Shem (Hebrew: שֵם, Shem Šēm ; Greek: Σημ Sēm; Arabic: سام Sām; Ge'ez: ሴም, Sēm; "renown; prosperity; name") was one of the sons of Noah in the Hebrew Bible as well as in Islamic literature. He is most popularly regarded as the eldest son, though some traditions regard him as the second son. Genesis 10:21 refers to relative ages of Shem and his brother Japheth, but with sufficient ambiguity to have yielded different translations. The verse is translated in the KJV as "Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born.". However, the New American Standard Bible gives, "Also to Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, and the older brother of Japheth, children were born."
Genesis 11:10 records that Shem was still 100 years old at the birth of Arpachshad, (but nearly 101 - see Chronology note,) two years after the flood, making him barely 99 at the time the flood began; and that he lived for another 500 years after this, making his age at death 600 years.
The children of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram, in addition to daughters. Abraham, the patriarch of the Hebrews and Arabs, was one of the descendants of Arpachshad.
Islamic literature describes Shem as one of the believing sons of Noah. Some sources even identify Shem as a prophet in his own right and that he was the next prophet after his father. One Muslim legend narrates that Shem was one of the people that God made Jesus resurrect as a sign to the Children of Israel.
The 1st century historian Flavius Josephus, among many others, recounted the tradition that these five sons were the progenitors of the nations of Elam, Assyria, Chaldea, Lydia, and Syria, respectively.
Semitic is still a commonly used term for the Semitic languages, as a subset of the Afro-Asiatic languages, denoting the common linguistic heritage of Arabic, Aramaic, Akkadian, Ethiopic, Hebrew and Phoenician languages.
According to some Jewish traditions (e.g., B. Talmud Nedarim 32b; Genesis Rabbah 46:7; Genesis Rabbah 56:10; Leviticus Rabbah 25:6; Numbers Rabbah 4:8.), Shem is believed to have been Melchizedek, King of Salem whom Abraham is recorded to have met after the battle of the four kings.
In a few of the many extra-biblical sources that describe him, Shem is also credited with killing Nimrod, son of Cush.
Shem is mentioned in Genesis 5:32, 6:10; 7:13; 9:18,23,26-27; 10; 11:10; also in 1 Chronicles 1:4.