Here we have a story that has much in common with Adam and Eve and their shame in knowing they were naked. We read how the serpent twisted the word of God, causing them to sin, and how sin caused Adam and Eve to view each other with shame. We read before how God clothed Adam and Eve with clothes of skin, covering their nakedness. He didn’t mock them for it. He didn’t abuse them for it. Instead God clothed them and covered their nakedness covering their shame. Noah’s sons Shem, Ham and Japheth knew the story of their ancestors, they knew the mercy of God and they knew that God does not look down on our own nakedness with scorn. And yet Ham does so any way, and in his doing so treats with contempt Gods own method of his own salvation. And so his two brothers covered their father in a way that kept his dignity, respecting him, loving him for who he was.
Shem had learnt from history that Cain should have been Able’s keeper, meaning that he too should follow and do what is right, teaching, and showing his brothers and his sons the right way to live. Japheth had known the story as well and perhaps as both he and Able were the younger brothers in their families, he encouraged himself to walk with God in a similar way. They both recognised that sin was crouching waiting to devour them all. They do not answer their brother with words, they do not engage in his unwholesome talk, in looking at their father as Ham had done, instead they rebuke him with their Godly actions.
When Noah wakes up, he finds out about what his son did. As the head of the household he speaks judgement over his son Ham. His judge-ment is that his youngest son will rule over the older brother. No longer is Ham in seniority over Japheth as was the custom of the times. No longer is Ham second in charge to Shem in the family business. And no longer is Japheth considered the youngest and therefore the slave to his brothers. Noah pronounces his judgement on his son. He has lost favour with is father, he has lost favour with his brothers, and for the first time we read the words that the older shall serve the younger.
Not only does this affect Ham, it affects his whole family and his subsequent generations starting with his son, Canaan whose name means humiliated. What a name to be called, and yet apt in his description, humiliated, by his father.