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To Ham or Not to Ham
by Tammy Johnson
1/29/2009 / Devotionals
You know the guy, the one surrounded by all the laughing friends as he shoves pickles up his nose and barks like a seal. What do we usually say? Oh, he's such a ham. I would have to admit, a time or two or ten I have been that "guy" and really quite enjoyed it.
A "ham" is generally one who is a cut-up, a funny person, a goof, but in searching the origin of the phrase, I discovered it was first used to denote clumsy and stupid. Later it was used to describe an overly melodramatic actor. It even developed further into meaning a poor substitute for the real thing. (www.phrases.org.uk)
Now how does this fit into a devotional?
Did you know there is a "ham" in the Bible? Actually, he's not a "ham" but a "Ham". In fact, he is the first one ever mentioned. He is Noah's son. But as I studied the story of Ham, I was dismayed with what I found.
Genesis chapter 9 gives us the story. In short it is this, after the flood, Noah planted a vineyard. You can imagine how fertile the soil must have been at that time and I would imagine the vineyard did very well. At least well enough to make some wine which Noah drank a lot.
Genesis 9:20-27 (New International Version)
"20 Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. 21 When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. 22 Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside. 23 But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father's nakedness. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father's nakedness.
24 When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said,
"Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers."
26 He also said,
"Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem!
May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
27 May God extend the territory of Japheth;
may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
and may Canaan be his slave."
Okay, time out! Noah drank too much wine and passed out naked on his bed and Ham is punished for seeing him? What gives?
Let's take a closer look. It says Ham saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside. That means Ham had to turn and go back outside in order to tell his brothers what he had seen.
Can't you just see him giggling under his breath and saying, "Guys, come look. Dad's passed out naked in the tent." Why do I ask that? If Ham had truly respected his father and was sharing the information with his brothers out of concern for his father, surely he could have covered him before running to his brothers. But he didn't. The fact that Ham was also cursed for these actions convinces me that respect was seriously lacking.
Genesis 10 gives a listing of all the nations that each son of Noah established. The seriousness of this curse is seen in the descendents of Ham. Have you ever heard of Babylon, Ninevah, Sodom and Gomorrah? These were all cities founded by Ham's descendents. What about the Philistines and Hittites? Yep, Ham's descendents as well.
So, even though the phrase, "He's such a ham" does not refer to the Ham in the Bible, I still think it will give me pause. It will remind me of the seriousness of my choices and how quickly a wrong choice could affect not only me, but those that follow me for generations!
The good news is that, even though God will punish the generations of a sinful father, he will show love to the thousand generations after one who loves him [God] and keeps his commands. (Exodus 20:6)
So, go ahead, be a "ham", but please, PLEASE do not be a "Ham".
Tammy Johnson is a pastor's wife and mother of two darlings. When she is not folding laundry, washing dishes, or scrubbing toilets you can find her typing away on the keyboard, rounding up bits of stories written on napkins and gum wrappers, or snuggling with her family and a good book.
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