In Genesis 5, we come to the first of many genealogies of Scripture. These have proved to be a stumbling block to many who seek to read the Bible through. They start well, but they soon get to the desert of genealogies and give up their reading. Admittedly, these genealogies are somewhat difficult. So why don’t I just skip over them? For the simple reason that, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16).
Think about this: Have you ever poured over fine-print stock quotations or lists of baseball players and their batting averages? Have you ever studied recipe books or interior design magazines? If so, you must confess that details can be interesting and important. This is equally true in the Scriptures. Believe it or not, genealogies make significant theological points.
First, genealogies show the world that God is at work through human history. Second, genealogies show that God has preserved His faithful promises to create and bless through the family of Adam to Abraham to David and ultimately, through His Messiah, Jesus Christ. Obviously, these are not trivial or boring matters. Our faith rests on these types of issues.
[So let’s launch into this chapter of genealogy and see what the Lord has for us to learn.]
- We were created and blessed by God(5:1-2). Moses writes, “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.” These first two verses tell us that Moses is starting a new section (“book”) that will define a significant portion of Adam’s family tree. Again, Moses shares the story of God’s creation of Adam and Eve. These verses reiterate that Adam and Eve were made “in the likeness of God.” This is what gives us value, worth, and dignity. I’ve been thinking a lot about how being created in the likeness of God relates to expressions of God-given creativity. If you are artistic, musical, or creative, God wants you to use your gifts and abilities for Him. We must recognize that we have been created in the image of an Artist! So we should continually look for expressions of artistry, and be sensitive to beauty, responsive to what has been created for our appreciation.
In 5:2, Moses returns to the theme of God’s “blessing” man (cf. 1:27). This point needed to be reemphasized after their sin and subsequent loss of Paradise. Much has been forfeited. But much is still possible because Adam and Eve still bear the privilege of relating to God. This is equally true for us: Even though we live in the wake of the curse, we can live a blessed life. We ought to exude joy and pleasure as we go through life. This is also a part of his overall scheme, to cast God’s purposes for man in terms that will recall a father’s care for his children.
Throughout the remainder of the book of Genesis, a recurring theme is that of the father’s blessing his children (9:26-27; 27:27; 48:15; 49:1-28). In keeping with such a theme, the author shows at each crucial turning point in the narrative that God Himself renewed His blessing to the next generation of sons (1:28; 5:2; 9:1; 12:3; 24:11). Seen as a whole, the picture that emerges is that of a loving Father insuring the future well-being of His children through the provision of an inherited blessing. In this way, the author has laid a theological foundation for the rest of Scripture. God’s original plan of blessing for all humanity, though thwarted by human folly, will nevertheless be restored through the seed of the woman (3:15), the seed of Abraham (12:3), and the “Lion of the tribe of Judah” (49:8- 12; cf. Rev 5:5-13). [While we are created and blessed by God, the Bible also teaches…]
- We will die because of Adam’s sin(5:3-20, 25-32). This fifth chapter is a list of the ten descendants of Adam down to Noah (5:1-5, 6-8, 9-11, 12-14, 15-17, 18-20, 21-24, 25-27, 28-31, and 32). In the description of each generation, the same literary structure is followed:
(1) the age of the father at the birth of the firstborn;
(2) the name of the firstborn;
(3) how many years the father lived after the birth of this son;
(4) a reference to the fathering of other children;
(5) the father’s total lifespan.
This genealogy covers at least 1,600 years. Within the time-scale of the Bible, this chapter covers the longest period in world history. Like a VCR fast-forwards a tape, genealogies move the narrative ahead rapidly. This begs the question: Why does God include this genealogy? God is more interested in people than we are. If we were writing Genesis, we would have left all of these names out. But God genuinely cares about people. The world may not pay much attention to you; in fact, the more like Christ you are, the less the world will be interested in you. This can be lonely. But know this: God knows you and He cares about you.
One of the remarkable facts that leaps out of this genealogy is that the average age of the 10 people listed in this genealogy is about 900. This longevity, plus the fact that each man “had sons and daughters,” argues for a vast population by the time of Noah and the flood (cf. 6:9ff). If we assume that the sons and daughters of these men also had children and that these ten men were able to have additional children throughout their lifetime, there would have been millions of people by the time of the flood.
The Bible does not tell us why or how men lived so long before the flood. There have been a number of suggestions. Some have argued that the long life spans may be a reflection of God’s blessing upon the Sethites. Longevity, in Old Testament thought, is a sign of divine blessing upon the godly (see Deut 4:25; 5:33; 30:20). Others have suggested that the earth’s atmosphere was different before the flood. Therefore, it is possible that the earth had never had any rainfall, and the effect of cosmic rays and environmental factors may have been drastically different from our current surroundings. Another view is that, theologically, it is possible God granted these long life spans in order for humans to “be fruitful and multiply” according to His instructions (1:28). The view I hold is that the effects of decay and disease, due to sin, took time to do their damage on the physical part of humanity. Sin’s deadening power was gradual. Adam and Eve were “genetically pure and less affected by the deteriorating results of sin.”
One of the most important elements of this genealogy is the phrase “and he died,” which occurs eight times in this chapter (5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, and 31) and serves as a reminder of the consequences of Adam and Eve’s fall. It reveals that God’s plan also includes the death of humanity. Death is the consequence of Adam’s sin (2:17; 3:19; Rom 6:23). Despite technology (4:17-24) and spirituality (4:25-26), man cannot rise above the curse of death. Romans 5:12tells us, “through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”
A couple of times a week I exercise on an elliptical. It is as boring an exercise as I know. I hop on and step to nowhere. But this exercise allows me to stay awake and spend time in prayer. Human life is like a stationary exercise machine. You work out and get off, work out and get off, work out and get off. Live and die. Live and die. Live and die. The truth is the day is coming when the earth will not know us. We will be gone. This constant awareness is so important. At death, life is short for all. This is why Solomon says it’s better to go to a funeral than a party (Eccl 7:1-4). This chapter teaches the great truth that no matter how long you live you are going to die. This chapter also teaches the truth that no matter how long you live you will be in eternity a lot longer than you were here in time. Only one life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last. This ought to stir us to put first things first. Genesis 5 can be a reminder to live with the awareness of the end, and to take the calling of God seriously.
If you fear death and are not sure where you will spend eternity, it is imperative that you hear these words from Jesus.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
“I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25-26a).
If you believe in Christ, when you close your eyes in death, your new life will begin.
[We were originally created and blessed by God. Unfortunately, as a result of Adam’s sin we will die. But there is good news in 5:21-24.]
As I have already stated, the genealogy in these verses, generally speaking, follows a fairly rigid pattern. Therefore, when you encounter a structured genealogy, you need first to identify the structure, then, and perhaps more importantly, you need to observe what does not adhere to the pattern. That which does not follow the pattern of the rest of the genealogy is probably being emphasized by the author of the text for some specific reason. Determining that reason (if possible), therefore, is vitally important in order to understand, in part, what the author of the genealogy considers particularly significant.
- We can walk with God(5:21-24). In 5:21-24, we find a unique man named Enoch who is the one significant exception in this genealogy. With the exception of Enoch, each man’s death is recorded. The phrase “and he died” is utilized to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that Enoch did not die. With this in mind, we would do well to take some time to study the life of Enoch. Moses writes, “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah. Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” Enoch is the bright hope in an otherwise fairly depressing account. The placement of Enoch’s name could not be more intentionally dramatic. Evil Lamech, the man who worshipped his sword, was number seven in the Cainite genealogy, while here, Enoch, the man who walked with God, is number seven in the Sethite genealogy.
The phrase “walked with God” is only used of Enoch and Noah (cf. 6:9). “Walk” is a biblical figure for fellowship and obedience that results in divine blessing. The sense of “walk” (halak) in its verbal stem indicates a communion or intimacy with God. The Minor Prophets use this phrase to describe the intimate walk of priests who entered the Holy of Holies to speak directly with the Lord. It describes the closest communion with God—as if walking at His side. Enoch went through life, step by step, in fellowship with God.
I don’t like walks because they’re not efficient. If you’re trying to get something done quickly, you don’t take a walk. That is why the metaphor of a walk with God is so helpful. When you’re walking with someone, you’re not moving so fast that conversation is difficult. You can enjoy your companion. And then everything else becomes enjoyable. You can look together at the cloud formations, the turning of the leaves in the fall, the sound of the stream that you’re walking by, or whatever else is going on. And so taking long walks with someone is a great picture of intimacy.
The phrase “walked with God” also speaks of unswerving obedience and faithfulness. Hebrews 11:5-6 is a divinely inspired commentary on Genesis 5:22-24. The writer of Hebrews bolstered the hearts of his readers by communicating the concept that faith is the key to perseverance in the furnace of suffering (Heb 10:32-39). After giving a brief definition of faith (11:1), he cited an impressive list of people who gained God’s approval (11:2) and won spiritual victories by means of faith. Faith enables believers to understand creation (11:3, referring to Gen 1-2). Abel gained a righteous standing with God by means of faith (11:4, referring to Gen 4). And next is Enoch who, by faith, “was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found because God took him up; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God” (11:5). The next verse (tucked between references to Enoch and Noah, both of whom are said in Genesis to have walked with God) is critically placed and theologically significant: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (11:6).
A profound lesson in regard to legalism and faith can be mined from the account of Enoch. It is important to see that for the author of the Pentateuch “walking with God” could not have meant a mere “keeping” of a set of laws. Rather, it is just with those men who could not have had a set of “laws” that the author associates the theme of “walking with God.” By choosing such men to exemplify “walking with God,” the author shows his desire to teach a better way to live than merely a legalistic adherence to the law….For him the way to life was exemplified best in men like Enoch (“Enoch walked with God,” 5:22), Noah (“he walked with God,” 6:9), and Abraham (“Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness,” 15:6). It is to these patriarchs, who lived long before the giving of the law at Sinai that the author of Genesis turns for a model of faith and trust in God.
Another interesting element of Enoch’s faith was that he served God (Jude 14-15). Enoch did not walk with God in a secluded environment; he was a spokesman for God in the ungodly marketplace of his day. The Bible doesn’t tell us how long Enoch did this, but from the Genesis and Hebrews passages we can safely infer that Enoch served God right up to the day God took him.
Enoch lived this intimate and obedient life of progressive maturity for 300 years—three centuries! And so at the age of 365, while still a young man, “he was not, for God took him.” We don’t know how this happened. He may have been picked up in a chariot like Elijah (2 Kgs 2:11-12) or he may have been beamed up directly by God. Somewhere in the days of his fellowship with God, God revealed to him He did not wish Enoch to die. Amidst the endless dying that had gone on for thousands of years, God planned to give a demonstration of His power over death. And Enoch believed God! By faith Enoch was taken up (Heb 11:5).
But notice that Enoch did not always walk with God. The first 65 years of his life were quite another story. Evidently, he reflected for 65 years the same godless attitude as those around him. You ask, “Well, what started him walking with God then?” And the answer is given to us here. It was not receiving his Social Security payments when he reached 65, but it was the birth of a son, a boy whom he named Methuselah. The Bible says so. “Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methuselah three hundred years.” So it was the birth of this baby that started him walking with God. Surely there is more to this than simply the fact that he became a father. I have noticed that becoming a father has a profound effect upon a young man. It makes him more thoughtful, makes him more serious, more sober in his outlook on life. It does have a very beneficial effect but there is more to it than that, and it is revealed by the name that Enoch gave to his son. Methuselah is a very interesting name. It means, literally, “His death shall bring it,” or loosely translated, “When he dies, it will come.” What will come? The flood!
Enoch, we are told in another passage of Scripture, was given a revelation from God. He saw the direction of the divine movement, looked on to the end of the culture, the comforts, and the mechanical marvels of his own day, to the fact there must come an inevitable judgment on the principle of evil in human life. He saw the certainty of destruction of a world living only to please itself. When he saw it his baby was born, so, in obedience, evidently to God’s Word, he named the baby, “When he dies, it will come.”
Even though the death motif is strong in this chapter there is even more emphasis on God’s grace. We see this in the references to life, fertility (sons and daughters), Enoch’s translation, and other blessings. The finality of death caused by sin, and so powerfully demonstrated in the genealogy of Genesis, is in fact not so final. Man was not born to die; he was born to live, and that life comes by walking with God. Walking with God is the key to the chains of the curse.
A helpful exercise that has encouraged me to think through this issue is to ask the question, “What will they write or say in my eulogy?” When you are gone from this planet, what will your friends and family say about your contribution to them? Writing your own eulogy is a sobering exercise. It certainly brings focus to life! Because the reality is, you will not escape death! One day you will be no more, for God will take you to Himself.