Noah is one of the most well-known figures in the Bible because of the profound faith he exhibited during a time of extreme moral and spiritual corruption in the world. The Old and New Testaments regularly commend Noah for his faith. His story is found in the book of Genesis. Noah’s family plays an important role in the flood narrative, which causes readers to ask questions about them.
The Bible reveals that Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The sons play a prominent role in the story of the worldwide flood, partly because they and their wives were on the ark and survived the judgment. The descendants of each son also play an important role in the Bible.
What does the Bible say about Shem, Ham, and Japheth? What people groups descended from them? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Noah’s eldest son, Japheth
Genesis refers to Japeth as older than Shem. “To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born” (Gen. 10:21).
Nevertheless, he appears third in some lists of Noah’s sons, like Genesis 6:10, “And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth” and 9:18, “The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan).”
Like his brothers, Japheth survived the flood (Gen. 7:7). He also helped Shem cover up Noah’s nakedness after the flood (Gen. 9:20-27).
The descendants of Japheth
His descendants lived in the tents of Shem, unlike Ham’s (Gen. 9:27). Scholars believe his descendants occupied the isles of the Gentiles, Hellenes, or Greeks, including Asia Minor and northern Greece (Gen. 10:5).  The Table of Nations includes the descendants of Japheth. Genesis 10:2-5 reads:
- 2 The sons of Japheth: Gomer, Magog, Madai, Javan, Tubal, Meshech, and Tiras.
- 3 The sons of Gomer: Ashkenaz, Riphath, and Togarmah.
- 4 The sons of Javan: Elishah, Tarshish, Kittim, and Dodanim.
Verse five reads, “From these the coastland peoples spread in their lands, each with his own language, by their clans, in their nations.”
Noah’s second oldest son, Shem
Shem was the second son of Noah. Genesis implies that he was 98 years old when the flood occurred. “These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood” (Gen. 11:10).
After he fathered Arpachshad, Shem lived another 500 years before he died at the age of 600. “And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters” (Gen. 11:11).
The descendants of Shem
In his prophecy regarding future generations, Noah revealed that Japheth’s descendants would live in the tents of Shem, while the Canaanites of Ham’s line wouldn’t.
Genesis 9:25-27 read, “Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers. He also said, Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.”
The Table of Nations mentions Shem’s descendants. Genesis 10:21-22 read,
- 21 To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born.
- 22 The sons of Shem: Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram.
- 23The sons of Aram: Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash.
- 24 Arpachshad fathered Shelah; and Shelah fathered Eber.
- 25 To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.
- 26 Joktan fathered Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah,
- 27Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah
- 28 Obal, Abimael, Sheba
- 29 Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab; all these were the sons of Joktan.
- 30 The territory in which they lived extended from Mesha in the direction of Sephar to the hill country of the east.
- 31 These are the sons of Shem, by their clans, their languages, their lands, and their nations.
Noah’s youngest son, Ham
Ham was Noah’s youngest son. He was probably born about 96 years before the flood.  Ham was the father of the Egyptians, Ethiopians, Libyans, and Canaanites.
The Canaanites play an important role in the Old Testament because they resided in the land that God promised Abraham’s descendants. The Canaanites rejected the God of the Israelites, which created problems for centuries.
The Old Testament sometimes uses the name “Ham” as a reference to the Egyptians. For example, Psalm 78:51 reads, “He struck down every firstborn in Egypt, the firstfruits of their strength in the tents of Ham.”
The Table of Nations mentions Ham’s descendants. Genesis 10:6-14 reads,
- 6 The sons of Ham: Cush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.
- 7 The sons of Cush: Seba, Havilah, Sabtah, Raamah, and Sabteca.
- The sons of Raamah: Sheba and Dedan.
- 8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man.
- 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.”
- 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.
- 11 From that land he went into Assyria and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-Ir, Calah, and
- 12 Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city.
- 13 Egypt fathered Ludim, Anamim, Lehabim, Naphtuhim
- 14 Pathrusim, Casluhim (from whom the Philistines came), and Caphtorim.
8 New Testament Reference to Noah
- Matthew 24:37, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
- Matthew 24:38, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark”
- Luke 3:36, “the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech”
- Luke 17:26, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.”
- Luke 17:27, “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
- Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
- 1 Peter 3:20, “because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water”
- 2 Peter 2:5, “if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly”
Noah is an iconic figure in the Bible who is known for his righteousness and faith. After God decided to destroy the world with a flood because of how sinful humanity had become, he called Noah to...
Noah is one of the most important characters in the Bible. His story stands alongside other central figures in the book of Genesis, like Adam, Abraham, and Joseph. Noah's life is also significant to...