Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- Sem redirects here. See #Disambiguation
Shem (שֵׁם "Name; renown; prosperity", Standard Hebrew Šem, Tiberian Hebrew Šēm; Greek Σημ, Sēm) was one of the sons of Noah in the Bible. He is most popularly regarded as the eldest son, though some traditions regard him as the second son. He is mentioned in Genesis 5:32, 6:10; 7:13; 9:18,23,26-27; 10; 11:10; also in 1 Chronicles 1:4.
Since Jews are supposed to derive their origins from Shem, the name Semitic has been used to refer to them. The Children of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Aram, Arpachshad and Lud, in addition to daughters. In Christian New Testament, Jesus is listed as having descended from Shem in an unbroken line through Abraham and David.
Terms like "Shemites" and "sons" of an eponymous "father" in general, are not supported outside of religious studies by modern historical scholarship. In the Ancient Near East (and in the Aegean), the earliest attempts at arriving at an ethnology that would explain the contemporary sense that there were relative similarities and differences among neighboring or distant tribes, was expressed in terms of genealogy;an approach reflected in terms like "Semite" and "Hamite". Neither "Semite" nor "Hamite" are broadly used now, and are sometimes perceived as offensive, because of their 'racial' connotations.
However, the adjectival forms "Semitic" and "Hamitic," are more accepted, though the vague term 'Hamitic' dropped out of mainstream academic use in the sixties. "Semitic" remains an indispensable technical term for, in particular, the Semitic languages, as subset of the Afro-Asiatic languages, which show the common linguistic heritage of Hebrew and Arabic and Aramaic, Phoenician, and Akkadian, and Ethiopic languages.
Semitic is also used in the fixed phrase "anti-Semitic" to refer to racial, ethic or cultural prejudice toward Jews.
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