9. The Tower of Evil

Probably no ancient reader would have questioned that it would be irrational for God to use the scenario of a universal flood and destroy all vegetation and animals just to eliminate the bad people, but some would have argued that such a scenario, no matter how irrational, at least would have solved the problem of evil and established an evil-free society forever. Although the writer has included in the story plenty of reality blockers to make clear that such a scenario is impossible to imagine in the real world, has to take the challenge seriously and show that even if God miraculously did find one single individual who was blameless and used his power to obliterate everything and everyone else through a cataclysm, that would not guarantee an evil-free world because evil can be introduced again in the world even by people who had lived for 600 years and had never done anything wrong. After the flood was over, the repopulation of the world is prefaced with the following introduction: “Noah, a man of the soil [hfmfdA)fh $yi)ax, ha’îš hā’ădāmâ], was the first to plant a vineyard” (Gen 9:20). An ancient reader would have seen this description of Noah as a glaring reference to Adam, who was not only made of soil/ădāmâ ‑ and that was the reason he was called Adam ‑ but was the one who started to cultivate the fields for the first time to obtain his own food after having been expelled from the Garden of Eden when God told him: “You shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (Gen 3:18‑19). What is new about Noah as the new Adam is not that he started to cultivate grapes as food taking into account that grapes are rich in both nutrients and fluid that are in the juice ‑ both ingredients vital for the human body ‑ but that he used the grapes not as food, but to produce alcohol. What is unique about alcohol is not only that it has no nutritional value, but is perceived by the body as a toxin and therefore the body tries to eliminate it as quickly as possible and that is the reason people who drink alcohol feel the need to urinate abundantly because the body tries to eliminate as much fluids from the body in order to flush the toxin. The most important impact of using alcohol is not, however, on the human body, but on the human mind because it deprives humans of the very rationality that they attained by eating from the tree of knowledge, and this is suggested though a behavior of Noah that no one familiar with Genesis would have missed: “He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and he lay uncovered in his tent” (Gen 9:21). We have here a blatant reversal: While Eve and Adam had lived naked without feeling any shame, after eating from the tree of knowledge they decided that it was wrong for them to have their private parts exposed and developed shame; now Noah, used another fruit, but instead of eating it, he turned it into something that he could drink, and the new product, instead of opening his mind as the fruit of knowledge had done for Eve, it closed the mind completely so that Noah was no longer aware of what he was doing. The tent was the place where the whole family lived and where no member of the family was expected to be naked not only during the day, but even at night, therefore what happened next should come as no surprise: “And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside” (Gen 9:22). We do not know why Ham came into the tent but since Noah had not put a sign at the entrance that he was naked inside, whether Ham came into the tent to take a nap or for some other reason, was shocked to see his father naked and no doubt told his older and younger brothers about the condition of their father to warn them not to go into the tent and see what he had seen. And at this point both fundamentalists and scholars start to roll their eyes that what the text says is that Ham was evil because he not only did not refuse to look at his father naked, but actually enjoyed seeing him, and enjoyed it so much that he even went to tell his brothers how much he liked to see his father in that condition instead of doing what his brothers did, that is, they took a garment and going backwards to avoid seeing Noah naked, covered him, and that proves that Shem and Japheth were good while Ham was evil. As we have seen too often, both fundamentalists and critical scholars show complete lack of common sense when reading the Bible: Shem and Japheth were able to go into the tent backwards and use a garment to cover their father in order to avoid seeing him naked after they had been warned – and one may wonder how did they know where in the tent their father was without looking at him unless Ham had told them ‑ but how could Ham have done the same since he had no idea what was in the tent when he entered? And that he enjoyed seeing his father naked and that he told his brothers laughing is just pure fantasy because there is no hint in the text about that. Critical scholars, however, go beyond fundamentalists who imagine that Ham just enjoyed seeing his father naked, and they claim that Ham actually took advantage of his father and had homosexual sex with him. What both fundamentalists and scholars forget when they read the Bible is that regardless whether the people enjoy pornography or engage in illicit sexual behaviors, they never brag about what they do privately. If Ham did tell his brothers what he had seen, the only reason could have been to warn them not to enter the tent unaware of what they might see as he had done, and the fact that the other brothers decided to cover their father as they did proves that that is the way they understood the reason Ham had told them about what he had discovered. That there was anything evil or criminal in what Ham did only minds completely deprived of any common sense can imagine. Therefore, while there is nothing irrational or evil about what Ham did, what is irrational is what happened next: “When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, he said, ‘Cursed be Canaan; lowest of slaves shall he be to his brothers.’ He also said, ‘Blessed by the LORD my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave. May God make space for Japheth, and let him live in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave’” (Gen 9:24‑27). If Noah learned what Ham “had done to him,” it could only have been because Shem and Japheth told him, and although we do not know why they told Noah about the incident, there is no reason to suppose evil intentions on their part either but rather that they wanted to alert their father about his irrational behavior as a result of drinking alcohol so that he should not do it again in the future. Although apparently Noah was no longer drunk when he was told about what had happened and one would have expected him to regain his rationality by taking responsibility for his behavior, to blame himself, and decide not to do it again in the future, he decides to blame Ham’s son, Canaan, and curse him, although there is no evidence that Ham had even told his son about the incident, or that Canaan was even aware of what had happened. Can anyone imagine anything more outrageous? …Read more

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