What Happened to Noah, Shem, Japheth and Ham?

After Genesis 9:28, Noah is never mentioned again, except as an historical figure in other books of the Bible. We know nothing of where Noah lived or what he did after the flood other than at the foot of Ararat. Some interesting facts however, are that according to the traditional Genealogies of Abraham in most Christian Bibles, Noah would have died approximately 58 years after Abraham was born, yet there is never a mention of Noah or Shem, Japheth, or Ham after their sons were born, other than how long Noah and Shem lived. This has perplexed me for a long time. Why are none of these two patriarchs ever mentioned again? During my research, I have come across two plausible explanations for this, both of which could be true to some extent.

One explanation is that Noah and Shem both migrated to the land which we know today as China. This is supported by Chinese mythology which tells the story of the founder of China, a man called Fo Hi in the Chinese legend, and his son Shin or Shen in some writings. This is part of the Chinese Great Man legends that say China was founded and built by 5 great men in succession, all who helped shape Chinese life for nearly 2000 years before the first Imperial Dynasties. Fo Hi was said to have been saved from a great flood with his sons. He is said to be the inventor of the family and the first to tame oxen. Shen is said to be inventor of farming.

The third man in this chain is called Sine, who was not the son of Shen, but rather his nephew and inherited the leadership of the lands from Shen. Sine was the discoverer of silk.

Oddly enough, the genealogies in the Bible also name Sine as a son of Canaan and he is thought to be the inventor of Laws. His legend extends all the way back to Mesopotamia as well as the land of Canaan. Sinai means “The mountain of the law.” The word Sinner is a derivative of this meaning “One who breaks the law.” Whoever Sine was, his propensity for creating laws and rules has earned him a name which has stuck throughout all of history.

There is another possibility, however, as to why Noah, Shem, Ham and Japheth are not mentioned again after Genesis 11; this is my Lost Years Theory.

I believe that the Bible gives us an accurate picture of human History. However that does not mean that different translations always tell the story in exactly the same way and often record some very different views of this part of Biblical history. In addition, the story most of us read in our modern day English translations does not always agree with the archeological evidence of modern day science. This is the case with what I call the “lost years” in the genealogy of Abraham. There is a major disconnect between the Biblical years given for the age of Shem’s descendants and the archeological evidence of early Mesopotamia. The disagreement comes in the age of the known cities of Ur and Nineveh and the kingdoms of Akkad and Sumer and other ancient Mesopotamian cities mentioned in the Bible.

Most modern English Bible translations indicate that Abraham was born just 292 years after the flood, according to the genealogies of Genesis 11.

“This is the genealogy of Shem: Shem was one hundred years old, and begot Arphaxad two years after the flood. After he begot Arphaxad, Shem lived five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters. Arphaxad lived thirty-five years, and begot Salah. After he begot Salah, Arphaxad lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters. Salah lived thirty years, and begot Eber. After he begot Eber, Salah lived four hundred and three years, and begot sons and daughters. Eber lived thirty-four years, and begot Peleg. After he begot Peleg, Eber lived four hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters. Peleg lived thirty years, and begot Reu. After he begot Reu, Peleg lived two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters. Reu lived thirty-two years, and begot Serug. After he begot Serug, Reu lived two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters. Serug lived thirty years, and begot Nahor. After he begot Nahor, Serug lived two hundred years, and begot sons and daughters.Nahor lived twenty-nine years, and begot Terah. After he begot Terah, Nahor lived one hundred and nineteen years, and begot sons and daughters. Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran.” Genesis 11:10-26 (NKJV)

The problem comes from the fact that we know that at the time Abraham was born in Ur, Ur was a very well developed city state of about 800 to 1200 years old, but this record accounts for a little less than 300 years. But there are some versions of the Bible that do account for these lost years. The Septuagint Bible for instance, accounts for them as such:

“And these are the generations of Sem: and Sem was a hundred years old when he begot Arphaxad, the second year after the flood. And Sem lived, after he had begotten Arphaxad, five hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Arphaxad lived a hundred and thirty-five years, and begot Cainan. And Arphaxad lived after he had begotten Cainan, four hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Cainan lived a hundred and thirty years and begot Sala; and Cainan lived after he had begotten Sala, three hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Sala lived an hundred and thirty years, and begot Heber. And Sala lived after he had begotten Heber, three hundred and thirty years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Heber lived an hundred and thirty-four years, and begot Phaleg. And Heber lived after he had begotten Phaleg two hundred and seventy years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Phaleg lived an hundred and thirty years, and begot Ragau.And Phaleg lived after he had begotten Ragau, two hundred and nine years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Ragau lived an hundred thirty and two years, and begot Seruch. And Ragau lived after he had begotten Seruch, two hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Seruch lived a hundred and thirty years, and begot Nachor. And Seruch lived after he had begotten Nachor, two hundred years, and begot sons and daughters, and died. And Nachor lived a hundred and seventy-nine years, and begot Tharrha. And Nachor lived after he had begotten Tharrha, an hundred and twenty-five years, and begot sons and daughters, and he died. And Tharrha lived seventy years, and begot Abram, and Nachor, and Arrhan. And these are the generations of Tharrha. Tharrha begot Abram and Nachor, and Arrhan; and Arrhan begot Lot. And Arrhan died in the presence of Tharrha his father, in the land in which he was born, in the country of the Chaldees. And Abram and Nachor took to themselves wives, the name of the wife of Abram was Sara, and the name of the wife of Nachor, Malcha, daughter of Arrhan, and he was the father of Malcha, the father of Jescha. And Sara was barren, and did not bear children.31And Tharrha took Abram his son, and Lot the son Arrhan, the son of his son, and Sara his daughter-in-law, the wife of Abram his son, and led them forth out of the land of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Chanaan, and they came as far as Charrhan, and he dwelt there. And all the days of Tharrha in the land of Charrhan were two hundred and five years, and Tharrha died in Charrhan.” Genesis 11:10-32 (Septuagint Version)

As you can see, simply by adding 100 years to each of Shem’s Descendants lives before the birth of their progeny in Abraham’s genealogy, they add 1229 years to the time table. There is one major problem however with the Septuagint version, and this is that it adds Cainan as a descendant of Shem and it is known today that that was not a correct addition to make. Cainan (Canaan) was clearly a descendant of Ham. Why they made this addition to Shem is unknown. Perhaps it was because the Canaanites lived among the sons of Shem, but I will discuss why that is in the chapter on the Table of Nations. Otherwise I have not found any logical explanation for this addition in the Septuagint version. I have done a time table of my own that I believe makes more sense, but instead of adding 100 years to each of the descendants, I simply added a zero to the ages of Arphaxad, Shelah, and Eber which adds an additional 891 years to the time table.

Below are three charts that illustrate how changing these ages affect the dating of the flood dramatically. Chart 3, my lost-years version, seems and fit much better with what we know archeologically. Chart 1 shows the traditional version of years, and Chart 2 shows the Septuagint version.

Chart 4

Chart 5

Chart 6

In the Septuagint version, we need to move back the dates of creation to adjust for known historical dates. If we do not do this, Jacob would have been born around 800 B.C., much too late in history. However, moving back the Septuagint dates to accommodate for the additional 1229 years over the traditional tables, we find that the dates are still off by about 338 years from known history. Even if we take Cainan out the equation, we still have a 208 year gap, however, this is probably well within the margin of error for dating of Ur and other early Mesopotamian civilizations.

In my lost years version, by simply adding a zero to the ages of Arphaxad, Shelah, and Eber at the birth of their progeny in Abraham’s genealogy, and shifting the time table for everything before them backwards to compensate, we end up with an additional 891 years that fits perfectly with the archeological evidence, and put the date of the flood at 3330 B.C. Why did I add a zero to their ages? I applied some common sense thinking to this problem and decided that if these three individuals lived well into their 400s, it was not unreasonable for them to still be having children in their three hundreds. Abraham is a good example of this. He lived to be 175, and after Sarah died, Abraham married again and had six more sons when he was in his one hundred and forties. We also know Noah was still having sons at age 500.

I also noticed in my research, that after Eber, the lives of Shem’s descendants became dramatically reduced, so I left those ages alone. It may simply be coincidence that the time table fits so much better by doing this, but you (the reader) need to decide for yourself if this makes sense. If not, leave it alone and move on to the next point.

As we add these extra years however, the reason we shift the dates backwards and not forward is because we are fairly sure of the time when Israelites came into Egypt which was around 1863 B.C. We know from Genesis 47:9 that Jacob died 17 years after entering Egypt and that he was 130 when they entered Egypt. We know that because everything that happens from that time on is within the realm of recorded history and can be estimated fairly accurately and we know Israel exited from Egypt around 1550, give or take a decade or two, after about 300 years of living in that land.

If the traditional model is correct, they would have entered Egypt in 1768 B.C., and the Septuagint has them entering Egypt in 2121 B.C. The Exodus for these three dates would then have been around 1468, and 1821 B.C. respectively. History seems to support the 1550 B.C. Exodus model best, because we know how long Israel was in the desert (40 years), how long the Judges ruled Israel (around 400 Years), when Saul became King (about 1080 B.C.) and when David became King (about 1040 B.C.), and when Solomon became King (around 1000 B.C.) But the exact dates of the Exodus are always under debate. If you would like to know more about the most recent discoveries and theories on this topic, I highly recommend the History Channel documentary titled The Exodus Decoded. It is available for purchase at most online book and video seller sites.

The second reason I think my lost years version is more accurate, brings us back to my original point. It answers the questions as to why Noah and Shem are never mentioned again after Genesis 10. This has always been a puzzle to me since you can clearly see that according to the traditional Christian shorter year version, Shem, Shelah, and Eber would have all outlived Abraham and Abraham would have been around 58 when Noah died. I find it very hard to believe that none of these men would have been mentioned again had they still been alive at the time Abram came to Canaan from Herron. This leaves three alternatives:

  • One – either of the long versions are correct and Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah and Eber would have all perished long before Abraham was born.
  • Two – Noah and Shem did in fact migrate to the east as the Chinese legend tells and were never seen in Mesopotamia again.
  • Three – That both are true.

In any case, there must have been some knowledge and awareness of them up until the time of their deaths as the Bible does tells us their ages at the time they died. Some Jewish traditions hold that Shem was Melchizedek who is mentioned in later chapters of Genesis, but if the long years are true, he could not have possibly been Melchizedek.

As for Ham and Japheth there is almost nothing known of them after they left Noah other than what we know of their descendants from the Table of Nations listed in Chapter 11. We know that Ham and his descendants settled in Egypt, Africa, Canaan and some in China as you will see, later, and I tried to stay true to that in my fiction book titled Table of Nations, as much of the ancient lands bare the names of Ham, Mizraim (Egypt), Canaan, Cush, and Phut and Sine.

We of course know most about of the descendants of Canaan. We also know a great deal of Japheth’s Descendants known today as the Indo-Europeans, but almost nothing of Japheth directly other than what has been handed down to us through mythology and folklore.
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If you would like to own an e-book version of all 30 Genesis: Facts & Fictions non-fiction essays or any of this author’s fiction works in e-book format, visit http://Smashwords.com and search for Ken Helsley for a list of all e-books available by this author.

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