” because it covers many of the same events while embellishing some of the details. Jubilees 4:33 states that “Noah took to himself a wife, and her name was Emzara, the daughter of Rake’el, the daughter of his father’s brother.” The name Emzara does not appear in Scripture at all, but some people think that it was chosen because it may mean “mother of Sarai” or “ancestor of Sarai,” so the name may have been created to stress the link between Noah and Abraham.
  • A third name that has been assigned to Noah’s wife is Barthenos. The fourth century bishop of Salamis, Epiphanius, gave her this name. However, he likely confused the name of Noah’s wife with that commonly given to his mother. Ancient Jewish literature, such as the Genesis Apocryphon (Column 2, Line 3) and the Book of Jubilees (4:28), identified Lamech’s wife (Noah’s mother) as Batenosh. The name simply means “daughter of Enosh” (Enosh was Adam’s grandson through Seth). The name was probably simply made up in Jewish traditions and is unlikely to have really been the name of Lamech’s wife or Noah’s wife.

Let’s talk about other oddities from this story. From

(a)  The term saw the “nakedness of his father” (Genesis 9:22) is the same term as used in the Levitical law when dealing with incest (e.g. Leviticus 20:11 “And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness:” – KJV). This clearly means having sexual relations.

(b)  Noah knew that the result of this union would upset the balance between good and evil (1 John 3:12Genesis 4:25).

It seems clear that something more than what is stated in the text happened here. The evidence is suggestive of incest. Did Ham sleep with his mother and sire Canaan? Did Ham commit incest with his inebriated father – causing Noah to curse Ham’s son? We simply do not know enough about this incident to know for sure. But the story is included in the Bible for a reason. Personally, I think the mysteries are important.

We will see the consequences of this curse, in the line of Canaan, going forward. Speaking of Canaan, there is another possibility here.

When Moses – the stated author of Genesis – leads his people from Egypt, who occupies The Promised Land? The Canaanites. A cynical person might view this story as a way for Moses and the Israelites to intentionally dishonor the Canaanites. Writing a history that attributes the origin of your enemy, as being rooted in incest, is dishonoring, right?

Something else to consider in these events. When Moses leads the Israelites into the lands occupied by the Canaanites, the Israelites find… giants. Is there a genetic lineage from this incident. Possibly. Canaan might be the patriarch of a line of giants. Alternatively, one of his descendants may have married into a line of giants. In any case, it is CLEAR that the author of Genesis wanted to draw a link between the events of Genesis 6 and the re-taking of The Promised Land.

[We will definitely be revisiting this again many times going forward.]

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