The first time you read the verses in this chapter, you may be overwhelmed with how boring they seem. There is a repeated pattern of the descendants of Adam, where the progeny of each is listed. But if the reader is not careful, interesting and telling nuances can be missed, particularly with quick skimming. Before we get into some of the hidden gems of meaning in chapter 5, let us outline the people listed, how long they lived and the name of the principal son fathered by each.
- Adam, at 130, fathered Seth
- Adam had more children, died at 930
- Seth, at 105, fathered Enosh
- Seth had more children, died at 912
- Enosh, at 90, fathered Cainan
- Enosh had more children, died at 905
- Cainan, at 70, fathered Mahalalel
- Cainan had more children, died at 910
- Mahalalel, at 65, fathered Jared
- Mahalalel had more children, died ay 895
- Jared, at 162, fathered Enoch
- Jared had more children, died at 962
- Enoch, at 65, fathered Methusaleh
- Enoch had more children, was taken by God at 365
- Methusaleh, at 187, fathered Lamech
- Methusaleh had more children, died at 969
- Lamech, at 182, fathered Noah
- Lamech had more children, died at 777
- Noah, at 500, fathered Shem, Ham and Japeth
To start, let us think about what a tragedy it is that Adam died. We did of course know that he would die from Genesis 3:19, but the finality of his death actualizes the curse in the wake of the fall of man. It shows the seriousness of man’s transgressing God’s commands and that God’s decrees will come to bear.
Next, let us look at two deviations from the genealogical pattern established in this chapter:
- The first deviation is Enoch, who was fathered by Jared. Although he has the same name, this is not the same Enoch fathered by Cain that we read of in Genesis 4:17. Enoch represents a deviation because his death is not recorded, but verse 24 tells us that “…Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.” What this phrase means exactly is somewhat of a mystery, but we can extrapolate that it does not mean that Enoch ceased to exist, but rather that he was taken into God’s presence. There is only one other man in the Bible that was taken by God rather than dying. This was Elijah and his account is found in II Kings 2:1-11.
- The second deviation from the pattern is Noah, whose death is not mentioned because chapter 6 introduces us to his story and the advent of the great flood. The chapter ends with Noah for this reason. Also interesting is the break from the pattern when Lamech describes Noah, saying in verse 29: “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.” Noah’s birth is celebrated because his story will bring righteous mankind through the flood, which will decimate evil and reverse the land curse that God put on the ground in Genesis 3:17. Noah represents comfort for this reason.
There are a few additional things to consider before we leave chapter 5. First, notice that only men are mentioned, indicating that human society is primarily built as a paternalistic structure where the name and influence of the man is stressed in these genealogical accounts. Masculine parenthood is listed all throughout the Bible, with a notable exception being when the genealogy of Christ is mentioned in Matthew 1:16 and Mary is listed to show that Christ was miraculously born of a virgin.
Also, we would be remiss if we were not in awe at the great long ages of these men. Starting from Adam, who died at 930, we notice the decline of human longevity particularly after the events of the great flood. After the flood, Abraham died at 175 and Joseph died at 110. We have no real biblical explanation for why man stopped living as long as he did in the beginning, but some surmise that environmental/ecological conditions before the flood were different, allowing for longer life. Others believe that God shortened the life of man because this great abundance of years was no longer needed after the initial phase of existence. God reveals to us precisely what we need from His Word, and we do not always get the full details.
Finally, there is the somewhat muted theme of righteousness and pleasing God to consider. This one is easy to miss, but we can see the beginnings of it back in chapter 4, when Abel pleased God with his sacrifice. This offering of worship was evidently born out of a desire to please God. We have not had commands from God that man sacrifice to Him yet in the Bible at this point, yet certain men (Abel and Enoch) surely pleased God with their efforts for Him. While Enoch is not mentioned as sacrificing to God, Genesis 5:24 says that Enoch walked with God. And do not forget Genesis 4:26, where men “began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
So there was sacrifice and prayer with God before the flood and before God’s coming commandments of the tabernacle and the instructions on burnt offerings that are to come. We do not know whether the activities from Abel and Enoch were prompted by some unrecorded communication from God, or if Abel and Enoch merely loved God and committed acts of worship without provocation. Whatever the reason, it is obvious that God sees and appreciates pure offerings to Him. He hears prayers and blesses those that call upon His name.
I encourage you to pray to God tonight, realizing that He hears us today just as He heard the prayers and recognized the offerings of these earliest of men. It is the same Almighty we pray to today as they did so many years ago. Think of it!