In Genesis 9, after the world perished in the flood, God blessed Noah and his family and told them to fill the earth. The sons of Noah were Shem, Ham, and Japheth, from whom all nations are descended.
Noah planted a vineyard, and one day he drank some of the wine and got smashed, so drunk he came out of his clothes and passed out naked in his tent. Ham came in and saw the nakedness of his father and told his two brothers.
Shem and Japheth took a garment and walked backward to cover the nakedness of their father. When Noah awoke from his drunken stupor, he knew what had happened, and cursed Ham’s son, Canaan: “A servant of servants shall he be to his brothers.”
Regarding Ham’s sin, some have pointed to Leviticus 18:8, which says, “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness.” So when Ham “saw the nakedness of his father,” this means he slept with his own mother! But text says Ham “saw” his father in the buff, he did not “uncover” his nakedness.
Noah acted shamefully. And instead of covering his father’s shame, Ham left him naked and gossiped about it with his brothers, who did not share his amusement. Ham’s sin was that he dishonored his father. Yeah, it’s not as juicy, but it’s still very serious. The Lord said, “Honor your father and your mother,” that you may live long in the land that God is giving you.
Canaan’s descendents, the Canaanites, would have their land taken from them and given to Shem’s descendents, the Israelites. From the line of Shem would also come a Savior, Jesus Christ, who covers our shame, when we understand the text.