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Who is Shem in the Bible?

Shem, Ham and Japheth

James Tissot | Public Domain

Philip Kosloski - published on 06/30/21

Shem is the oldest son of Noah, through whom the covenant of God is passed on to succeeding generations.

In the Book of Genesis, Noah is recorded as having, “three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth” (Genesis 6:10).

Shem is regarded as Noah’s “good” son and received his blessing.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem!
    Let Canaan be his slave.
May God expand Japheth,
    and may he dwell among the tents of Shem;
    and let Canaan be his slave.

Genesis 9:26–27

This makes Shem the bearer of God’s covenant and a direct ancestor of the Messiah.

The Catholic Encyclopediaexplains that “Noah’s prophetic words (according to Massoretic Text), ‘Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Sem’ … designate, in a special manner, Yahweh as the God of Sem and, consequently, Sem as the bearer of the Messianic promises .. .the Sacred Writer resumes (11:10 sqq.) the genealogy of the descendants of Arphaxad, the direct ancestor of Abraham, David, and Christ.”

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