CLAIM: This passage states that Shem will be blessed by God. Christian apologists often argue that God would bring the Messiah through the Semitic peoples (e.g. Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians, Hebrews, Arabians, etc.). Is this the case?
RESPONSE: The passage states that someone will dwell in the tents of Shem. The NLT and NIV both state that Japheth would dwell in the tents of Shem. However, text is anonymous (see the NASB for a literal translation). We don’t know if it is God or Japheth, who will dwell in the tents of Shem. There are, however, a few reasons for believing that this is speaking of God, dwelling with the Semitic people (specifically Israel).
First, God is the subject of the previous clause. Kaiser notes, “Hebrew language presumes that the subject of a previous clause will carry over to the next one when no other subject is interjected.” Therefore, grammatically, we should favor the interpretation that God was promising to dwell with Shem.
Second, if Japheth was dwelling in the tents of Shem, this would imply military takeover or some other disgrace. However, this prediction in Genesis 9 was supposed to imply blessing upon the Shemites –not judgment.
Third, this prediction was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus, dwelling among us. Later in history, God came to dwell with the people of Israel in the Temple. Ultimately, however, the Temple was replaced by God dwelling in human flesh through Jesus. John writes, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…” (Jn. 1:14). Literally, the Greek reads, “He built his tent among us.”
 Kaiser, Walter C. The Messiah in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub., 1995. 44.
 Kaiser writes, “This would humiliate Shem, making him little better off than the curse set upon Canaan.” Kaiser, Walter C. The Messiah in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub., 1995. 45.