Shem (Hebrew: שם, Modern Shem Tiberian Šēm ; Greek: Σημ Sēm; Arabic: سام Sām; Ge'ez: ሴም, Sēm; "renown; prosperity; name") was one of the sons of Noah in the Hebrew Bible. He is most popularly regarded as the eldest son, though some traditions regard him as the second son. Genesis 10:21 refers to relative ages of Shem and his brother Japheth, but with sufficient ambiguity in each to have yielded different translations. The verse is translated in the KJV as "Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.". However, the New American Standard Bible gives, "Also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, and the older brother of Japheth, children were born."
Genesis 11:10 records that Shem was 100 years old at the birth of Arpachshad two years after the flood, making him 98 at the time of the flood; and that he lived for another 500 years after this, making his age at death 600 years.
The children of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Aram, Arpachshad and Lud, in addition to daughters. Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrews and Arabs, was one of the descendants of Arpachshad.
The 1st century historian Flavius Josephus, among many others, recounted the tradition that these five sons were the progenitors of the nations of Elam, Assyria, Syria, Chaldea, and Lydia, respectively.
Terms like "Semite" and "Hamite" are less common now, and may sometimes even be perceived as offensive, because of their "racial" connotations. The adjectival forms "Semitic" and "Hamitic" are more common, though the vague term 'Hamitic' dropped out of mainstream academic use in the 1960s. Semitic is still a commonly used term for the Semitic languages, as a subset of the Afro-Asiatic languages, denoting the common linguistic heritage of Arabic, Aramaic, Akkadian, Ethiopic, Hebrew and Phoenician languages.
'Semitic' also appears in the phrase "anti-Semitic" to refer to racial, ethnic or cultural prejudice aimed exclusively at Jews.
According to some Jewish traditions (e.g., B. Talmud Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8.), Shem is believed to have been Melchizedek, King of Salem whom Abraham is recorded to have met after the battle of the four kings.
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