Sons of Noah

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Noah's sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth, by James Tissot.

The sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) are the progenitors of all the nations of the world. They are commonly named in order of their importance. But, as a detailed chronological analysis shows, they are not named in their birth order.

Birth order

Name Born
Japheth 1556 AM (2448 BC)
Shem 1558 AM (2446 BC)
Ham 1560 AM (2444 BC)


The Bible says:

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth. Genesis 5:32

That statement means that Noah was 500 years old when he began to have his three sons. Yet from Genesis 11 we have this:

Two years after the flood, when Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arphaxad. Genesis 11:10

The Bible gives the date of the flood here:

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, on the seventeenth day of the second month—on that day all the springs of the great deep burst forth, and the floodgates of the heavens were opened. Genesis 7:11

Therefore, Noah was 502 years old when Shem was born. And given that Noah was 500 years old when he began having sons, another son was born two years before Shem was born.

To learn which son that was, consider this verse:

When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him, Genesis 9:24

If Ham was the youngest son, then Japheth was born when Noah was 500 years old.

The Bible gives no further clues to determine the birth year of Ham. That he was born two years after Shem, thus following a pattern begun four years earlier, is only an assumption.

Intellectual legacies of the sons

Of the three sons, Shem is the spiritual contributor. From Shem came the three great monotheistic religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. From Shem also came at least one (and possibly two or three) of the world's great superpowers.

Ham is the inventor. The first superpowers of the world were Hamitic and included Egypt, the Hittites, and Babylonia (or to be more specific, the first Babylonian empire of Nimrod and Hammurabi).

Japheth is the philosopher. From him, most say, came the civilization credited with inventing philosophy, namely Greece (though some scholars now assert that Semitic, and specifically Assyrian, invaders pushed them out long before Alexander the Great appeared). From Japheth also appeared the superpowers, beginning with the Medes and the Persians, that have dominated Western civilization since the final destruction of the Assyrio-Babylonian empire by Cyrus the Great.

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