Noah & Babel

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GENESIS: The Sons of Noah (Tyndale, 16th century)

Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.

The son "Shem" here is called "Sem", which actually makes it more clear how this name is related to the English word "Semitic": the Semites (including the Jews) are the sons of Sem. The reason for the confusion between "Sem" and "Shem" has to do with the way that the Hebrew alphabet works: there is one letter for "s", and the addition of a tiny mark indicates that the "s" is to be pronounced "sh". In English, we use the letter combination "sh" (which is pretty weird when you think about it!). In Latin, there is no way to represent the sound "sh", so the name of Noah's son was also "Sem" in the Latin Bible tradition.

The sonnes of Noe that came out of the arke were: Sem Ham and Iapheth. And Ham he is the father of Canaa. These are the .iij. sonnes of Noe and of these was all the world overspred.

And Noe beynge an husbad man went furth and planted a vyneyarde and drancke of the wyne and was droncke and laye vncouered in the myddest of his tet. And Ham the father of Canaan sawe his fathers prevytees & tolde his ij. brethren that were wythout. And Sem and Iapheth toke a mantell and put it on both there shulders ad went backward ad covered there fathers secrets but there faces were backward So that they sawe not there fathers nakydnes.

As soone as Noe was awaked fro his wyne and wyst what his yongest sonne had done vnto hym he sayd: cursed be Canaan ad a seruante, of all seruantes be he to his brethren. And he sayd: Blessed be the LORde God of Se and Canaan be his seruante. God increase Iapheth that he may dwelle in the tentes of Sem. And Canaan be their seruante.

And Noe lyved after the floude .iij. hundred and .l. yere: So that all the dayes of Noe were ix. hundred and .l. yere ad than he dyed.

These are the generations of the sonnes of Noe: of Sem Ham and Iapheth which begat them children after the floude.

The sonnes of Iapheth were: Gomyr Magog Madai Iauan Tuball Mesech and Thyras. And the sonnes of Gomyr were: Ascenas Riphat and Togarina. And the sonnes of Iauan were: Elisa Tharsis Cithun and Dodanim. Of these came the Iles of the gentylls in there contres every man in his speach kynred and nation.

The sonnes of Ham were: Chus Misraim Phut and Canaan.

The sonnes of Chus: were Seba Hevila Sabta Rayma and Sabtema. And the sonnes of Rayma were: Sheba & Dedan. Chus also begot Nemrod which bega to be myghtye in the erth. He was a myghtie hunter in the syghte of the LORde: Where of came the proverbe: he is as Nemrod that myghtie hunter in the syghte of the LORde. And the begynnynge of hys kyngdome was Babell Erech Achad and Chalne in the lande of Synear: Out of that lande came Assur and buylded Ninyue and the cyte rehoboth and Calah And Ressen betwene Ninyue ad Chalah. That is a grete cyte.

And Mizraim begat Iudun Enamim Leabim Naphtuhim Pathrusim & Castuhim: from whence came the Philystyns and the Capthiherynes.

Canaan also begat Zidon his eldest sonne & Heth Iebusi Emori Girgosi Hiui Arki Sini Aruadi Zemari and hamari. And afterward sprange the kynreds of the Canaanytes And the costes of the Canaanytes were fro Sydon tyll thou come to Gerara & to Asa & tyll thou come to Sodoma Gomorra Adama Zeboim: eve vnto Lasa. These were the chyldre of Ham in there kynreddes tonges landes and nations.

And Sem the father of all ye childre of Eber and the eldest brother of Iapheth begat children also. And his sonnes were: Elam Assur Arphachsad Lud ad Aram. And ye childree of Aram were: Vz Hul Gether & Mas And Arphachsad begat Sala and Sala begat Eber. And Eber begat .ij. sonnes. The name of the one was Peleg for in his tyme the erth was devyded. And the name of his brother was Iaketanr. Iaketan begat Almodad Saleph Hyzarmoneth Iarah Hadoram Vsal Dikela Obal Abimach Seba Ophir Heuila & Iobab. All these are the sonnes of Iaketan. And the dwellynge of them was from Mesa vntill thou come vnto Sephara a mountayne of the easte lande. These are the sonnes o Sem in their kynreddes languages contrees and nations.

These are the kynreddes of the sonnes of Noe in their generations and nations. And of these came the people that were in the world after the floude.


Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • what did Ham do when Noah was drunk? what did Shem and Japheth do?
  • what curse did Noah put on Canaan, the son of Ham?
  • who was Nimrod?

Source: William Tyndale's Pentateuch (1530-1534).


Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM