From Adam to Noah, 1-32

Genesis 5:1 This is the written account of Adam’s line.

This is the written account of Adam’s line – Or, ‘the book of’.  This form of words suggests that the editor is drawing on a pre-existing written account.

The two genealogies, in Gen 4 and Gen 5, have some similarities but many differences.  Some scholars think that different editors have adapted a common genealogy for their own purposes, whereas others (e.g. Wenham and Hamilton), think that they trace different lineages.  Wenham cites R.R. Wilson as stating that ‘peoples often retain variant genealogies alongside each other without sensing any contradiction between them.’

‘In April 1890, William Henry Green of the Princeton faculty wrote an article in Bibliotheca Sacra pointing to some clear principles used by the writers of Scripture in the construction of genealogies. Those principles include the following:

1. Abridgment is the general rule because the sacred writers did not want to encumber their pages with more names than necessary.

2. Omissions in genealogies are fairly routine. For example, Mt 1:8 omits three names between Joram and Ozias (Uzziah); namely, Ahaziah, (2 Kings 8:25) Joash (2 Kings 12:1) and Amaziah. (2 Kings 14:1) In verse 11, Matthew omits Jehoiakim. (2 Kings 23:34) In fact, in Mt 1:1 the whole of two millennia are summed up in two giant steps: “Jesus Christ, the son of David about 1000 B.C., the son of Abraham about 2000 B.C..”

3. The span of a biblical “generation” is more than our twenty to thirty years. In Syriac it equals eighty years. Often in the Exodus account a generation is 100 to 120 years.

4. The meanings of begat, son of, father of and even bore a son often have special nuances, as the context often indicates. To beget often means no more than “to become the ancestor of.” To be the father of often means being a grandfather or greatgrandfather. The point is that the next key person was descended from that male named “father” in the text.’ (HSB)

Just as there are parallels between the Sumerian flood story and elements of Gen 4 (references to nomadism, building of cities and institution of public worship), so (writes Wenham) there are parallels regarding the exceptionally long reigns ascribe to the antedeluvian kings (the numbers are even a magnitude higher in the Sumerian account).  Nevertheless, there are many differences too, making direct dependance of one upon the other unlikely.

When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man”.

‘Both “image” and gender distinction (“male and female”) are emphasized as in 1:27–28 because the blessing, as evidenced through procreation (1:28), is realized by the prolific Sethites. By this genealogy creation’s order is perpetuated (vv. 1b–3). The recitation of ten names (indicating completeness) in chap. 5 and the common refrain “other sons and daughters” (vv. 4, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 26, 30) trumpet the mercy and provision of God for the line of Seth. Just as we remember the uniform six days of creation, we hear in chap. 5 the same drumbeat of God’s orderly creation by the regular birth of human life.’ (Mathews)

Genesis 5:3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.

Concerning the historicity of Adam, Bruce Ware observes: ‘the language and kinds of descriptors of Adam in Genesis 5:3-5—the number of years he lived after Seth, that he had other children, and the total number of years he lived—are identical to the language and kinds of descriptors used of other historical persons in Genesis and elsewhere (cf., the rest of Gen 5; Gen 11:10-26; Gen 25:7-11; 1 Chron 1-9).’ (SBJT 15.1 (2011): 100-07)

Whatever questions we may have about the details of these narratives, these genealogies clearly root them in historical realities.  It is just so with the genealogies with which the NT accounts begin the story of Jesus.  As Mathews remarks: ‘Luke particularly takes the universal view of the work of Jesus in tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to Adam. It shows dependence on Genesis 5 and 11 specifically (Lk 3:34–38), where Luke pointed out the unique relationship Adam enjoyed as the “son of God” (Lk 3:38). He utilized Jesus’ human credentials to contribute to his wider Christological purpose (Lk 3:21–38), appealing to Adam as a prototype of Jesus as the Son of God.’

Genesis 5:4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 5:5 Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.

And then he died – A sobering refrain.  These patriarchs lived long, but they did not live for ever.  In the midst of life we are in death.

‘Genesis’s early genealogies indicate that hope prevails through Adam’s successors—namely, in Noah and later Abraham (5:1–32; 11:10–26), both of whom are instrumental in the preservation of the blessing. Carrying on, the Christian message proclaims that those born to the “last Adam” realize that hope, one that transcends even the clutches of Ancient Death (Rom 5:12–21; 1 Cor 15:22, 45–49).’ (Mathews)

The ages of the antedeluvians
Aside from textual difficulties (there are many differences between the most ancient texts on this matter) we are faced with the question of how to explain these exceptionally long life spans (all these individuals were at least 65 when their first child was born, and most lived for up to 1,000 years!).  The problem is compounded by the fact that if we put the various data together, we come up with a date for the creation of Adam (about 4004 BC) which would be even more recent if we assumed normal life spans for his descendants!

Various theories have been put forward.

  1. the traditional view is that the numbers are to be taken literally, without gaps, and that the earth is, accordingly, just a few thousand years old
  2. the years of Genesis 5 were much shorter than ours
  3. there were long gaps in the genealogy (so W.H. Green)
  4. the numbers indicate the lifespan of the family, rather than the lifespan of the individual (Kidner)
  5. a different numerical system (e.g. sexagesimal rather than decimal) is used here
  6. the ages relate to various astronomical periods (Barnouin)
  7. the long life spans reflect theological (and possibly not historical) truth: not only procreation, but long life, is seen as a blessing and hope from God.  Mathews writes: ‘In the Mosaic law long life was the product of God’s blessing for obedience. This was etched in the mind of the community by the Fifth Commandment (Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16), which is distinctive as the first of the commands with a promise (Eph 6:2–3). Long life was commonly tied to the heritage of living in the land (e.g., Deut 4:25; 30:20). Outstanding heroes, such as Abraham, Gideon, and David, were said to have lived to a “good old age” (Gen 25:8; Judg 8:32; 1 Chr 29:28). Strikingly, apart from the patriarchs of Genesis, in the Old Testament only Job (140), Moses (120), Joshua (110), and Jehoiada (130) lived longer than a century of years. Isaiah also points to long life as a feature of blessing in the eschatological age (Isa 65:20).’

Wenham, after reviewing various options, concludes that no adequate explanation is available at present.

Genesis 5:6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh.

Genesis 5:7 And after he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 5:8 Altogether, Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.

Genesis 5:9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan.

Genesis 5:10 And after he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 5:11 Altogether, Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.

Genesis 5:12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel.

Genesis 5:13 And after he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 5:14 Altogether, Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died. Genesis 5:15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared.

Genesis 5:16 And after he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 5:17 Altogether, Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died. Genesis 5:18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch.

Genesis 5:19 And after he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 5:20 Altogether, Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.

Genesis 5:21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah.

Genesis 5:22 And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters.

Enoch walked with God – Here is a figure of speech which recalls the intimacy of fellowship between Adam and God in paradise. ‘used twice of Enoch, here and in v 24, and once of Noah, in 6:9. Later patriarchs “walked before” God (17:1; 24:40; 48:15) and the LORD God walked in the garden of Eden (3:8). The priests were expected to walk with God (Mal 2:6) and Micah 6:8 describes this as God’s basic requirement for all persons.’ (Wenham)

Enoch had not always so walked: it seems that the birth of Methuselah marked a spiritual turning point for him. God can use the cradle as well as the coffin to awaken a sense of himself and of eternal things.

Enoch’s walk with God was, (a) in the midst of ungodliness, Jude 14-15; (b) voluntarily chosen: it was not that God chose to walk his way, but that he chose to walk God’s way; (c) in the same direction as God: to walk together, there must be agreement. Amos 3:3.

See Heb 11:5

Genesis 5:23 Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years.

Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

Genesis 5:25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech.

Genesis 5:26 And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 5:27 Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.

The patriarchs who lived before the Flood had an average lifespan of about 900 years (Gen. 5). The ages of post-Flood patriarchs dropped rapidly and gradually leveled off (Gen. 11). Some suggest that this is due to major environmental changes brought about by the Flood.

Checking some questionnaires that had just been filled in, a census clerk was amazed to note that one of them contained figures 121 and 125 in the spaces for “Age of Mother, If Living” and “Age of Father, If Living”. “Surely your parents can’t be as old as this?” asked the incredulous clerk. “Well, no,” was the answer, “but they would be, if living.”

Genesis 5:28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son.

Genesis 5:29 He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labour and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.”

“He will comfort us” – ‘But of course any optimism engendered by chap. 5 is dashed by chap. 6. There the abuse of sexuality leads into the decree of the flood. Lamek’s hopes for mankind were not fulfilled as he expected. Instead of mankind’s being comforted by Noah, Noah is the only survivor of the cataclysm.’ (Wenham)

Genesis 5:30 After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters.

Genesis 5:31 Altogether, Lamech lived 777 years, and then he died.

Genesis 5:32 After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

‘The genealogy in chap. 5…serves to link the first founder of humanity, Adam, with its refounder, Noah. The long period of peace and apparent prosperity described in this chapter serves to make the sequel in Gen 6:1–8 the more surprising and shocking, just as the creation stories in Gen 1–2 make the fall in chap. 3 the more poignant.’ (Wenham)

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