What do we do with passages like these, which basically just has a list of names? As we look at this passage, let us remember the words of Deuteronomy 8:3,
“And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”
(A) What can we learn from the consistency of the genealogy?
Chapter 5 marks the start of a new section. Verse 1 serves as a section header, and similar indicators are used also in Gen 2:4 and Gen 11. This is helpful and reminds us that Genesis is a book that is organised and structured, and this next section continues to help us see the effects of the fall.
The genealogy begins with a recap of the previous chapters (v.1-3). We are reminded that:
- Man was made in the likeness of God.
- Both male and female were made in the image of God.
- God gave his blessing to the first couple.
The genealogy starts by presenting the relationship between God and man – God as the first father, with Adam as the first son. (Note: “Adam” means man in Hebrew). This first genealogy starts with with God and only then, traces the offspring of the woman thereafter (i.e. the promise in Gen 3 too). Note that the genealogy only traces the line of Seth, though Adam did have other sons and daughters, and even then, it may not record for us all of his offspring. Genesis is not chronological, and does not record for us everything that has happened. After all, remember how this is the third account of creation, but this has a unique focus and trajectory that is different from the previous two. This genealogy, and subsequent ones that we will encounter serve a specific purpose in the book, and helps unfold or explain the story.
This genealogy has been abused in many ways. Some have used this to argue that the Bible is not consistent. Here, it is important to note that the word “fathered” is used in a generic sense, and may not mean the direct descendants. Generations could be skipped in this narrative. Furthermore, this might seem foreign to us, but genealogies are selective and meant to be purposeful. Some have also tried to use this genealogy to predict the age of the earth. Once more, this could be false as genealogies were not written with the purpose of providing the history of time.
The genealogy teaches us about the reality of the world after the Fall. There is a general formula to it – “A lived x years and fathered B. When A lived (x+y) years, he died.” Adam’s death was recorded for us in verse 5. This is a fulfillment of God’s statement in Genesis 1 about the effect of disobedience. From then on, the death rate of all man has been 100%. Heb 9:27 reminds us of this biblical reality that we live in a world of impending and sure death, and Genesis 3 is the answer to the world’s question about why death exists in the world today. Death confronts us at every turn, but this world that we live in is so averse to death. It makes us uncomfortable. But how does knowing that we will die change the way we live today? How does knowing that you too, will be spoken of in the past tense in future, make a difference?
The pattern also shows us that they lived many years. We will read later in Genesis 6 that God caps the age of man. Rom 3:26 reminds us that God is gracious to allow man to live in spite of sin. Not only did God allow for life, the ability to father and have offspring was important in God's salvation plan.
The genealogy makes us realise that “life after the Fall is guaranteed to end in death, but sprinkled with God’s grace”.
(B) What can we learn from the inconsistency of the genealogy?
If we look at the genealogy closely, we notice that the regular pattern of the genealogy gets disrupted at:
- Adam (v1-4)
- Enoch (v21-24)
- Lamech (v28-31) (note: not the same as the one in Gen 4)
- Noah (v32)
Who is Enoch? Enoch was said to have “walked with God”. This is significant as this was only used to describe Enoch and Noah throughout Moses’ writings. This phrase paints a picture of friendship, relationship and intimacy. It is different from “walked behind God”, a picture of obedience and “walked before God”, which is used to convey consecration. Why would God want to break the consistency and pattern established previously? This hints that the God of judgment is also one of grace and mercy. This is a God who raises up people who love Him even in a world of sin!
Heb 11:5-6 helps us understand more about Enoch’s life. “Faith” was used to describe his life and there were two key beliefs that helped him to walk and live a life of faith. Firstly, Enoch believed that God exists. In this pre-enlightenment era, the issue of God’s existence was not about proving if God exists. Rather, it was about accepting God on His terms, based on what He has revealed, and if this God could be trusted. Secondly, Enoch also believed that He rewards those who seek Him. The God of Genesis, as we have been learning, is a relational God, and the ultimate reward and blessing, is Himself! As we look at the life of this man, can we say the same thing about our lives? Is your relationship with God a real one? Is your faith authentically lived out?
In the description of Enoch in the genealogy of Genesis 5, we are also told that he did not die. Though not the norm in the broken and fallen world, his life is recorded for us and held out as a hope amidst the brokenness and despair.