FAQs

Descendants of Shem, Japheth and Ham

What happened to nations descended from Noah’s son Shem?

The 70 nations of the world came from and are named after the 70 descendants of the three sons of Noah which are listed in Gen. 10:1-32. Of these, 26 were descended from Shem, Noah’s youngest son. Read more »

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Which Biblical peoples can still be identified?

In general, the African peoples (non-Arabic) are identified as descendants of Ham, and East Asians are identified as descendants of Yafes [Japheth]. Ham and Yafes were the progenitors of other ancient peoples as well.

It is important to note that the ruthless king of the Babylonian empire, Nebuchadnezzar, forcibly mixed the original nations which he conquered so they would lose their independent national identities. For example, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59b) states that the original Ishmaelites became intermingled with the other nations that were descended from Abraham and Keturah. Likewise, the original Egyptians, Moabites and Ammonites can no longer be identified. The only peoples which Nebuchadnezzer did not intermingle were the exiles of Judea, and of course his own Babylonian people. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, pointed out that within the modern country of Iraq there are still a significant number of these ethnic Babylonians.

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Did the Edomite tribe Magdiel found Rome?

Q: Did the Edomite tribe Magdiel found Rome? If so, is it a genetic or spiritual descent?

A. Here are some interesting explanations of the origins of the connection between Rome and Edom, by Rabbi Moshe Nachmanides (“Ramban”), from his book “Gate of Redemption” (written circa 1263 C.E.). The following translation and annotation is by Rabbi Dr. C. B. Chavel (Shilo Publishing House, New York, NY, copyright 1978, printing of 1986).

From the First Gate (chapter):

Balaam further saw the rising of the … empire [Rome] … Thus it is said, “But ships will come from the coast of Kittim.” (Numbers 24:24) [The latter] are the Romans, according to the words of the Targum [Onkelos]. Although [I have just said that the Kittim are the Romans], we find Kittim to be one of the children of Javan [Yavan] (Genesis 10:4), [the ancestor of the Greeks]. [Kittim], however, became the head of a large family which [eventually] became a separate nation named for [Kittim], their ancestor. Thus, we have found in the Torah of Moses, peace be upon him, a clear promise of the future redemption which is to come upon us.

From the Third Gate:

We, who rely on the opinion of our Rabbis of blessed memory, believe that we are presently in the exile of Edom (Rome) and that we shall have no respite from it until the coming of the Messiah. … The Edomites [the nation around Mount Seir, descended from Esau] were the first to mistakenly follow after the man who claimed that he was the Messiah. They also ascribed godliness to him. When they came to the land of Italy, their error spread to the nearby city of Rome. There in the days of Constantine who ruled over Rome …, the council under the authority of the bishop [of the city] of Rome determined their belief in him and established it [as the religion of the empire]. This, above all else, is the main cause and reason that Rome and Edom are considered as one kingdom although they are different nations. In spite of that [difference], they are related because of their uniformity of belief which makes them one people and one nation. … [The Sages of the Targum] thus explained that Rome is in Grecian Italy and that many of the Edomite people are contained therein. Hence, [Rome] is called “O daughter of Edom,” (Lament. 4:22)

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