Most Christians are quite familiar with the story of Noah’s ark. How God sent a great flood and destroyed all life on earth except for those sheltered within the ark with Noah and his family.
After they survive the flood and find land, God makes a covenant with Noah and promises never to flood the entire earth again. He gives the rainbow as a sign of the covenant.
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” So, God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” Genesis 9:12-17
Some may not be as familiar with what happened next. The incident with the drunkenness of Noah and how it affected his family. A curse came for Canaan after the covenant.
What does the Bible tell us about the drunkenness of Noah?
Noah had planted a vineyard and became drunk after drinking some wine. He was inside his tent, passed out, and naked. His youngest son, Ham, saw him naked and told his two brothers.
Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked. Genesis 9:20-23
There is debate among scholars about what happened between Ham and Noah. Some believe something serious may have happened and Ham may have violated his father in some way. But this is only speculation. Obviously, Ham dishonored his father by seeing him naked and by telling his brothers. Some believe he may have mocked Noah.
We see Shem and Japheth showing respect to Noah by covering his nakedness and walking backward to avoid seeing him in such a vulnerable state.
Interestingly, feeling shame because of nakedness in the Garden of Eden was a consequence of the original sin of mankind. Then there is the first animal sacrifice as God made clothing for them and covered them.
The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and covered them. Genesis 3:21
Similarly, we see Noah’s two sons covering their father’s nakedness.
Lessons We Can Learn from the Drunkenness of Noah
1. At what point does drinking alcohol become a sin?
Having a drink containing alcohol is not a sin.
The word wine is found in the Bible over 200 times in good ways and bad ways. Wine was used in drink offerings in the Temple. It’s mentioned being used at times of celebration. Jesus turned water into wine (really good wine) at a wedding celebration.
Paul advises Timothy to drink a little wine for his health.
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 1 Timothy 5:23
Its overuse is the problem because it causes drunkenness and addiction. Drinking alcohol to the point of drunkenness is when it becomes a sin.
Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. Proverbs 23:19-21
2. What makes drunkenness a sin?
The word drunk is found in Scripture over 60 times. Most relate to drunkenness and showing it as something to avoid.
Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit evident in believers. The loss of self-control is what makes drunkenness a sin.
When our guard is down because of alcohol consumption, we may make bad decisions. We may find ourselves in bad situations we never would have gotten ourselves into if we were sober.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18
For those (like me) who may not know the definition of debauchery, it is defined as excessive indulgence in sensual pleasures. This verse alone in Ephesians is enough warning about what can happen when we drink too much alcohol.
3. What are the consequences of the drunkenness of Noah?
There were generational consequences for the incident with Noah’s drunkenness.
Even though Ham sinned, it was his son, Canaan who was cursed.
When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said, “Cursed be Canaan! The lowest of slaves will he be to his brothers.” He also said, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of Shem! May Canaan be the slave of Shem. May God extend Japheth’s territory; may Japheth live in the tents of Shem and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.” Genesis 9:24-27
One interesting consequence is the Canaanites were driven out of the promised land when the Israelites took possession of it after wandering in the desert for forty years.
These days, there are consequences for anyone who finds themselves in a state of drunkenness. With no self-control, we may sit behind the wheel of a car and drive which can lead to our own death or the death of an innocent person. This would be a dreadful, lifelong consequence. Some will become addicted with just one sip, and it can cause numerous issues in life.
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. Proverbs 20:1
Even though we’re all sinners, through the power of the Holy Spirit, God is making us more like Jesus. He brings to our attention sin that needs repentance. When we’re convicted about a particular sin, we should turn from it and do our best not to give in to the temptation to sin in that way again. Then God will move on to our next sin issue whether it’s known to us or not. He may need to make us aware, so we can turn away from it bringing Him the glory.
As Christians, we should strive to bring glory to God in every place in our lives.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31
Melinda Eye Cooper grew up in the Missouri Ozarks but lives near Nashville, Tennessee. She and her husband have three sons, two daughters-in-law, and three beautiful granddaughters – and a spunky dog named Lincoln!
Melinda writes articles and devotions. She also writes fiction and is currently working on a middle-grade fantasy novel. She grew up in a large family, and many of her devotions and stories are inspired from her childhood.