The Descendants of Shem

Genesis 11:10  

This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood.

After the account of the Tower of Babel, Genesis includes a detailed genealogy of the descendants of Noah’s son Shem. As we have covered, Noah had three sons (Shem, Ham and Japheth). We have learned that all the earth was populated from the descendants of these three men (Genesis 9:19). The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 already provided an overview of the descendants of these three brothers. Why did God inspire another, more-detailed genealogy for Shem?

The reason is because Abraham, the next faithful servant with whom God would directly deal, would descend from the line of Shem. It is important to understand that a major theme of the Old Testament is the history of God working with the people of Israel (the descendants of Abraham). That is why special emphasis is given to the genealogy of Abraham, who was originally named Abram.

Genesis 11:10-26 records the line that led to the birth of Abram: Shem to Arphaxad to Salah to Eber to Peleg to Reu to Serug to Nahor to Terah to Abram.

One man of note in the genealogy of Abram is Eber. Genesis 10:25 reveals that Peleg (Eber’s son) was living during the time when “the earth was divided” at Babel. Since his sons were living when the earth was divided into separate linguistic and regional groupings, it seems that Eber’s name took on a special significance in identifying the Semitic peoples who would produce Abram, and thus the Israelites. The word Hebrew is closely connected with the name Eber. The meaning of both words is “the region beyond” or “one from beyond” (Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon, p. 720).

It is interesting to note that the progenitors of the Israelites living during the formation of languages were “the sons of Eber” and the language spoken by the Israelites became known as “Hebrew.” The first time we see this identification used in the Bible is in Genesis 14:13 where Abram is identified as “Abram the Hebrew.”

To learn more about the origins of mankind, read our article on Genesis.

Tomorrow on the Daily Bible Verse Blog: “The Family of Abram.”

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