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The Ontology of Genesis 9:20-27

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posted on Apr, 14 2012 @ 04:28 PM
This is my second exposition of Torah narratives, once again, inspired by the book "The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis" by Leon Kass.

וַיָּחֶל נֹחַ, אִישׁ הָאֲדָמָה; וַיִּטַּע, כָּרֶם
וַיֵּשְׁתְּ מִן-הַיַּיִן, וַיִּשְׁכָּר; וַיִּתְגַּל, בְּתוֹךְ אָהֳלֹה

20 And Noah the husbandman began, and planted a vineyard. 21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

Noah (Noach in Hebrew) means 'to rest' and may refer to the self consciousness that follows the deluge (which wipes away earlier unconscious conditions of self). Noah (or the ego, if you will) seeks to forget his previous existence, his earlier self as it existed in it's primordial condition, and thus 'drinks'. Drunkenness simulates the primordial chaos (for instance, Dionysus, the god of chaos, is also the bringer of wine) that precedes the creation of the world (or order); this could be a way of saying the ego has inherent defects and aspects which should best be left uncovered, or, said in another way, the state of primordiality (which Noach simulates by his drunkenness) should be kept concealed and understood to be beyond human comprehension.

וַיַּרְא, חָם אֲבִי כְנַעַן, אֵת, עֶרְוַת אָבִיו; וַיַּגֵּד לִשְׁנֵי-אֶחָיו, בַּחוּץ.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

Shem, Ham and Japtheth are the three 'sons' of Noah. Shem means 'name', but is also used idiomatically to mean 'respect' or 'dignity', Ham means "hot" and Japheth can mean both 'expansion' or beauty (from the hebrew 'yafe'). In terms of order of birth, Ham is said to be the youngest, Shem is the middle child and Japeth is the eldest, though, in terms of virtue and esteem, Shem is consistently ranked first, followed by Japheth and lastly Ham. These could be interpreted as three different personality types: the one treated with the most esteem, Shem, is the pious contemplative; Japheth (related to Beauty/expansiveness) is Noble and decent, but he (like his progeny - the indoeuropeans) feels he can go it alone, and Ham, the egotist who totally flouts all moral command.

It is Ham (Hot) who in his archetypal impassioned lust, uncovers the nakedness of Noah. Ham is a perfect metaphor for the overzealous, overly stimulated ego, who cannot keep his prying and curious eyes from knowing everything there is to know. In Greek, there are two different words for shame: aischyne and aidos. The former expresses the type of shame one feels for doing something undignified, i.e. breaking some human moral code. The second word, Aidos, refers to the type of shame ones feels when experiencing something that inspires awe in us. The significance of the father-son relationship reflects man and what came before him (I.e. God), and so since ancient times the man or father of the house has always been regarded as a stand in, or symbolic representation of, God. The Aidos that a son should feel for his father expresses the fact that everything the son is - his personality traits, abilities - are ultimately the consequence of what his father ingrained in him (and mother, though she plays a different role). Ham's uncovering, and then blabbing about the nakedness of his father therefore shows a complete absence of Aidos for Noah; he doesn't feel the reverence or awe that should exist between a son and his father; he wants to uncover, unclothe, and expose the nakedness of reality.

וַיִּקַּח שֵׁם וָיֶפֶת אֶת-הַשִּׂמְלָה, וַיָּשִׂימוּ עַל-שְׁכֶם שְׁנֵיהֶם, וַיֵּלְכוּ אֲחֹרַנִּית, וַיְכַסּוּ אֵת עֶרְוַת אֲבִיהֶם; וּפְנֵיהֶם, אֲחֹרַנִּית, וְעֶרְוַת אֲבִיהֶם, לֹא רָאוּ
23 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.

Shem and Japheth, conversely, represent Dignity (Respect) and Beauty (or expansiveness). Instead of irreverently exposing the nakedness of his father, possibly with the purpose of supplanting him (hence the incestuous motif which Ham implies, his wanting to see his father's nakedness is ultimately designed to abrogate whatever awe-reverence that should exist between father - God, and son - mankind) Shem generously and sincerely desires to honor his father; indeed, he KNOWS that his father is naked, and therefore willingly blinds himself to his vulnerability, but wisely and intuitively blocks his gaze, lest he curse himself (and his progeny) with a condition that would impair his apprehension of, and relationship with, the divine.

כד וַיִּיקֶץ נֹחַ, מִיֵּינוֹ; וַיֵּדַע, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה לוֹ בְּנוֹ הַקָּטָן.
כה וַיֹּאמֶר, אָרוּר כְּנָעַן: עֶבֶד עֲבָדִים, יִהְיֶה לְאֶחָיו.

24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done unto him. 25 And he said: Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.

People find this strange. Why would Noah curse Canaan, who did nothing, and not Ham, who was the one who saw his fathers nakedness and shared it with others? Upon analysis, this makes perfect sense. Ham is the antinomian, impious personality that wants to uncover the nakedness, or the reasoning, behind everything. His lack of reverence for law and order is not so much a curse to himself, as it is a curse to the next generation; it'll be his own child - Canaan (which means' to be low') - who will be cursed, since it is he who will not know the necessity of law (having learned it from his father), order and human dignity (it's also poignant to point out that the Bible traces the most decadent pagan civilizations, Egypt, Canaan etc, to Canaan); this lack of self restraint, and lack of sincere deference for the divine, is the ontological consequence of Hams narcissism. Noah simply tells him who it is that will be cursed because of it. Also, one who lives without order, without respect for tradition and the divine, will become a slave to slaves - to his own lusts and unbridled desires.

וַיֹּאמֶר, בָּרוּךְ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵי שֵׁם; וִיהִי כְנַעַן, עֶבֶד לָמוֹ.
26 And he said: Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant.

It's apropos that Noah says 'Blessed be YHVH" - since it is only because of HIM, that Shem will be blessed. One who shows reverence and respect for creation around him, and experiences his own smallness compared to it, is a servant of the "God of Shem". Canaan,

יַפְתְּ אֱלֹהִים לְיֶפֶת, וְיִשְׁכֹּן בְּאָהֳלֵי-שֵׁם; וִיהִי כְנַעַן, עֶבֶד לָמוֹ.
27 God enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be their servant.

God shall enlarge Japheth - those who are noble and decent - but even these types ultimately suckle from the tents (or contemplative inspiration) from the tents of Shem. And canaan - the disreputable pagan, he is a slave because he is a slave to his desires.
edit on 14-4-2012 by dontreally because: (no reason given)

posted on Apr, 15 2012 @ 01:41 AM
The more input the better... I do find this rather fitting:


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