On Noah’s Curse

After the great deluge had receded, Noah became a farmer and  also made wine. This delicious product had to be sampled once in a while, and overdoing the sampling can make one drunk. So, there he was lying in his tent, intoxicated, naked and fast asleep, when his son, poor Ham, happened upon him  incidentally, or perhaps even by God’s will. Obviously back in those days, it was an unforgivable transgression to see one’s father’s bareness. So, Ham reports to his brothers Shem and Japheth about their old man’s circumstances. And these two guys mercifully remedy the situation in their way. They approach Noah walking backwards, and they cover him with a piece of cloth.

The next day when Noah had sobered up and learned about his misadventure, he cursed Ham, oops, excuse me, rather Ham’s son Canaan, the patriarch of the Canaanites, with a horrible consequence: in eternity will he (they) be the servant(s) of Shem and Japheth.

The revealed word of God? No, thank you!

Interpretation: Bible scholars suggest that after their return from the Babylonian captivity in the sixth century BC, simultaneously with reconstructing the Jewish state and writing down the Torah for the first time, a state doctrine was to be developed. Among other things,the terrible cruelties committed during the conquest of the ”Promised Land” under Joshua, the judges and the kings had to be justified: Noah’s curse was only one of many fiats and orders God Yahweh visited on the Israelites. These poor wretches had no choice but to obey Yahweh’s will if they did not want to fall victim to his wrath. Thus to eradicate or enslave the Canaanites was by no means a despicable war crime, rather it was the heroic execution of God’s will. – And to add on a cynical accent, even today, there are fundamentalist television – evangelists, particularly in the Bible belt states, who do not shy away from justifying the enslavement of the Afro – Americans with the alleged fact that Ham was the forefather of the Black Africans. 

In addition to the moral grounds, for instance Noah’s (God’s?) curse on the totally innocent Canaan, there is enough evidence to say that the story of Noah’s ark was not derived from divine sources. Technically contemplated, it is extremely unlikely, that the entire fauna of the Earth could have found shelter in the floating abode, including the fodder for the approximately 200 days they had to stay there. Also, that Noah was able to build such a huge ship in the available time span is very hard to imagine, not to question the mere act in the first place. And if he had supernatural, divine assistance, that very fact would have been mentioned in the biblical text for sure.

The dimensions of the Ark are stated in cubits: length 300, width 50, height 30. With the average cubit’s metric equivalent assumed at 0.5 meter, its overall volume amounts to 56250 cubic meters. Furthermore if we guessed that the draught was about half the height, then we would have to imagine a stately ocean liner of  28000 tons displacement, about half the size of the ill-fated Titanic. There are people who believe in the literary authenticity of all biblical texts and driven by this conviction, they calculate mathematically that all the animals found sufficient space for their accommodation in Noah’s Ark, which we can leave undecided. But that Noah was able to gather all those animals and birds within seven days, according to Genesis 7, verses 4 & 10, nobody with common sense can take seriously. All the fleets in our modern days combined could not accomplish this master piece of logistics in such a short period of time, if at all. Think about the marsupials of Australia, the sloths, Jaguars, monkeys and snakes from Amazonia, the polar bears and moose in the arctic, the elephants, zebras, lions and ostriches from Africa, the tigers, wolves, camels and cobras in Asia, not to mention any flying birds. Even if the dry earth had been one vast, coherent continent (Pangaea was gone 100 Million years before), all the wildlife catchers and animal haulers of our modern world would not be able to pull off this feat. And the biblical text does not suggest any divine, supernatural intervention. But these “gaps” do not compromise the faith of the word for word believers. They can be filled with the necessary assumptions, i.e. God took care of the logistics; all it takes is humility and good will. 

It is so simple and marvelous!