A son of Noah, Ge 5:32; 6:10, always named before Ham and Japheth, as the eldest son; or, as some think, because he was the forefather of the Hebrews. In Ge 10:21, the word elder may be applied to Shem, instead of Japheth. He received a blessing from his dying father, Ge 9:26, and of his line the Messiah was born. He had five sons, and their posterity occupied the central regions between Ham and Japheth, and peopled the finest provinces of the East. The languages of some of these nations are still called the Shemitic languages, including the Hebrew, Chalee, Syriac, Arabic, Ethiopic, etc.; but in this general class are found several languages spoken by nations descended from Ham.
a name; renown, the first mentioned of the sons of Noah (Ge 5:32; 6:10). He was probably the eldest of Noah's sons. The words "brother of Japheth the elder" in Ge 10:21 are more correctly rendered "the elder brother of Japheth," as in the Revised Version. Shem's name is generally mentioned first in the list of Noah's sons. He and his wife were saved in the ark (Ge 7:13). Noah foretold his preeminence over Canaan (Ge 9:23-27). He died at the age of six hundred years, having been for many years contemporary with Abraham, according to the usual chronology. The Israelitish nation sprang from him (Ge 11:10-26; 1Ch 1:24-27).
Noah's oldest son, as the order implies (Ge 5:32; 6:10; 7:13; 9:18; 10:1; 1Ch 1:4). (See HAM.) Usually named first, but in Ge 10:21 last, because from that point forward Scripture traces the history of his descendants. Translated "the elder brother of Japheth," as Arabic, Syriac, and Vulgate. If "Japheth the elder" had been meant Hebrew idiom would have added "son," "the elder son of Noah." His descendants dwelt chiefly in western Asia, Shem of the Asiatic Japhethites, in an uninterrupted line from the Mediterranean to the mountains of Luristan and the Indian Ocean, Lydia, Palestine, Syria (Aram), Chaldaea (Arphaxad), Assyria (Asshur), Persia (Elam), northern and central Arabia (Joktan). Shem means in Hebrew name, and may have been a designation subsequently given him as the one of note or great name among Noah's sons; as Ham, the settler in the warm regions of Africa; Japheth, the one whose descendants spread most abroad (Ge 9:18-27).
Noah's words after Shem's dutifulness in covering his father's shame, in filial reverence, with Japheth (compare the blessing, Ex 20:12), "blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant," not only bless God for putting the pious feeling into his heart, but prophesy that Jehovah should be especially the God of Shem, which was fulfilled in choosing Abraham and Israel his descendants as God's peculiar people. "Japheth shall dwell in the tents of Shem," fulfilled in part now, more fully hereafter (Isa 60:3,5; Eph 3:6). All the Japhetic nations almost are believers in the God of Shem, even the Aryan races in Asia are tending toward Christianity. Others less probably (as Ge 9:27 refers to Japheth's future rather than Shem's), "God shall dwell in the tents of Shem" (compare Joh 1:14, the Son of God "tented (eskeenosen) among us".) The Hamitic Babel tower builders perhaps sneered at the religion of Shem the father of the faithful, the worshipper of "Jehovah God of Shem."
Go to, let us build us a city and tower ... let us make us a name (shem). Noah had reached 500 (in round numbers, strictly 502) years before the birth of his first son, Shem. When Shem was 98 and Noah 600 the flood came; two years later Shem the heir of the blessing (Ge 9:18-27) begat Arphaxad (Ge 5:32; 7:6; 11:10). He died at 600. Methuselah and Shem were the two links between Adam and Isaac, so that the record of creation and man's fall came to Isaac on the testimony of the original chief actor, transmitted by only two intervening links. SEMITIC or SHEMITIC LANGUAGES. Ethnologists, from the facts of language, divide the Semitic into five main branches, the Aramaean, the Hebrew, the Phoenician, the Assyrian or Assyro Babylonian, and the Arabian. Scripture in Shem's genealogy notices four out of the five: Asshur for the Assyrian, Aram for the Syrian or Aramaean, Eber for the Hebrew, and Joktan for the pure Arabic.
Moses omits the Phoenicians, as they had not in his time yet made the movement which first brought them into notice, namely, from the shores of the Persian gulf to those of the Mediterranean (Herodotus i. 1). Moses adds to the Semitic races the Elamites and Ludites, concerning which ethnology says nothing. The Japhetic and Hamitic races are geographically contiguous; the Japhetic spread over the northern regions, Greece, Thrace, Scythia, Asia Minor, Armenia, Media; the Hamitic over all the southern and south western regions, N. Africa, Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, southern and south eastern Arabia and Babylonia; the Semitic are located in one region, namely, the central one intermediate between the Japhetic on the N. and the Hamitic upon the S. The intermediate position of the Shemites brought them in contact with the Japhetic races in Cappadocia, and on the other hand with the Hamitic in Palestine, in the Yemen (Arabia Felix), in Babylonia and Elymais. The harmony between Genesis 10 and ethnology strikingly confirms Scripture.
The Scythic (Hamitic) race at a remote period overspread Europe, Asia, and Africa (Ge 10:18,20); the Semitic and. Aryan races subsequently occupied the places respectively assigned them by Providence in Canaan and elsewhere; but the Semitics were probably (as the Semitic Melchizedek exemplifies) in Canaan originally, and the Hamite Canaanites acquired their language. The dead languages of the Semitic are Ethiopic and Himyaritic (inscriptions), both related to Arabic dialects; Hebrew, Samaritan, Carthaginian Phoenician (inscriptions); Chaldee, Syriac, Assyrian (cuneiform inscriptions). (See PHOENICIAN; HEBREW.) Letters probably passed from the Egyptians to the Hebrew, who under divine guiding improved them (Ex 24:4; 31:18; Le 19:28; Nu 5:23). The names of the letters, 'Aleph (?) (an "ox"), Gimel (?) (a "camel"), Lamed[h] (?) (an "ox-goad"), Tet[h] (?) (a "snake"), suit a nomadic people as the Hebrew, rather than a seafaring people as the Phoenicians; these therefore received letters from the Hebrew, not vice versa.
Triliteral or bi-syllabic stems or roots are a distinctive mark of Semitic languages. The Indo-Germanic have monosyllabic roots. The Arabic is now the richest of the Semitic languages; but Hebrew possesses in the bud all the contrivances which, if they had been duly developed, would have made it a rival of the present Arabic. The Aramaic has endured longer than Hebrew; but it is poor lexically and grammatically, needing frequent periphrases and particles in aid, and wanting in flexibility and harmony. Semitic lacks the Japhetic power of creating compound words, also the delicate shades and gradations of meaning observable in the latter class of languages. divine wisdom shows itself in choosing as the vehicle for the Old Testament revelation a language so solid, self contained, immovable, and reflective as Hebrew. The Aramaic was too coarse and vague, the Arabic too earthy. When the New Testament revelation for all mankind was to be given, a different vehicle with more flexibility and variety was needed. By that time the Japhetic had ripened fully, and Greek was the tongue so happily chosen for expressing with its wonderful variety, flexibility, and logical power the fully developed doctrines of the gospel.
The word signifies 'name,' which can also denote 'fame,' 'renown' (cf. 'the men of name,' Ge 6:4). Possibly it is an abbreviation; cf. Shemuel (Samuel), 'name of God.' In one of the two traditions combined in Jahwist (Ge 6:18 f., Ge 10:21-31) Shem, the 'son' of Noah, is the eponymous ancestor of several peoples, occupying, roughly speaking, the central portions of the known world. Priestly Narrative has a parallel list in Ge 11:10-26. It is clear that Shem (from which is formed the frequently used title Shemites or Semites) stands merely for a geographical division, for some of the nations traced to him
Eldest son of Noah and one of the three heads of mankind after the flood. Shem is specially blessed: "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem." Ge 9:26-27. This was verified by Jehovah being the God of the descendants of Shem through Abraham; the sons of Japheth (Gentiles) came into the tents for blessing.
The portions of the earth occupied by the descendants of Shem intersect as it were the portions of Ham and Japheth, and stretch from the Mediterranean to the Indian Ocean. Shem had five sons:
(name), the eldest son of Noah.
He was 98 years old, married, and childless at the time of the flood. After it, he, with his father, brothers, sisters-in-law and wife, received the blessing of God,
and entered into the covenant. With the help of his brother Japheth, he covered the nakedness of their father and received the first blessing.
He died at the age of 630 years. The portion of the earth occupied by the descendants of Shem,
begins at its northwestern extremity with Lydia, and includes Syria (Aram), Chaldaea (Arphaxad), parts Of Assyria (Asshur), of Persia (Elam), and of the Arabian peninsula (Joktan). Modern scholars have given the name of Shemitic or Semitic to the languages spoken by his real or supposed descendants. [HEBREW]
See Hebrew Language
SHEM, the son of Noah, Ge 6:10. He was born A.M. 1558. It is the opinion of the generality of commentators, that Shem was younger than Japheth, and the second son of Noah, for reasons given under the article See JAPETH. See also Ge 9:22-25. He lived six hundred years, and died A.M. 2158. The posterity of Shem obtained their portion in the best parts of Asia. The Jews ascribe to Shem the theological tradition of the things that Noah had learned from the first men. Shem communicated them to his children, and by this means the true religion was preserved in the world. Some have thought Shem the same as Melchisedec, and that he himself had been at the school of Methuselah before the deluge: that he gave to Abraham the whole tradition, the ceremonies of the sacrifices of religion, according to which this patriarch afterward offered his sacrifices. But this opinion has no adequate support. Lastly, the Jews say, that he taught men the law of justice, and the manner of reckoning months and years, and the intercalations of the months. All that can be said as to these speculations is, that Noah and all his sons were the depositaries of the knowledge which existed among men before the flood, and were perhaps both specially qualified by God first to attain it, and then to transmit it to their descendants. Shem had five sons, Elam, Asher, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aran, who peopled the richest provinces of Asia.