A Great Man of God Got Drunk
Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated. And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. (Genesis 9:18-21)
Here’s a surprise: Noah got drunk! Noah, the righteous man who found grace in the eyes of the LORD (Genesis 6:8), the one who built the Ark by faith (Hebrews 11:7), the preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), the one who obeyed God in every detail (Genesis 6:22), the one described as perfect in his generations (Genesis 6:9)… this same man got drunk.
What happened? Some believe that it was accidental, that Noah had not experienced fermented grape juice (perhaps before the flood, grapes did not ferment). Others believe that Noah’s drunkenness was intentional. It is difficult to know for sure. What is known is that Noah was drunk and that bad things happened as a result.
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20:1)
“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: ‘They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?’ ” (Proverbs 23:29-35)
Here in Genesis 9, we see the dreadful result of Noah’s drunkenness. He became uncovered in his tent, which led to his son Ham committing a lewd act. This lewd act brought judgment upon Ham’s son Canaan.
This story demonstrates two well-known facts: (1) drunkenness does not (and cannot) produce good and noble acts; (2) drunkenness does produce embarrassing, evil, and sometimes deadly actions.
This story contains an anomaly … this was not the real Noah. In fact, the New Testament contains no record of this abnormal behavior in Noah’s life. It was forgiven and forgotten, but not without eventual consequences to his family.
For Further Review
1. Consider the greatness of the man Noah. Then read Romans 7:14-23. Make note of any connection you see between what happened to him and what that passage says.
2. Evaluate your personal habits with regard to alcohol use: what does Noah’s story teach you?
3. How does the omission of any mention of Noah’s sin in the New Testament relate to the teachings of the new covenant? How does your answer relate to your own life?