Verses 18–23

Here is, I. Noah’s family and employment. The names of his sons are again mentioned (Gen. 9:18, 19) as those from whom the whole earth was overspread, by which it appears that Noah, after the flood, had no more children: all the world came from these three. Note, God, when he pleases, can make a little one to become a thousand, and greatly increase the latter end of those whose beginning was small. Such are the power and efficacy of a divine blessing. The business Noah applied himself to was that of a husbandman, Heb. a man of the earth, that is, a man dealing in the earth, that kept ground in his hand, and occupied it. We are all naturally men of the earth, made of it, living on it, and hastening to it: many are sinfully so, addicted to earthly things. Noah was by his calling led to trade in the fruits of the earth. He began to be a husbandman, that is, some time after his departure out of the ark, he returned to his old employment, from which he had been diverted by the building of the ark first, and probably afterwards by the building of a house on dry land for himself and family. For this good while he had been a carpenter, but now he began again to be a husbandman. Observe, Though Noah was a great man and a good man, an old man and a rich man, a man greatly favoured by heaven and honoured on earth, yet he would not live an idle life, nor think the husbandman’s calling below him. Note, Though God by his providence may take us off from our callings for a time, yet when the occasion is over we ought with humility and industry to apply ourselves to them again, and, in the calling wherein we are called, faithfully to abide with God, 1 Cor. 7:24.

II. Noah’s sin and shame: He planted a vineyard; and, when he had gathered his vintage, probably he appointed a day of mirth and feasting in his family, and had his sons and their children with him, to rejoice with him in the increase of his house 48f4 as well as in the increase of his vineyard; and we may suppose he prefaced his feast with a sacrifice to the honour of God. If this was omitted, it was just with God to leave him to himself, that he who did not begin with God might end with the beasts; but we charitably hope that it was not: and perhaps he appointed this feast with a design, at the close of it, to bless his sons, as Isaac, Gen. 27:3, 4, That I may eat, and that my soul may bless thee. At this feast he drank of the wine; for who planteth a vineyard and eateth not of the fruit of it? But he drank too liberally, more than his head at this age would bear, for he was drunk. We have reason to think he was never drunk before nor after; observe how he came now to be overtaken in this fault. It was his sin, and a great sin, so much the worse for its being so soon after a great deliverance; but God left him to himself, as he did Hezekiah (2 Chron. 32:31), and has left this miscarriage of his upon record, to teach us, 1. That the fairest copy that ever mere man wrote since the fall had its blots and false strokes. It was said of Noah that he was perfect in his generations (Gen. 6:9), but this shows that it is meant of sincerity, not a sinless perfection. 2. That sometimes those who, with watchfulness and resolution, have, by the grace of God, kept their integrity in the midst of temptation, have, through security, and carelessness, and neglect of the grace of God, been surprised into sin, when the hour of temptation has been over. Noah, who had kept sober in drunken company, is now drunk in sober company. Let him that thinks he stands take heed. 3. That we have need to be very careful, when we use God’s good creatures plentifully, lest we use them to excess. Christ’s disciples must take heed lest at any time their hearts be overcharged, Luke 21:34. Now the consequence of Noah’s sin was shame. He was uncovered within his tent, made naked to his shame, as Adam when he had eaten forbidden fruit. Yet Adam sought concealment; Noah is so destitute of thought and reason that he seeks no covering. This was a fruit of the vine that Noah did not think of. Observe here the great evil of the sin of drunkenness. (1.) It discovers men. What infirmities they have, they betray when they are drunk, and what secrets they are entrusted with are then easily got out of them. Drunken porters keep open gates. (2.) It disgraces men, and exposes them to contempt. As it shows them, so it shames them. Men say and do that when drunk which when they are sober they would blush at the thoughts of, Hab. 2:15, 16.

III. Ham’s impudence and impiety: He saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren, Gen. 9:22. To see it accidentally and involuntarily would not have been a crime; but, 1. He pleased himself with the sight, as the Edomites looked up on the day of their brother (Obad. 1:12), pleased, and insulting. Perhaps Ham had sometimes been himself drunk, and reproved for it by his good father, whom he was therefore pleased to see thus overcome. Note, It is common for those who walk in false ways themselves to rejoice at the false steps which they sometimes see others make. But charity rejoices not in iniquity, nor can true penitents that are sorry for their own sins rejoice in the sins of others. 2. He told his two brethren without (in the street, as the word is), in a scornful deriding manner, that his father might seem vile unto them. It is very wrong, (1.) To make a jest of sin (Prov. 14:9), and to be puffed up with that for which we should rather mourn, 1 Cor. 5:2. And, (2.) To publish the faults of any, especially of parents, whom it is our duty to honour. Noah was not only a good man, but had been a good father to him; and this was a most base disingenuous requital to him for his tenderness. Ham is here called the father of Canaan, which intimates that he who was himself a father should have been more respectful to him that was his father.

IV. The pious care of Shem and Japheth to cover their poor father’s shame, Gen. 5:23. They not only would not see it themselves, but provided that no one else might see it, herein setting us an example of charity with reference to other men’s sin and shame; we must not only not say, A confederacy, with those that proclaim it, but we must be careful to conceal it, or at least to make the best of it, so doing as we would be done by. 1. There is a mantle of love to be thrown over the faults of all, 1 Pet. 4:8. 2. Besides this, there is a robe of reverence to be thrown over the faults of parents and other superiors.