The year was 1997, and the action on the #bible BBS had been hot and heavy. A visitor had asked whether the Bible records Ham's having had homosexual relations with Noah, his father. He said tht his pastor had made that assertion in his homily earlier in that day, but our visitor did not think that was so. He asked the board to help him to know the truth that he might share with his pastor. I responded with the following post.
In their excellent hermeneutical text, How To Study The Bible For All Its Worth, Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart warn of the theological danger of approaching Scripture searching for support for a pre-existing interpretation.
If one is convinced in his mind, for example, that Ham's sin (Genesis 9:22) was one of homosexual abuse of his drunken father and searches Scripture looking to "support" that position, his prejudice will likely color his interpretation of what he finds. Result? He will have "proven" that Ham sexually abused his father. It does not matter whether Scripture actually says that..it is what he WANTED it to say.
I had not given much thought to the activities of Noah, Ham, Canaan, Shem and Japheth as recounted in Genesis 9:20-29 prior to your asking about them. When I read those verses again, I at first thought Ham's offense must have been one of homosexual abuse of his drunken father. After all, "uncover nakedness" is used in Leviticus 18 and elsewhere in Scripture in reference to a sexual act. Further study, using several translations of Scripture, soon revealed my error.
For illustration, the KJV provides this translation of Leviticus 18:8
The NIV reads Leviticus 18:8 in this way:
In this instance, Scripture clearly is addressing incestual relations between a son and his mother. "Nakedness" is in reference to the sexual act.
Now, let us compare the readings the same translations provide for Genesis 9:22:
Neither translation treats "nakedness" as a sexual act. Therefore, there is no reason to read a homosexual, or any other type, activity into what clearly was a son's coming upon his drunken father, who was lying in a position which revealed his private parts. Then, the son went out to tell his older brothers what he had seen.
The Geneva Bible Notes agree Ham's sin was that he saw his father naked and failed in his obligation to honor and respect his father.
The Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge refers one to these verses in the Old and New Testaments, as well as a few others which address genealogy and land boundaries:
A reading of these verses will reveal they address respect for privacy, gossip and related topics. Not one of them so much as hints at sexual or homosexual sin.
What do Reformed commentators have to say about Ham's sin?
The verse in question is to be taken in context, Gen 9:20-29. In verse 21, we read that Noah, who now has a vineyard, has taken to consuming at least some of the wine he produces:
Matthew Poole, a 17th Century Bible scholar and commentator, makes these comments on 21b:
In the following verse, we read that Ham, the youngest son, entered into his father's quarters and saw his father's nakedness. Ham then told his brothers, who were outside, what he had seen.
Poole tells us:
Matthew Henry, another Reformation theologian, had this to say about Ham's sin:
Adam Clarke wrote:
Okay, those were some thoughts from old guys. What do more modern theologians have to say about Genesis 9:22?
In my previous letter to you on this issue, I quoted from a letter a friend of mine, who holds graduate degrees in Theology and Divinity from a highly respected conservative Protestant seminary. This scholar, who studies Scripture in the original languages, wrote:
I recall some excellence advice from one of my professors in Bible college:
Now, to your other questions:
Don't be deceived! I really am not much of a Bible scholar. What little I do know and understand was acquired through study of the Bible, private tutoring over an extended time by my pastor, formal instruction in Bible college, participation in assemblies of Bible believing brethren, and still more study of Scriptures. We learn what we are exposed to. Spend a lot of time prayerfully reading Scripture..not to prove or disprove a point of discussion, but to learn of our Lord and His ways. You'll pick it up.
I agree that the Body of Christ will not be present on earth during the Tribulation. Scripture seems quite clear on that.
I do hope you have found a way to talk with your pastor on this issue. May I suggest you call him? Or, write him a letter stating your question and suggesting he talk with you after services the following Sunday. That will give him and you time to prepave for the discussion. I wish you grace and peace from God our Father and our Savior Jesus Christ lazyboy