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A twist in the tale

Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. Genesis 9.22


Waiting for God concludes with an unlikely excursus into Simone Weil's speculation on the historical impact of Noah's three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. Ham has had a hard time on account of being the one who found his father in a drunken stupor and naked in his tent. The other two are lauded for their respect in entering the tent backwards to spare their father's blushes. That is to take the account in Genesis at face value.


Weil interprets the incident rather differently. Connecting the wine of Noah's intoxication with that of Communion and in light of Genesis 6.9 ("a righteous man, blameless in his generation"), Weil suggests that Noah was, in fact, experiencing a bout of spiritual ecstasy. Ham got it, the others recoiled in embarrassment.


According to Weil, true spirituality is the legacy of Ham. Shem's offspring she accuses of stifling and ultimately rejecting God's self-revelation in Jesus, while Japheth's seed may have enjoyed various spiritual adventures but ultimately misunderstood them all, Christianity in particular. The result, argues Weil, is to be seen in the general uprootedness of indigenous religions and the conflicts which continue to rage between the descendants of Noah's three sons who are, in fact, brothers

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