Logic Puzzle #1: Who was Nöãch’s eldest son?
ANSWER: Yapheth was Nöãch’s eldest son.
Genesis 5:32 states Nöãch’s age when he became a father. Unless his sons were triplets, he was not 500 years old when each of them was born. Granted Scripture says nothing about whether they were triplets or not, but it seems highly unlikely that they were.
Therefore, if Nöãch was 500 years old when he became a father, and he was 600 years old when the Flood came, then his eldest son was 100 years old at the time of the Flood. According to Genesis 11:10b, Shëm was 100 years old when his son was born, two years after the Flood. Therefore, Shëm was 98 years old at the time of the Flood. At the very least, Shëm is not the eldest son.
Since Scripture uses ‘younger’ or ‘youngest’ to describe Chäm, Chäm is not the eldest brother either. Nöãch only had three sons. Therefore, using the process of elimination, Yapheth must be the eldest son.
ON TO THE QUESTION OF THE BIRTH ORDER
Since Yapheth is the eldest son, the correct translation of Genesis 10:32 is “the brother of Yepheth the elder.” However, knowing this does not answer the question of whether Shëm or Chäm was the second son. To answer this question, I went to the Hebrew.
The Hebrew verb ‘qätön’ means ‘be small, insignificant, diminutiveness in quantity or quality.’ Davidson’s Analytical Lexicon lists ‘young, younger’ but not ‘youngest’ for the Hebrew adjective ‘qätän,’ Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon (BDB) lists ‘young, younger, and youngest.’ Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) prefers ‘young or youngest’ to translate the concept of ‘little in years.’
However, it is BDB citing Scriptures that use ‘qätän’ (younger) opposite ‘gädhôl’ (elder) when speaking of two children that provides the final clue. Yapheth is called ‘the elder’ and Chäm is called ‘the younger,’ but Shëm is not described as either. He appears to be standing in the middle. Since two years is a common age gap between siblings, I conclude that Shëm is the second son, which leaves Chäm as the youngest son.
Given that my study of Scripture finds that Shëm is the author of this section, I think that Shëm is describing the family relationships from his perspective as the middle child. Yapheth is his elder brother and Chäm is his younger brother, Nöãch’s youngest son.
Therefore, the correct birth order of Nöãch’s sons is Yapheth, Shëm, and Chäm. The order given in Scripture refers to some other order.