Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Noah and sons (Gen 9:18-11:26)

In the last post, God had finished speaking a beautiful covenant to humans, recommissioning them to fill the earth, and promising to hold back his judgment in the future.

Next, the sons of Noah come out of the boat. We are told that from these three sons will come all of the people of the earth. As in the last chapter, women are completely absent, now not even mentioned as existing as wives, in the context of a discussion of reproduction and filling the earth.

In this exclusively male narrative, we hear of the initial misbehavior of those on whom the hope of a renewed civilization is resting. Noah plants a vineyard and becomes drunk, and passes out naked. His son Ham sees him, and dishonors him by pointing the situation out to his brothers. We've noted a few first sins--though surely this had happened before in human history, here is the first recorded example of not honoring one's father or mother. Ham's brothers cover up Noah. When he awakes and realizes what has happened, Noah curses Ham and his descendants, and blesses Shem and Japheth and their descendants.

Here again, these men are heading their families' circumstances in a representative way. As in the last chapter when Noah's obedience saved his whole family from the flood, I think this blessing and cursing is meant to influence physical conditions in the lives of the children of the brothers, but does not influence their spiritual destinies, which are determined person by person. Now, another question here, what does a father's blessing or curse ultimately accomplish? Is Noah actually supernaturally changing things for his descendants? Is he prophesying based on behavior he sees in his sons that he senses will have consequences down through the ages?

Noah lives 350 years after the flood for a total of 950 years. This is interesting, since in the last episode before the flood, the Lord grew tired of human wickedness and cut our lifespans short going forward. Noah is apparently grandfathered in, and exempt from this. His sons through Shem are later recorded as living gradually shorter and shorter lives down through nine generations until Abraham.

The genealogy in Chapter 10 gives us some of the descendants of all three of Noah's sons. Not a single daughter is mentioned either by name or by gender in this genealogy. We are given a few details about the sons. Javan's descendants became seafaring people that spread out and spoke different languages. Cush's descendant Nimrod was a great conqueror of many early lands, legendary as a great hunter. During Peleg's lifetime people of the world were divided into different language groups.

This detail about Peleg prepares us for the next story of the tower of Babel. This linguistically fascinating story doesn't touch gender at all, and I can't really find much to say about it related to the focus of the blog. But after Babel, we have another record of Shem's descendants that will take us down to Abraham, and in this one, the men recorded are said to have had other sons . . . and daughters! Ladies we are back in the text. Woot! Keep reading and we will get to examine the most vividly described female in the Bible to date, Abram's wife Sarai. Can't wait to study her next time!


  • Noah's narrative is completely masculine.
  • Noah's sons receive blessings and curses for all of their descendants.
  • How does a father's blessing or curse actually work? Does it? Or is this poetic?
  • Still wondering why there are no women in this section at all, even in the background. Any more thoughts?

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