Friday, April 20, 2012

Drunken Noah Prefigures the Passion of Christ

In our day, evangelical preachers will use the example of Noah's drunkenness (Genesis 9:18-29) to speak of the evils of alcohol. Some church fathers used this passage to warn their flocks against drunkenness as well, others looked for various ways to excuse Noah's behavior. But the text itself doesn't seem very concerned with Noah's drunkenness. The text simply states that he was drunk but does not pass judgment on him. The text itself seems unconcerned with whether or not Noah's act was good or evil. Instead, the text focuses in on the different reactions of Noah's sons. Ham makes fun of his father. Shem and Japheth honor their father by covering his nakedness.

Ham's descendants are cursed to be slaves to the descendants of Japheth and Shem. The descendants of Shem and Japheth are blessed. The descendants of Japheth will dwell in the tents of Shem. The Israelites come from the line of Shem and Jesus of course is born from the line of Shem as well and becomes the ultimate fulfillment of the promise given to Shem. Japheth became the father of the Indo-European nations. Ham became the father of the Ethiopians, Arabians, and Babylonians. This curse upon Ham has been used to support racism, slavery, racial segregation, and opposition to interracial marriage especially among some of the earlier dispensationalists. But the curse in this text is destroyed in Christ. By faith in Christ people from all nations are united. It's also a rather strange place for the dispensationalist to be poking around since the text says that Japheth will dwell in the tents of Shem, telling us that the salvation of the Gentiles was always part of God's plan and not just some "plan B" that God started because the Jews rejected Jesus.

This is not just some moralistic story. The point of the story isn't "Be nice to your drunk father or your grandkids will have lots of problems." Many of the church fathers (including Augustine, Jerome, Hilary, and Cyprian) interpreted the story of Noah's drunkenness as a typological reference to Christ. Jesus referred to His death as the drinking of a cup and was stripped naked for His crucifixion. Noah planted a vineyard, Christ planted the church. Ham responded in mockery to Noah's nakedness and humiliation. The unbelieving world responded in mockery to Christ's nakedness and humiliation. Shem and Japheth show honor to Noah in his humiliation. The church honors Christ in His humiliation.

1 comment:

Olga Suhinina said...

When Noah is in his tent in a drunken stupor, the readers think it is to prove the problem of sin had not been solved with the flood. I think the Bible includes the story as another type of Christ. Noah went into the water and came out of it, and there was a dove (type of baptism). Noah lay as if dead; naked; and drunk on wine. Some mocked him, others honored him, clothed him, let him lie in peace, and awaited him to arise and pronounce his final judgment of blessing or condemnation (type of communion).

Guess what? Medieval people thought Noah had prefigured Christ. Check out cool pictures of Noah after the flood, with references to types.