Noah's life after the Flood
Noah - his name in Hebrew is נוֹחַ, noah - was one of the Old Testament patriarchs. The greater part of the biblical account of Noah in Genesis chs. 6-9 tells how, having been warned by God of an impending great Flood, he built a large wooden boat (usually referred to as an ark), and by means of this saved humankind and all animal species from extinction during the Flood. (For more on this see Noah and the Flood.) However, the final dozen verses of the account (ibid., ch. 9, vv. 18-29) concern Noah's life after the Flood - which is the subject of this page.
Noah lived many years after the Flood (ibid., vv. 28-29) but adopted a different way of life: he began to cultivate the land and became a farmer (ibid., v. 20). He also began to grow vines and to make wine (ibid., vv. 20-21). He was often drunk on the wine he produced, and on one occasion when he was drunk and lying naked in his tent, one of his sons, Ham, happened to go into the tent and saw him in this state. Ham told his two brothers, Shem and Japheth, what he had seen, and they went into the tent, walking backwards in order not to see their father naked, and put a blanket over Noah (ibid., vv. 20-23). Noah, however, was incensed that Ham should have seen him drunk and naked, and cursed Ham's son Canaan, saying that Canaan and his descendants must serve Shem and Japheth and their descendants for ever (ibid., vv. 24-27).
This unhappy episode from Noah's life has been the subject of many paintings: perhaps the best known are The Drunken Noah by Giovanni Bellini (1429-1516) and The Drunkenness of Noah, by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564). The Doge's Palace in Venice has a fifteenth-century sculpture of the Drunken Noah at its southwest corner while in the nearby Basilica of St. Mark there is a mosaic by an unknown artist of Noah drunk in his tent.
See further Shem, Ham, and Japheth.