I’ve always had a bit of trouble with the story of Noah’s drunkeness (one of the readings in today’s lectionary).  The flood’s over.  He plants a vinyard.  He makes wine.  He gets drunk, and passes out naked in his tent.  His son, Ham, goes in and sees him naked.  This is apparently a terrible crime.  He tells his brothers.  This is admittedly a bit disrespectful.  Noah’s behavior is seemingly praiseworthy (from the point of view of the biblical writer).  Ham’s son Canaan is condemned to slavery for his behavior.  It just doesn’t seem right.

I guess the point is supposed to be that as the embodiment of the family (the patriarch) Noah can do no wrong (unless it harms the family).  And maybe that in talking about what he saw, Ham harmed the family.  But if I had to grade their behavior, first of all, I probably wouldn’t be too hard on either of them, but second of all, I might be inclined to say that Noah’s behavior was worse than Ham’s behavior.  It’s certainly not a crime.  But passing out naked in your own house is not something most people would want everyone to know about.  I’m thinking that was why Noah was pissed at his son.  Shouldn’t he, in all fairness, be pissed at himself?  And why punish Canaan?

I think this is also seen as justification for taking the land of the Canaanites, who are presumably descendents of Canaan.  It seems to assume it is alright to punish children for what their parents have done.  I have a problem with that.   And I have a problem with taking land by force from the people who live there (whether it’s in the Holy Land or the United States).  All in all this is not one of my favorite passages of scripture.

But I am left wondering one thing:  were there vinyards before the flood?  I don’t know and I haven’t checked.  The idea, however, of a roughly 600 year old Noah learning how to handle his alcohol (like a college freshman) is a little intriging …

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