Genesis 9:21

ESV He drank of the wine and became drunk and lay uncovered in his tent.
NIV When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent.
NASB He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.
CSB He drank some of the wine, became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.
NLT One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.
KJV And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
NKJV Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent.

What does Genesis 9:21 mean?

It is unclear from this verse whether Noah's actions of getting drunk and laying uncovered in his own tent are meant to be understood as sinful in themselves. Scholars hold various opinions on the question. On one hand, drunkenness is specifically condemned in the New Testament and warned against in the Old Testament. On the other hand, Scripture is not explicitly clear on what particular rules God had related to Noah regarding the use of alcohol. The other possible interpretation here is whether Noah participated in some sexual sin, or lewdness, or whether his drunkenness simply made him careless about covering himself from potentially being seen by others.

Wine is often described as one of God's good gifts to Israel. Part of the blessing of wine, in fact, is specifically tied to its effect on a person's mood (Psalm 104:15). God would later command the offering of wine in sacrifices (Numbers 15:5–10) and even encourage the purchase of wine and strong drink (Deuteronomy 14:26) as part of certain celebrations.

However, God's instructions in the Bible also recognize the distraction and danger of alcohol. Later, under the law given by Moses, priests will be forbidden from drinking before their work in the sanctuary (Leviticus 10:9). Those most committed to God, the Nazirites, would vow to abstain from wine and strong drink completely (Numbers 6:3–4). And Scripture will make clear that drinking too much wine is foolish (Isaiah 5:22; Proverbs 21:17). The clearest command against actual drunkenness comes from Paul: "Do not get drunk with wine" (Ephesians 5:18).

Noah, in his drunkenness, lays naked in his tent. Following their initial sin, Adam and Eve became aware of their nakedness and covered themselves. God's actions made it clear that it was appropriate for them to cover their nakedness. Noah, drunk, reverses that action here, uncovering himself.

To whatever extent Noah misbehaved while drunk, it certainly doesn't sound like the righteous and blameless Noah we have come to know in previous chapters (Genesis 6:9). This story confirms that we are not meant to see Noah as sinless, or morally perfect, in and of himself.
What is the Gospel?
Download the app: