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Are African-Americans the Descendants of Shem?
Map showing the Migration of Noah's three sons, Shem, Ham and Japheth to the three continents of Asia, Africa and Europe
“So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.” (Gen. 9:1)
“Now the sons of Noah who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated.” (Gen. 9:18-19)
The Descendants of Shem
Shem is the oldest son of Noah because his name is mentioned first and also in another biblical verse (Gen. 10:1). Shem is the father of Elam, Asshur, Arphaxad, Lud, and Aram.
“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.” (Gen. 10:24-25)
The name “Eber” means “cross over to the other side”, and it is the word from which the word "Hebrew" is derived. So you can see that the Hebrews have two sets of descendants. One is Peleg who is the ancestor of Abraham, David and the Lord Jesus Christ (Lk. 3:35). The other set of Hebrew descendants comes from Joktan who had thirteen sons (Gen. 10:26-29).
God confused the language of the people when they built the Tower of Babel. “Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the LORD confused the language of all the earth; and from there the LORD scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.” (Gen. 11:9).
Peleg stayed in the same country in which his descendant Abraham lived, but his brother Joktan, with his thirteen sons moved away eastwards. “And their dwelling place was from Mesha as you go toward Sephar, the mountain of the east.” (Gen. 10:26-30)
Several studies indicate Joktan and his large family moved to East Asia (present China) to populate the largest racial group on earth.
Shem (through Joktan) is the Ancestor of the Chinese People
Many studies have shown this to be a factual truth. Please click on the titles and URLs.
No Biblical Record of African-Americans having Ancestry from Shem
There is no record in the Bible that any of Shem's descendants migrated to Africa after God had confused the language of the people and stopped the building of the Tower of Babel. The Bible recorded Moses married an Ethiopian woman but their marriage occurred after the Exodus from Egypt (Num. 12:1). However, in the New Testament it was recorded that several Jews from countries in Africa came to Jerusalem for the Feast of Pentecost (Acts 2:8-11). They may be Jews in religion but may not be Semites (Shem's descendants) in racial origin. For example, the Ethiopian eunuch who was converted to Christianity by Philip may or may not be a Semite (Acts 8:26-40). Anyway, the ancestral home of African-Americans is not Ethiopia which is in East Africa. African-Americans orignally come from West Africa.
The Descendants of Ham
"The sons of Ham were Cush, Mizraim, Put, and Canaan.” (Gen. 10:6) According to the Bible Egypt is called“the land of Ham” (Psm. 105:23, 27;106:22; ref. 78:51). Egypt is definitely a country in Africa.
Cush: Peoples of central and Southern Arabia. The Ethiopians are shown as being inhabitants of both sides of the Red Sea. Also, they had a skin of a different appearance. (Jer. 13:23)
Mizraim: Refers to areas of upper and lower Nile River of Egypt thus a reference to Egyptians.
Phut: Generally associated with the Egyptians and more specifically Libya.
Canaan: The area settled by Canaan and his sons was west of the River Jordan which was named after him. Canaan was called the Promised Land and was invaded and conquered by Joshua and the children of Israel (Josh 14:1 ) Canaan is not in Africa but in West Asia.
African-Americans are not the Descendants of Canaan
There are many wrongful misconceptions and misplacement of Noah's curse after he was drunk with wine and became naked. Although Ham had seen Noah's nakedness and told his two brothers who went backwards to cover their father's shame, Noah did not say anything against him but said,“Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.” (Gen. 9:20-25). It must be clearly understood that Ham and his three other sons Cush, Misraim and Phut did not receive the curse. Only Canaan was cursed.
It is absolutely wrong and unbiblical to use the curse on Canaan in reference to the slave trade in the Nineteenth Century that brought the West Africans to America. The land of Canaan had never been in Africa so no African-American has ever been subjected to the curse on Canaan.
Besides, the curse of Canaan had already been fulfilled after their land had been conquered by the children of Israel (Josh. 9:17-27).
By His death on the cross the Lord Jesus Christ has “redeemed us from the curse of the law” therefore believers in Him can now receive the blessings of Abraham (Gal. 3:13-14). Although Rahab the harlot was a Canaanite, yet because of her faith in the One True God, she and her family's lives were not only spared but she herself had also become an ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 11:30-31; Mt. 1:5).
Misinterpretation of Scriptures
Excerpt from an email that I received:
“According to the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 28:68), the descendants of Shem were taken to the Americas by ships to be sold into slavery. The so called "African-Americans" that were captured by the Ethiopians (Africans) were taken to the Americas. The now called African Americans (Blacks) are the direct descendants of Shem.”
Here is my response:
Let us study Deuteronomy 28:68 and see what it says. "And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, "You shall never see it again.' And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you."
Background of this verse
When the children of Israel were leaving Egypt Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after them, so they rebelled against Moses (Ex. 14:8-12). “And Moses said to the people, "Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.” (Ex. 14:13) In Deuteronomy 28:68 Moses was reminding them about what he said: “by the way of which I said to you, "You shall never see it again.'It means the children of Israel would never see Egypt again.
Why did Moses write: "And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships,”? The method that the children of Israel left Egypt was through God's miracle of parting the waters of the Red Sea (Ex. 14:21-22, 29). If God were to take the children of Israel back to Egypt they would also have to cross the Red Sea again, except that “ the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships”.
This verse is not a prophecy. It is a warning of punishment to Israel for disobedience
The whole chapter of Deuteronomy 28 is God's promise of blessings for obedience to His commandments (verses 1-14), and curses for disobedience to His commandments (verses 15-68). The book of Deuteronomy was written by Moses to the children of Israel while they were still wandering in the wilderness. Of all the curses that would befall the Israelites the one thing that they feared the most is to be slaves again in Egypt. They have been liberated through the miracle when God parted the Red Sea. Moses warned them that if they disobeyed God they could be sent back to Egypt and become slaves again. What a horrifying curse!
“And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you."
There were laws for buying slaves (Ex. 21:1-11; Lev. 25:39-55) . A male or female slave that was sold must be set free after serving for six years (Deut. 15:12-18). The worst thing that can happen to a Hebrew was to be “offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you." It means they are worthless and nobody wants them, not even as slaves.
Deuteronomy 28:68 has nothing to do with the African- Americans
Some people use this verse to show that African-Americans are descendants of Shem. There is no historical record of African-American slaves being brought back from America to Egypt. There is also no historical record of African-American slaves being “offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.
What about Song of Solomon 1:5 ?
“I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, Like the tents of Kedar, Like the curtains of Solomon.”
There are several interpretations to the Song of Solomon. There is a literal meaning and also an allegorical meaning. Solomon was writing about the “Shulamite” and he gave a question “What would you see in the Shulamite – As it were, the dance of the double camp?“ (Song 6:13). An African-American would read Song of Solomon 1:5-6 and interpret that she was black. A Caucasian-American would read Song of Solomon 1:8 “If you do not know, O fairest among women,” and verse 15 “Behold, you are fair, my love: Behold, you are fair! You have dove's eyes.” would interpret that she was white.
Even if Song of Solomon 1:5 is talking about a black African woman this verse has nothing to do with the African-Americans.
African-Americans should be proud of their Heritage
African-Americans do not have to be the descendants of Shem to feel proud of themselves. Just look at the successful African-Americans who are the descendants of Ham, and they should be proud of their heritage. One of the greatest preachers in America is William J. Seymour who, at the turn of the Twentieth Century, had not only helped to revive Christianity in America but also throughout the world.
Please go to: The Greatest American Preacher Ever
Please go to: African-Americans and their Achievements