House of Shem

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The House of Shem consists of the descendants of Shem in direct line to Terah, father of Abraham.

The Synoptic table

This synoptic table lists all the members of the House of Shem, from Genesis 11:10-25 .

Name Born Age of parenthood Life span Died Name means Authority
Shem 1558 AM (2446 BC) (summer) 100 yr 600 yr 2158 AM (1846 BC) (summer) renown, prosperity, name Genesis 11:10-11
Arpachshad 1658 AM (2346 BC) (summer) 35 yr 438 yr 2096 AM (1908 BC) (summer) healer, releaser Genesis 11:12-13
Salah 1693 AM (2311 BC) (summer) 30 yr 433 yr 2126 AM (1878 BC) (summer) mission, sending Genesis 11:14-15
Eber 1723 AM (2281 BC) (summer) 34 yr 464 yr 2187 AM (1817 BC) (summer) one that passes, anger Genesis 11:16-17
Peleg 1757 AM (2247 BC) (summer) 30 yr 239 yr 1996 AM (2008 BC) (summer) division Genesis 11:18-19
Reu 1787 AM (2217 BC) (summer) 32 yr 239 yr 2026 AM (1978 BC) (summer) his friend, his shepherd Genesis 11:20-21
Serug 1819 AM (2185 BC) (summer) 30 yr 230 yr 2049 AM (1955 BC) (summer) branch, layer, twining Genesis 11:22-23
Nahor the Elder 1849 AM (2155 BC) (summer) 29 yr 148 yr 1997 AM (2007 BC) (summer) hoarse, dry, hot Genesis 11:24-25
Terah 1878 AM (2126 BC) (summer) 70 yr 205 yr 2083 AM (1922 BC) (fall) breathe, scent, blow Genesis 11:26-32

Chronological placement

Main Article: Biblical chronology dispute

The beginning anchor event of this chronology is settled: it is the global flood. The ending anchor point is disputed. At issue is whether Terah was 70 years old when he begat Abraham, or 70 years old when he began begetting his three named sons. James Ussher (The Annals of the World) and his editor Larry Pierce state that Terah was in fact 130 years old when he became the father of Abraham, because the Bible described Terah's death ahead of Abraham's departure for Canaan.[1] Jones, in The Chronology of the Old Testament, agrees.[2] The testimony given by Stephen to the Sanhedrin provides further support.[3] Other commentators cite the Seder Olam, which assumes that Terah was 70 years old; they reconcile the apparent discrepancy by saying that the "death" of Terah in Haran was spiritual, and the physical death would not follow until sixty years later.

Life spans

In the earlier generations of Adam, the average life span of each of the patriarchs was more than 900 years. Suddenly, in one generation (from Noah to Shem), it decreased by one-third. In eight more generations, the life span of man declined by more than seventy-five percent—and it declined further throughout the line of Abraham, this although the Hebrews generally lived longer than did members of other people groups.

Meanings of the names

Dean Thomas Coombs has suggested a possible meaning of the names of the House of Shem, in their birth order. To do this, he takes an alternate meaning of the name of Arpachshad: stronghold of Babylon, or Babel as it was likely then known. The names would then make two whole sentences, thus:

The renown of the stronghold of Babylon shall extend like a plant past the region of division. A friend branches out, snorting with fury!
[4] Or literally, "with (heavy) breathing."

The name Peleg does stand for "division," and the assumption, common to Ussher and others, is that the Tower of Babel Incident took place during his life. The names Reu and Serug ("shepherd" and "branch") both presage Jesus Christ, because both of these are alternate Names for Him. Finally, the book of Revelation is mostly a story of the rise (again) and fall of Babylon and the outpouring of the Wrath of God.


  1. Ussher, James. The Annals of the World, Larry Pierce, ed. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2003, pghh. 64, 71
  2. Jones, Floyd N. The Chronology of the Old Testament, Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2004 (ISBN 9780890514160), pp. 25, 259 and Charts 1 and 6
  3. Acts 7:4
  4. Coombs, Dean Thomas. "Meaning of names: genealogy of Adam to Abraham." Bible Codes. Accessed December 25, 2007.

See also