Genesis (Part 46)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find them HERE.

Genesis 11:10-26

Shem’s Descendants

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

12When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. 13And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

14When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. 15And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

16When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. 17And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

18When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. 19And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

20When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. 21And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

22When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. 23And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

24When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. 25And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

26When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.


You will now notice that we have revisited Shem’s line of descent and we have connected it to Abram.

You will see in a moment that there is some contention regarding this chart. As a result, we even see some variations of this chart which imply that Noah and Abram were contemporaries who may have known one another (though it is not stated in the text of Genesis.)

In my opinion, it is incredible, even if we accept the chart we have looked at to this point, that Shem and Abram overlap AND that Noah only misses Abram by 2 years.

It would seem that at a minimum, Abram overlaps with Shem. Shem’s grandfather Lamech overlaps with Adam. There is some speculation that Abram meets Shem – using another name – later in Genesis. Let us keep in mind this timeline when we consider the choices made by Abram/Abraham later in the text. Was his faith bolstered by literally knowing his ancestors? Did they provide him with unique pre-Flood wisdom?

From Ellicott’s Bible Commentary:


(10-26) These are the generations of Shem.—Here also, as in Genesis 5, there is a very considerable divergence between the statements of the Hebrew, the Samaritan, and the Septuagint texts. According to the Hebrew, the total number of years from Shem to the birth of Abram was 390, according to the Samaritan, 1,040, and according to the LXX., 1,270.These larger totals are obtained by adding, as a rule, one hundred years to the age of each patriarch before the birth of his eldest son, and the LXX. also insert Cainan between Arphaxad and Salah. The virtual agreement of two authorities, coming from such different quarters as the Samaritan transcript and the LXX. version is remarkable, but scholars have long acknowledged that these genealogies were never intended for chronological purposes, and that so to employ them leads only to error.

Like the genealogy of Seth, in Genesis 5, the Tôldôth Shem also consists of ten generations, and thus forms, according to Hebrew ideas respecting the number ten, a perfect representation of the race. With the exception of Arphaxad (for whom see Genesis 10:22), the names in this genealogy are all Hebrew words, and are full of meaning. Thus—

Salah means mission, the sending out of men in colonies to occupy new lands.

Eber is the passage, marking the migration of the head-quarters of the race, and the crossing of some great obstacle in its way, most probably the river Tigris. With this would begin the long struggle between the Semitic and Hamitic races in Mesopotamia.

Peleg, division, may be a memorial of the separation of the Joktanite Arabs from the main stem, but see Note on Genesis 10:25. Through him the rights of primogeniture passed to the Hebrews.

Reu, friendship, seems to indicate a closer drawing together of the rest after the departure of Joktan and his clan, which probably had been preceded by dissensions.

Serug, intertwining, may denote that this friendship between the various races into which the family of Shem was by this time divided was cemented by intermarriage.

Nahor, panting, earnest struggle, indicates, most probably, the commencement of that seeking after a closer communion with God which made his descendants withdraw from contact with the rest and form a separate community, distinguished by its firm hold of the doctrine of the unity of the Godhead. From the words of Joshua (Joshua 24:2) it is plain, not only that idolatry was generally practised among the descendants of Shem, but that even Nahor and Terah were not free from its influence. Yet, probably, the monotheism of Abraham was preceded by an effort to return to the purer doctrine of their ancestors in Nahor’s time, and the gods which they still worshipped were the teraphim, regarded both by Laban and Rachel (Genesis 31:30Genesis 31:34) as a kind of inferior household genius, which brought good luck to the family.

Terah, wandering, indicates the commencement of that separation from the rest caused by religious differences, which ended in the migration of Abram into Canaan.

In Abram, high-father, we have a prophetic name, indicative of the high purpose for which the father of the faithful was chosen. There is a difficulty about the date of his birth. We read that “Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran;” and in Genesis 11:32 that “the days of Terah were two hundred and five years.” But St. Stephen says that Terah died in Haran before Abram’s migration (Acts 7:4), and in Genesis 12:4 we are told that Abram was seventy-five years of age when he departed from that country. Either, therefore, Terah was a hundred and thirty years old when Abram was born—and Abram was a younger, and not the older son—or the Samaritan text is right in making the total age of Terah a hundred and forty-five years. The latter is probably the true solution: first, because Nahor died at the age of a hundred and forty-eight, and it is not probable that Terah so long outlived him; for human life, as we have seen, was progressively shortening after the flood: and secondly, because Abram, in Genesis 17:17, speaks of it as almost an impossibility for a man to have a son when he is a hundred years old. Had he been born when his father was a hundred and thirty, he could scarcely have spoken in this way.

In case you were wondering, TÔLDÔTH means “generations” or “descendants.”

Genesis 10 also covers the generations of Shem but it only goes through Eber and Joktan – then Joktan’s sons. Genesis 11 goes through Eber down through Abram for a total of ten generations. I will not simply repeat what you can read in Ellicott above but you can see also that each name of Shem’s descendants has a specific and important meaning.

I would draw your attention to the timeline issue as shown above.

there is a very considerable divergence between the statements of the Hebrew, the Samaritan, and the Septuagint texts. According to the Hebrew, the total number of years from Shem to the birth of Abram was 390, according to the Samaritan, 1,040, and according to the LXX., 1,270.

An almost 900 year variance is quite significant.

We will revisit this genealogy later in Genesis as we encounter people groups mentioned herein.