SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 6 Genesis 9:18-10:32

Welcome to the SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS). This week we will be discussing Genesis 9:18-10:32. Since the discussion can turn into a very broad and hijackable thread, we would like the following rules to be adhered to:

  1. These SDMBWBS threads are to deal with the books and stories in the Bible as literature. What I’m hoping to achieve is an understanding of the stories, the time in which they were written, context, and possibly its cultural relevance.

  2. While it is up to the individual to choose to believe or disbelieve any portion, that is not to be the discussion of the thread. If you must, please choose to witness/anti-witness in Great Debates.

  3. The intention is to go through the Bible from front to back in order. While different books are needed to be referred to in order to understand context, please try and keep the focus on the thread’s selected chapter(s)/verse(s).

  4. Since different religions have chosen which books to include or omit, the threads will use the Catholic version of 46 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. It’s encouraged to discuss why a book was included/omitted during the applicable threads only. BibleHub, as far as I know, is a good resource that compiles many different versions of the verses into one page.(Also the SDMB Staff Reports on Who Wrote the Bible). Please feel free to use whatever source you want, including-and even more helpfully-the original language.

  5. Hopefully we can get through these threads with little to no moderation. A gentle reminder that if a poster comes in and ignores these rules, please use the “report post” function instead of responding.

Links to previous threads:
Genesis 1:1 to 2:25
Genesis 3
Genesis 4
Genesis 5-6
Genesis 7-9:17

Genesis 9:18-9:29
Translation from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Sons of Noah
18 The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.

20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded[a] to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.

24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,

“Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers.”

26 He also said,

“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend Japheth’s** territory;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”

28 After the flood Noah lived 350 years. 29 Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.

Genesis 10:

The Table of Nations
10 This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth, Noah’s sons, who themselves had sons after the flood.

The Japhethites
2 The sons[a] of Japheth:

Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshek and Tiras.

3 The sons of Gomer:

Ashkenaz, Riphath and Togarmah.

4 The sons of Javan:

Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites and the Rodanites.** 5 (From these the maritime peoples spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language.)

The Hamites
6 The sons of Ham:

Cush, Egypt, Put and Canaan.

7 The sons of Cush:

Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah and Sabteka.

The sons of Raamah:

Sheba and Dedan.

8 Cush was the father[c] of Nimrod, who became a mighty warrior on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; that is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” 10 The first centers of his kingdom were Babylon, Uruk, Akkad and Kalneh, in[d] Shinar.[e] 11 From that land he went to Assyria, where he built Nineveh, Rehoboth Ir,[f] Calah 12 and Resen, which is between Nineveh and Calah—which is the great city.

13 Egypt was the father of

the Ludites, Anamites, Lehabites, Naphtuhites, 14 Pathrusites, Kasluhites (from whom the Philistines came) and Caphtorites.

15 Canaan was the father of

Sidon his firstborn,[g] and of the Hittites, 16 Jebusites, Amorites, Girgashites, 17 Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, 18 Arvadites, Zemarites and Hamathites.

Later the Canaanite clans scattered 19 and the borders of Canaan reached from Sidon toward Gerar as far as Gaza, and then toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboyim, as far as Lasha.

20 These are the sons of Ham by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

The Semites
21 Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was[h] Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.

22 The sons of Shem:

Elam, Ashur, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram.

23 The sons of Aram:

Uz, Hul, Gether and Meshek.*

24 Arphaxad was the father of[j] Shelah,

and Shelah the father of Eber.

25 Two sons were born to Eber:

One was named Peleg,[k] because in his time the earth was divided; his brother was named Joktan.

26 Joktan was the father of

Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, 27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba, 29 Ophir, Havilah and Jobab. All these were sons of Joktan.

30 The region where they lived stretched from Mesha toward Sephar, in the eastern hill country.

31 These are the sons of Shem by their clans and languages, in their territories and nations.

32 These are the clans of Noah’s sons, according to their lines of descent, within their nations. From these the nations spread out over the earth after the flood

So here we have the Drunkenness of Noah, the Curse of Canaan, and the Table of Nations.

Since there is no reason to reinvent the wheel, here is Dexter Haven’s excellent and extensive previous two-part contribution regarding the first two topics:

The Drunkenness of Noah, Part One
The Drunkenness of Noah, Part Two

The Table of Nations, very simply put, indicates that all of mankind was descended from Noah and his sons. (The Qu’ran mentions a fourth son, who wouldn’t get on the ark and died in the flood, BTW.) Generally speaking, Japheth represents the nations of Europe, Ham is Africa and Shem is Asia.

There is an apparent etymological corollary in Greek myths between Japheth, father of the European nations, and the titan Iapetos, the father of mankind (as well as Prometheus and Epimetheus). There appears to be no Greek word root that serves as a base for “Iapetos” and may have come from either the Hebrew or an early, common Indo-European ancestral word.

Some of the nations represented here (to do them all would be TL;DR) are:
Gomer - the Cimmerians
Magog - Lydia
Elisha - Cyprus
Yavan - the Ionians/Greeks
Ashkenaz - the Scythians
Tashish - Spain
Mizraim - Egypt
Shinar - Babylon
Heth - the Hittites/now central Turkey

The proverbial Nimrod was said to be the first King. Tradition says he founded the city of Nineveh, capital of Assyria, on the Tigris River. The 4th Century Christian scholar Eusebius equated Nimrod with Eueochoios of Chaldea, but other scholars have identified him with the Assyrian/Babylonian god Ninurta; with Enmerkar, the Sumerian founder of Uruk; with the Assyrian king Bel-Nibru, founder of Nippur, and others.

Nimrod figures in some very early versions of the history of Freemasonry, where he was said to have been one of the fraternity’s founders.

Prof P: thanks for the nice comment when you provided the links, and you can certainly call me “Dex.” :wink:

Just noting that this Friday night/Saturday, most Jews will be not posting for Yom Kippur. A very healthy and happy year to all.

Couple of comments on the Table of Nations, taken from Sarna’s Commentary:

  • This is basically amap of the “known world” bordered by the Caucasus (north), Iranian plateau (east), Arabia (south) and (probably) Crete although perhaps even further western edge.

  • The straightforward reading implies this is genealogical, father-to-son, but several of the names are those of places or peoples (ten names have plural endings, nine others have ethnic implications and definite article which wouldn’t be used with personal names.) Thus, eponymous ancestors – the explanation of the name of a city or people based on its founder in antiquity – and which nations/peoples are “related.” (There’s a similar example in Greek mythology, Hellen is the ancestor of all Greeks, two of his sons Dorus and Aeolus father the two major subdivisions of Hellenes, the Dorians and Aeolians; etc.)

  • There are problems even so. There is no consistency of classification based on racial characteristics, physical types, skin color, or language. We just don’t know very much about this table. Sheba and Havilah are listed under both Ham and Shem; Mesopotamia, Ethiopia, and Arabia are all under Cush, a Hamite.

  • There are seventy peoples listed, excluding Nimrod. Seven is of course a mystic number indicating completeness, seen often in Genesis; similarly, ten is commonly used for completeness. So 7 x 10 implies this is the whole (known) world. (Later, Jacob comes to Egypt with 70 offspring.)

From Louis Ginzberg’sLegends of the Jews (1909):

Noah lost his epithet “the pious” when he began to occupy himself with the growing of the vine. He became a “man of the ground,” and this first attempt to produce wine at the same time produced the first to drink to excess, the first to utter curses upon his associates, and the first to introduce slavery. This is the way it all came about. Noah found the vine which Adam had taken with him from Paradise, when he was driven forth. He tasted the grapes upon it, and, finding them palatable, he resolved to plant the vine and tend it. On the selfsame day on which he planted it, it bore fruit, he put it in the wine-press, drew off the juice, drank it, became drunken, and was dishonored–all on one day. His assistant in the work of cultivating the vine was Satan, who had happened along at the very moment when he was engaged in planting the slip he had found. Satan asked him: “What is it thou art planting here?”

Noah: “A vineyard.”

Satan: “And what may be the qualities of what it produces?”

Noah: “The fruit it bears is sweet, be it dry or moist. It yields wine that rejoiceth the heart of man.”

Satan: “Let us go into partnership in this business of planting a vineyard.”

Noah: “Agreed!”

Satan thereupon slaughtered a lamb, and then, in succession, a lion, a pig, and a monkey. The blood of each as it was killed he made to flow under the vine. Thus he conveyed to Noah what the qualities of wine are: before man drinks of it, he is innocent as a lamb; if he drinks of it moderately, he feels as strong as a lion; if he drinks more of it than he can bear, he resembles the pig; and if he drinks to the point of intoxication, then he behaves like a monkey, he dances around, sings, talks obscenely, and knows not what he is doing.

This deterred Noah no more than did the example of Adam, whose fall had also been due to wine, for the forbidden fruit had been the grape, with which he had made himself drunk.

In his drunken condition Noah betook himself to the tent of his wife. His son Ham saw him there, and he told his brothers what he had noticed, and said: “The first man had but two sons, and one slew the other; this man Noah has three sons, yet he desires to beget a fourth besides.” Nor did Ham rest satisfied with these disrespectful words against his father. He added to this sin of irreverence the still greater outrage of attempting to perform an operation upon his father designed to prevent procreation.

When Noah awoke from his wine and became sober, he pronounced a curse upon Ham in the person of his youngest son Canaan. To Ham himself he could do no harm, for God had conferred a blessing upon Noah and his three sons as they departed from the ark. Therefore he put the curse upon the last-born son of the son that had prevented him from begetting a younger son than the three he had." The descendants of Ham through Canaan therefore have red eyes, because Ham looked upon the nakedness of his father; they have misshapen lips, because Ham spoke with his lips to his brothers about the unseemly condition of his father; they have twisted curly hair, because Ham turned and twisted his head round to see the nakedness of his father; and they go about naked, because Ham did not cover the nakedness of his father. Thus he was requited, for it is the way of God to mete out punishment measure for measure.

Canaan had to suffer vicariously for his father’s sin. Yet some of the punishment was inflicted upon him on his own account, for it had been Canaan who had drawn the attention of Ham to Noah’s revolting condition. Ham, it appears, was but the worthy father of such a son. The last will and testament of Canaan addressed to his children read as follows: “Speak not the truth; hold not yourselves aloof from theft; lead a dissolute life; hate your master with an exceeding great hate; and love one another.”

Hopping on the bandwagon. This is really neat. Thanks for your knowledge.

Here’s my contribution, Chinese cosmology and mythology (off the top of my head, so this may not be 100% accurate):
[li]The world is square and the sky is domed, held up by four pillars (with, naturally, China at the center); paradise is to the west, somewhere in the general direction of Tibet.[/li][li]盤古 Pan Gu was the first being, a giant hatched from the Cosmic Egg 混沌 (or “primordial chaos”; the Chinese Union Bible uses this term to describe the state of the world in Genesis 1). As he grew taller he pushed the earth and sky away from each other, and when he died his breath formed the wind, his eyes the sun and moon, his hair the stars, his sweat (or perhaps tears/blood) the rivers, and his bones the rocks.[/li][li]女娲 Nu Wa was the creator goddess, a lamia woman, Pan Gu’s wife and sister (Pan Gu is also sometimes styled as having a human torso and snake body), who sculpted the upper class by hand and breathed life into them, then mass-produced the common people by flinging a mud whip into the Yangtze.[/li][li] The story of the flood goes something like this: either 1) the water god 共工 Gong Gong lost a fight with the fire goddess 祝融 Zhu Rong and smashed one of the four pillars of heaven, punching a hole in the sky (bringing the floods) and causing the world to tilt or 2) the people offended the gods somehow, bringing disaster upon themselves. Either way, Nu Wa had compassion on her people and repaired the broken sky, using the rainbow to stand on. When she was done she was so exhausted that she went to sleep and left the rainbow up there.[/li][li] The great discoveries of man are generally attributed to some one great person. 燧人氏 Sui Ren Shi the discoverer of fire, 神农氏 Shen Nong Shi the tamer of plants, 筑巢氏 Zhu Chao Shi the builder of houses (literally “nests”), 苍颉 Cang Jie the inventor of words and so on and so forth.[/li][li] The first kings are collectively known as the “Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors”, generally considered to be mythical beings, but there are artifacts that date from at least the approximate era of 尧 Yao, 舜 Shun, and 禹 Yu.[/li][li] There is a second flood story involving the great engineer (and later emperor and founder of the 夏 Xia dynasty) Yu, but as far as I know this is not the Great Flood, just another one of those Yangtze River related disasters.[/li][li] The Chinese people consider themselves 華夏 Hua Xia (loosely, “the civilized, clothed people”). The barbarians, in turn, are generally referred to as 蛮夷 Man Yi (not sure on the entymology of this one).[/li][/ul]

There are quite a few “Just So” stories as well, but I’m not sure how ancient they are so I will temporarily leave you to look them up yourself on Wikipedia.

Thanks for joining in, and for your contribution. Flood stories come from all over the world, I’ve just chosen to share those that were in the same relative neighborhood as the Hebrews.

BTW, the academic term for a “just-so story” that explains why something is the way it is, is etiology. We have another one coming up later this week with the Tower of Babel.

Glad you are enjoing the threads!

The original sources for the “Legend” in Ginzburg’s compilation that Prof. Pepperwinkle quoted are Midrash Aggadah, chapter 9, verse 21; Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, page 70a; and Genesis Rabbah, chapter 36.

There is a fairly innocent interpretation of that presentation, one which is a poor one given the Noah’s later response. So it suggests that the writer was applying some euphemism. My question is why. Was the original recitation done in front of mixed company? An altar? Or did the sanitation occur when putting pen to paper? Or is the narrator applying a fig leaf of politeness as he insults a neighboring state?

10 nations, the known world
So… this is dated from the 400s or 500s BCE. Do any of the sons of Shem hail from China or India? How far north do the sons of Japheth come from? I ask because there’s physical evidence that trade between Britain and Italy occurred during Neolythic times - 2000 to 4000 BCE. But that can occur via many middlemen. Did trade routes exceed the size of the world known to these Biblical writers?

I continue to enjoy this discussion.

As an irrelevant aside: In Christopher Beckwith’s Empires of the Silk Road, the good professor spends an entire appendix passionately denying that the ancient Chinese ever had a word for “barbarian.” It might seem like overzealous nitpicking, and perhaps it is, but in Beckwith’s view, the concept of the “barbarian” is uniquely Western (and specifically Greek), and never existed in ancient Chinese.

This was discussed, at length, in the two threads to which Prof. Pepperwinkle links in post #3.

Me, I don’t see how Noah’s response was necessarily “too much.” It might well be that, back then, seeing your father’s junk was, in and by itself, considered to be an absolutely horrendous crime, comparable to rape or murder today. Odd, yes, but so it goes.

Okay, the Wikipedia article on the Sons of Noah and the Tale of Nations shows the easternmost country identified as being Joktan, son of Eber, representing India. I’m not aware of any identifications as far as China, though.

As to your first question, yes, the Torah was read aloud before a mixed group of people frequently, and a father would read it to his family.

From the Virtual Jewish Library:

This is another of those stories that I don’t get. Why is it a big deal to see your father’s unit? Noah gets so polluted that he passes out, and his skirt rides up. That’s not the sin. The sin is seeing him do it. The Legends of the Jew quote strikes me as after-the-fact stuff that was added to try to rationalize an incomprehensibility.

Might this story be another like the Flood story, which was brought in from a different, ancestor culture, and didn’t make “sense” to the Jews either?

I understand the idea of putting oneself into the other culture’s shoes, but even after I do that, I don’t understand it.


I’ve looked for other stories with this motif in other cultures. I ran across a reference that Hesiod reported that a Greek soldier was put to death for finding his commanding officer naked, but haven’t been able to confirm that. Otherwise, I’ve come up dry on this one.


And THIS is why I’ve been reluctant to throw the Talmudic and Midrashic interpretations/embellishements I know into this thread series.

Please, please, please throw 'em in!

Please forgive me for expressing myself badly. I value your Talmudic additions very much - I am saying that I nevertheless do not understand the story and its theological significance.

I was not trying to put down the Talmud or any other additions. Again, I am sorry for coming across that way.


If you haven’t done so, check out post #3, in particular the staff report What’s up with the biblical story of drunken Noah? (Part 1). Harrowing stuff. h/t Steken
Prof. Pepperwinkle: Thanks again!

Assuming multiple authors, the table of nations (aside from the Nimrod story) is usually attributed to the P-author, which was (probably) written down around 700 BCE, although there are some scholars that assign earlier (or later) dates. Not meaning to nit-pick over a couple hundred years, but…

Obviously, assuming a single author, the text would date to around 1050 BCE.

I think Talmudic stories are usually interesting. They often have little or nothing to do with the text, but represent oral traditions. Assuming a final edited text by 500 BCE at the latest, embellishments and strange side-stories would have been preserved (much as George Washington and the cherry tree, for instance.) They sometimes offer an interesting perspective on the original text, and sometimes they just cause head-scratching. They usually have no theological significance whatsoever, they’re just embellishments… sort of, ancient fan-fiction. :wink:

One of the points of the story quoted by Prof P above is obviously that strong drink/drunkeness is a temptation offered by Satan to lead humans into sin. That dates the story long after the compilation of the Hebrew Bible, since Satan as tempter/devil doesn’t come into play until just before the Christian era. At the time of the compilation of the Hebrew Bible (say, 500 BCE), Satan is simply a legal advocate/prosecutor in the heavenly court.

I was under the impression that they had enormous theological significance.