Japheth is one of Noah's three's son, and one of the eight people who survived the flood. We aren't told much about his character, but the table of nations in Genesis tells us that Japheth's descendants went on to populate Europe and North Asia.


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Japheth is one of Noah's sons, though there is some argument about his birth order, it is evident that he is the oldest. The name Japheth is said to be derived from the Hebrew Yefet, meaning "enlarged."[1] Japheth's descendants went on to become the peoples of what we call today Europe and North Asia.

Eldest or Middle Child?

Some deny Japheth's position as eldest due to Genesis 10:21, however a careful inspect will show that Japheth is in fact the eldest of the three sons. Those insisting that Japheth is not the eldest are confused as to whether "the elder" refers to Shem or Japheth (the confusion stems from different translations, it seems fairly apparent in the King James Version that Japheth is the elder of the two). It is easily gleaned that Japheth's brother, Ham, is the youngest based on Genesis 9:24. To determine that Japheth is the oldest we need two verses: Genesis 7:6 and Genesis 11:10. From Genesis 7:6 we know that either at age 500 Noah began having sons, or he had already had all three son by the time he was 500. the flood occurred 100 years later, when Noah was 600. If Noah began having children at 500, his oldest child would be 100 at the onset of the flood. If Noah finished having children at 500, his youngest son (Ham) would be 100 at the onset of the flood. However, Genesis 11:10 tells us that when Shem is 100 years, it is 2 years after the flood. This means that Noah was 502 when Shem was born and Shem cannot be the oldest. Since, Ham is the youngest and Shem is not the oldest, Japheth must be the oldest.


Japheth fathers 7 sons that go on to create nations: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras. The nations/races that stem from Japheth's sons are thought to be the Armenians, Lydians, Medes, Greeks, Tibarenians, and Moschians (no one has solved the mystery of what nation can be traced back to Tiras)[2]

Gomer had a son named Ashkenaz, Japheth's grandson. The word Ashkenaz eventually became associated with Jews living in Germany. Gomer's Ashkenaz likely settled in Armenia somewhere with his descendants migrating into the land we now call Germany.[3][4] Japheth's descendants are described as Gentiles, which leads one to question why the bulk of Jews today are said to be "Ashkenazi" Jewish. At some point, Israelite men settled in the region, coverting and taking for wives the descendants of Japheth's grandson. This particular line of Jews is derived from both Israelite and Gentile bloodlines. This is likely why most Jews today look European.[5]

Bible Verses

Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.Genesis 10:1

2The sons of Japheth; Gomer, and Magog, and Madai, and Javan, and Tubal, and Meshech, and Tiras. 3 And the sons of Gomer; Ashkenaz, and Riphath, and Togarmah. 4 And the sons of Javan; Elishah, and Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim. 5 By these were the isles of the Gentiles divided in their lands; every one after his tongue, after their families, in their nations.Genesis 10:2-5
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  1. Campbell, Mike. "Japheth". Behind the Name. 2015
  2. Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'JAPHETH (1)'". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.
  3. "Ashkenaz". Bible Study Tools. 2016.
  4. Schoenberg, Shira. "Judaism: Ashkenazism". Jewish Virtual Library. 2016.
  5. Tobin, Andrew. "Ashkenazi Jews descend from 350 people, study finds". Times of Israel. September 2014.

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