Genesis 5

The Word Made Fresh

1A list of the descendants of Adam:

When God created Adam and his kind they were made in the likeness of God. 2God created them male and female, blessed them and called them “human” when they were created.

3When Adam was 130 years old he became the father of a son, a human child like him, and named him Seth. 4Adam lived another 800 years after Seth was born. He had other sons and daughters as well. 5Adam was 930 years old when he died.

6When Seth was 105 he became the father of Enosh. 7He lived another 807 years, had other sons and daughters, 8and died at the age of 912.

9When Enosh was 90 he became the father of Kenan. 10He lived 815 more years after Kenan was born and had other sons and daughters. 11Enosh was 905 years old when he died.

12Kenan was 70 years old when he became the father of Mahalalel. 13After Mahalalel was born he Kenan lived another 840 years 14and died when he was 910.

15At the age of 65 Mahalalel fathered Jared. 16He lived 830 years after Jared was born, had other sons and daughters, 17and died when he was 895 years old.

18Jared was 162 years old when he became the father of Enoch. 19He lived another 800 years, had other sons and daughters, 20and died at the age of 962.

21When Enoch was 65 he became the father of Methuselah. 22Enoch was God’s faithful companion and lived another 300 years. He had other sons and daughters. 23In all, Enoch lived only 365 years. 24He walked with God and lived to be no older because God took him.

25When Methuselah was 187 years old he fathered Lamech. 26He lived another 782 years, had other sons and daughters, 27and died at the ripe old age of 969.

28When Lamech was 182 years old he became the father of a son. 29He named his son Noah, and said, “Out of the ground the LORD cursed, this one will bring relief from our hard work.” 30Lamech lived 599 years after Noah was born and had other sons and daughters, 31and died when he was 777 years old.

32At the age of 500 Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Commentary

You may have noticed that God has been variously referred to as God, the LORD (all capital letters), and the LORD God. Scholars think this is a clue to various sources to which the stories of the Torah (Genesis – Deuteronomy) can be traced.

 The most prominent theory is called the JEPD hypothesis:

J stands for Jahwist (in English, Yahwist). Some stories use the sacred personal name for God, Jah (also rendered Yah, or Yahu, or Yahweh). In order to guard against ever taking the name of God in vain, the convention arose very early that whenever that name appears in the text, the person reading it would substitute the word “adonai,” thus avoiding using the actual name for God. “Adonai” is the word for “lord.” When that word is used to denote the personal name for God, in English it is rendered in all capitals, LORD. When that word is used to refer to a human ruler, it is rendered Lord. When you see “LORD” in the text, that is a clue that the story comes from the J source.

E stands for “Elohim”, which is the Hebrew word we translate “God.” Whenever the text simply refers to God, “Elohim,” that is a clue that the story might belong to the E source.

P stands for “Priestly,” and the theory is that some stories come from a source that emphasized ritual activities. So, when we are reading about altars and offerings and rituals and the like, those details might belong to the P source.

D stands for “Deuteronomic,” and is pretty much confined to the book of Deuteronomy, which reads like a retelling of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers from a different perspective. We don’t need to be concerned with D in the first four books of the Bible.

Chapter 1 of Genesis uses “God” exclusively, so is an E document. Beginning at 2:4, however, suddenly God is referred to as “the LORD God,” which continues through Chapter 3. Then, in Chapter 4 we suddenly have another change, and God is referred to simply as “the LORD.” In Chapter 5 and beyond the references are mixed. Each change probably signals a different original source for the story, and they were all eventually put together in the form that comes down to us today, a form that has been intact for probably 2500 years or more.

1-2: In the last chapter the descendants of Cain were listed; here we have the descendants of Adam, beginning with Seth, Cain’s younger brother. In each generation, the family tree is passed on through one child only. The names of the other children are not given until we get to Noah at the end. Noah’s three sons then become the ancestors of the whole human race (except that it becomes clear later on that there are other people around who are not descendants of Noah, which begs the question of the totality of the destruction of the Flood.) The reference to humans being made in God’s likeness is a repeat of 1:26.

3-5: Only Seth is mentioned here. Cain and Abel are forgotten. In each generation the same information will be given: the name, the number of years lived before his son is born (not necessarily the oldest son – Seth was not the oldest), the number of years lived after this son is born, a note that other children were born, and the age at death.

Several explanations have been offered about the lengthy lives in Genesis. 1) The record is accurate; folks back then lived hundreds of years because life was simple, and the world was unpolluted. 2) Ancient people kept time with lunar calendars, not solar ones. If you divide the ages given by 12, you get a reasonable number. 3) Records were not accurate, and over the generations some ancestors were forgotten while others were remembered. As time went by, the ages of the forgotten ones were simply added to the remembered ones, resulting in ever growing life spans. 4) The records are fanciful. The ancestors may have lived, but the years ascribed to them are inventions of later generations who wanted their ancestors to appear to be very important people. The life spans here are extraordinary, but much more restrained than records found in other ancient societies. Some Near Eastern kings were said to have lived hundreds of thousands of years.

6-8: Many of the names in Adam’s family tree are closely related to the names in Cain’s family tree. For example, Seth’s son is named Enosh; compare Cain’s son, whose name was Enoch.

9-11: Enosh has Kenan, which in Hebrew is very like Cain.

12-14: Kenan has Mahalalel: compare Mahujael in Cain’s line.

15-17: Mahalalel has Jared: sounds close to Irad.

18-20: Jared has Enoch, the same name as Cain’s son.

21-24: Enoch, who has the shortest life – a mere 365 years – is the father of Methuselah, who has the longest life – 969 years. Note the similarity between Methuselah and Methushael from Cain’s lineage. Enoch is also the first one to receive any special notice, that he “walked with God,” and therefore died young. In Chapter 4, Cain’s son Enoch also got special notice by having a city named after him.

25-27: Methuselah is the father of Lamech. In Cain’s lineage, Methushael is the father of another Lamech.

28-31: Lamech fathers Noah, and in the entire list, Lamech is the only one who utters a speech. In the last chapter, Cain’s descendant Lamech was also the only one to deliver a speech, referring to his having killed a young man. The similarity between Cain’s list and Adam’s can only mean that, in the human race, there really isn’t that much difference between one family and another. We are all subject to the same foibles and the same noble leanings.

32: Noah, we are told, has three sons. He is the only one for whom the names of all the children are given. Adam also had three sons, and the mention of three sons here may be a clue to us that humanity is about to have to start all over again.

Takeaway

In every family tree there are good people and not so good people. The fact that we are here is evidence of God’s providence over the entire human race.