Noah has a grand-son. His name is Canaan. Presumably, Noah has more than one grand-son but Canaan is mentioned because he plays an important role in the human drama.
Noah plants a vine, makes wine, and gets drunk in his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, sees his father's nakedness and tells his brothers. Upon waking up, Noah finds out what his son did and he curses his grandson.
Why did Noah curse Canaan when Ham was the one responsible for "seeing his father's nakedness" and what does this expression mean? Does it mean what a literal reading would seem to imply? If so how could we explain the evident disproportion between the action (seeing his father lying naked in his tent) and the curse of the grandson?
This question is all the more important since it has far-reaching consequences as seen for instance in Deuteronomy 20:16 and following; a theme we shall explore in the following study when we take on the genealogies of the nations. But over and above these historical consequences lie the apparent contradiction between the communal responsibility exemplified by the curse of the son because of the sin of the father and found elsewhere as in 2nd Samuel 12:13-14, 1st King 14:12-13, and chapters 25-29, Jeremiah 32:18 and Exodus 20:5 on the one hand and the personal responsibility that we find in Jeremiah 31:29-31, Ezekiel 18 and Luke 13:1-5. How can God say on one hand he will punish the sinner down to the fourth generation and yet state that if a man is righteous, he will not be affected by the sins of his father?
We study and explain how this apparent contradiction is resolved.