Truth, Understanding, Insight

Shem & Abraham

22nd February 2014, mgh


1) Noah, Shem and after the Flood

Upon examining Genesis 11 some very interesting features emerged. This chapter outlines the lifespan of the descendants of Shem, the son of Noah, and details their lifespan. Shem must have been ninety eight years old at the time of the flood, as two years later he had a son called Arphaxad. and at that time he was one hundred years old. He lived another five hundred years and had sons and daughters. This gives Shem a life span of six hundred years.

These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.(Genesis 11:10-11)

This is extraordinarily long lifespan but the results of the flood had left a need for the earth to be replenished. The subsequent descendants of Shem had decreasing lifespans, as the population of the earth began to rejuvenate. Noah lived for three hundred and fifty years following the flood and would have been a great patriarch and guide in the new age. Earlier verses in Genesis 11 recount the fall of the society around Babel. These people were scattered because of their attitudes and desire to do as they pleased, and their attitude to the Creator is revealed in the following phrase, “nothing will be restrained from them”. They were a law unto themselves, repudiating the law of Yahweh, the God of the Bible.

Yahweh said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. (Genesis 11:6-7)

The event was recorded in the life of Peleg son of Eber. If the confusion of Babel was about the time of Peleg's birth it was about 100 years after the flood. If his name 'Peleg' was a prophecy by Eber (as was the naming of Noah and Methuselah), the confusion of langauge and division of people would have been within 300 years of the flood.

The following time line also shows Yahweh's wisdom in that the great men of faith lived extended lives to keep the promises and knowledge of Yahweh alive. There had been Adam, then Noah and then Shem who exhibited the faith required in their long lives. They had knowledge of and experience of the great power of Yahweh, so they could enlighten the people.

Yahweh had destroyed a civilisation that was corrupt and disobedient. The flood had brought about a new civilisation that began with trust and confidence in the all powerful Creator. Yahweh's purpose with his creation was to call out a people for his glory and his name. When some went astray, the descendants of Shem were to produce faithful servants. This indicates that Shem had maintained that great faith which Noah had. The above diagram is a representation of the descendants of Shem, which were named in Genesis 11 and were the family tree of Abraham. It also becomes clear that Shem outlived Abraham and it would not be hard to conclude that Abraham knew Shem. Surprisingly, the time line reveals that Noah was still alive during the lifetime of many of his descendants and that Shem his son outlived Abraham and was thus a contemporary of many generations following the flood.

The genealogies of the Bible give evidence that Jacob, Abraham's grandson, was speaking from experience when he said to Pharoah,

“The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not attained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” (Geneis 47:9)

Jacob was 38 when Shem dies, and 69 when Eber his 7 times great-grandfather dies. Jacob in this speech confirms he knew of Noah, Shem and Eber. The record of the geneology that Moses gave to us indicates that Jacob knew in detail the significant people and how they were related to him living in the lands about them, just as people do today.

We can only be amazed at the wisdom of the Creator in providing such notable men to tell of the events that they had experienced and their survival in the great devastation that came upon the earth because of man's wickedness, violence and defiance of the Creator. Noah and Shem were symbols of faith and dedication. They were custodians of truth and history, the teachers of their age and even for us today as this history has been so wonderfully preserved. Noah was able to tell his family, of how the prophecy fo Enoch, in the naming of Methuselah came to pass.

Genesis 11 ends with references to Abraham, to whom were made great promises for him and for his seed. By the time Abraham was born there is no doubt that society was again turning away from Yahweh and becoming once again corrupted. In Abraham there must have been signs of humility and faith. The call to leave Haran is an indicator of the need for a new start for this family.

Now Yahweh had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and you shall be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

So Abram departed, as Yahweh had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came. (Genesis 12:1-5)

The question that arises is why did Abraham show such willingness to leave Haran. The answer seems to be in Hebrews 11. Noah had faith and he believed the word of Yahweh. In the same way Abraham had faith and was obedient. The reason is clear in the following quotation from Hebrews 11. For “he looked for a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” He had faith and believed and wanted a life built on faith and the promise of life.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which had foundations, whose builder and maker is God. (Hebrews 11:7-10)

The time line above reveals some very interesting and fascinating things about relationships. Abraham was born 292 years after the flood. Note also that Noah lived for 350 years after the flood. Also Shem died some 30 years or so after Abraham. This means that as a child Abraham would have known of (or even met) the great patriarch Noah. It also shows that Abraham would have known Shem. These two men, Noah and Shem, had lived through the period before the flood and during the flood. Their accounts of these experiences and evidence of their unwavering faith would have an enduring influence on Abraham. The book of Job which was kept beside the history of the Jewish people says that Job was a great man of the East (Job 1:3). The centre of faith, the historical centre and land of the fathers was therefore to the West. Abraham it seems is called from the East, where his family had gone, back to the land where his ancestors still lived. There is evidence in Genesis 14 of Abraham's contact with Shem.

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God (El). And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God(El), possessor of heaven and earth: And blessed be the most high God(El), which has delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.(Genesis 14:18:)

Melchizedek “the priest of the most high El” blesses Abraham following the battle described in Genesis 14.

We might ask, if Melchizedek wasn't Shem, who was he?

The evidence strongly points to Shem who outlived Abraham and undoubtedly would have remained faithful all his life.

Psalm 110 is prophetic. A priest like Melchizedek will destroy the wicked and rule from Zion “in the beauties of holiness”.

Yahweh said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. Yahweh shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. Yahweh has sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (Psalms 110:1-4)

The book of Hebrews leaves us in no doubt as to whom this prophecy refers. It refers to Jesus or more as pronouced in Hebrew, 'Y'shua' whose priesthood replaced that of the Law of Moses and the Levitical priesthood. The following quotations repeat this message of the nature of this priesthood as that of the “order of Melchisedec”, who was described in Genesis 14 as the “priest of the most high God (El)”.

So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he said also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5:5-6)

Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 5:10)

Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. (Hebrews 6:20)

Also in Hebrews 12, Psalm 110 is further supported stating that Y'shua is at the right hand of his Father until the time when he'll return to the earth and his enemies shall be subdued before him.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

The Levitical priesthood under the Law of Moses came after the time of Melchisedek, who had been a faithful priest of Yahweh, but it had failed because of the faithlessness of the nation. Y'shua was faithful and reflected the faith of Melchisedek and of Noah, which is essential for salvation.

For he (Aaron) was yet in the loins of his father, when Melchisedec met him. If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? (Hebrews 7:10-11)

In Hebrews 7 it is declared that Y'shua was declared a priest, through 'an oath' of Yahweh, which had not been a feature of the Levitical priesthood.

And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there ariseth another priest, Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. For he testified, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. ....
For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said unto him, The Lord swore and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) (Hebrews 7:15-17, 19-21)

The time line shows the continuing passage of history and knowledge also. Adam was contemporary with seven generations of his offspring and Methusalah born in Adam's lifetime was contemporary with eight generations, plus Noah, who was his grandson. It appears that Methusalah died just before the flood and his name is most significant as it means, “when he dies it shall come”.

We have then a continuous line of communication from Adam to Abraham through remarkable men of faith.

Abraham was then the next generation to carry on the work of the faithful. His son Isaac and grandson Jacob also lived during the closing years of Melchisidec's and Melchisedec's great-grandson Eber's lives. This then leads to the patriarchs who preceded Moses. By this time the art of writing and the alphabet was further developed and simplified and those records were preserved for all generations including those of today. From Moses to David and the Prophets we have so much knowledge preserved and we can hold it daily in our hands. The work of archaeologists provide further evidence, such as early documents and the Dead Sea Scrolls, to establish foundations of faith and conviction of the truth contained in Yahweh's most holy word.

This article prompted by a simple question has led us on a journey that has shown Yahweh's care and love for those who seek to understand his purpose with mankind. The answers are there when we seek to search the Word of Life that we have been given. The words of the wise man from Proverbs speaks of the “shining light” that gives knowledge that leads to an understanding of the “perfect day” that the faithful long for.

But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shines more and more unto the perfect day... My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life... Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. (Proverbs 4:18, 20-23, 26)

The Psalmist gives us a hope to be joyful in.

Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Yahweh, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day: and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. For thou art the glory of their strength: and in thy favour our horn shall be exalted. For Yahweh is our defence; and the Holy One of Israel is our king. (Psalm 89:15-18)

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