Truth, Understanding, Insight

Three Personality Types

8th May 2009, hej


The Bible doesn't contain theoretical analysis such as the Myers-Briggs personality test, rather it shows us people in action, where their character is demonstrated by their decisions.

We can however draw some conclusions about what God thinks from his reaction to people's actions. One incident with Noah's 3 sons shows us something about who we might be at the personal level and why certain nations dominate and others are dominated.

Shem, Ham and Japheth.

The Bible lists the children in this order: Shem, Ham and Japheth (Gen 5:32, 6:10, 7:32,9:18). It seems likely that Shem was the oldest as he is listed first. Also his name means 'name' indicating he was the firstborn in whom the family name continues. Ham means 'hot' which may say more about the time of year he was born, whereas Japheth's name means 'expansion' as if they realised they had a growing family, implying he was last. But in Genesis chapter 10 Japheth is listed first as if the greatest, then Ham from who came mighty 'Nimrod', then lastly, Shem. But what the text says about Shem and Japheth shows they have a special relationship.

To Shem, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, to him also were children born. (Gen 10:21) WEB
Unto Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the brother of Japheth the elder, even to him were children born. (Gen 10:21) KJV

These 2 translations are a contradiction. In one Shem is the elder and in the other, Japheth the elder. In Hebrew literally, it says Shem was brother of 'Japheth the-great', or of 'Japheth the-mighty', or of 'Japtheth the-elder'. As Japheth in Genesis 10 is listed first, it seems we should follow the more literal King James translation, that Shem was known to be the brother of Japheth who was titled “the elder'. But it may be noted that it is not speaking about who was born first but who became the greatest son. Japheth had personality that meant he became a leader. He also had a special relationship with Shem, not shared with Ham. Again it will be shown this is about personality.

The incident that shows us the 3 personality types

At the time of the incident quite a few years after the flood, Ham already had a son called Canaan (this is consistent with the offspring of Ham being numerous quite early in Bible history). The account reads

And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan. These are the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger (Hebrew:smallest) son had done unto him. And he said, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant. God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant". (Gen 9:18-27)

It seems whatever was done, Canaan who was Noah's 'littlest' son, or grandson, was involved. From the text we can gather little, except Ham found out about it and went and looked. It is speculation but Canaan may have found Noah drunk and told his Father about what had happened to Noah.

But let us look at the responses. Ham goes and looks. Not only that, he further spreads the news to both his brothers. The brothers, Shem and Japheth, in contrast, do something. Shem is mentioned first but three things must have happened. Firstly one brother proposed it was an issue and the other agreed there was an issue. Secondly one of the two came up with a plan of action and the other agreed and was obedient to that plan. Thirdly they agree to act together. The record is so brief we don't know who did what, but Noah did, and he tells us that Shem was blessed and spoke for God. This indicates it was Shem who firstly saw the issue. He then says Japheth shall be enlarged and, in effect, interfere in the tents of Shem. This indicates Japheth's actions were executive and pro-active in the incident. Ham is not even mentioned in Noah's comments.

These actions are more about difference in personality than character, as all 3 showed a moral character and shared values. In summary we may extrapolate the 3 types:

  • Ham observes the wrong and gossips and does nothing.
  • Shem makes a moral judgement as to his action and is obedient in action to fix the situation.
  • Japheth sees Shem's view and is proactive in suggesting and carrying out a collaborative solution.
  • Three Types

    From this incident we may extrapolate that,

  • If we personally are a type that thinks evil is a joke and don't do anything, our children will most likely be servants to those who do make moral decisions and to those who do get things done.
  • If we personally serve God and speak to others of his moral law, God will be blessed in our leadership.
  • If we are proactive in collaboratively getting things done we will grow in influence.

  • Though every nation will have all types, some type will dominate. Therefore these three types of personality apply to nations also.

  • Any nation that lets evil slide in its midst will fall into disorder. The children, the next generation, will then become servants to others.
  • Nations that hold right moral standpoints may not achieve great things but their people will be a blessing to God.
  • Nations that are proactive in getting things done in an orderly way will be successful, enlarge their borders and rule others.

  • According to Noah, the greatness of Japheth comes when he begins to dwell in the tents of Shem. When Japheth types listen to Shem types, and they act together to right things in the world, all others become their servant.

    The history of the world shows that in general the characteristics of the fathers came to the sons. It must be noted that all nations are one blood (one race) Acts 17:26. This can be shown by how many recognisable national family/cultural/ethnic groupings don't fall into one of the so called 'races'. Only at the artificial interface of two numerically large distinct feature sets (formed by migration of one or both of the groups) is there easily distinguishable boundaries. But these boundaries may soon be blurred by unions producing a spectrum from one set to the other set of features in the population, if there is finally a shared culture created (this was prevented in India by the caste system). Most divisions are maintained by family and cultural ties. However, in the ebb of migrations, there would be more people of mingled descent of 2 or 3 of the son's of Noah than that who would be descended from one alone. The president of the USA is an example of a person descended from all three of Noah's sons. But some generalisations can be made based on the centres where the Bible says the descendants of each of the sons went and the nations that grew from those areas.

    From Ham have come great early civilizations, such as Nineveh and Babel, that have rapidly disintegrated, never got anywhere or the people dispersed. From Shem comes The Book (in two volumes) that is considered to have the moral laws acknowledged by many powerful nations. From Shem also comes the Koran (heavily referencing the previous Jewish books) also influencing the codes of nations, even some who are not genetically of Shem.

    But Japheth who gets things done, became the Japheth that rules the world. Japheth of the Isles went north and became the great nations of the age of empires, the Vikings, Normans, Dutch, Austro-Hungarians, Spanish, Portuguese, Russians, French, Germans, British and the European led Americans, the great nations of the modern world. These are the nations of the isles (Genesis 10:5). Japheth expanded and carved up Ham's lands and ruled them, and then came to dwell in Shem's land. In fact they took over Shem's religion, to lesser and greater degrees, and became still greater.

    But note, the Noah's prophecy is about Canaan who is only one of Ham's sons. But that's another story.

    For more on The Tents of Shem


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