Scott asked:

What was the sin of Ham when he saw his father's nakedness and told his brothers who covered their father up?

Tim Staples replied:

"Now this is something that the Church has nothing definitive on. So you'll get different scholars to say different things ... This is just Tim Staples' opinion here, but when I read the text it simply says Ham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers outside. And then his two brothers ... Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it on their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were turned away and they did not see their father's nakedness. What I think from the text itself, there's a comparison here between what Ham did and what Shem and Japheth did.

Ham saw the nakedness of his father. He exposed it to his two brothers. That I believe is what the text is saying is the sin. He did not show the proper respect for his father, whereas Shem and Japheth ... walked in backwards rather than look at their father, their faces turned away and they covered him. So I think this is a sin against the fourth commandment and not a sin against the sixth commandment ...

For me anyway you see that there's a sort of comparison. Ham saw the nakedness of his father. Shem and Japheth did not look upon ... they were blessed, Shem and Japheth for honoring their father whereas Ham i believe was cursed for not doing so. And this is the fourth commandment right? Honor your father and mother that your days may be prolonged on the earth. "

Source material:

Genesis 9
18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Ham was the father of Canaan. 19 These three were the sons of Noah; and from these the whole earth was peopled. 20 Noah was the first tiller of the soil. He planted a vineyard; 21 and he drank of the wine, and became drunk, and lay uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. 23 Then Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders, and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces were turned away, and they did not see their father’s nakedness. 24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” 26 He also said, “Blessed by the Lord my God be Shem;[b] and let Canaan be his slave. 27 God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.”


Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (RSVCE)
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1965, 1966 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Catholic Answers, "Open Forum" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2014)

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Show air date: July 15, 2014

Name of show: Open Forum

Guest comments by: Tim Staples

Question appeared in show: 41:26

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