2

Genesis 9:

כא וַיֵּשְׁתְּ מִן-הַיַּיִן, וַיִּשְׁכָּר; וַיִּתְגַּל, בְּתוֹךְ אָהֳלֹה. וַיַּרְא, חָם אֲבִי כְנַעַן, אֵת, עֶרְוַת אָבִיו; וַיַּגֵּד לִשְׁנֵי-אֶחָיו, בַּחוּץ. וַיִּקַּח שֵׁם וָיֶפֶת אֶת-הַשּׂמְלָה, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עַל-שְׁכֶם שְׁנֵיהֶם, וַיֵּלְכוּ אֲחֹרַנִּית, וַיְכַסּוּ אֵת עֶרְוַת אֲבִיהֶם; וּפְנֵיהֶם, אֲחֹרַנִּית, וְעֶרְוַת אֲבִיהֶם, לֹא רָאוּ. וַיִּיקֶץ נֹחַ, מִיֵּינוֹ; וַיֵּדַע, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לוֹ בְּנוֹ הַקָּטָן. כה וַיֹּאמֶר, אָרוּר כְּנָעַן: עֶבֶד עֲבָדִים, יִהְיֶה לְאֶחָיו.

21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done unto him. And he said: Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

From non-Jewish sources, I've seen two quite different interpretations of this event:

  • Ham did something nasty to Noah while he was unconscious.
  • Ham raped Noah's wife (his mother) while Noah was unconscious.

The second interpretation is based on Leviticus 18:8, with "the nakedness of his father" being interpreted as Noah's wife:

ח עֶרְוַת אֵשֶׁת-אָבִיךָ, לֹא תְגַלֵּה: עֶרְוַת אָבִיךָ, הִוא. 8 The nakedness of thy father's wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father's nakedness.

The first interpretation fits better with verse 21 ("he was uncovered").

But the second interpretation explains why in verse 25 it is Canaan and not Ham that is cursed (Canaan was the result of this incident).

Is there a consensus within Judaism as to which interpretation, if either, is correct?

0
4

As far as the first option there are clear sources that point to the fact that Cham / Ham castrated his father:

It says in the Gemarah in Sanhedrin 70a:

וירא חם אבי כנען את ערות אביו ויגד לשני אחיו בחוץ ויקח שם ויפת את השמלה וישימו על שכם שניהם וילכו אחורנית ויכסו את ערות אביהם ופניהם וגו' וייקץ נח מיינו וידע את אשר עשה לו בנו הקטן רב ושמואל חד אמר סרסו וח"א רבעו

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. And Shem and Japheth took the garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him” (Bereishis 9:20–24). Rav and Shmuel disagreed: One says that Ham castrated Noah and one says that Ham sodomized him. (Sefaria translation)

Also refer to the Targum Yonasan.

Rashi on the verse 9:25 says clearly why Canaan is cursed:

ארור כנען CURSED BE CANAAN — You have brought it about that I cannot beget a fourth son to serve me; cursed, therefore, be your fourth son (see Chap. 10:6) to serve under the descendants of these elder ones upon whom the duty of serving me will devolve from now on. Why did Ham maltreat him in this manner? He said to his brothers, “Adam Harishon had two sons and one killed the other in order that he might possess the whole world(Genesis Rabbah 36:7): our father already has three sons, and he wishes to have yet another". (sefaria translation)

The Rashi here would point to why Canaan is cursed and not like you pose that he was the product of a forbidden union.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .