Genesis 5:32 (KJV): And Noah was five hundred years old and Noah begat Shem, Ham and Japheth

This verse mentions Noah being five hundred years old and gaining three sons; does this indicated Shem, Ham and Japheth were triplets born to Noah?

My limited understanding would leads me thinking "begat" would indicate triplets, yet without understanding meaning and context of the verse I realise this could also encompass a time range.

2 Answers 2


In Genesis 5:32, the Hebrew is correctly translated as "And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth, although some English translations resolve this difficulty by adding the word 'after'."

Genesis 11:10 says: "These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:" As Genesis 7:6 says that Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth (although Genesis 7:11 suggests the flood started a few months earlier), Shem could not have been born when Noah was 500 years old. Ham must have been younger than Shem, since Genesis 9:4 calls Ham the youngest.

Midrash Rabbah Genesis 26 says, a number of times, that Japheth was the eldest son, so we suppose that he was born when Noah was 500 years old. The text leads to a conclusion that Shem was born next, perhaps two years later, and Ham some time later.


I think begat simply means to have (Jesus was God's only "begotten" son).

I hadn't ever heard anyone say that Shem, Ham, and Japheth were triplets, but it looks like it could be interpreted that way.

The NIV is a bit different in its translation though, and simply says "After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth." That could be interpreted as having them separately.

Genesis 9:24 also mentions Ham being the youngest son: "When Noah awoke from his wine and found out what his youngest son had done to him..." Technically, whichever triplet comes out last would be youngest, although that's really just a technicality.

  • I agree and my question is simply semantics in asking about triplets. Genesis 9:24 (KJV): "When Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his youngest son had done to him,"... As I read this I realized the last born triplet would be youngest as the first born would have first born rights of heritage.
    – aallord
    Jan 21, 2015 at 2:30
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