A Father’s Curse: Noah and Ham

Dear Catholic Exchange:

I am leading a Bible study using the Scott Hahn video series and have a question regarding something he mentioned in one of the salvation history tapes. He was speaking about the curse Noah placed on his son Ham after he saw his father's nakedness. Scott Hahn said it refers to an incestuous relationship between Ham and his mother but I haven't been able to find anything else providing that interpretation. If you could supply some information or refer me to a book or website I'd appreciate it.

Karen Lugo

Dear Karen,

Greetings in Christ. I hope this response will adequately address your question.

Dr. Hahn’s view about the sin of Ham, which placed a curse on his son Canaan, is not novel. On his tape, Dr. Hahn refers to a Scripture scholar named Bassett to bolster his case. (You may read a copy of his tape transcript at http://www.ewtn.com/library/scriptur/slvhst2.TXT.) The scholar is F.W. Bassett, who wrote an article entitled, “Noah's Nakedness and the Curse on Canaan: A Case of Incest,” which appeared in the scholarly journal, Vetus Testamentum (1971), vol. 21, pp. 232-37. Bassett provides an abstract or summary of his article:

The idiom of Genesis 9:22, “saw the nakedness of his father,” is well attested to in Leviticus 18:7, 8, 14, 16 and 20:11, 20, 21 as meaning heterosexual intercourse. Therefore, Ham had intercourse with his father's wife and the fruit of this incestuous relationship must be Canaan, for it explains Noah's curse upon Ham's son.

To obtain this article, check with a Catholic university library or Protestant seminary library to see if it carries this journal back to 1971. If such a library is not within driving distance, perhaps a library employee could copy the article for you for a small fee. Dr. Bassett will undoubtedly provide adequate citations for his argument, although his correlation between Genesis 9:22 and the passages is itself compelling. There is also D. Steinmetz’s article “Wineyard, Farm, and Garden: The Drunkedness of Noah in the Context of Primeval History,” in the Journal of Biblical Literature (1994), vol. 113, pp. 199-200. Finally, there is R.W.E Forrest’s article “Paradise Lost Again,” in the Journal for the Study of the Old Testament (1994), vol. 62, pp. 3-18.

I hope this answers your question. If you have further questions on this or would like more information about Catholics United for the Faith, please contact us at 1-800-MY-FAITH (693-2484). Please keep us in your prayers as we endeavor to “support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.”

United in the Faith,

Thomas J. Nash

Senior Information Specialist

Catholics United for the Faith

827 North Fourth Street

Steubenville, OH 43952

800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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