Noah Gets Drunk!?

by Joshua Tilghman on September 29, 2013

Grapes on the vineLike me, maybe you’ve wondered why the “righteous” Noah gets drunk after the flood. Genesis 9:20-21 states:

“And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.”

Hmm…a naked, drunk Noah? Resembles more of the morning-after scene from a frat party rather than a righteous servant. And doesn’t this seem a little less than “righteous?” St. Paul tells us not to even keep company with a drunkard (1 Cor. 5:11), but Noah plants a vineyard and makes wine as soon as he steps off the ark!

It doesn’t stop there. Then the story just gets weird: Noah’s son, Ham, sees his father naked and runs to tell his brothers. The two brothers are respectful. They turn their head, cover their father with some clothes, and leave. When Noah wakes up from his drunken stupor, he gets pretty upset so he curses his grandson. What gives? His son was the one that exposed his nudity, not his grandson. And was Noah so embarrassed by his little incident that he had to curse someone to make himself feel better?

This story used to trouble me as a Christian. I had one pastor tell me that the story was about homosexuality. When I asked why Noah cursed Canaan instead of Ham (the one that would have violated his father), this pastor was at a loss.

Of course he was; he didn’t have a clue that this story was about the soul of every human being, not something that literally happened.

It amazes me how Christians can believe that a Biblical story as strange as this one is literal. For example, Creation Outreach posts on their webpage that:

Noah Got Drunk! And Naked! – God Never Faults Him! –Neither Does Anyone in the Bible! –Why?


I don’t mean to be rude, but I don’t even think that qualifies as a real answer. The real reason God or anyone else in the Bible never faults him is because it didn’t happen. There was no vineyard, no wine, and no night of debauchery followed by an X-rated morning.

Intoxication and Our Higher Natures

If none of this literally happened, then why put it in the story? If you’ve read my last post, then you know Noah’s flood is about achieving higher consciousness. It’s all allegory meant to teach us what we have the potential for. So how does cultivating grapes and getting drunk off the wine fit in?

This is actually a very logical way to make the story unfold once you understand the symbols. In ancient cultures, grapes often symbolized the spiritual fruit of love and wisdom. Naturally, he would plant such a noble fruit. If grapes represent the spiritual fruit of love and wisdom, it would also be logical for him to ingest it. Getting drunk off the wine symbolizes his lower nature becoming paralyzed (intoxicated) by the fruits of his higher nature. The lower nature then loses its power! Since Noah has been transformed by his higher nature (as symbolized through his being raised above the floodwaters in the ark), the very next act after the floodwaters have abated would be to cultivate the vine. His higher nature is filled with love and wisdom (the grape and the vine). The fact that Noah even became a husbandman of the vine signifies experience. The cultivation process signifies his experiences manifested on the physical plane through which he gained higher consciousness. Remember that it is experience which causes the soul to spiritually mature.

The Meaning of Vine and Wine

The vine represents the same attributes as the “Tree of Life.” It’s the divine life flowing from above to all the planes of life, such as the physical, below. Christ is the ultimate vine.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandmen” (John15:1).

Christ, or the higher self, infuses the lower self with divine life!

We can see parallel meanings in the myth of the Greek god Dionysus, the god of wine. At one point he was killed, dismembered, and then served as wine for sacramental drink to worshippers. Since Dionysus also represents the qualities of the higher nature—as god of the vine— he infuses these qualities into his worshippers as they symbolically drink him.

Psalm 80:8 also gives us an interesting representation of the vine. It states:

Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen and planted it.

In the above scripture the heathen that he casts out for Israel represent the lower nature. He plants life in the Promised Land, or the higher mind of the individual. This is wisdom and love.

Ham and Canaan

So what is Noah’s and Ham’s little incident about? Why the big deal when Ham sees his father naked?

First let’s break down what “nakedness” means in scripture. Nakedness represents purity and the objective mind, free from limitations one often expresses through the ego. Remember that Adam and Eve were naked in the Garden. They were also pure and undefiled by Satan (the ego).

The fact Noah gets drunk just means he is filled with the higher aspects of wisdom and love, beyond the ego. The fact that he is naked further establishes his higher objective consciousness.

In the last post I mentioned that Shem represented will, Ham is action, and Japheth is wisdom. Understanding these symbols also explains why the Biblical writer shows Ham dishonoring his father. Action encompasses desire. Ham exposes the nudity of his father because this is what the desires of our lower nature do. But the higher qualities of the soul take action, wisdom (Japheth), and the true will (Shem) of the higher nature to overcome the lower nature.

When Noah learns what Ham did, he cursed Canaan because Canaan is the son (manifestation) of desire. Noah wasn’t really cursing him in the way that we think of a curse. He was exposing what would happen to the desires of the lower nature when ruled by the higher. That’s why part of his curse also states:

“…Blessed be the LORD God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant” (Gen. 9:26).

Shem, the will of the higher nature, should always rule over the lower nature.

Part of Noah’s curse continues:

“God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant” (Gen 9:27).

God always enlarges wisdom (Japheth) in the hearts and minds of souls when the higher self is ruling. Wisdom should always rule the lower nature also.

Once again we can see that when the Bible is interpreted properly, it makes sense. Literally, the strange dealings of Noah after the Flood mean nothing to us, but when we read the story for its spiritual meaning veiled beneath the literal interpretation, we come to understand the deeper meaning for the development of the soul.


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Paula Kempf September 29, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Well Then… That Makes More Sense Now, doesn’t it 😀 Thanks for clearing that up for us Brother WOW 😀


Joshua Tilghman September 29, 2013 at 3:25 pm


If only that would have taught that in church – It could have saved a lot of time. Esoteric literature always satisfies a hungry mind.


anny October 1, 2013 at 6:52 am

Hello Joshua,

Again I like your interpretation of this story but I have a question and maybe a remark or two about the following text and your interpretation as quoted below:

“And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.”
When Noah wakes up from his drunken stupor, he gets pretty upset so he curses his grandson. What gives? His son was the one that exposed his nudity, not his grandson.

Why do you presume that Ham exposed Noah’s nudity?

Your quote from the King James Translation, which I have right beside me, says Noah was uncovered within his tent. This leaves a lot of room for interpretation but I do not see anything which makes me presume that Ham did it, there is nothing that points to that.

I looked at this Bible verse in a Dutch translation, made by an orthodox Jew, which has the Hebrew original on the page next to it. This translation says: … he (Noah) took all his clothes off/undressed completely in his tent.

So in this version Ham comes to see his father, enters the tent, sees that he is naked and then runs out to tell his brothers instead of keeping silent about it. So, if anything telling his brothers is the only thing he is guilty of in the story and that is the thing which should be interpreted instead of something he did not do. At least that is what I think. I do not know how to interpret this however. Any idea?

Of course I also looked at the Hebrew verb that was used: wajitgal, which can indeed be translated as he undressed completely but also as he revealed himself. The grammatical form which is used is the hitpael, which means the reflexive form of the verb to roll. This verb is connected to the resurrection story where it is used twice (in the Hebrew version of the New Testament) as wajigal if I remember correctly to indicate that after the funeral the stone was rolled before the opening of the grave (to cover it) and again after the resurrection it was rolled away (to uncover or reveal).

I have already once given a short list with related words, all sharing the root ‘gal’, in one of my comments. I do not remember which one. Among them were Galilee, Golgotha, Gilgal and others. It is all about revealing and of course on Golgotha the crucifixion process was totally revealed.

I find that the Hebrew language shows connections between Bible stories that otherwise might not so easily be seen but I am sure that it all hangs together somehow, even if I do not necessarily see how yet.



Joshua Tilghman October 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm


What I mean is that Ham when out and exposed his nudity by revealing it to his brothers. I understand where the text can be confusing. I never meant to say that Ham undressed Noah. Does this make more sense?


anny October 6, 2013 at 5:18 am

Hi Joshua,

I see that we actually point at the same thing. I did not get that but I see it now. However, there still remains a question for me. You explain Noah’s nakedness as:

The fact Noah gets drunk just means he is filled with the higher aspects of wisdom and love, beyond the ego. The fact that he is naked further establishes his higher objective consciousness.

This is all positive. Why is Ham not allowed to tell his brothers that he has noticed that? What is so bad about that? You write: Ham exposes the nudity of his father because this is what the desires of our lower nature do. But in this context I do not really see what you mean by that.


Joshua Tilghman October 10, 2013 at 7:36 pm


Remember what Ham represents? It’s not the fact that he doesn’t get to share the positive aspect, it’s just the fact that he symbolizes part of the lower nature in this story.

I find that the stories of scripture always provide both sides, the higher and lower.


anny October 11, 2013 at 10:26 am

Yes, I get the fact that Ham symbolizes the lower nature. His name is cham after all, which means hot. He is the hottempered nature that reacts to everything before thinking it over.

The way he reacts here is to immediately reveal to his brothers (wisdom and will of the higher nature) that their father became enlightened, as soon as he found out.

My question remains: what is wrong about that? What is there in this act that shows that he is the symbol of the lower nature? It obviously is in the context of this story as his brothers cover this enlightened state up again and Noah is very disturbed by the whole thing, but in the context of this deeper meaning, why? There is still something I do not see and which I want to clarify for myself.

So I guess the question really is: why is it necessary to keep the enlightened state (of Noah in this story) hidden?

Joshua Tilghman October 13, 2013 at 1:13 pm


Thank you for clarifying the question. I see now what you are asking. But let’s back up one minute. You state that the way he reacted is to immediately reveal to his brothers that his father is enlightened.

I don’t view the story this way. He wasn’t trying to reveal his father’s enlightened state. I believe the story unfolds this way because Ham eventually becomes the nation that Israel has to overcome later. Noah has to pronounce a curse on him to allow the situation to unfold in a way that sets up later events.


anny October 14, 2013 at 4:17 am

Hi Joshua,

I see what you mean. I guess my question should then be: what is it that Ham reveals to his brothers that makes him to the connecting link to all what follows. I cannot find anything in this symbol that justifies that and still it must be there because the symbols in the Bible always make sense.

When you say that Ham does what he does because he symbolizes the lower nature you explain it from the result as it were. But there has to be something that leads to this result first, I think.


Arlene March 23, 2014 at 5:32 pm

Hi Anny…

What I’ve learned from the Bible is that it explains itself pretty well without giving human opinions on what we think it means.

In the story of Ham “uncovering his father’s nakedness”, the answer is found in Leviticus 18:7,8

“The nakedness of they father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou salt not uncover her nakedness. (8) The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.”

This corresponds to what it tells us in Genesis 9:21,22

“And he drank of the wine, and was drunken, and he was uncovered within his tent. (22) And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.”

So, apparently, Ham “messed” with his mother. And, as a result, Canaan was born. The Bible definition of “uncovering his father’s nakedness” is obvious. Since Canaan being the son of Ham (and not Noah) is mentioned in the same sentence, we are told all we need to know. Canaan was cursed because he was the result of that major indiscretion of Ham with his mother.

And it is the “lower nature” within human beings to do these detestable things.



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