Shem is one of Noah's sons and one of the eight people to survive the flood. His descendants settled in the Middle East and Asia. It is through him that the nation of Israel is born. His name gives us the words "Semite" and "Semitic." Scholars debate on whether he is the eldest or middle child.


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Shem is the middle son of Noah; he turns 100 two years after the flood. Shem is an ancestor of Abraham, and thus the Israelites are descended from Shem. Shem dies at the age of 600 years old according to Genesis 11:10-11. Shem's descendants are known as Shemites or Semites, the word Semitic derives from Shemite[1].

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.

Bible Verses

In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark;Genesis 7:13
These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:Genesis 11:10 KJV

Other Verses on Abraham

  • Genesis 5:32; 6:10; 9:18,23,26-27; 10:1,21-22,31; 11:11


Not much is said about Shem in terms of his character. When Ham tells Shem and Japheth of their father's drunkenness and nakedness, Shem goes with Japheth (backward so as not to look upon Noah's nakedness) to cover him. From this we can conclude Shem was at the least respectful to his father.


Shem has Elam, Asshur, Apraxad, Lud, and Aram. Through Shem's son Apraxad, we have the lineage of both Abraham and Lot. One of Shem's descendants, Eber, is thought to be the namesake of the word Hebrew[2].


Shem's son Elam creates the nations of the Elamites and Persians. Asshur was the progentiator of the Assyrians and Northern Iraqis. Aphraxad's descendants created the Chaldeans, Hebrews, Arabians, and Moabites/Palestinians. Lud's descendants created the Ludim, Lubim, Ludu, Lydians, and other groups in Asia Minor/North Africa. Shem's final son Aram is the progenator of the Syrians and Lebanese[3]. Shem's descendants populated the Middle East. Any of the tribes originally speaking Semitic—Semitic stems from the word Shemite—languages are descendants of Shem. Countries with populations speaking semetic languages currently in the world are Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Suda, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen (Arabic), Malta (Maltese), Israel (Arabic and Hebrew), Ethiopia (Amharic, Tigré, and Tigrinya), Ma'lūlā, Syria (Western Aramaic), Eastern Aramaic/Turoyo (Turkey)[4].
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  1. "Semite". 2015
  2. Holman Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg 27. 2014
  3. "The Table of Nations". 2015
  4. "Semitic Languages". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2015

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