Who are the Semites?


By BibleAsk Team

The Semites

The Semites are members of any group of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs. The term Semite was first used in the 1770s by members of the Göttingen School of History. This biblical terminology for race was derived from Shem (Hebrew: שֵׁם), the eldest of the three sons of Noah (Genesis 10-11).

The Bible states that “The sons of Shem were Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram” (Genesis 10:22). And the sons of these five brothers were: “The sons of Aram were Uz, Hul, Gether, and Mash. Arphaxad begot Salah, and Salah begot Eber. To Eber were born two sons: the name of one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided; and his brother’s name was Joktan. Joktan begot Almodad, Sheleph, Hazarmaveth, Jerah, Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah, Obal, Abimael, Sheba, Ophir, Havilah, and Jobab. All these were the sons of Joktan” (Genesis 10:23-29).

Shem’s great-grandson Eber was the father of the “Hebrews,” including Abram and the line descent to Jesus Christ. The list of the names given in Genesis 10 points to the Biblical table of nations as an ancient and reliable document. Many of these names appear in non-Biblical sources of the 1st half of the 2nd millennium B.C., some as early as 2000 B.C.

The Sons of Shem

Elam: He lived in the region bordering the lower Tigris in the west and on Media in the northeast. Elam’s ancient capital, Susa, the Biblical Shushan (Daniel 8:2), became, in later times, one of the capitals of the Persian Empire (Esther 1:2). The language of Elam’s descendants, depicted from cuneiform records, was not Semitic. It belonged to the Asianic-Armenoid group of languages.

Asshur: He lived in Assyria which occupied the middle part of the Tigris valley, reaching in the north to highlands of Armenia and in the east to the Median plateau. The name Asshur was used to name the main god of the Assyrians, the oldest capital of the nation, and the nation itself. Assyria is seen in historical accounts from the beginning of the second millennium B.C. until its ruin by the Medes and Babylonians in the last part of the 7th century B.C.

Arphaxad: He lived in the region between Media and Assyria.

Lud: He lived in the country of Lubdi, which is a region lying between the upper Euphrates and Tigris rivers.

Aram: He lived in the northwestern portion of Mesopotamia, but later spread southward. The strongest of the Aramaean states, Damascus, was finally conquered by Tiglath-pileser III in 732 B.C. The Aramaic language became, a universal tool of communication in the Near East, and was the language of the Jews till Jesus’ day.

The Chaldeans were either Aramaean in origin or related to them. They occupied a territory south of Babylon and they were the enemies of the Assyrians. They held the throne of Babylon several times in the 8th century B.C. and later founded the great neo-Babylonian dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar II, conqueror of Jerusalem.


The terms “anti-semite” or “anti-semitism” refer to anyone who is hostile or discriminatory towards Jews as a cultural, racial, or ethnic group. In the Nineteenth century, the anthropologist Ernest Renan arranged linguistic groupings with ethnicity and culture in an attempt to describe racial disposition. He had recognized the significance of the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia, Israel etc. but designated the Semitic races inferior to the Aryan for their monotheism, which he believed originated from their alleged brutal, immoral and egocentric racial instincts. These predispositions were summed as “anti-semitic” prejudice. Renan used this term to describe anti-Jewish campaigns that were taking place in central Europe at the time.

In 1879, the German journalist Wilhelm Marr popularized the term “anti-semitic” to describe the struggle between Jews and Germans in a brochure called Der Weg zum Siege des Germanenthums über das Judenthum (“The Way to Victory of Germanism over Judaism”). He charged the Jews of adopting liberal views and of trying to Judaize the Germans. In 1879, Marr’s followers established the “League for Anti-Semitism”, which focused mainly on anti-Jewish political campaigns. Today, “anti-semitism” is on the rise world wide, with the European Jewish Congress observing that antisemitism is at its highest levels since World War II.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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