After the feast and blessings from God, Noah and his family found a great place to settle down. Forgetting that anyone at all had been alive before the flood, Noah became the first rancher and farmer. His grief over the flood was so great that he primarily planted grapes and re-invented wine, spending the rest of his life as plastered as he could possibly get away with.
One day Noah was attempting and failing to have sex with his wife when Ham walked in on him. Ham finding this hilarious ran outside Noah’s tent and made fun of him to his brothers.
“I thought I heard mom drop something. Walked in and dad was drunkenly humping the blankets,” Ham said, “He’s so drunk he can’t tell the difference between mom and a well dressed pillow.”
Shem and Japheth did not find this particularly funny and went in and covered their passed out father up, being careful not to get a glimpse of the ancient crotch danglers they came from. A few hours later Noah woke up from his drunken nap and grabbed himself an afternoon skin of wine to take the edge off of being awake.
He noticed he was naked and his disappointed wife glaring at him from the tent flap. Noah drunkenly waved his hand at her and stumbled out of the tent.
“Ham! I know what you did! I heard you mocking me!” He drunkenly shouted.
“Dad, go back to bed, you’re drunk,” Ham said, “Also stop drinking, it’s embarrassing.”
“EMBARRASHING!” Noah slurred at the top of his lungs, “Because you saw my shame I’m cursing your son Canaan. His descendants will be slaves of Shem and Japheth’s! But Japheth and Shem’s will get along.”
Ham pinched the bridge of his nose, “Dad you aren’t God. At least curse the person who messed up. I was the one who saw your dusty leg stickers flapping around while you humped the pillow, not my kid.”
Noah got even more enraged, mostly because he knew his son was right, so he doubled down, “No! I’m cursing Canaan specifically. He sucks and his descendants will suck. The rest of my grandkids are fine!”
Canaan, who was a small child pulled on his father’s robes, “Why is grandpa being so mean?”
“He’s drunk. And old. And stupid. You don’t suck, Canaan,” Ham said, then turned to Noah, “Screw you dad, we’re leaving.”
So Ham left for the warmer climate of the south and never returned to his family home.
There’s no moral to this story except ancient racism.
Most of the time you’ll hear that Noah cursed Ham, mostly by modern racists and illiterate evangelicals many of whom are also racist. This non-existent curse has been the excuse for the enslavement of Africans for a long time. However, Noah does not curse Ham, he curses Ham’s son Canaan.
Canaan was the progenitor of the Canaanites according to the Bible. They were probably not African of any stripe and the Israelites did eventually conquer them. This particular story is mostly just an explanation of why it was acceptable to take over the Canaanites.
What Ham did is not exactly clear. A plain reading would indicate he just walked in on his father passed on the floor naked then ran outside and told his brothers. This doesn’t seem like something that requires a curse of any kind. Other places in the Old Testament phrases similar to ‘uncovered his nakedness’ indicate something sexual happened.
The theories I’ve read about this phrase say that Ham castrated Noah, sodomized Noah, raped his mother or something equally vile. This has something to do with virility and how being stripped of that makes someone unfit to be the leader of the tribe. I can see how this would have been extremely important to the ancients.
I’m not so sure it has to be anything this extreme. The author could have meant exactly what he said, Ham saw Noah passed out on the floor then made fun of him to his brothers. His brothers felt bad and went and covered him up. I also lean towards he walked in on his parents trying to have sex and Noah wasn’t able to perform. Ham then made fun of Noah’s impotence.
Why Noah cursed Canaan and not Ham is baffling. This seems to be a running theme in Genesis. God didn’t curse Adam directly, he cursed the ground. This may have something to do with ancient people thinking people suffered because of things their ancestors did wrong. In this case it’s obviously to explain why a certain group of people were so messed up, at least from Israel’s perspective.