Lately several people have asked me about the various lineages in the Tanach, especially among the sons of Noach. Who is a Shemite, a Japhethite, and a Hamite? What relationship do these biblically defined yet scientifically unverifiable lineages have on who is and who is not a Jew? Are all Jews "Semites?" Are "Semites" Jews? Before beginning, allow me to give a "spoiler" for those who may not go through all of this material with me:Judaism is an "extended family" composed of people from all nations, races, languages, ethnic groups etc.
The Sons of NoahA literal reading of Torah tells us that the sons of Noah were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. These three, along with their wives, Noah, and his wife, were the only human survivors of the global deluge. Everyone is descended from Noah through one of his three sons.
We can all agree that this is what the Torah teaches. Of course some debate whether the flood happened as described, whether it was actually a global deluge or merely a major regional event and so on. While this remains one of the mysteries of our shared history, based on what we have learned of ancient times from indigenous sources there is ample support that such a flood was experienced and remembered as the literal reading of the Bereshit account says. There really is no reason to reject the essential account.
Among the reasons for the remaining uncertainties is that to chart out these lineages of the three recorded sons of Noah, none of whose existences can be objectively proven, we must rely on diverse texts from different sources and these do not agree in all points. In addition we must address certain scientific problems, including how so many unique races could have developed in such a short time from just three couples. The Torah dates the flood (Genesis 7,8) to circa 1611 HH (HH: Ha'luach Ha'ivri: The Hebrew Calendar reckoning; 2150 BCE).
With regard to the prior issue, many religious and cultural texts other than those of Israel say that such a flood occurred. For example there is the well known Gilgamesh flood account. Gilgamesh's historical reign is believed to have been approximately 2700 BCE, shortly before their earliest known written stories. This places it only slightly earlier than the biblical version according to rabbinic reckoning. The discovery of several artifacts related to Kings Aga and Enmebaragesi of Kish, referenced in the Gilgamesh stories, lends credibility to this account. Earlier still there are the Atra-Hasis tablets. These Babylonian finds include both a creation myth and a flood account similar to those in the Torah. The name "Atra-Hasis" also appears on one of the Sumerian king lists as king of Shuruppak in the times before a flood.
Many years ago I was honored to sit with members of Cherokee people as they shared their memories of the global flood:A long time ago a man had a dog. This dog began to go down to the river every day, look at the dark water, and howl. The man became angry and scolded the dog. The dog then spoke to him and said: "Very soon there is going to be a great flood! The water will come so high that everybody will be drowned; but if you will make a raft to get upon when the rain comes you can be saved, but you must first throw me into the water." The man did not believe it, and the dog said, " If you want a sign that I speak the truth, look at the back of my neck." The man looked and saw that the dog's neck had the skin worn off so that the bones stuck out.
Then he believed the dog, and began to build a raft. Soon the rain came and he took his family, with plenty of provisions, and they all got upon it. It rained for a long time. The water rose until all the mountains were covered and all the people in the world were drowned. Then the rain stopped. The raft came to rest on Bald Mountain [in Northern Georgia, near Hiawassee] and the waters went down again, until at last it was safe to return to their former home. But then there was no one left alive, only the man and his family. One day they heard a sound of dancing and shouting on the other side of the ridge. The man climbed to the top and looked over; everything was still, but all along the valley he saw great piles of bones of the people who had been drowned, and then he knew that the ghosts had been dancing.
Farther across the seas in the Misty Isles it is taught that the first people to arrive in Ireland were led by Cessair, daughter of Bith, the son of Noah like figure. According to their legends, the original Irish people were told to "go to the western edge of the world so as to escape the oncoming Flood." They set out in three ships from an uncertain foreign land but when they landed in Ireland -- forty days before the Flood -- two of their ships were lost. The only survivors were Cessair, forty-nine other women, and three men: Fintan mac Bóchra, Bith and Ladra. In order to replenish the earth the women were divided evenly among the three men (memories of the three sons of Noah?). When the Flood comes, Fintán is the only one to survive. He becomes a salmon and later an eagle and a hawk, living for 5,500 years after the Flood, he again becomes a man and recounts Ireland's history. This tale is set far earlier than the Torah's account and includes mythic features like the man becoming a fish. However, this is interesting in part because of the well known flood story from India.
Back East in Bharata Varsha, India, the man Manu and a great fish, named Matsya, save the human race from the global flood. The legend first appears in the Shatapatha Brahmana (700–300 BCE), and is further detailed in Matsya Purana (250–500 CE). Matsya (the incarnation of the god Vishnu as a fish) forewarns Manu (a human) about the impending catastrophic flood and orders him to collect as many grains as possible into a strong boat. Some versions say that all living creatures are also to be preserved in this boat, or in other boats. When the flood destroys the world, Manu – in some versions accompanied by the seven great sages – survives by boarding an ark like vessel, along with many animals, which Matsya then pulls to safety. Matsya does his act of protection due to a kindness shown to him by Manu when he was just a small fish (like a young salmon?).
Innumerable global flood accounts exist around the world. I submit that each of these were passed on from memories still basically intact at the point when Elohim destroyed the Tower of Babel, confused the languages, and dispersed the human family throughout the globe. If this is correct, then it makes complete sense that the Biblical and Gilgamesh accounts would be the closest to the original experience but that many other versions would exist around the globe. Of course the Torah's version is our focus here as we seek to understand the the roles of the sons of Noah and particularly the lineage of Shem.
What About Canaan, Noah's Fourth Son?We have ample room remaining for interpretation of this incident. Had Canaan literally castrated his father the string would have been tied to his testicles not his penis, and the site would have been far more grim than that presented. This however is a discussion for another time. I include it here because of its significance in demonstrating that Noach had four sons, not just three.
It is likely according in many earlier versions of the account (such as the J source 1), that Noah actually had four sons not three: Shem, Ham, Japheth, and Canaan, although the later Priestly source texts include only the three sons (see Genesis 5:31, 6:10, 7:13, 9:19, 10:1, and all P texts ibid).“The vineyard episode in Genesis 9 is fundamentally difficult. It introduces the protagonists, Noah and his three sons, but then adds a parenthetical comment that Ham was "the father of Canaan" (9:18); since Canaan is otherwise absent from this tale, this aside is troublesome.The J Text has it this way (the "//" shows where the older J text varies from the P texts):
A similar parenthetical remark is made when Ham commits his sin, and instead of simply referring to Ham, calls him "Ham, the father of Canaan" (9:22). When Noah wakes up from his drunken stupor he realizes what his son has done to him, but instead of cursing Ham, Noah curses Ham's son, who did nothing wrong. Though the nation of Canaan is deemed as culpable of many sins in later narratives, the man Canaan is guilty of nothing. Why then does Noah curse him?” 29:18 The sons of Noah who went out from the ship [ark] were Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and // Canaan. // 9:20 Noah started out as a farmer, and planted a vineyard. 9:21 He drank of the wine and got drunk. He lay naked within his tent. 9:22 // Canaan saw the nakedness of his father, and told two of his brothers outside.3 9:23 Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, walked backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father. Their faces were averted, and they didn't see their father’s nakedness. 9:24 Noah awoke from his wine [literally "induced stupor"], and knew what his youngest son had done to him. 9:25 He said, “Canaan is cursed. He will be a servant of servants (serving) his brothers.” 9:26 He said, “Blessed be Adonai, the God of Shem. Let Canaan be his servant. 9:27 May God make Japheth mighty. Let him dwell in the tents of Shem. Let Canaan be his servant.” 2As evidence:Some intriguing corroboration to this enumeration is found in the midrash (late first millennium C.E.) – Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer, on verse 23, which also saw Canaan as one of Noah’s sons and solves the text-critical problem similarly. It goes without saying that Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer had no knowledge of J’s base text, 1 though his harmonistic reading suggests a similar understanding:
Pirkei de-Rabbi Eliezer on verse 23:
Noah found a vine… the vine still had grapes upon it… he planted a vineyard from this vine…and on that very day fruit grew… he drank wine from it [the vine] and he revealed himself in his tent. Canaan came in, saw his father’s nakedness, tied a string to his penis and castrated him, then he went out to tell his brothers… Ham came in, saw his father’s nakedness, and neglecting the commandment to honor one's father, reported it to his two brothers as though he were in the market and laughing at his father. His brothers rebuked him, they took a cover, and walking backwards covered their father’s nakedness… Noah arose from his stupor, discovered what his youngest son had done to him, and cursed him, as it says, "Cursed is Canaan." 2
This sort of material is why, by the way, the 2014 movie Noah includes Tubal-cain among the survivors of the flood. This version of the account draws heavily from Rabbinic sources. I mention this here for completeness only, I didn't care for the movie personally. If we take the Global Flood as presented by the sages of Israel as an historically reliable event, then humanity emerged through all four sons, not just the three.
Here is the general distribution of the families of the sons Noah:Shem: Noah's firstborn son was granted the rights of the firstborn. Shem was declared the leader of the B'nei Noach: the children of Noah. The descendants of Shem include Avraham Avinu ("our father Abraham") who received the Avrahamic Covenant on behalf of all Klal Israel, his descendants through Sarah. The initial lineage of Shem included the then future Jews (both born and adopted) through Sarah, as well as the Semitic Arabs through Hagar, the people living to the east of Babylon and the Persian Gulf, the Assyrians, the Northern Arabs and others.
Eventually the specific blessings granted to this Semitic (i.e. through Shem) lineage was narrowed by Will of HaShem to the descendants of Avraham and Sarah only (thus the Avrahamic Covenant excludes the line of Ishmael including the Arabs and others as described at Genesis 17:20,21:And regarding Ishmael, I have heard you; behold I have blessed him, and I will make him fruitful, and I will multiply him exceedingly; he will beget twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.Of these "twelve princes" Rashi says:
But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year."
And He finished speaking with him, and God went up from above Abraham.twelve princes: Heb. נְשִׂיאִים. They will disappear like clouds, as (Prov. 25:14): Clouds (נְשִׂיאִים) and wind. — [from Gen. Rabbah 47:5]As for Ishmael,
from above Abraham: This is a euphemism used in reference to the Shechinah, and we learn that the righteous are the chariot of the Omnipresent. — [from Gen. Rabbah 47:6, 82:6]He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be upon all, and everyone's hand upon him, and before all his brothers he will dwell."The Covenant and its blessings established with Avraham and Sarah passed to Isaac and Jacob (whose name God changed to Israel), and thence to the 12 Houses of Israel. In time the blessing was further narrowed to the Houses of Judah and Benjamin when the 10 northern houses were defeated by the Assyrians and became the divorced "Ten Lost Tribes of Israel." Today the inheritors of the ancient Covenant are known as the Jews. All of Israel is contained within the Jewish people. The rights, blessings and responsibilities of Shem now reside with the Jews alone.
Ham: and his offspring include the Ethiopians, Egyptians, Africans, Libyans, Phoenicians, Hittites and others. As all Noahidim, the descendants of Ham are advised to embrace the Seven Law Covenant and to seek HaShem.
Japheth: His descendants will be "enlarged" and blessed if they "dwell in the tents of Shem." In other words, if they bless the Shemites (the Jews) they will be blessed by HaShem as righteous Gentiles, but if they choose to curse the Shemites (the Jews) they will be cursed by HaShem more than the rest (Genesis 12:3). This blessing/cursing applies to the descendants of Ham as well, however it is specifically directed to the descendants of Japheth, who are instructed by HaShem to "live in the tents of Shem" and to assist them. Due to the dispersions of the Jews among the other nations, especially among the Japhethites, Genesis 12:3 is especially applicable.
The descendants of Japheth include the Cimmerians, Cimbri, Celts, Scythians, Russians, Greeks, Anglo-Saxons, Syrians, Thracians, Armenians, the peoples of Asia Minor, Sicilians, Cypriots etc.
Canaan: When Canaan (Tubal-cain) is viewed as the fourth son of Noah rather than as Ham's son, we have some fascinating possibilities in terms of biblical research. Some find a direct and disturbing connection between Tubal-cain and the Nephilim. Genesis 6:2 is translated in very different ways. Here are four examples:Some divine beings noticed how attractive human women were, so they took wives for themselves from a selection that pleased them -- International Standard VersionA fascinating study, but somewhat afield from our present considerations since the offspring of these unions are not referenced as "Semites." Under normal interpretation the descendants of Canaan are treated as the descendants as Ham.
That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose -- Authorized King James Version
That the sons of the nobles saw the daughters of man when they were beautifying themselves, and they took for themselves wives from whomever they chose -- Judaica Press Version
that the sons of G-d saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives, whomsoever they chose -- Virtual Tanach Version.
Shem and the Shemites:Eber: "the Hebrew"
Noah's firstborn son's name means "name" or "fame" because through his descendants HaShem's Name and Fame was to become known. Our title for G-d, "HaShem," means "The Name" and refers to His Four Letter Name but also to His Fame and all of His many Attributes.
According to Genesis 10:22-3122 The children of Shem were: Elam, and Asshur, and Arphaxad and Lud and Aram.
23 And the children of Aram; Uz and Hul, and Gether and Mash.
24 And Arphaxad begat Salah and Salah begat Eber.
25 And unto Eber were born two sons: the name of one [was] Peleg; for in his days was the earth divided; and his brother's name [was] Joktan.
26 And Joktan begat Almodad, and Sheleph, and Hazarmaveth, and Jerah.
27 And Hadoram, and Uzal and Diklah,
28 And Obal, and Abimael and Sheba,
29 And Ophir, and Havilah, and Jobab: all these were the sons of Joktan.
30 And their dwelling was from Mesha, as thou goest unto Sephar a mount of the east
31 These [are] the sons of Shem, after their families, after their tongues, in their lands, after their nations.For us however, the Semites are more specifically those whose native or traditional tongue is Ivrit/Hebrew. Why? Based on Torah we understand that the initial Promise bestowed on all Semites was narrowed to those descending from Avraham and Sarah. This Torah declaration removed the descendants of Ishmael (i.e. the Arabs) from this category. Are they still "Semites"? Linguistically yes, but not in terms of the Promise.Noah - Shem - Arphaxad (Arpachshad) - Shelah - EberThrough the physical line of Shem came Eber. Through Eber the word Ivrit or Hebrew is derived. The term Shemite (or Semite) and the term Ivrit (or Hebrew) are largely descriptors of language. As we approach the time line of the Tower of Babel this linguistic connection becomes more clear. The original human language was passed down from Noah to his son Shem, and from Shem to Eber. This initial language was Ivrit, Hebrew. The term Semite does not refer to biology but to language. As standard dictionaries will show:Semite: a member of any of the peoples who speak or spoke a Semitic language, including in particular the Jews and Arabs.4
The Eternal One, Blessed be He, chooses whom to covenant with and what the conditions of His covenants will be. As Elohim (G-d over all so-called gods) He covenanted with Adam and Chava, and then with Noach and his four sons when the rest were found unworthy. By His Sovereign Will He set Noah's son Shem and his line aside to be His nation of priests (Exodus 19:6). The failings and hopes of all humanity are reflected in this lineage. Torah says that who bless this lineage are blessed by G-d and all that curse this lineage are cursed. Regardless of future human failings, through this lineage of Shem the entire earth is blessed and will one day be redeemed.6 Then, as El Shaddai the Holy One established His formal Covenant with the Shemite Avraham due to his firm emunah5. HaShem thus restricted His Covenant and Promise of universal redemption through the seed of Avraham and Sarah (not through Hagar), via Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve tribes that emerged through Jacob/Israel. With this choosing of HaShem removed all other Semites from the Promise, including the descendants of Ishmael, the Arabs.7
In time the Northern Ten Houses of Israel were "divorced" by HaShem for relentless idolatry. In brief, the Ten Northern Houses of Israel disappeared from history due to spiritual adultery (II Kings 17:18). The Southern Kingdom of Judah was then chosen by HaShem to maintain the Eternal Covenant. Eventually similar failings by Judah caused it to fall as well. Judah was punished with captivity in Babylon, but was never 'divorced' by HaShem: "...there was none left but the tribe of Judah only" (II Kings 17:18). "And I saw, because of all that backsliding Israel [i.e. the Northern Ten Houses] had committed adultery, I sent her away, and I gave her a bill of divorcement, yet treacherous Judah, her sister, did not fear, and she too went and played the harlot (Jeremiah 3:8). This experience was another culling of the Chosen People by HaShem. The Covenant continues with Judah. This chastisement of both and the divorcement of Israel (the Northern Houses) demonstrates the importance of loyalty and obedience to HaShem's Torah. This terrible experience established that HaShem is sovereign in the affairs of humanity. He builds up or removes governments as He desires (Daniel 4:17). HaShem chose in favor of Judah and secured their continued existence as His Elect.
From this point the Covenant and Promise passes only through the House of Judah: The Jews.8.
As time passed the term Semite therefore came to refer only to halachic Jews, because the Avrahamic Sinai Covenant now only applies to the Jews. For this reason all Jews are referred to Semites regardless of their native language, race, culture, etc. All halachic Jews descend from the Semitic Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob. All Jews are called to maintain Ivrit (Hebrew) religion, culture, language, and tradition. This includes those remaining "biological Semites" (although such a term is inaccurate) and all those who have been "adopted" into Covenant family through historic or present conversions. That this is a halachic fact is seen in the surname of all converts: ben or bat Avraham v'Sarah. Converts are the adopted children of Avraham and Sarah. The childless couple has become the most fruitful. Accordingly the term Semite rightly applies to all Jews, whether they are physically descended from Shem and Avraham or not. The terms Jew and Semite are now synonymous because we all are the children of Shem and his biological descendants. The House of Y'israel is echad and our G-d is echad.And Rabbi Elazar said: The Holy One, Blessed be He, exiled Israel among the nations only so that converts would join them, as it is stated: “And I will sow her to Me in the land” (Hosea 2:25). Does a person sow a se’a of grain for any reason other than to bring in several kor of grain during the harvest? So too, the exile is to enable converts from the nations to join the Jewish people.
And Rabbi Yoḥanan said that this idea may be derived from here: “And I will have compassion upon her that had not received compassion; and I will say to them that were not My people: You are My people” (Hosea 2:25). Even those who were initially “not My people,” i.e., gentiles, will convert and become part of the Jewish nation -- Tractate Pesachim 87BALL Jews are Semites even though not all Jews are physically descended from Shem.
Avraham Avinu: Our Father AvrahamJust as all Jews are sons and daughters of Noach, so too we are all the children of Avraham Avinu through Sarah, whether our lineages pass to us through our birth mothers or through adoption, whether directly or indirectly throughout the centuries. Whether our physical bloodlines pass through Shem, Ham, Japheth, or Canaan. This is partly why the currently attacks on the Ashkenazim are so abhorrent to us. Some scholars trace the origins of the Ashkenazi Jews to Japheth's grandson Ashchenaz, some demand they are the descendants of Shem despite the obvious physical differences with them and the clear similarities with the house of Japheth. Some people, usually anti-Jews, posit a much more recent origin with the Khazars, a semi-nomadic Turkish people who settled in Europe. While intellectually interesting, NONE of this matters! Judaism is a race nor a bloodline. it never has been. As early as the exile from Egypt, if not before, different bloodlines merged with the physical descendants of Avraham. Of these distinctions Torah says:
Avraham Avinu ("our father Abraham") descended through the physical and linguistic line of Shem, through Eber, and hence is called a Semite (Shemite) and an Hebrew:Noah - Shem - Arphaxad (Arpachshad) - Shelah - Eber - Peleg - Reu - Serug - Nahor - Terah - Avraham Avinu.Avraham is the "father" (avinu) of all Israel (Jews). He is therefore called "the First Convert" and 'the First Jew". Our sages teach:Abraham was born in the year 1948 from creation (1813 BCE), during the reign of the mighty Nimrod, who ruled over almost all of civilization. Abraham's father Terah was one of Nimrod's noblemen. Abraham grew up in a society where everyone, including Abraham himself, worshiped idols.
As a mere child of three, Abraham began to think incessantly about the nature of the world, its origins and what power was behind it all. Abraham continued this search throughout his early years, gradually distancing himself from the idolatrous practices of his generation, as he began to formulate a pure monotheism.
At age 25 he married his niece Yiskah (also known as Sarai, and later, Sarah). Around this time Nimrod began building the Tower of Babel...
Abraham — who, according to some, participated in building the tower in its initial stages — turned vehemently against the project. He took it upon himself to repeatedly rebuke those involved.
After many ... trials and tribulations that are recounted in the Bible, G-d forms a covenant with Abraham and proclaims: "To your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt until the great river, the Euphrates River . . . 9
When Abraham was 99 years old, G-d commanded him to circumcise himself and his offspring, saying:
You shall keep My covenant, you and your seed after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall observe between Me and you and your seed after you: that every male among you be circumcised. You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin, and it shall be as the sign of a covenant between Me and you...The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, "This is the statute of the Passover sacrifice: No estranged one may partake of it...There will be no distinctions between the born Jew and the converted Jew. It is for this reason that all Jews need to proclaim with pride and zeal that we are ALL Semites, regardless of our line of physical descent, AND we must never consider ourselves to be "more Jewish" than the convert who has worked so hard to enter the Covenant of HaShem. Our sages are abundantly clear about this. As Jews this is our lineage and our heritages. Jews are not "Whites" nor "Blacks," "Asians" nor "Arabs." ALL Jews are "Semites" and "Hebrews," we are the children of Avraham Avinu whether we are physically descended from Shem, Ham, Japheth, or Tubal-cain. To say anything else is disrespect our Patriarchs and our G-d!
A sojourner or a hired hand may not partake of it...
The entire community of Israel shall make it].
And should a proselyte [i.e. a convert] reside with you, he shall make a Passover sacrifice to the Lord. All his males shall be circumcised, and then he may approach to make it, and he will be like the native of the land, but no uncircumcised male may partake of it.
There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who resides in your midst."
All the children of Israel did; as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did-- Exodus 12:43-52.
As For Lot:
Lot is in the required Messianic lineage and so some people wonder about his background with the sons of Noah.
Lot was a "physical Semite," a descendant of Shem. Hew was an Hebrew, a descendent of Eber. He was a nephew of Avraham Avinu. Lot's father was Heran so his lineage is as follows:Noah - Shem - Arphaxad (Arpachshad) - Shelah - Eber - Peleg - Reu - Serug - Nahor - Terah - Heran - Lot.This connects the Messianic line with Shem, although that tie is far from pure. Like the vast majority of the minority of Jews who can trace a direct connection with Shem, Mashiach's lineage will include many people from other houses including many Moabite connections.
According to the Rabbis, Lot had four daughters, two of whom were married, and two were betrothed. The two married daughters and their husbands, along with the two future bridegrooms, remained in Sodom and perished, leaving Lot with only two daughters after the destruction of the city.10
The rabbis debate many things about Lot and his two daughters, whom he impregnated. Without going into this in too much detail, here is the essential thing to know:[The rabbis seem to blame Lot for the sexual sins while the daughters are treated more gently]. The underlying reason for the sympathetic treatment of the daughters of Lot apparently stems from Ruth [the convert] the Moabite's tracing her lineage to them and the subsequent descent of King David and, eventually, of the Messiah, from Ruth's marriage to Boaz. According to the midrashic account, when Lot was commanded to rescue his two daughters from the destruction the angels already foresaw that Ruth the Moabite and Na'amah the Ammonite would descend from them (Gen. Rabbah 50:10). In addition, when Scripture tells of the incestuous act by the daughters of Lot, who say: "that we may preserve seed from our father" (Gen. 19:34), it uses the word zera ("seed," or "offspring" in a more general sense), and not "son," since the intent of the Holy One, blessed be He, was related to the Messiah (Gen. Rabbah 51:8). Thus, from a historical perspective, this act was essential for the future advent of the Messiah. This also explains the midrash (Gen. Rabbah, loc. cit.) that Lot's daughters had no wine; a miracle was performed for them, and the cave in which they lived became a portent of the World to Come, dripping with wine, as in the depiction of the World to Come: "And in that day, the mountains shall drip with wine" (Joel 4:18). ... [Another] midrash [Gen. Rabbah 51:9] reiterates the purity of their intentions, since they lay with their father only a single time, to ensure the continuity of the world. Just as Ruth acted for an ideal when she went down at night to the threshing floor of Boaz, so, too, the daughters of Lot acted altruistically (Gen. Rabbah 51:10). 
Malkhut Beit David: "The Kingdom of the House of David"
The lineage of Mashiach Ben David therefore runs along this line:Noah - Shem - Arphaxad (Arpachshad) - Shelah - Eber - Peleg - Reu - Serug - Nahor - Terah - Heran -- Lot - Lot's eldest unmarried daughter, the mother of the Moabites - [long time break] - Ruth (who converted to Judaism and was not a descendant of Shem). Ruth was a granddaughter of Eglon, king of Moab (who allied with the Ammonites and Amalekites and occupied Israel for eighteen years until he was slain by the Israeli leader Ehud as described at Judges 3). Eglon was a grandson of Balak, king of Moab (who retained the anti-Semitic sorcerer Balaam to curse the Israelites as recorded in Numbers 22-24), during the days of Moshe Rabbeinu.Question: Why did these two wicked kings merit having a righteous granddaughter like Ruth, through whom David HaMelech arose and HaMashiach ben David will one day arise as the redeemer of the world? The rabbis discuss this. question in great depth.
The Talmud teaches that "One shall always occupy himself with Torah and mitzvot, even if not properly for the sake of heaven. Why? Because Torah study will eventually lead one to do so for Torah's sake alone. So, in the merit of the forty-two sacrifices that Balak offered, they conclude, Ruth descended from him and through her the Promise will one day be realized: In the Jews all the world will be blessed (Genesis 12;3). Again, Ruth was not a Shemite. She was not a born Jew. Her conversion to Judaism has inspired generations or both born and converted Jews! As a convert, generations of Jews have emerged trough Ruth, including King David.
Because of King David's connection to a converted Moabite many self-righteous Jews at the time rejected him! David HaMelech did not meet their idea of how a Jew, let alone a King of the Jews, should be born! We see the same foolishness today as large segments of our people maintain anti-halachic prejudices against converts and Jews who can not produce evidence of a connection to Shem. Many Jews, with no possible connection to Shem, the man, at all, nonetheless claim that connection wrongly believing that all Jews are descended from him! It simply is not true. It does not make one any less of a Jew, but this false notion does feed into the rejection of ever more of our people by our own people. Such Jews would likely have rejected David HaMelech and may reject Mashiach Ben Yosef and Mashiach ben David when they emerge to redeem us.
Mashiach ben David, like David HaMelech, will have a Moabite convert in his lineage. Lot was a Semitic Hebrew (i.e. a descendent of Shem and Eber) but his eldest unmarried daughter line broke the lineage of Lot's family and non-Shemite Moabites entered their lineage. Many anti-Semites have poisoned the waters of reason by claiming that only blood descendants of Noah's son Shem are Semites (Shemites) and hence Jews. They use this claim to disavow the Jewishness of all Ashkenazim and non-Semitic Jews. By doing this they seek to reduce our numbers dramatically and pit Jew against Jew in mutually suicidal competition. And their plan is working!
Judaism is NOT a race! Judaism is NOT determined by ones physical connection to Shem, to Avraham, to Moshe Rabbeinu, or to anyone else but HaShem!
Judaism is a Covenant baed extended family. All those whose birth mothers are in the family are accepted as "born Jews." A huge percentage of these Jewish mother's have converts somewhere in their past, as did King David. it makes NO DIFFERENCE.
A person who wishes to join the Avrahamic/Sinai Covenant must be formally adopted by the Elders of our people. This has ALWAYS been the process, although the required details of doing this has varied. One can not just decide to be Jewish any more than a person can just decide to join your family and move into your house! Adoption has certain requirements and procedures. These are established by the leaders of the family. In this case, by the Rabbis who are our G-d anointed elders. For many reasons, some legitimate in my opinion, others are not so much, proper conversion to Judaism has become quite difficult and at times confusing. I discuss this elsewhere, but the fact is, if your mother was not halachically Jewish at the time of your birth you are not Jewish. If you wish be accepted as Jew, you must formally convert through the accepted processes. There is no other way. Today you can get a piece of paper on-line saying your are a convert for a small pittance, but you will be hard pressed finding anyone to accept you as a Jew.
If you wish to convert to Judaism and be fully accepted as a Jew (by at least 95% of the Jewish world) go to an Orthodox Shul (not "Modern Orthodox") and speak with the Rabbi. Those who formally convert through a recognized Orthodox beit din (religious court) will receive the greatest acceptance as a Jew. Some sects like Satmar will only accept their own converts. Those who convert non-Orthodox will find only rejection from the Orthodox. Prospective converts need to understand this disappointing fact. Orthodoxy is not rejecting the converts, they are rejecting the authority of the rabbis and beit din they go through. Is this how it is meant to be? Absolutely not! But this is how it is nonetheless. Converts have difficult decisions to make before the even begin the long process of conversion. In most cases my advise my sincere advice so to spare yourself the hardships and rejections. For the vast majority there is no need to convert to Judaism. Embrace the Seven Law Covenant you are already under and live a G-d fearing life.
If I can be of assistance let me know.
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Rabbi Shlomo Nachman