The intriguing little story of Ham who "saw the nakedness" of his father Noah (Genesis 20:29)
has recently been explored by Martti Nissinen who pursued questions which no doubt occur to most of us when we read those verses. What Ham did seems so harmless. Yet the curse of his father is so severe! The contrast is all the more striking when one observes that the author of Genesis refrains from moralizing when he relates the story of how Lot's daughters took advantage of their father and made him impregnate them in order to have descendants (Genesis 19:31–38)
. Why this double standard?
Nissinen suspects that to "see the nakedness" of someone is actually a euphemism which hides a thought the author does not wish to express. This is an expurgated version, Nissinen suspects. He explores other instances where someone sees or unveils someone's nudity (i.e. genitals). He concludes that such expressions are "circumlocutions for sexual intercourse, as many translators (the New English Bible, among others) actually put it." Clearly, Ham had had sexual intercourse with his father!
If that is correct, we would have here an instance not only of incest, but of homosexual incest. No wonder the condemnation of Ham, the offender, is so severe. Is there more one can say about this? Nissinen thinks that Ham acted not on the basis of a sexual orientation, nor out of lust, but out of a hunger for power. If this is so, then the story really does not contribute anything to a discussion of a gay relationship characterized by love, respect, commitment, and devotion.
What Do You Think?
What implications does this story have in discussing sexual behaviour?
Can one be sure of Ham's motivation, including his sexual orientation?