Speaking about the righteousness of God, St. John Chrysostom commenting on the Psalms, notes,
“You see, everything done by Him is truth and judgement. By judgement is meant righteousness, whereas Scripture is often in the habit of calling his lovingkindness truth. So he means something like this: he tempered all these things with righteousness and lovingkindness. After all, had he applied only the criterion of righteousness, everything would have perished. Hence this inspired author says also in another place, ‘Do not enter into judgement with your servant, because no one living will be found righteous in your sight;’ and again, ‘If you take note of crimes, Lord, Lord, who will stand one’s ground?’ Consequently, everything done by him is characterized by both qualities: if he had made righteousness his only concern, everything would have failed; if on the other hand he had applied only lovingkindness, the majority of people would have become more indifferent. Hence, to adopt a varied approach to the salvation of human beings, he applies both of these with a view to their correction. (Commentary on the Psalms, Vol 2, pg 46-47)
Genesis 9:24 When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him, 25 he said, “Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” 26 He also said, “Blessed by the LORD my God be Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.” 27 God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem; and let Canaan be his slave.” 28 After the flood Noah lived three hundred and fifty years. 29 All the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.
“Cursed be Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be…” Though Noah curses his grandson, Canaan, to be a slave to his brothers, in Psalm 105:27, Egypt is referred to as the land of Ham where ironically it will not be Canaan who will be enslaved, but where the descendents of the blessed Shem will be enslaved by the descendents of Ham.
Genesis connects slavery to sin, a theme picked up by St. Paul: “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. …But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:16-18,22-23).
Chrysostom did not believe that the original sin doomed us all to sin. “If, however, we are on the alert, these evils that came into life as a result of the sins of our forbearers will in no way be able to harm us, going no further than the level of terminology.” We are not somehow predetermined to be sinners by what Adam or any of our ancestors have done. Humans can resist sin, but it requires great vigilance and determination. We are not predestined to sin. In his thinking St. John follows the wisdom of Sirach: “It was he who created man in the beginning, and he left him in the power of his own inclination. If you will, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice. He has placed before you fire and water: stretch out your hand for whichever you wish. Before a man are life and death, and whichever he chooses will be given to him” (Sirach 15:14-17).
“Blessed by the LORD my God be Shem…” Noah’s second sentence is not so much a blessing on his two other sons, but an acknowledgement that God has blessed them (9:1). Canaan, Ham’s son is cursed to become slave to his uncles. He is not to be treated as kin but as chattel. He is disinherited from the family tree. What did Ham feel when he realized what effect his sin had on his son’s life and fate? No reaction is recorded of how the sons responded to their father’s blessings and curse.
When Noah dies, Abram the next major hero of Genesis is already born. Noah is the 10th generation from Adam, and Abram is the 10th generation from Noah. Noah’s was the first birth recorded after Adam’s death. So Noah’s life stretches virtually from the time of Adam’s death until the time of Abram’s birth. He is thus a key figure in the genealogy connecting the father of mankind Adam who was a man of great promise to the father of the people of God’s promise Abraham. Adam, Noah and Abraham thus each in their own way become the father of us all.