Arphaxad was a son of Shem and a grandson of Noah. When Shem was one-hundred years old he fathered Arphaxad, two years after the flood.[1] Arphaxad was apparently the firstborn, but also had several brothers including Elam, Ashur (ancestor of Assyria), Lud and Aram (ancestor of the language of Aramaic).[2]


Those who assume an unknown foreign origin to the name make guesses as to the meaning of this odd name. The spelling in English is a transliteration of the Greek Αρφαξαδ, which is itself a transliteration that is at best a phonetic guess. The Hebrew is אַרְפַּכְשַדֿ, which transliterates as ARP(h)KSD. One scholar takes the Arphak to be from a roots RPK and SD and thus conveying a failed breast, or a child that refused to wean well.

However, by assuming that Moses was influenced by the Egyptian language, the "P{h}" can be taken to point to the origin ("home town"). Thus, a much nicer name of Ur, or Ar, meaning "light" emerges as the name Shem named the infant in the dawn of a new age. Later, Ur would found the great city and post-Babel civilization. The people there were the Kesedim, which reflects the Kesed, the last part of Ar-p-Kesed's name.

Early Life

The flood was still a fresh memory in the minds of the survivors when Arphaxad, or Ur, was born. Though listed first in Genesis, the parallel listing in 1 Chronicles presents him as third.[3] If this were the case, Shem's wife was producing children right out of the ark, with the heir to the promise being the third born late in the second or early in the third year after the flood. It is reasonable to assume child bearing would begin immediately, if not before disembarking the ark.

Life was not easy, though, and everyone came of age learning how to plant and harvest the major crops that they needed to survive. Arphaxad would have been weaned, even if much later (see above) in time to help his cousins and siblings in the fields. By the time that Noah planted the vineyard, the postdiluvian population may have reached triple that of the first generation. With twenty-five or so mouths to feed, herds and flocks would have been necessary for clothing, food, and even utility (water jugs and needles, for instance). Two or three generations after the flood, when he had reached the age of thirty-five, Arphaxad's wife gave birth to Shelah, or Salah. This was just one of at least five children, for he would live another 403 years.

Later Life

While his nephew Nimrod was busy settling the plain between the rivers, Ur's brother Asshur was also establishing himself as a leader in the west.[4] The cities formed a league with its center at Babel, where Nimrod led the people to build a very tall temple to reach the sky. In fewer than 200 years, the descendants of Noah were listening to their contemporaries rather than the older founders of the new world. In the latter years of his life, in the days of Peleg, his great grandson, the tower of Babel would stand half finished.[5] It was then that his brothers would go west and he would travel south to the sea to start the town of Ur.


The Assyrians would last longer, but the city-state at Ur would produce the earliest known civilization. Out from that city would come Terah and his sons Nahor and Abram, along with their wives and families. They would quite literally come out from "Ur of the Kesedim". By this time, though Noah and his sons were probably still alive, the grandchildren from that generation had died out by the time of the exodus from Ur.


  1. Genesis 11:11 (Link)
  2. Genesis 10:22 (Link)
  3. 1st Chronicles 1:17 (Link)
  4. Genesis 10:8-12 (Link)
  5. Genesis 11:5-9 (Link)