The Sons of Shem

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, September 6, 2018 2 comments

by Steve Risner

This week we will discuss Shem and his descendants. If you've not been following along, we are several posts into a series on the Table of Nations found in Genesis. This tells of the origins of many people groups (all of them actually at the time) and who they descended from. We've discussed the lineage of Japheth here and here and the lineage of Ham here and here. We are now looking at the people groups that came from Noah's oldest son, Shem, from whom we get the term Semite or Semitic. Semitic people are people whose family line goes back to Shem.

According to Genesis 10, Shem had 5 sons—Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram. Let's take a look at them.

Lud is the father of the Lydians who claimed territory in what is now Turkey or Asia Minor, then called Anatolia. Herodutus tells us that the Lydians were a light skinned people. The Egyptians and Assyrians make mention of this people group who are named after this grandson of Noah. It's believed that the Lydians eventually mingled with the Etruscans of Chaldea and migrated to an area in northern Italy. Tuscany is actually named after the Etruscans since they were also known as the Tusci.

Aram is the Hebrew word for Syria. Anytime you see Syria in the Bible, it's translated from the word Aram. The Syrians call themselves Arameans and spoke Aramaic. Aramaic was essentially the international language of the world for a time and Jesus even spoke an Aramaic phrase on the cross. It's likely, with some small changes over time, that Aramaic is a language that was created at the Tower of Babel and, though not extremely common, is still in use today. The Syrian people had their capital at Damascus. Damascus is considered by many to be the oldest continually inhabited city on earth.

Elam fathered the Elamites. Elam is the ancient name for Persia, which is the ancient name for Iran. After Cyrus, the people were generally known as Persians, although the first century AD has record of them being called Elamites still. The Medo-Persian Empire consisted of a mixed people then—Madai being a son of Japheth and Elam being the son of Shem. They've been known as Iranians since the 1930's. The book of Genesis records a battle taking place between the king of Elam and 3 other kings who fought against Abraham. These kings had taken Lot, Abraham's nephew. Abraham soundly defeated the four kings and rescued Lot. It gets very interesting here, but Abraham is a descendant of Arphaxad, and we're not discussing him yet. Stay tuned for some intriguing ideas about Shem and the sons of Eber (whose descendants are the Hebrews). Let's move on to Asshur.

Asshur is the father of the empire named after him—a large, fierce empire that ruled the Middle East, Egypt, parts of the Mediterranean and Turkey as well as Iran and Iraq from 900 BC to 600 BC. As early as 1250 BC, they were using iron weapons which were far superior to other weapons of the time. At the end of their powerful and ruthless reign, the capital city of Nineveh was conquered by the Medes, Persians, and Babylonians. Nineveh was the largest city on earth for nearly 50 years until it was destroyed in a rebellion that brought the end of the Assyrian Empire. Nineveh is where Jonah first refused to go preach against but eventually, after a series of events, went to the city to speak against it. God was going to destroy it because of its wickedness. Because of Jonah's warnings, the entire city repented and turned toward God. This actually angered Jonah because he despised the Assyrians due to their ruthless behavior and disregard for life. They were a people who made war an industry which profited their nation economically quite a lot. The Assyrians managed the largest empire on the planet up to that point. The Mesopotamian god Ashur was likely named after this grandson of Noah, Asshur. Ashur was the head of the Assyrian pantheon. Asshur also passed his name onto the first capital of the “old” Assyrian Empire which was called Assur. Its ruins are along the Tigris River. Today, they reside in parts of Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria.

Next week we'll discuss the final son of Shem, Arphaxad. He fathered the Hebrews as well as others. I hope you are enjoying this series as much as I am. I find this all fascinating stuff and feel it's very unfortunate that most if not all of it is avoided by most secular teachers. The information lends far too much to the credibility of the Bible, so they cannot bring themselves to discuss it. The evidence is fairly strong—in fact, I'll say the evidence is exceptionally strong and overwhelming for the validity of the Bible. The evidence that points to the Bible's authenticity is found all over the world in the names of cities, peoples, rivers, and regions as well as other things.

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Lindsay Harold said...

It is likely that the Mesopotamian god Ashur was not merely named after the son of Shem, but that worship of Ashur began as ancestor worship of the Biblical Ashur. This is how many of the ancient gods got their start. Jupiter (Jove-pater or Father Jove) was Javan, a son of Japeth, and father of the Greeks. Tyr/Tiwas in the Norse pantheon was Tiras, another son of Japeth, and father of some Germanic peoples. Cronus was Cethimus/Kittim, a son of Javan, and father of the people of Cyprus.

These patriarchs would have lived much longer than their descendants because human lifespans were declining. Thus, their power as tribal kings over their descendants combined with their long lifespans would have led to them being hailed as "immortals" and many legends springing up about them over time. Most of the gods of the ancient world were derived from "immortal," long-lived patriarchs who became worshiped by their descendants. Some were eventually borrowed by other groups as well to form large pantheons and complex mythologies. But they started with an element of truth because of real people who lived a long time and founded whole tribes of people.

Steve Risner said...

Lindsay, Thank you for reading my work and for commenting. I appreciate your time and your input. I think your comment is probably right on. I actually just finished Hodge's book on Babel and he, too, states a great deal of the things you're saying here. Very interesting stuff, in my opinion.