Noah had three sons - Shem, Ham and Japheth. All the earth was populated from the descendants of these three men.

“These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread.” Genesis 9:19.

After the flood, Noah planted a vineyard and drank from its wine. Getting drunk, Noah was witnessed by Ham, the youngest son, naked inside his tent. Instead of aiding his father, Ham went to his brothers and told what he saw. Shem and Japheth took a garment and approached their father backwards to avoid seeing their father’s nakedness. Noah woke up from the wine and knew what happened. Noah’s Son Shem, was given a special blessing, distinct from his two brothers, for Noah had prophesied that Shem would peculiarly be associated with the name of God.

“Blessed be the LORD God of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant” Genesis 9:26-27.

From the Hebrew origin, it is believed that the name Shem also means “name”. As Shem is always mentioned first among the sons of Noah, it is possible he was the oldest of the brothers. The reason he is always listed first could also have to do with the fact that his family line produced the Semitic people. Shem’s name is the origin of the word Semitic; Shem’s great-grandson Eber was the father of those who were eventually called “Hebrews,” including Abraham.

After Shem had fathered many children, he passed away at the old age of 600.

“These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters” Genesis 11:10-11.


The name Semite comes from Shem. In the Greek and Latin versions of the Bible, Shem becomes Sem, since neither Greek nor Latin has any way of representing the initial sound of the Hebrew name.

While Shem and his sons are of biblical antiquity, the Semite is of much more recent origin, dating from 18th‑century Europe. Semites was a term for a group of people who speak the Semitic languages. First used in the 1770s by members of the Göttingen School of History, the terminology was derived from Shem, together with the parallel terms Hamites and Japhetites.

Semite T Shirt

It was not until 1781 that this group was given the name which it has retained ever since. In that year, August Ludwig Schlozer contributed an essay on this subject to a comprehensive German work on biblical and Oriental literature. According to Schlozer, “from the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates and from Mesopotamia down to Arabia, as is known, only one language reigned. The Syrians, Babylonians, Hebrews and Arabs were one people. Even the Phoenicians who were Hamites spoke this language, which I might call the Semitic.”

Semitic is a linguistic and cultural classification, denoting certain languages and in some contexts the literatures and civilizations expressed in those languages. Members of the Semitic group are spread throughout North Africa and Southwest Asia and have played preeminent roles in the linguistic and cultural landscape of the Middle East for more than 4,000 years.

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