Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Three

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

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Questions? We all have them.

Previous articles in this series:

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Two

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

We go back to the nakedness being evil thing again when Ham, Noah’s son, sees Noah naked. So Noah curses Ham’s son Canaan (oh look, the Hebrew Canaanites) for Ham seeing him naked, and he praises his son Shem for covering him (though both of Ham’s brothers apparently covered him, so why did only one get praised?). How does Noah know what has happened to him since he seemed to immediately wake up and curse Canaan? Why is Ham seeing him naked (by accident) so bad that Noah curses his own grandson as punishment? Why does he curse Canaan instead of Ham?

 Unfortunately I do not have a whole lot of light to shed on this particular subject. However, I find myself in good company, as the research I’ve done and the questions I’ve asked have borne little fruit.  I will tackle these questions one by one and answer them as best I can.

HWT: “[Shem and Japheth] apparently covered him, so why did only one get praised?”

Actually, they were both praised (or, more accurately, blessed).

And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. (Gen 9:26-27)

HWT: “How does Noah know what has happened to him since he seemed to immediately wake up and curse Canaan?”

This is a good question, and the text does not reveal the answer overtly. It could be that by “awakened” the author is saying he sobered up from being drunk, and remembered what happened while he was drunk. Or, alternatively, his wife or other children may have informed him of what happened. These seem to be the simplest and most parsimonious answers.

HWT: “Why is Ham seeing him naked (by accident) so bad that Noah curses his own grandson as punishment?”

Here, you have made an assumption that is not contained within the text, i.e. “by accident.”

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. (Gen 9:22)

Now granted, it doesn’t say it was on purpose either. However, because of the severity of the punishment, I am inclined to think it was more than an accidental peek. However, exactly what happened is definitely the $64 question. There are many hypotheses ranging from Ham castrating Noah to Ham sleeping with Noah’s wife (Ham’s mother). While I would call the castration hypothesis hogwash, at least the infidelity with Noah’s wife has some merit based on a phrase used later in the giving of the law.

Lev 18:8 The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.

Lev 20:11 And the man that lieth with his father’s wife hath uncovered his father’s nakedness…

In the light of these verses it is plausible that Ham at least purposely saw his mother in a compromising position and that possibly more occurred than just his viewing of her. It would also explain why Shem and Japheth backed into the tent to cover up their mother, when that measure seemingly wouldn’t be absolutely necessary were it just their father who was in need of covering. At any rate, it would seem from the result (Noah’s cursing of Canaan) that the cause was more than an innocent viewing of Noah in a compromising position.

HWT: “Why does he curse Canaan instead of Ham?”

This is another mystery. Some have posited that Canaan was involved in the transgression in some way, but the text simply doesn’t give any indication to that effect. At this juncture, speculation could indeed run rampant, but given the lack of evidence in this account and the lack of further details later in the revelation, I think it is quite appropriate to say “I don’t know.”

I do have a counter question for you, however. When I initially asked you to narrow down the focus of your questions, and you said “These are the questions that I am most interested in having answered”, why did you choose these, in particular?

This passage and those like it are examples of the brutal honesty of the Bible. Noah was as much a hero as any man could ever hope to be. I mean heck, he literally SAVED HUMANITY from extinction. Yet, the last picture we see of this hero is an old man naked and drunk, and cursing his grandchild. Not a pretty picture, but the Bible tells it, warts and all. There is no attempt to cover up this dark period of Noah’s life, nor the problems of many other Biblical heroes such as Abraham and David, and even Peter and Thomas and other Apostles in the New Testament had their moments. Their flaws are not covered or glossed over, but are told about and dealt with honestly, for our benefit.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

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Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part Two

One of the blogs I have begun following, entitled “hessianwithteeth” (HWT), has posted a series of articles entitled “Why I Can’t Agree with the Bible“. These articles basically list questions that the author has as she reads through the Bible, starting with Genesis. I will now attempt to answer some of the questions she has from the book of Genesis, using the criteria set forth in my introductory article.

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Questions are only natural.

Who are the sons of God? Are they angels? Demi-gods? Holy people? If they’re gods, then the Bible isn’t monotheistic, and angels are commonly thought to be creations like humans, not children of God. But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t? And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts? And why would they marry human women?

These questions are from the sixth chapter of Genesis, which is an account of the state of humanity leading up to the flood.

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. (Gen 6:1-2, emphasis mine)

This passage has created quite a stir in Christianity, unnecessarily in my opinion, because the answer that best fits the criteria I have set forth and that is also the most parsimonious is actually rather dull, especially compared to some of the more outlandish answers that some have given. “Who are the sons of God [mentioned in Genesis 6:2]?” They are simply the men who called upon the name of the Lord.

And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD. (Gen 4:26)

Often we find that the Bible is its own best interpreter. When a term or phrase is confusing, sometimes we can get a better grasp on it by finding other examples of the term or phrase in other areas of scripture. In this case, our phrase is defined for us in the book of Romans.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Rom 8:14, emphasis mine)

So we see that the simplest reading of the text, and the one that fits the criteria for internal coherence with the rest of the narrative, points to the sons of God merely being men who were serving God the best way they knew how with the light they had at the time. HWT asked “But if they are holy men, how do you explain the implication that, while Enoch was a man of God, the rest of the people weren’t?” First, I’m not sure “holy men” is the right description. I try to serve God as well, but I in no way consider myself a “holy man.”  Also, I’m not sure I see that particular implication. There is no doubt that for whatever reason Enoch was special in God’s sight, and God “took him.” However the text doesn’t indicate that the rest of the people in Enoch’s time were “ungodly.”

And how do you explain the later claim that all people only ever have evil in their hearts?

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
(Gen 6:4-5)

This is a result of the sons of God becoming “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14) with the daughters of men. Today’s equivalent would be a Christian marrying a Buddhist, Muslim or atheist. This type of marriage is typically detrimental to the Christian’s walk with God. In the days of Noah, there were no governments or laws such as we have in this day, and the evil in their hearts was unrestrained by the societal norms we have in this day. The men who were unequally yoked were turned from serving God by their wives, and/or their children were not taught to serve God by their mothers. Because of this their fallen and selfish natures were unrestrained by neither religion nor society. I imagine that it was a pretty dangerous time to live in.

My interpretation of “the sons of God” may be considered somewhat controversial by some, however it seems to be the answer that makes the most sense. The phrase is used in one instance (Job 38:7) where I struggle to make this interpretation make sense, but every other time it appears in the Bible, this interpretation fits nicely. To view the phrase as representing angels, as some have, just adds an additional level of complication to the narrative, much like the positing of the special creation of wives for the sons of Adam and Eve, complications which are never “worked out” subsequently in the narrative. In addition, the things that we do know about angels and biology through Biblical revelation seem to inveigh against angel/human marriage and reproduction.

I’d love to discuss these things with you. Any questions and comments that are in line with this page’s Commenting Policy will be published and responded to (to the best of my ability).

For more information on how I keep my worldview informed please go to Cross Roads Church.

Previous articles in this series:

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Genesis Part One

Answering Questions from the Blog “hessianwithteeth”: Introduction

 

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