Genesis 9:24

ESV When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him,
NIV When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him,
NASB When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him.
CSB When Noah awoke from his drinking and learned what his youngest son had done to him,
NLT When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done.
KJV And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him.

What does Genesis 9:24 mean?

The previous verses describe Noah getting drunk and passing out naked inside his tent (Genesis 9:21). His son Ham walked in, saw his father naked, left the tent, and told his brothers what he'd seen (Genesis 9:22). Shem and Japheth took measures to cover their father without looking at him.

Now, Noah wakes up. He either remembers what happened or someone tells him. The limited details given in this passage make it unclear, exactly, if Ham intended any harm or dishonor to his father. Some scholars suggest that in this era, to see another's nakedness is to shame him and to become superior to him in a sense. It is possible that Ham thought telling his brothers what he had seen would elevate his status in some way. Instead, as the following verse reveals, the opposite will happen.

This verse, told from a narrator's perspective, refers to Ham's actions as "what [Ham] had done to Noah." Beyond Noah's opinion, Scripture clearly indicates that Ham has done something immoral or inappropriate to his father. Whether this is something as simple as seeing Noah naked without helping him, or something more sinister, the passage does not explicitly say. However, the Hebrew verb here is an active one: implying a purposeful action, not just a passive one. Ham does something more than simply see Noah, but we cannot say for sure what that was.

It's interesting that the text calls Ham Noah's youngest son. It's easy to assume that Ham was the middle son, since the names are always listed as "Shem, Ham, and Japheth" (Genesis 9:18; Genesis 6:10). The Hebrew term used here is haqā'tān, which can mean "youngest," but can also mean "smallest" or "least" or even "unimportant." Scholars suggest this might mean Ham was the smallest son, or simply that the usual ordering of the names is not by age.
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