"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Details the Bible Didn't Share about Noah's Other Son

Notes and Reflections on Noah's Other Son, by Brian Arthur Brown -- see introductory post for more information on this book

Chapter 3 is about Noah/Nooh and his sons.  Most noteworthy perhaps the son whom the Bible "forgot" to mention whose story is told somewhat in the Quran. As the author put it, "The Quran does not dispute the truth of the Bible, but frequently adds details."  (pg. 50) 

According to hadith, his name was Canaan.  (In the Bible Canaan was Noah's grandson, the son of Ham.)  The Quranic Canaan was the son who drowned because he put his trust in the mountains to save him from drowning.  Mr. Brown says Canaan's story shows the familiar tale of one going his own way, exercising his freedom of choice by rebellion. Yet unlike the story of the prodigal son (see Luke 15), this story shows the consequences of going our own way and not turning back to God.

Remember after the Flood, when Noah was drunk, Ham found him and somehow later got in trouble for not covering his father's nakedness?  (It's in Genesis 9).  Some have puzzled why Noah cursed Canaan for this when Ham was the son who had offended Noah.  They came to the conclusion that sometimes "the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children."  This author suggests Noah truly meant to curse Ham, but just as parents often confuse the names of their children, Noah simply said "Canaan" (meaning his son who was drowned in the Flood) instead of saying Ham.  Brown notes that "This episode provides an instance where knowledge of the Quran resolves a textual conundrum in the biblical text."  

He continues, "The Quran preserves a few somewhat sophisticated twists that had been forgotten or lost."  (pg. 53)  But remember the Quran assumes people already know the Biblical stories as it usually leaves a lot of details out.  From my understanding of the author, he believes the Bible provides the main part of the story so you have to know it first. Then you can read the Quran which might add a few interesting bits to the story that the Jewish authors didn't note when they wrote their version. 

About the numerous flood stories the author writes:  "Some stories may have borrowed material from others, as did the Hebrew version, almost certainly, but others are too widely separated for that. The common thread is water both falling down and rising up; the destruction of society and information about a few survivors who had built a boat -- a family and their animals.  There are a few hints of awareness about the wrath of the gods toward corrupt civilizations, but only the Hebrew account is focused on the cleansing and redemptive purpose of it all, the rainbow of God's love, the grace involved in second chances, and the quest for meaning."  (pg. 46)

About Noah, the author notes he is presented with a "high moral tone" in the Quran since he is on a mission to warn sinners of impending doom.  You won't find the details about Noah getting drunk and lying naked in his tent in Muhammad's version.  Brown says the Quran presents models of good character and conduct not "examples of redemption" that the Jewish authors present.

Chapter 4 deals with the Tower of Babel and how it is a warning for modern times when we build things for ourselves instead of for God and others.  The author says it's a warning that there should be no "unity among humans based on one language or on a super race of superior people."  Most of this chapter was a warning against American Christian fundamentalism and extreme capitalism which lead to wars on drugs, crime, abortion and terrorism and do not solve problems or bring peace.  A modern day Tower of Babel could be the World Trade Center towers which were also brought down.  Hmph!


Amber said...

in re: cursing Canaan - I always just thought that he cursed Canaan because the Canaanites were the Israelites enemies. I mean, I realize they weren't at the time that this story is meant to have taken place, but when was it written down? One could say that Noah wasn't cursing Canaan so much as stating the obvious. That Canaan was going to be cursed and all his descendants to be the enemy of the chosen people because of his father. If Ham had no respect for his father and his nakedness he likely had no real respect for the faith of his father. And that would be passed down to his children. So less: 'Curse you Canaan!' and more, 'Canaan is cursed by the unfortunate fact of being Ham's (the ungrateful bastard!) son.' Maybe.

I'm not down with this whole, Noah just got the son's name wrong. Since 1) there's no evidence of this fourth son except in the Qur'an, and I don't accept what it says as truth especially in matters Biblical and 2) one would think, if you were *cursing* your son you'd be sure to get the name wrong. I know parents can call their kids by the wrong name sometimes but never once when I was in trouble has my mother ever gotten me mixed up with my sister. She always yelled the right name. :) As far as I can see this holds true for every other family I know.

*snort* I was actually thinking that that Crystal Cathedral place was Tower of Babel-esque earlier this week.

sanil said...

Hm, what an odd statement (the last part about WTC). Was that from this author, stating it like it was a judgment the same way people like Pat Robertson do? :( Disappointing.

The resolution of issue with Noah cursing Canaan is interesting. I'll have to keep an eye out for these types of twists as I read the Quran.

Susanne said...

Amber, I like the points of view that you bring up. Thank you! Really thought-provoking things as usual! :) LOL that you were always called the right name when being scolded. You? Scolded? *pshaw* ;)

Sanil, well he didn't do it forthrightly like Pat Robertson. In fact he mentioned PR in this chapter if memory serves. He just did it in his liberal, oh-this-cutthroat-capitalist symbol (WTC) was damned just as the ToB was in the Bible. Eh...maybe I read too much into it. I just thought this chapter was too political for a spiritual book.

So when are you going to continue reading and posting your notes on the Quran? It's not like you have anything else happening in your life right now, RIIIIIIGHT? ;-P :D

sanil said...

LOL! I know, I actually do feel somehow guilty for not getting around to it, and then annoyed at my schedule for not letting me. It's coming. I actually read about half of the 2nd sura awhile back...but too far back to remember it, so I'll have to set aside some time to do that. Probably Sunday afternoon.

That makes sense...I'll have to be on the lookout for that when I read it. Us liberals have our crazies too sometimes. And perfectly normal people we respect who occasionally go a little off the deep end.

Susanne said...

Sanil, actually he's not so bad really. I can appreciate much of what he has to say so please don't let me give you the totally wrong impression. I think he is a bit too "Look, we are all basically the same" whereas I don't see it, but that's likely my own inability to see (my fault) than his. I wish you'd read the book and see what you think. I tend to believe you'd like most everything he says. I'm just not a liberal so - of course - I don't entirely agree with him. That doesn't mean I can't learn from and appreciate his perspective. I do. I am trying to listen to other points of view thus why I am reading this book and others that I may not have bothered reading a few years ago. :)

Oh, don't feel guilty. I was totally kidding about reading the Quran. I know you are in school now so it's not like you have much free time. The 'bad' thing about those early suras is that they are soooo long. You could break them up if you want. Just do as many verses as you can and then get back to where you left off when you can. Seriously those first suras could be chapters so I can see why it's hard to get through them with all you have going on.

Thanks for your comments. I appreciate you!

Lat said...

Loved reading bits about Noah and the authors thoughts.

Just felt that one shouldn't curse one's children.To think that that all this enemy thing started with cursing is depressing!

Susanne said...

Lat, I agree! Enough with the cursing. Too bad Noah didn't just forgive.

Glad you enjoyed the author's thoughts that I shared. Thanks for your feedback! :)