Relationships – The People on the Ark

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.
After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

  • Genesis 5:28-32

So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.
This is the account of Noah and his family.
Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.

  • Genesis 6:7-14

Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

  • Genesis 6:22

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.
On that very day Noah and his sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth, together with his wife and the wives of his three sons, entered the ark. They had with them every wild animal according to its kind, all livestock according to their kinds, every creature that moves along the ground according to its kind and every bird according to its kind, everything with wings. Pairs of all creatures that have the breath of life in them came to Noah and entered the ark. The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the Lord shut him in.

  • Genesis 7:11-16

So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on land—came out of the ark, one kind after another.
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

  • Genesis 8:18-21

The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) These were the three sons of Noah, and from them came the people who were scattered over the whole earth.
Noah, a man of the soil, proceeded to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.
When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, he said,
“Cursed be Canaan!
    The lowest of slaves
    will he be to his brothers.”
He also said,
“Praise be to the Lord, the God of Shem!
    May Canaan be the slave of Shem.
May God extend Japheth’s territory;
    may Japheth live in the tents of Shem,
    and may Canaan be the slave of Japheth.”
After the flood Noah lived 350 years. Noah lived a total of 950 years, and then he died.

  • Genesis 9:18-29

“Or if I send a plague into that land and pour out my wrath on it through bloodshed, killing its people and their animals, as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, even if Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, they could save neither son nor daughter. They would save only themselves by their righteousness.

  • Ezekiel 14:19-20

By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.

  • Hebrew 11:7

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits—to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

  • 1 Peter 3:18-22

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them in chains of darkness to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

  • 2 Peter 2:4-9

A Quote

After seven days Noah again sent out the dove from the boat, and that evening it came back to him with a fresh olive leaf in its mouth.’ (Genesis 8:10-11)
“An olive leaf. Noah would have been happy to have the bird but to have the leaf! This leaf was more than foliage; this was promise. The bird brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope. For isn’t that what hope is? Hope is an olive leaf—evidence of dry land after a flood …
“Don’t we love the olive leaves of life? ‘It appears the cancer may be in remission.’ ‘I can help you with those finances.’ ‘We’ll get through this together.’
“What’s more, don’t we love the doves that bring them? When the father walks his son through his first broken heart, he gives him an olive leaf. When the wife of many years consoles the wife of a few months, when she tells her that conflicts come and all husbands are moody and these storms pass, you know what she is doing? She is giving an olive leaf. We love olive leaves. And we love those who give them.”

  • Max Lucado, A Love Worth Giving

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

While someone might assume that Noah would have grandchildren at some point, the Scriptures from Peter’s letters are clear that there were only eight people on the ark.  When you consider that Noah had his three sons at the age of 500, it is not unreasonable to consider that at roughly one hundred years old, the three sons had not yet started to have children.  Groups of people in the Bible are often counted by only counting the males of a particular age, such as the proper age to serve in the military.  The feeding of the 5,000 in the gospel accounts was the 5,000 males.  Women and children were not counted.  But in this case, Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives are mentioned specifically.  Other ancient texts provide names for the wives, but Genesis does not.  The other texts may be a fictional story based on the story of the flood.

Beyond this, we no very little about how they interacted on the ark.

Once off the ark, we have the unfortunate story of Noah getting drunk.  Genesis 9 identifies Noah as a man of the soil.  He planted a vineyard, and he got drunk.  As mentioned before, we have a difficulty of reading the Bible and seeing it as a story of sequential events.  We have no idea how long it was from leaving the ark until Noah planted the vineyard.  All three sons might have had a couple of children each by that time.  But let’s apply some true wine making knowledge.  From planting the vineyard to the first wine is roughly three years.  Add this to the unknown time between getting off the ark and planting the vineyard, and there was plenty of time for Noah’s sons to have started repopulating the earth.

There is no mention of what Noah was doing, only that he was naked.  We do not have a clue what Ham thought or what he said to his brothers, but as many scholars have written, it was probably sinful.  The brothers refused to look upon their father.  They walked in backwards and placed a garment over their naked father.  There was not a curse on Ham specifically, but onto Ham’s son Canaan.  Ham had four sons (Genesis 10:6): Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.

From the 1 Peter Scripture above, we know that God was patient, waiting for Noah to complete the ark.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

I wrote a post about doing the math where Methuselah died the year of the flood.  We have no idea if Methuselah died in the flood.  The first Scripture above speaks of Lamech dying at 777 years, only five years before his father Methuselah died (Genesis 5:26, where Methuselah lived 782 years after Lamech was born).  Did Lamech and Methuselah help Noah build the ark or were either or both of them among the scoffers?

Genesis 5:32 says that when Noah was 500 years old, he had three sons.  Were they triplets?  Or can we assume that over a few years, starting when Noah was 500 that the three boys were born?

There is the mention of Ham, Canaan’s father (Gen. 9:18) seeing Noah naked.  We might infer that Ham’s wife was pregnant at the time that they exited the ark or soon thereafter.  It would be beyond strange to place a curse on Canaan, when Canaan had not yet been born.  Ham could have foiled the curse by simply avoiding the name Canaan among his children.

We cannot even infer that Ham’s descendants became the dark-skinned people of the world.  Recent discoveries in the Y-chromosome show that there is so little definitive information that the concept of “race” is rarely mentioned.  Dark-skinned people could be closer in a white person’s family tree than the similar white neighbors next door.  The reverse could be said about the dark-skinned people.  And it was only Canaan’s offspring that were cursed.  The historical records of people enslaving dark-skinned people due to Noah’s curse were simply inventing an excuse to make money.  Situations, such as how Joshua enslaved the Gibeonites after the Gibeonites tricked Joshua into not destroying them is ample fulfillment of Noah’s curse.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

Bill Cosby and his famous comedy routine about the story of Noah and the Ark mentions a lot of hilarious moments that are great for filling in the gaps.  They are said in a humorous way, such as Noah asking God if He had seen what was in the bottom of the ark.  And then something like, “God, who’s gonna clean up that mess?!”

In a post back in 2018, I made a suggestion along with many others.  The post was about Red Button’s comedy routine, Never Got a Dinner.  Red would show up at the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.  They would pay tribute to a celebrity by making jokes out of the celebrity’s finest moments.  Red Buttons would avoid mentioning anything that the celebrity had done.  He might dismiss a couple of things, but Red would complain that they were honoring someone, giving them an honored dinner, but the celebrity had really done nothing special.  But there were many who were more deserving.  Alas, they “never got a dinner” in their honor.  One of my suggestions to add to the Red Buttons routine was, what about…

Noah, who turned to Japheth and said, “My son, my son, my precious son, I want you to be the first person to try my new invention.  I call it a pooper-scooper.” … never got a dinner. (Genesis 7:1-3)

But if we invented strife among the members of Noah’s family, it would be our invention.  The ark was huge, but it had to be huge to contain all the animals.  And to clear that up a bit.  Noah collected pairs, or seven pairs if clean animals, of animals of each kind.  He may have had a pair of wolves that all animals of that kind can trace themselves back to.  You might say evolved from, but it could easily be said that the pair of wolves contained the possible genetic make-up of all canines in them and then through genetic mutation, taking away one trait or another, the offspring of the kind split into such things as foxes, jackals, coyote, dogs, and others of that kind.  Then breeding within various members of that kind can produce the various breeds of today.

But we can imagine that some kinds produced offspring and that the carnivores ate some of those animals that were among the clean animals, thus why have seven of those kinds, other than food for Noah and his family.

Creating strife among the family might make a good work of fiction, but Noah and his family were simply too busy.  They probably all had specific jobs that they were all good at doing.  The need to do it and the desire to contribute overcame any thoughts of not being appreciated enough or recognized, etc.  They all shared the fruits of their labor.  It seems there was no favoritism.

But strife came aplenty when they left the ark and Noah got drunk.  Was Noah doing something that was obscene?  Rev. MacArthur would not even suggest anything but insisted that all that we know is that Noah was naked and Ham looked upon him.  Then in the aftermath, Noah curses Ham’s son.  Ham must have said something lewd regarding his father to result in Canaan’s curse.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

Family unity and peace is a full-time job.  With the freedom that each of us must make our own choices, family unity is not a guarantee.  Only a tyrant would insist upon it.  Only a saintly loving parent, with full cooperation of the spouse, could come close to complete unity and peace.  The Presbyterian Church created a PUP commission.  When our pastor asked a promise keeper’s group whether PUP (Peace Unity and Purity) was possible, I was the only detractor.  My argument was that the three, as long as we have free will and a sin nature, are mutually incompatible.  Some splinter group (thus no unity) will want to call something that is clearly a sin not to be a sin (thus no purity).  Since those types of people are already church members, we can only achieve PUP by excommunication of all those who do not belief in the inerrancy of the Bible.  Then again, we are guilty in letting them become members in the first place.

In bringing this up, the same thing can happen within a family.  It can split families apart.  I have written a thread of Preacher’s Kid (PK) rebellion into my fiction, because that element of being in a fishbowl and expected to not embarrass your Christian parents can be seen far beyond the preacher, pastor, priest, etc.

Did Noah or any of the brothers say, “I’m gonna kill him!” in reference to another person aboard the ark?  Even when you do not mean it literally, those types of things happen in the best of families, especially if it is obvious that a parent loves another sibling more than they love you.  I say it in that way, in that the one who is loved best rarely notices.  We’ll get to this topic with Joseph and his brothers.

But to end on a positive note, Shem and Japheth would not look upon their father’s nakedness but backed into the tent and draped a garment over their father.  They knew their father’s character.  They had lived with their father one hundred years before the flood.  They probably helped Noah build the ark.  They lived in tight quarters for over a year.  They were with Noah as he built an altar and made sacrifices to God after being delivered from the flood.  They may have been with Noah as he nurtured the vineyard.  They honored and respected their father.  They had no desire to see their father naked.

The Redeemed quartet, two pairs of brothers, are from Indiana and the Ark Encounter is in nearby Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati, Ohio which is the backdrop of some of the scenes.  But the song is called “Come to the Door” and the chorus hints of my favorite Bible verse in Revelation 3.

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

  • Revelation 3:20

Why did we not hear about strife onboard the ark?  They kept their eyes and their hearts toward God and God’s deliverance.

A Closing Prayer

Sometimes when we are cooped up in a tight space with family, we get cabin fever.  We need our personal space.  Even when the gathering is for a one-day reunion or a week-long vacation.  Help us, Lord, to have the focus that Noah and his family had on the ark.  Noah and his family had no clue if the waters would ever recede.  With us, knowing the short duration of the gathering, we are at each other’s nerves as if some of us came to the event to cause trouble about past sins, imagined or true.  Lord, give us the strength to curb our anger, to forgive others within the family, and the patience to endure.  Lord, you showed patience while Noah built the ark.  Please show us patience.  We are most definitely a work in progress.
In Thy Name we pray,

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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