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Possible anti-gay clobber text: Genesis 9

August 3, 2015

HamWhen Abraham’s son ‘uncovered his nakedness’, some see it as a reference to sexual assault or even castration, yet it is more likely that he was making fun of ‘his old man’ (pun intended). When you realise that people did not understand about the female egg, they assumed that the whole ‘seed’ of future lives existed in the testicles. That is why ancient people swore oaths on their testicles – hence the derivation of ‘testimony’ and ‘testament’. It was like swearing on you (yet to be born/conceived) child’s life.

Just think of the damage caused to black people, thought to be ‘the sons of Ham’ as well as to gay people. Mistranslation is a life or death issue.

This story also has parallels which commentators rarely point out: God asks Adam, ‘Who told you that you were naked?’ (3.11) and Ham tells his brothers that their father was naked (9.22). So God clothes Adam and his wife, and Shem and Japheth cover their father….. Noah’s excessive intake of wine causes him to expose his genitals, creating another mirror-image flashback to the moment when Adam and Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit and suddenly become aware of their nakedness (3.7).

However, Noah’s experience forms an intriguing contrast to the adventure in the Garden of Eden. From the moment in which they taste the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve gain important knowledge of the meaning of the concepts of life and death. This enables them to embark on a growing and maturing process in which they learn to face reality and adjust to adult life on the earth away from their childhood home.

When he tastes a different fruit—the legitimate fruit of the vine, Noah undergoes the opposite process in the sense that he loses his rational, cognitive abilities to descend momentarily into the ignorance and concomitant nakedness brought about by drunkenness (9.21). In his case, the sequence is retrogressive as he returns to a state of unknowing innocence characteristic of early childhood.

Clearly the notion of nakedness plays a significant part in both stories: Adam and Eve proceed to cover their genitals while Noah bares his. Taken together, they represent two opposite processes: Noah’s temporary, unconscious state is contrasted with the newfound, permanent awareness of the inhabitants of Eden. Both in the Garden of Eden and in Noah’s tent it takes an intrusive visitor to trigger significant events. In Eden, the active intervention of the serpent facilitates the acquisition of knowledge (Gen. 3.1-7). In Noah’s case, his naked state is witnessed by his son Ham whose next move is to step outside to share the news

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From → Sexuality

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