28 January 2013

A Strange Story Explained: Temple Symbolism and the Garment of Noah

A particular story in Genesis seems peculiar to us because we misunderstand it. As we noted in Part 5 of this article, according to a statement attributed to Joseph Smith, “Noah was not drunk, but in a vision.” Now we seek to understand something more about this story.

How do we make sense of Noah’s being “uncovered” during his vision? Perhaps the closest Old Testament parallel to this practice is when Saul, like the prophets who were with him, “stripped off his clothes… and prophesied before Samuel… and lay down naked all that day and all that night.” Jamieson clarifies that “lay down naked” in this instance means only that he was “divested of his armor and outer robes.” In a similar sense, when we read in John 21:7 that Peter “was naked” as he was fishing, it simply means that “he had laid off his outer garment, and had on only his inner garment or tunic.”

Now to verse 22. How do we understand the statement that Ham “saw the nakedness of his father”? Reluctant to attribute the apparent gravity of Ham’s misdeed to the mere act of seeing, readers have often concluded in addition that Ham must have done something. For example, a popular proposal is that Ham committed unspeakable crimes against his mother or his father.

Wenham, however, wisely observes that “these and other suggestions are disproved by the next verse” that recounts how Shem and Japheth covered their father:
As Cassuto points out: “If the covering was an adequate remedy, it follows that the misdemeanor was confined to seeing.” The elaborate efforts Shem and Japheth made to avoid looking at their father demonstrate that this was all Ham did in the tent.
This is consistent with the proposal that the misdeed of Ham was in that he intrusively entered the Tent of Yahweh and saw Noah in the presence of God while the latter was “in the course of revelation.” This idea also fits well with what Hendel, Carr, Mettinger, Oden, and others have identified as an underlying theme throughout Genesis 1-11, namely “transgressions of boundaries” that had been set up in the beginning to separate the general run of mankind from the dwelling place of Divinity. Noah the righteous and blameless (an exception to those in his generation) was in a position to speak with God face-to-face, however Ham was neither qualified nor authorized to see (let alone enter) a place of divine glory.


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1 comment:

  1. This information certainly clarifies a few things. I read somewhere else about Joseph Smith saying Noah was in a vision and not drunk, and that was all it said.
    This was very informative, and I am very glad there are people who understand what the Scriptures say and mean, and explain it to the rest of us.
    Thanks! Janice