Who is…

also known as: Sem (thus his descendants are known as Semites or Semitic)

Hebrew: שֵׁם —transliteration: Shem —meaning: name; renown


The first mentioned of this son of Noah is in Genesis 5:32 and 6:10. He was probably the eldest of Noah’s sons.

The words “brother of Japheth the elder” in Genesis 10:21 KJV (Genesis 10:21 NKJV) are perhaps more correctly rendered “the elder brother of Japheth,” as in the New American Standard Bible (Gen. 10:21 NASB and Gen. 10:21 ESV) and the Revised King James Version. Shem’s name is generally mentioned first in the list of Noah's sons.

Life and death

He and his wife were saved in the ark (Gen. 7:13).

His father Noah foretold his preeminence over Canaan (9:23-27).

But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it on both their shoulders and walked backward and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were turned away [literally “backward”], so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. When Noah awoke from his wine, he knew what his youngest son had done to him. So he said,

“Cursed be Canaan;
A servant of servants [i.e., The lowest of servants]
He shall be to his brothers.”

He also said,

“Blessed be the Lord,
The God of Shem;
And may Canaan be his [or their] servant.
May God enlarge Japheth,
And may he live in the tents of Shem;
And may Canaan be his [or their] servant.” —Gen. 9:23-27 NASB

Shem died at the age of 600 years, having been for many years contemporary with Abraham, according to the usual chronology. His life remarkably spanned the prediluvian world of Adam and the resulting worldwide violence and depravity. He experienced the worldwide flood judgment, having helped build a great Ark at God’s command (a huge barge filled with survival necessities and breeding pairs of animals), and then experienced post-diluvian world and the repopulation of Earth.


His descendants are called Semites and one of his early descendants was Heber (Eber) for whom the Hebrews are named.

The Israelite nation sprang from him (Genesis 11:10-26; 1 Chronicles 1:24-27).

Semites or Semitic people is a term for descendants of Shem (Sem) who speak (or spoke) the Semitic languages, such as Hebrew, Aramaic (mostly Syrians), Arabic, Amharic, Tigrinya, Tigre, and Maltese. These languages share some words and roots. Altogether, Semitic languages are spoken by about 330 million people today.


Descendants of Shem (Sem) — Semites

Their dispersal primarily took place as a result of the Tower of Babel confusion of languages

• Son: Aram (A-ram)Syrians

• Son: ArpakshadShelah (Shelach, Sala, Salah)EBER (founder of the Hebrews) → PelegReuSerugNahorTerahABRAHAM (Abram)

• Son: Isaac

• Son: Jacob (aka Israel) → the Israelites

• Son: Esau (aka Edom) → Edomites

• Son: Ishmael → Ishmaelites, mingled with Arab tribes

• Son: Elam → Elamites / Persian tribes

• Son: AsshurAssyrians

• Son: LudLydians

Shem’s place in the genealogy of Adam to Christ

Mary, mother of JesusHeli (Eli)MatthatLeviMelchiJanna (Jannai)JosephMattathiah (Mattathias)AmosNahum ← Esli ← Naggai ← MaathMattathiah (Mattathias)Semei (Semein)Joseph (Yosef/Josech)Judah (Juda, Joda) ← Joannas (Joanna)RhesaZerubbabelShealtielNeriMelchiAddiCosamElmodamErJose (Joshua, Jesus)Eliezer ← Jorim ← MatthatLeviSimeonJudahJoseph ← Jonan ← EliakimMelea ← Menan (Menna) ← Mattathah ← NathanKING DAVIDJesseObedBoazSalmonNahshonAmminadabRamHezronPerezJudahJacobIsaacABRAHAMTerahNahorSerug (Saruch)ReuPelegEberShelahCainanArphaxadSHEM (Sem)NOAHLamechMethuselahEnochJaredMahalalel (Mahalaleel)CainanEnosh (Enos)SethADAM (created by God).

More information

Article Version: June 14, 2024