IIRC, it starts with Noah landing on the Ararat mountains somewhere in nowadays Turkey. Some 300 years later we hear that Shem runs a Yeshiva in Eretz Israel together with his grand-grandson Ever and Terah lives in Ur Kasdim in Iraq.

Because the culture was originally tribal, I presume they should have stayed together, especially if we accept the doctrine of their righteousness, after all, they studied the Torah!

So who was the exception - was it Shem and Ever who deviated from the tribe and came to the Promised Land, or the whole tribe came here and another descendant left Eretz Israel for Mesopotamia?

PS: This question doesn't focus on why (like "why-didnt-our-forefathers-team-up-with-shem-and-ever") but only seeks historical consistency - who went where and when.

  • 1
    Rashi/Chazal (12:6) say that Canaan was captured from the children of Shem by the Canaanim, and proves this from Shem/Malkitzedek being king of (Yeru)Shalem. Hence his descendants might have been driven out of Canaan to Haran/Ur Kasdim
    – AKA
    Dec 22, 2021 at 17:55

1 Answer 1


Perhaps a starting point can be provided from the Midrash in Bereishis Rabbah 44:7

אַבְרָהָם וְשֵׁם מְסֻיָּמִים בָּעוֹלָם. וְיִרָאוּ, זֶה נִתְיָירֵא מִזֶּה וְזֶה נִתְיָירֵא מִזֶּה, זֶה נִתְיָירֵא מִזֶּה לוֹמַר שֶׁמָּא תֹּאמַר שֵׁם שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּלִבּוֹ עָלַי שֶׁהָרַגְתִּי אֶת בָּנָיו, וְזֶה נִתְיָרֵא מִזֶּה לוֹמַר שֶׁמָּא תֹּאמַר אַבְרָהָם שֶׁיֵּשׁ בְּלִבּוֹ עָלַי שֶׁהֶעֱמַדְתִּי רְשָׁעִים. קְצוֹת הָאָרֶץ, זֶה שָׁרוּי בְּקִצּוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, וְזֶה שָׁרוּי בְּקִצּוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם. (ישעיה מא, ה): קָרְבוּ וַיֶּאֱתָיוּן, זֶה קָרַב אֵצֶל זֶה וְזֶה קָרַב אֵצֶל זֶה. (ישעיה מא, ו): אִישׁ אֶת רֵעֵהוּ יַעֲזֹרוּ, זֶה עוֹזֵר לָזֶה בִּבְרָכוֹת, וְזֶה עוֹזֵר לָזֶה בְּמַתָּנוֹת

The idea being that they were initially both fearful of the other and therefore kept their distance. Avraham was worried that Shem might resent him for killing his sons (in the war of the kings), and Shem feared that Avraham resented him for producing evil offspring / descendants. Accordingly, they dwelt in opposite parts of the world. Eventually they drew near to one and another and helped each other grow in their avodas Hashem, but until that time they kept a weary distance from each other.

  • Thank you, a very interesting Midrash that indicates their awareness of the discrepancy. The explanation, of course, is inconsistent with Terach, because Abraham was already born in Mesopotamia. +1 for the effort!
    – Al Berko
    Dec 23, 2021 at 11:32

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