My question is at the very bottom of this; I'm using the KJV.

According to the following 4 verses, Shem's son Arphaxad would have been born on the ark.

Gen 5:32 And Noah was 500 years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Gen 7:11 In the 600th year of Noah's life, in the 2nd month, the 17th day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

[If Noah was 600 years old here Shem was about 100 years old (600 – 500)].

Gen 11:10 Shem was an 100 years old, and begat Arphaxad

Gen 8:13 And it came to pass in the 601st year (of Noah’s life), in the 1st month, the 1st day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.

(If Noah was 601 years old here with Shem 500 years younger, Shem would have been 101 and Arphaxad at least born).

However, accordingly to the citings below, no children left the ark.

Gen 8:15-19 And God spake unto Noah, saying, Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee. Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee, of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth. And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark.

Gen 9:18-19 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.

At first it seems Arphaxad would have been born on the ark. While Noah brought with him every living thing, Arphaxad isn't shown as one. Next, God doesn't address or include Arphaxad as one who would be peopling the earth. However, “And Arphaxad lived 530 years, and begat Salah:" (Gen 11:12) (KJV).

How can this be reconciled?

1/20/14 NOTE: Of the other answers given, I believe David’s has been the best.

2/23/14 NOTE: For further detail and cross-referencing, please see
BH-SE: How can the 3 Questions be resolved with the math still correct?

  • 3
    This seems like a reasonable question, and this is definitely the site for such questions. You've got a theory, you've supported it, and you're asking if it's plausible. +1
    – Jas 3.1
    Commented Nov 8, 2013 at 4:45
  • Thanks for that comment, Jas 3.1. The theory and supporting detail, the latter of which seems to yet doesn't contradict, has me asking additional questions like this. Commented Dec 20, 2013 at 17:24
  • 1
    Note that Shem was not necessarily the oldest of Noah’s sons. Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 21:44
  • 1
    @JohnMartin - glad you found that answer helpful enough to award a bounty, so thank you! I'm not sure it gave you a lot to go on, except (1) to confirm your own discovery of an almost insoluble puzzle in biblical chronology (which is worth something!), and (2) to put you in touch with a really expert engagement with it -- so, a foil, at least, for developing your own resolution to the problem. If you're interested in biblical chronology more broadly, these online articles might be stimulating.
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Jan 21, 2014 at 20:25

7 Answers 7


In the original post Gen 11:10 is only partially cited, like this -

Gn 11:10 When Shem was 100 years old, he became the father of Arpachshad…

although in the OP answer, the rest of the verse is quoted:

Gen 11:10 ...Shem was 100 years old, and begat Arpachshad 2 years after the flood.

Of course, that end phrase ("two years after the flood") solves one of the main problems: this is why Arpachshad is not mentioned among those who leave the Ark. According to Gen 11:10, he was born two years later, and this is the tradition accepted by Rashi.

But the question itself is very astute, because that leaves the problem of the other dates which seem to add up to Arpachshad's being born in the year of the flood, or on the Ark.

The very best treatment of this I know is in the superb study by Jeremy Hughes, Secrets of the Times: Myth and History in Biblical Chronology (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990). He deals with this problem directly on pages 22-23, which I hope Google Books will let you see. Hughes identifies the same discrepancy you do on pp. 17-19, setting out the data there, but defers his attempt at an explanation for a few pages.

In very short summary, Hughes suggests that this is a correction to the "Priestly chronology" that solves one problem, but only by introducing another unnoticed. You will really need to read him for the details, I'm afraid, which are too complex for summary here.

His larger charts setting out the various (competing) chronologies are available online, though (see Tables 1.1 and 1.2 for data relevant to this question), and although you need to see his book for the argumentation and reasoning, the charts themselves might still be of interest.

  • Thanks, David. I've searched the Internet and found nothing to date to answer this. Regarding the 2 year difference on the combination of the 3 verses below (i.e. Gen 5:32 with Gen 7:11 and Gen 11:10) one person handed me the book "Genesis" by a Professor Gerhard von Rad. It says, “There is an inconsistency between the data in Ch. 5-32 and Ch. 7-11 on the one hand and Ch. 11.10 on the other which has not yet been satisfactorily solved, if one decides against simply deleting the words “two years after the flood”, for at this time Shem was not 100 years old, but 102.” Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 23:34
  • I excluded parts of verses such as Gen 5:32 and 7:11. To me those seemed to make my question harder to understand yet would have no effect on an answer. Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 23:43
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    @JohnMartin - von Rad was a brilliant commentator, but the enigma you spotted needs more help. Hughes was more deeply immersed in the minutiae of chronological problems in the Hebrew Bible, and if he couldn't come up with more than a hypothetical suggestion to solve it, I'm quite sure I can't! I'm sure you'd enjoy reading him though: very clearly presented and argued. Many other works of biblical chronology only treat the period of the monarchies, so Hughes does more than most. Hope this helps!
    – Dɑvïd
    Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 23:46
  • I'll see what Hughes may have said then. Thanks. Commented Jan 13, 2014 at 23:49
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    I haven’t gotten very far into Hughes’ thoughts. What I do see is “the only way out of this dilemma that I can see is to suppose that this 2-year interval is actually a chronological correction”. Beyond this 2-year problem I’ll need to check on this question's one. Thanks. Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 13:46

Genesis 5:32 does not say that Noah was 500 years old exactly when he had Shem, it says:

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

with the colon in there it disconnects the births from his age. The five hundred years is there to note when God gave him his marching orders. It shows us in concert with Genesis 7:11 that it took Noah approximately 100 years to build the ark.

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

In fact, in the ESV Genesis 5:32 says:

After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Genesis 11:10 then shows us when Shem was born, which backtracking would have been when Noah was 502, Shem would have been around 98 when the flood was over (glossing over the long period the flood was on the earth), and then two years later bore Arphaxad.

These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:

  • I don’t understand why we’d backtrack for Noah but not his 9 ancestors. The only difference from those 9 is that Noah was in the flood. However, we’d be backtracking for him. Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 6:44
  • We do backtrack for all of them. That was how Ussher was able to determine the date of creation and the age of the world. Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 6:49
  • @JohnMartin, I spent a lot of time this weekend just trying to track down anything on the phrase "after the flood" to see if anyone had an opinion on whether that referred to the beginning or the end of it, but didn't find anything. So when I get the time to do more analysis, I'll start with the end, and then give the correction factor for the beginning. Commented Dec 2, 2013 at 7:26

I believe the better explanation is the common practice of rounding numbers. Shem was ca. 100 years old when the flood began, though his exact age may have been 98.

Similarly, David reigned 7 1/2 years over Judah, 33 years over all Israel, and 40 years total (2Sam 5:5): unless one assumes one of these numbers are rounded, one has a serious problem.

Similarly, when counting the number of people in Israel in Numbers, the following was the result: enter image description here

We would be mistaken to assume that each of these 24 numbers are exact. For instance, consider the top left number (the number of men able to fight in Reuben in Num 1): 46,500. No one reading the text naturally would assume that this number is exact: there may well have been 46,497 men in Reuben.

Similarly, when i say that pi is 3.14, no one would accuse me of lying because the exact value of pi has an infinite number of decimals (and is indeed unknowable).

Thus: There is no reason to read the "life begins at birth" vs. "life begins at conception" debate into the story of the life of Shem. There are several arguments one can use, but Shem's age is not among them.

  • While the previous question might have caused debating, I’ve deleted that. This one shouldn’t cause debating. Thanks. Commented Nov 27, 2013 at 14:31

This is not precisely an answer to the question, but it is a requisite concept. (It also didn't fit into a comment well.)

Margin of Error When Linking "When X was Y years" Statements

When I say "error" here, I'm not referring to errors in the text, only inaccuracies in measuring lengths of time.

Linking ages statements together has a necessarily large margin of error. The time period "when I was 30" covers exactly 365 days.

Consider: "When I was 30, my son was born. When He was 30, his son was born."

Assume I was born on Jan 1, 1984.

When I was 30, my son was born.

  • (Earliest) Son's Birthday: Jan 1, 2014
    • My age: 30y 0d
  • (Latest) Son's Birthday: Dec 31, 2014
    • My age: 30y 364d

When he was 30, his son was born.

  • (Earliest) Son's Birthday: Jan 1, 2014
    • (Earliest) Grandson's birthday: Jan 1, 2044
      • Son's age: 30y 0d
      • My age: 60y 0d
    • (Latest) Grandson's birthday: Dec 31, 2044
      • Son's age: 30y 364d
      • My age: 60y 364d
  • (Latest) Son's Birthday: Dec 31, 2014
    • (Earliest) Grandson's birthday: Dec 31, 2044
      • Son's age: 30y 0d
      • My age: 60y 364d
    • (Latest) Grandson's birthday: Dec 30, 2045
      • Son's age: 30y 364d
      • My age: 61y 363d

My age when my this grandson was born is between 60.00 years and 61.99 years. The 365 day imprecision is compounded when I chain these two "when X was" statements together. The more links in the chain, the greater the possible error.

  • The 365 days comes from our reckoning of a year. I don't know how the ancients measured years, but regardless of how short/long they were, the compounded error of linking statements together is about (slightly less) 1 "year" per link.
    – mojo
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 17:33

In the last 5 verses of Genesis it seems Joseph’s age at death of 110 is given twice. Joseph dies at about 110 That isn’t done for anyone else and made me think the authors might be defining “life” as one thing and “years old" ("age" and "lifetime") as another.

Looking at the question above from a math perspective and assuming “life” is a synonym for “years old” (“age” and “lifetime”), a problem will always exist. The only mathematical explanation is that fatherhood and childhood (life) begin at conception.

A similar question to resolve comes from a different set of factors. Combining the following three verses seems to leave 2 years to explain.

Gen 5:32 (KJV)

And Noah was 500 years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Gen 7:11

In the 600th year of Noah's life, in the 2nd month, the 17th day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

Gen 11:10

These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an 100 years old, and begat Arphaxad 2 years after the flood:

[Note: It’s incorrect to claim that "2 years after the Flood" shouldn't be there (i.e. is simply a mistake). In that case, Shem would have been 100 years old (Noah 600 less becoming Shem’s father at 500 = Shem 100) with his son Arphaxad born and in the ark during the flood. However, no living child left the ark.]

Again, the only mathematically acceptable explanation is that fatherhood, motherhood and childhood (life) begin at conception. That’s what the Genesis authors are indirectly stating.

There's more detail on this and others with How can the 3 Questions be resolved with the math still correct?


Arphaxad was born the year following the flood. Here is why:

It has to do with how the Jews counted numbers back then. Today, we have the concept of zero. The Jews started out at one back then. So when someone was born, they were already 1-years-old. So when someone in Genesis is told of being of a certain age, you need to subtract 1 from that age to reconcile it with today's math. Today, we don't consider someone as a 1-year-old until their 2nd year of life.

If you subtract one from all the years given in Genesis starting from Adam and working forward until the birth of Arphaxad, the math comes out perfectly with Arphaxad being born the year after the flood.

Here is an excerpt from a website that best describes the confusion between the way we modern Westerners count and the way the Hebrews historically counted:

Counting in Hebrew and Western Idiom

In America (read Western) culture a child is not considered to be one year old until he has reached his first birthday. But in reality, that child is in his FIRST YEAR from his birth up to his first birthday. He is then in his second year immediately following his first birthday. The term " a son of one year" in the Hebrew language is used to describe a child from birth to his first birthday. In other words, a child "one year old" by American or Western idiom is "a son of TWO years" in the Hebrew idiom. Therefore, in Hebrew thought, a person is not in his 30th year following his 30th birthday, but rather he would be in his 30th year following his 29th birthday! Consequently, he would be in his 31st year following his 30th birthday. This is EXACTLY how the term "a son of (XX) years" in Hebrew is used in the Bible.

Using another example, the Bible tells us that the Israelites were to circumcise their sons on the eighth day after birth -- see Genesis 17:12. Most Westerners would calculate this as follows: Let's say a child was born on the Sabbath -- eight days later is the day following the next Sabbath (i.e. the first day of the week), is it not? NO, IT IS NOT -- not in the Hebrew mind! So just how are those eight days to be counted? The fact is, it doesn't matter if the child was born five minutes into the Sabbath or five minutes before the Sabbath is about to end:

  • That Sabbath -- is the 1st day
  • The 1st Day of the Week -- is the 2nd day
  • The 2nd Day of the Week -- is the 3rd day
  • The 3rd Day of the Week -- is the 4th day
  • The 4th Day of the Week -- is the 5th day
  • The 5th Day of the Week -- is the 6th day
  • The 6th Day of the Week (Preparation Day) -- is the 7th day, and
  • The 8th day is the following Sabbath.

If the child is born on the Sabbath, that child will be circumcised on the NEXT SABBATH -- NOT on the first day of the week following that second Sabbath!

  • 1
    Can you provide a reference for the claim that the Israelites would say that a newborn was 1 year old?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 1:41
  • A reference for the claim is needed. Maybe draw an analogy with the kings (or judges or anything where time is kept). Can you find one with a statement where we would recon the rule to be one more year than what the Bible lists?
    – Frank Luke
    Commented Jul 21, 2014 at 13:30

Notational convention for this response

Dates will be stated as year.month.day, where year is AM if only the year number is stated or the nth year in the life of a person if the year is stated as name.n. Thus, the day when the Flood began is 1656.2.17 = Noah.600.2.17. Also, month.day may be replaced by d.nnn, with nnn being the day number within the year, so the previous date is also 1656.d.047 = Noah.600.d.047.

The first year after Creation is year 1. You are n years old (yo) in the (n+1)th year of your life.

Chronological framework for the first three biblical patriarchs

1.1.6: Adam was created.

1 AM (after d.006) = Adam's 1st year, when he was 0 yo.

2.1.6: Adam turned 1 yo.


131.1.6: Adam turned 130 yo. At this moment, he had lived 130 years.

131 AM (after d.006) = Adam's 131st year, when he was 130 yo.

When Adam was 130 yo he begot Seth. So Seth was born in the year 131 AM. Let us assume that it was precisely on Adam's birthday. Thus:

131 AM (after d.006) = Seth's 1st year, when he was 0 yo.

132.1.6: Seth turned 1 yo.


236.1.6: Seth turned 105 yo. At this moment, he had lived 105 years.

When Seth was 105 yo he begot Enosh. So Enosh was born in the year 236 AM.


The point of this is to show that, if the sum of the begetting ages of the previous patriarchs is n, a patriarch was born, at the earliest, in the year (n + 1) AM. Thus, assuming that all patriarchs up to Lamech begot their first sons on their birthdays, Noah was born in 1057.1.6, so that 1057 AM is the 1st year of Noah's life.

Chronological framework for Noah and Shem

1057, Noah.1, Noah was 0 yo.


1557, Noah.501, Noah was 500 yo.

  • 1557.sm.sd: Noah begot Shem (Gen 5:32), with sm.sd > 2.27.


1656, Noah.600, Noah was 599 yo.

  • 1656.2.17: Flood began.

1657, Noah.601, Noah was 600 yo.

  • 1657.2.27: the earth was dry; Noah and his famility leave the ark.

  • 1657.sm.sd: Shem turned 100 yo, with sm.sd > 2.27.

1658, Noah.602, Noah was 601 yo.

  • 1658.2.17: Shem begot Arpachshad, exactly 2 years after the Flood began (Gen 11:10).

  • 1658.sm.sd: Shem turned 101 yo, with sm.sd > 2.27.

While the statement by the P author that "Shem was a hundred years old, and begot Arpachshad two years after the flood." (Gen 11:10) does not mean necessarily that Arpachshad was born exactly two years after the Flood began, it is clear that the data item "two years after the flood" was provided by the P author to ensure that the Flood chronology was understood correctly as stated above.

Thus, the answer is: No, Arpachshad was definitely not born or even conceived on the ark.

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