Gen 10:21

Peter_Kirk at Peter_Kirk at
Tue Oct 20 02:15:00 EDT 1998

An interesting question has just been put to me concerning Genesis 

Is Japheth older or younger than Shem? 

According to the accents of the Masoretic Text, NIV (also KJV, NKJV) 
is correct: "21 Sons were also born to Shem, whose older brother was 
Japheth; Shem was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber." LXX and (so I 
am told) older Jewish commentators support this view.

But all other modern translations I have at hand (in various 
languages) translate something like NRSV "To Shem... the elder brother 
of Japheth".

MT is ...):AXEY YEPET HAG.FDOWL, with a disjunctive accent (Tipha) on 
):AXEY and a conjunctive accent (Mereka) in YEPET.

Elsewhere Shem is always the first listed. He seems to have had at 
least the right of the firstborn (from the perspective of the 
"Semitic" writers). But was he necessarily actually the firstborn? 
Might a "Japhethite" commentator prefer to interpret Japheth as the 

Any comments?

Peter Kirk

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