Shem

Shem

Overview

Shem was one of the sons of Noah
Sons of Noah
The Seventy Nations or Sons of Noah is an extensive list of descendants of Noah appearing in of the Hebrew Bible, representing an ethnology from an Iron Age Levantine perspective...

 in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 as well as in Islamic literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

. He is most popularly regarded as the eldest son, though some traditions regard him as the second son. Genesis 10:21 refers to relative ages of Shem and his brother Japheth
Japheth
Japheth is one of the sons of Noah in the Abrahamic tradition...

, but with sufficient ambiguity in each to have yielded different translations. The verse is translated in the KJV as "Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber
Eber
Eber is an ancestor of the Israelites, according to the "Table of Nations" in and . He was a great-grandson of Noah's son Shem and the father of Peleg born when Eber was 34 years old, and of Joktan. He was the son of Shelah a distant ancestor of Abraham...

, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.".
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Shem was one of the sons of Noah
Sons of Noah
The Seventy Nations or Sons of Noah is an extensive list of descendants of Noah appearing in of the Hebrew Bible, representing an ethnology from an Iron Age Levantine perspective...

 in the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 as well as in Islamic literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

. He is most popularly regarded as the eldest son, though some traditions regard him as the second son. Genesis 10:21 refers to relative ages of Shem and his brother Japheth
Japheth
Japheth is one of the sons of Noah in the Abrahamic tradition...

, but with sufficient ambiguity in each to have yielded different translations. The verse is translated in the KJV as "Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber
Eber
Eber is an ancestor of the Israelites, according to the "Table of Nations" in and . He was a great-grandson of Noah's son Shem and the father of Peleg born when Eber was 34 years old, and of Joktan. He was the son of Shelah a distant ancestor of Abraham...

, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.". However, the New American Standard Bible
New American Standard Bible
The New American Standard Bible , also informally called New American Standard Version , is an English translation of the Bible....

 gives, "Also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, and the older brother of Japheth, children were born."

Genesis 11:10 records that Shem was still 100 years old at the birth of Arpachshad, (but nearly 101 - see Chronology
Chronology of the Bible
The chronology of the Bible is the elaborate system of genealogies, generations, reign-periods, and other means by which Hebrew Bible measures the passage of time and thus give a chronological framework to biblical history from the Creation until the historical kingdoms of Israel and Judah.The...

 note,) two years after the flood, making him barely 99 at the time the flood began; and that he lived for another 500 years after this, making his age at death 600 years.

The children of Shem were Elam
Elam (Hebrew Bible)
Elam in the Hebrew Bible is said to be the oldest son of Shem, the son of Noah. It is also used , for the ancient country of Elam in what is now southern Iran, whose people the Hebrews believed to be the offspring of Elam, son of Shem...

, Asshur, Arpachshad
Arpachshad
Arpachshad or Arphaxad or Arphacsad was one of the five sons of Shem, the son of Noah . His brothers were Elam, Asshur, Lud and Aram; he is an ancestor of Abraham. He is said by Gen...

, Lud
Lud son of Shem
Lud was a son of Shem and grandson of Noah, according to Genesis 10 . Lud should not be confused with the Ludim, said there to be descended from Mizraim....

, and Aram
Aram, son of Shem
Aram is a son of Shem, according to the Table of Nations in Genesis 10 of the Hebrew Bible, and the father of Uz, Hul, Gether and Mash. The Book of Chronicles confirms Aram as one of Shem's sons, confirming Uz, Hul, Gether and Mash, as also on the list of Shem's descendants. Aram son of Shem is ...

, in addition to daughters. Abraham
Abraham
Abraham , whose birth name was Abram, is the eponym of the Abrahamic religions, among which are Judaism, Christianity and Islam...

, the patriarch of the Hebrews and Arabs, was one of the descendants of Arpachshad.

Islamic literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 describes Shem as one of the believing sons of Noah
Noah
Noah was, according to the Hebrew Bible, the tenth and last of the antediluvian Patriarchs. The biblical story of Noah is contained in chapters 6–9 of the book of Genesis, where he saves his family and representatives of all animals from the flood by constructing an ark...

. Some sources even identify Shem as a prophet
Prophet
In religion, a prophet, from the Greek word προφήτης profitis meaning "foreteller", is an individual who is claimed to have been contacted by the supernatural or the divine, and serves as an intermediary with humanity, delivering this newfound knowledge from the supernatural entity to other people...

 in his own right and that he was the next prophet after his father. One Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 legend narrates that Shem was one of the people that God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 made Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

 resurrect as a sign to the Children of Israel.

The 1st century historian Flavius Josephus, among many others, recounted the tradition that these five sons were the progenitors of the nations of Elam
Elam
Elam was an ancient civilization located in what is now southwest Iran. Elam was centered in the far west and the southwest of modern-day Iran, stretching from the lowlands of Khuzestan and Ilam Province, as well as a small part of southern Iraq...

, Assyria
Assyria
Assyria was a Semitic Akkadian kingdom, extant as a nation state from the mid–23rd century BC to 608 BC centred on the Upper Tigris river, in northern Mesopotamia , that came to rule regional empires a number of times through history. It was named for its original capital, the ancient city of Assur...

, Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, Chaldea
Chaldea
Chaldea or Chaldaea , from Greek , Chaldaia; Akkadian ; Hebrew כשדים, Kaśdim; Aramaic: ܟܐܠܕܘ, Kaldo) was a marshy land located in modern-day southern Iraq which came to briefly rule Babylon...

, and Lydia
Lydia
Lydia was an Iron Age kingdom of western Asia Minor located generally east of ancient Ionia in the modern Turkish provinces of Manisa and inland İzmir. Its population spoke an Anatolian language known as Lydian....

, respectively.

Terms like "Semite" and "Hamite" are less common now, and may sometimes even be perceived as offensive, because of their "racial" connotations. The adjectival forms "Semitic
Semitic
In linguistics and ethnology, Semitic was first used to refer to a language family of largely Middle Eastern origin, now called the Semitic languages...

" and "Hamitic
Hamitic
Hamitic is an historical term for the peoples supposedly descended from Noah's son Ham, paralleling Semitic and Japhetic.It was formerly used for grouping the non-Semitic Afroasiatic languages , but since, unlike the Semitic branch, these have not been shown to form a phylogenetic unity, the term...

" are more common, though the vague term 'Hamitic' dropped out of mainstream academic use in the 1960s. Semitic is still a commonly used term for the Semitic languages
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

, as a subset of the Afro-Asiatic languages
Afro-Asiatic languages
The Afroasiatic languages , also known as Hamito-Semitic, constitute one of the world's largest language families, with about 375 living languages...

, denoting the common linguistic heritage of Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

, Ethiopic, Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

 and Phoenician languages.

'Semitic' also appears in the phrase "anti-Semitic" to refer to racial, ethnic or cultural prejudice aimed exclusively at Jews.

According to some Jewish traditions (e.g., B. Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabba
Genesis Rabba
Genesis Rabba is a religious text from Judaism's classical period. It is a midrash comprising a collection of ancient rabbinical homiletical interpretations of the Book of Genesis ....

h 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah
Leviticus Rabbah
Leviticus Rabbah, Vayikrah Rabbah, or Wayiqra Rabbah is a homiletic midrash to the Biblical book of Leviticus . It is referred to by Nathan ben Jehiel in his Aruk as well as by Rashi in his commentaries on , and elsewhere. According to Leopold Zunz, Hai Gaon and Nissim knew and made use of it...

 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8.), Shem is believed to have been Melchizedek
Melchizedek
Melchizedek or Malki Tzedek translated as "my king righteous") is a king and priest mentioned during the Abram narrative in the 14th chapter of the Book of Genesis....

, King of Salem whom Abraham is recorded to have met after the battle of the four kings.

In a few of the many extra-biblical sources that describe him, Shem is also credited with killing Nimrod
Nimrod
Nimrod means "Hunter"; was a Biblical Mesopotamian king mentioned in the Table of Nations; an eponym for the city of Nimrud.Nimrod can also refer to any of the following:*Nimród Antal, a director...

, son of Cush.

Shem is mentioned in Genesis 5:32, 6:10; 7:13; 9:18,23,26-27; 10; 11:10; also in 1 Chronicles 1:4.

Genealogies according to "Book of Jasher"



A rabbinic document that surfaced in the 17th century, claiming to be the lost "Book of Jasher
Sefer haYashar (midrash)
The Sefer haYashar is a Hebrew midrash also known as the Toledot Adam and Dibre ha-Yamim be-'Aruk. It is known in English translation mostly as The Book of Jasher...

" provides some names not found in any other source. Some have reconstructed more complete genealogies based on this information as follows:

Shem. Also Sem. Literal meanings are named or renown (father of the Semitic races - Shemites). The sons of Shem were:
  • Elam "eternity" (sons were Shushan, Machul and Harmon) - (Elamites, Khuzestanis)
  • Asshur "a step" or "strong" (sons were Mirus and Mokil) - (Assyrians)
  • Arphaxad (sons were Shelach, Anar and Ashcol) - Chaldeans, Hebrews (Israelites, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Ishmaelites
    Ishmaelites
    According to the Book of Genesis, Ishmaelites are the descendants of Ishmael, the elder son of Abraham.-Traditional Origins:According to the Book of Genesis, Abraham's first wife was named Sarah and his second wife Hagar. However Sarah was old and barren, and could not conceive...

    , And Qahtanites
    Qahtanite
    The terms Qahtanite and Qahtani refer to Semitic peoples either originating in, or claiming genealogical descent from the southern extent of the Arabian Peninsula, especially from Yemen....

    )
  • Ziezi
    Ziezi
    According to an anonymous Roman author of the 4th century CE, the producer of the Chronography of 354, Ziezi was a son of Shem and a grandson of Noah...

     - son of Shem and a grandson of Noah. His name is mentioned in the excerpt Ziezi ex quo vulgares meaning "Ziezi, of whom the Bulgars" but being regarded by some as the first European reference to the Bulgars as a people. (Ancient Thracians, Ancient Bulgarians, Thracians
    Thracians
    The ancient Thracians were a group of Indo-European tribes inhabiting areas including Thrace in Southeastern Europe. They spoke the Thracian language – a scarcely attested branch of the Indo-European language family...

    )
  • Lud "strife" (sons were Pethor and Bizayon) - (Ludim, Lubim, Ludians, Ludu, Lydians
    Lydians
    The Lydians were the inhabitants of Lydia, a region in western Anatolia, who spoke the distinctive Lydian language, an Indo-European language of the Anatolian group....

    , and other related groups in Asia Minor
    Asia Minor
    Asia Minor is a geographical location at the westernmost protrusion of Asia, also called Anatolia, and corresponds to the western two thirds of the Asian part of Turkey...

    .
  • Aram "exalted" (sons were Uz, Chul, Gather and Mash) - (Aramaeans
    Aramaeans
    The Aramaeans, also Arameans , were a Northwest Semitic semi-nomadic and pastoralist people who originated in what is now modern Syria during the Late Bronze Age and the Iron Age...

    ).

Other proposed lineages from Shem


According to The Bible, Genesis 10:22-31

22 The children of Shem: Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad and Lud and Aram.
23 And the children of Aram; Uz and Hul, and Gether and Mash.
24 And Arphaxad begat Salah and Salah begat Eber.
25 And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name was Joktan.
26 And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah.
27 And Hadoram, and Uzal and Diklah,
28 And Obal, and Abimael and Sheba,
29 And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab: all these were the sons of Joktan.
30 And their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar a mount of the east
31 These are the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.

From Genesis 11: 10-31

Shem begat Arphaxad ( and begat sons and daughters), Arphaxad begat Salah (+sons & daughters), Salah begat Eber (+sons & daughters), Eber begat Peleg (+sons & daughters), and Peleg begat Reu (+sons & daughters), and Reu begat Serug (+sons & daughters), and Serug begat Nahor, and Nahor begat Terah (+sons & daughters), and Terah begat Abram (his wife was Sarai)
,Nahor, and Haran, and Haran begat Lot.

Europeans


Some believe that from Shem descend the whole of the European peoples. Ernest L. Martin writes, "...[The] Shemite tribes (people who were descendants of Shem and including some peoples who came from Abraham) later colonized the whole of southern Europe and replaced the people of JAVAN and his four descendants. JAVAN'S people were pushed mainly into the northern areas of Europe where in turn they migrated farther east into Asia (along with GOMER the firstborn son of JAPHETH and his descendants). Indeed, in prophecies dealing also with the End-Time, we find the people of JAVAN no longer in Europe, but they are now associated with TUBAL [Ezekiel 38: & 39 end time prophecy] (another son of JAPHETH) who became an eastern Mongolian type of people...though the name JAVAN still retained its geographical hold on the southern region of Europe, particularly in Greece)...It is not uncommon for people to give a name to a region and then the original people move on to other areas (or are killed off) and the original geographical name becomes associated with completely different people"

Germanic


Some scholars have claimed that the Anglo-Saxons are the descendants of Shem. "Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons [b. 849 A.D.] was... the son [descendant] of Sem [Shem]" (Church Historians of England, vol. 2, p. 443). Proponents of this theory also claim that Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

 was a descendant of Shem because he claimed to descend from Sceafa, a marooned man who came to Britain on a boat after a flood.

Le Petit, a writer in 1601 mentioned King Adel, said to be descendant of Shem, ruler of Britain having 3 children that migrated to India.

Further, it is said that Tuitsch a German patriarch is none other than Shem himself (see Assyrian-German theory).

Hellenistic (Greek)


A text from the Islamic world claims that the Greeks derived from Shem: Tabari II:11 “Shem, the son of Noah was the father of the Arabs, the Persians, and the Greeks;...

In the Chronicles of George the Monk and Symeon Logothetes, the following genealogy occurs: "To the lot of Shem fell the Orient, and his share extended lengthwise as far as India and breadthwise (from east to south) as far as Phinocorura, including Persia and Bactria, as well as Syria, Media (which lies beside the Euphrates River), Babylon, Cordyna, Assyria, Mesopotamia, Arabia the Ancient, Elymais, India, Arabia the Mighty, Coelesyria, Commagene, and all Phoenicia."

Indo-Iranians


According to Abulgazi, Shem's original land was Iran while Japheth's was the country called "Kuttup Shamach," said to be the name of the regions between the Caspian Sea and India.

According to Armenian tradition, Dr. Hales is quoted saying, "To the sons of Shem was alloted the middle region of the earth viz., Palestine, Syria, Assyria, Samaria (Shinar?) Babel (or Babylonia), Persia and Hedjaz (Arabia).

In Mystery of the Ages, by Dr. James Modlish, it is said that that north-west part of South Asia is inhabited by Shemites.

Hisham Ibn Al-Kalbi
Hisham Ibn Al-Kalbi
Hisham Ibn Al-Kalbi , also known as Ibn al-Kalbi was an Arab historian. His full name Abu al-Mundhir Hisham bin Muhammed bin al-Sa'ib bin Bishr al-Kalbi. Born in Kufa, he spent much of his life in Baghdad. Like his father, he collected information about the genealogies and history of the ancient...

, a 19th century Arab historian, states that al-Hind and al-Sind are of Ophir
Ophir
Ophir is a port or region mentioned in the Bible, famous for its wealth. King Solomon is supposed to have received a cargo of gold, silver, sandalwood, precious stones, ivory, apes and peacocks from Ophir, every three years.- Citations :...

, the son of Joktan
Joktan
Joktan or Yoktan was the second of the two sons of Eber mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. His name means "small" or "smallness"....

. Isidore of Seville
Isidore of Seville
Saint Isidore of Seville served as Archbishop of Seville for more than three decades and is considered, as the historian Montalembert put it in an oft-quoted phrase, "le dernier savant du monde ancien"...

 (c. 635) had also made Joktan the ancestor of the natives of north-west part of South Asia; his material was based on earlier enumerations made by Jerome and Josephus, who had stated that Joktan's descendants "inhabited from Cophen, an Indian river, and in part of Asia adjoining to it."

African


In Genesis, while Sheba
Sheba
Sheba was a kingdom mentioned in the Jewish scriptures and the Qur'an...

 and Seba
Seba
Sebastian Ahrenberg, better known as Seba is a drum and bass producer and DJ hailing originally from Ingarö, an island just outside of Stockholm, Sweden. Seba is also the owner of Secret Operations, a drum and bass record label.-Musical career:...

 are listed among descendants of Cush son of Ham in 10:7, another Sheba is listed as a son of Joktan, son of Eber in 10:28. These names are associated with Semitic tribes on both sides of the Red Sea in Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 and Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 (See Sabaeans
Sabaeans
The Sabaeans or Sabeans were an ancient people speaking an Old South Arabian language who lived in what is today Yemen, in the south west of the Arabian Peninsula.Some scholars suggest a link between the Sabaeans and the Biblical land of Sheba....

). This situation may reflect a combined Hamito-Semitic ancestry postulated for Ethiopian peoples.

Racial connotations


Some writers have associated Noah's sons with different skin colors or alleged races. For instance the Jewish text Pirqei R. Eliezer, depicts God as dividing the earth among Noah‘s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, and attributing different skin colors to them (literally, —blessing“ them with different skin colors): light colored skin for the
Japhetites, medium dark or brown for the Semites, and very dark or black for the Hamites.

This passage from Pirqei R. Eliezer, a writing which was composed in Israel after the Islamic conquest, is paralleled in an Arabic text of approximately the same period but gives some noticeably different information. The Persian historian Tabari quotes Ibn Abbas (d. 686-8) as saying: "Born to Noah were Shem, whose descendants' colors are a black complexion with a light-brownish undertone (bayādh) and a dark blackish brown (Udmah); Ham, whose descendants' colors are true black (sawād) and a few are a black complexion with a light-brownish undertone (bayādh qalīl); and Japheth, whose descendants are very fair-skinned (al-shuqrah) and olive-skinned (al-humrah)".

Tabarī repeats this tradition again in the name of Ibn Abbas, but this time has dark, blackish brown (Udmah) and a few are a black complexion with a light-brownish undertone (bayādh qalīl) for Ham. So dark blackish brown (udmah) is used instead of true black (sawād). "Udmah" is described as deep sumra. Ibn Mandhur describes sumrah as wurqah, which is translated as blackness in the color of the earth (sawaad feel-ghabrah), and ranges all the way to true black (sawād).

Al-Tha'aalabi says in his book Fiqh Al-Lughah (Understanding Language) in chapter 13 titled 'The Degrees of Blackness in Humans': "If there is a slight blackness in his/her complexion, he/she is asmar (sumrah). If his/her blackness is more intense with some yellow showing, he/she is as-ham. If his/her blackness is more intense than asmar, he/she is Adam (udmah). If his/her blackness is more intense than that of Adam, he/she is asham. If he/she is is extremely black, he/she is adlam (dalam)."

Bar Hebraeus speaks of Noah dividing the world among his three sons, with Ham getting the Land of the Blacks (sūdān), Shem the Land of the Browns (sumra), and Japheth the Land of the Reds (łuqra).

Josiah Priest (1788–1851) believed that Shem, because he was a descendant in the Adamic line, and because "Adam" means reddish in Hebrew, that Shem too was of the "reddish race". Further, he believed that because Christ was a descendant in the line of Shem, that Christ was of "copper-colored stock".

According to ISBE, Shem means "dusky", and Japheth means "fair."

According to Armenian tradition, Shem had the region of the "tawny".

External links