Noah, Alcohol and Shame


Maybe you had a little alcohol last Friday night at the mixer to relieve a little stress, or loosen up and have some fun. Maybe you just like the taste. Maybe Noah had a little alcohol to relieve the stress have having been on an ark while essentially every living thing was wiped out on the face of the earth, or he may have wanted to loosen up after the exhausting journey. Or, maybe he likes the taste too. Anyhow, Noah becomes drunk and there’s some indecent exposure that escalates pretty quickly. Why?

It’s a well known fact being drunk prohibits, or hinders at the least, “good” or rational judgment; it also dumbs down senses, delays reaction time, and results in loss of control. But nowhere in the text does it imply Noah is at any fault for what happens to Canaan. He simply “was the first to plant a vineyard” and later “become drunk, and exposed himself within his tent” (9.20-21). It isn’t the fact Noah becomes drunk which results in the cursing, rather his son’s failure to “look away,” so to speak.

Noah’s intoxication does not lead directly to Ham’s fate. However, it does leave the impression that drunkenness leads to some sort of tragic occurrence that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. Noah is partly at fault, because he exposes his nakedness without provocation, which sets up the stage for Ham’s actions. Nakedness or the loss of clothing suggests loss of human dignity or decency; a righteous individual which God believed Noah was, wouldn’t take off his clothes in that manner.

The fact that nakedness brings about shame is paradoxical because Chapter 2 ends in this way: “And the two of them were naked, the human and his woman, and they were not ashamed” (2.25). However, in chapter three, Adam and Eve become ashamed because they realize they are naked. Thus, the real shame Noah bring about is when he realizes he his naked after recovering from his drunken state. “And Noah woke from his wine and he knew what his youngest son had sone to him. And he said ‘Cursed be Canaan…’” (9.24-25). Until he “wakes up” from his inebriated state does he realize the implications of his actions. Noah becoming drunk provides another avenue for self-realization, which ultimately bring about shame. Even though the shame is directed towards Ham and not himself, it is shame and suffering nonetheless.

25 thoughts on “Noah, Alcohol and Shame

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