(70) Why is it that the sacred writer has not simply said, Ham saw his nakedness, but Ham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father? (#Ge 9:22). By stating the fact thus, he both blames the son in the father and the father in the son, as performing together in common the deed of folly, and iniquity, and impiety, and every other kind of wickedness. This is the literal meaning of the statement; and as to the inner sense, we must look at that in the same manner in which we have hitherto treated these subjects.
(71) What is the meaning of the statement, “He told it to his two brothers out of doors?” (Genesis 9:22). The sacred historian is here adding to the gravity of the transaction. In the first place, because he did not report the involuntary evil of his father to one brother only, but to both of them; and no doubt if he had had any more he would have told it to them all, as he did in fact to every one he could; and he did so with ridicule in his very words, making a jest of what ought not to have been treated with laughter and derision, but rather with shame and fear mingled with reverence. In the second place, when the historian says he told it them, not in the house but out of the house, he evidently points out that he displayed his father when naked, not only to his brothers, but also to the bystanders with whom they were, both men and women. This is the literal information conveyed by the words. But if we look to their inward meaning, then we shall see that a depraved and malignant habit of life is full of derision and contempt: and it is a bad thing to judge of the miseries of others even by one’s self like a chastising judge. But in this case what has happened is worse than this, for any man with a joyful mind to ridicule the involuntary misfortune of a devoted disciple of wisdom, and to make a song of and proclaim abroad his misery, is the part of a thoroughly hostile accuser, who ought rather to have pardoned such an occurrence than to have added accusation or vituperation to it. Moreover, because these three things are, as I have said before, as it were brothers together; namely, good, bad, and indifferent, being all the offspring of one parent thought: in accordance with each of these principles, they have been found to be overseers, some celebrating virtues with praise, others upholding acts of malignity, and others supporting riches and honours and other good things which, however, are not attached to and which are external to the body. The overseers who emulate wickedness rejoice at the fall of the wise man, and ridicule and disparage him, as if he had done no good by the part which he adopts and to which he applies himself as better for the mind, or for his body, or for his external circumstances, to his internal virtues or to any of the good things which are around and exterior to his body. Unless indeed that man alone is eminently able to attain his object, who applies himself to iniquity, as that alone is accustomed to confer advantages on human life. Pronouncing these and similar precepts, those who are overseers of iniquity ridicule those who devote themselves to virtue, and to those things by which virtue is produced and consolidated: as some look upon those things to be which are around the body, and outside it, and which may be regarded in the light of instruments serving to that end.