Gen 10:21

Ben Crick ben.crick at
Tue Oct 20 12:17:06 EDT 1998

On Tue 20 Oct 98 , peter_kirk at wrote:
> An interesting question has just been put to me concerning Genesis 
> 10:21:
> Is Japheth older or younger than Shem?


 It appears that the birth order of Noah's sons was Shem; Ham; Japhet
 (Genesis 9:18). But after the disgrace of Ham "who saw the nakedness of
 his father" (9:22), he was demoted to the "youngest" BeNoW HaQQa+aN, in
 the sense of the "least important". He was the father of Canaan and the
 Canaanites, whose sin was a byword and whose "time was up" when Joshua led
 the Israelites into Canaan.

 Notice it is "cursed be Canaan" (Gen 9:25), not Ham. BeN HaQQa+aN can mean
 "grandson" rather than younger/youngest son. Ham had been blessed by God
 in Genesis 9:1; that blessing could not be revoked.

 Compare WeDaWiD HuW' HaQQa+aN in 1 Samuel 17:14, where David is the
 youngest, and his three eldest brothers who followed Saul are SheLiShaH
 HaGGeDoLiYM. They were three of his "big brothers". (BTW how many brothers
 did David have?  1 Sam 16:10 says seven; 1 Chron 2:15 says six). David was
 certainly the "youngest" HaQQa+aN (1 Sam 16:11).

 But if we press the superlative in Genesis 10:21, we get the discrepancy
 that you describe with 9:24. So we must make HaQQa+aN /comparative/ not
 /superlative/ (as in Genesis 1:16) where the sun and the moon are the
 greater light HaGGaDoL and the lesser light HaQQa+oN respectively.

 The LXX has KAI TWi SHM... ADELFWi IAFEQ TOU MEIZONOS (10:21), using the
 comparative to resolve the difficulty.

 Does this help?

 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 <ben.crick at>
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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