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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Genesis the Book of Beginnings Part 22 - The First Genealogies (Chapter 5)

The entire content of Genesis 5 is one of those things that, when we often read it, we wonder what it's doing in there.  Often called one of those "Boring Begats" passages, this particular chapter chronicles the genealogy of Adam all the way to Noah, and it sort of provides a bridge between the Cain and Abel story in Genesis 4 and the beginnings of the story of Noah in Genesis 6.  Throughout Genesis (in particular the first 12 chapters) we see these "begat bridges" at certain breaks in the narrative, and they are there for a reason.  In this case, it provides a couple of reasons in that it continues a flow between several generations it seems of little activity between Seth and Noah, and also as we look into the etymology of the names, we see that there is significance there as well.  In other words, once the genealogies are understood as being included in the salvation legacy by God for a specific purpose, they begin to make more sense as will be seen.

I also want to mention the advanced ages a moment that you see in the genealogies.  Almost every person in Genesis 5 who is documented lives past 900 years, and to the modern-day person who reads this with the influence of Enlightenment rationalism that has permeated much of the way we look at Scripture in the past 200 years or so, this can look impossible.  Indeed, many people have dismissed the advanced ages of so many of these people as allegory at best or mythology at worst, and in essence when someone does that, they are saying that God is a liar and that His Word is not reliable.  We need to be careful about dismissing what Scripture says just because it doesn't fit into our intellectual boxes at times, and perhaps we should give God and the writers of Scripture some credit for documenting fact.  That being said, I wanted to mention a word about why these ages were so advanced.

The antediluvian world was a much different place than today's world, in that during the time period most of these people in Genesis 5 lived, the full effects of the consequences of the Fall had not yet manifested.  The earth still had a canopy (firmament) that protected the atmosphere, meaning that oxygen levels were probably much higher.   So, the environment would have been ideal for longer lifespans as well as some creatures (dinosaurs) reaching astronomical sizes.  Man was indeed mortal at this point, and many of these people did experience a natural death, but that took place many years after their births, sometimes centuries.  You will also note that many of these early generations of man were having children when they were hundreds of years old, and that boggles the modern mind as well.  But, if you accept the fact that better environmental conditions aided in longevity, then health-wise it was not at all surprising that many of these people could still do a lot even at greatly advanced ages.  Now after the Flood, there is a notable drop in lifespans as the generations progress, to the point that by the end of the Old Testament the average age for many would have been only 80-100 years, about what it is today.  This is a reason why when we read God's book, we must read it differently from the way we read most other material, because God is using His people to write down what He showed them, and we have the responsibility to trust Him with what He said rather than trying to rationalize it to fit our own limited mental boxes.   With that being established, I want to go ahead and delve into the genealogies themselves in this chapter.


The above chart (courtesy of New2Torah.com) is a handy tool to use to document the ages of many of these people we will be discussing in detail as it also shows the overlap they had with their descendants and ancestors.  For purposes of this particular lesson, we are only concerned now with the top half of the chart, which documents the generations from Adam to Noah.  

Beginning in verses 3-5, there is a summary of Adam's life.  In verse 3, we read that at the age of 130 he and Eve bore Seth, and that he lived for an additional 300 years after Seth's birth until dying at the age of 930 years.  It must be noted here that Adam was a special case as well, being he was created by God directly and was a fully-formed adult on the day of his creation.  Subsequent generations will be measured from their actual birth years.  It also notes in verse 4 that during Adam's life, he was the father to "many sons and daughters," which as we saw in the last lesson Josephus and others believed to be as many as 33 sons and 21 daughters.

Adam's son Seth is documented in verses 6-8.  At the age of 105, Seth's wife gave birth to his son Enosh, and afterward Seth lived another 807 years, being around the age 912 when he finally reposed.

Enosh, Seth's son, had a son named Cainan when he was around 90 years of age, and this is recorded in verses 9-11.  After Cainan's birth, Enosh lived another 815 years, finally reposing at the age of 905.

Cainan's life is discussed in verses 12-14.  Cainan was 70 years old when his son Mahalalel was born, and he lived an additional 840 years afterward before passing away at the age of 910.

Verses 15-17 discuss Mahalalel.  When Mahalalel was 65, his son Jared was born.  After Jared's birth Mahalalel lived an additional 830 years, having many children, before his repose at the age of 895.  

Verses 18-20 discuss Jared.  When Jared was 162, his son Enoch was born, and afterward Jared lived an additional 800 years until passing away at age 962. 

Enoch is discussed in verses 21-24, and he is one of those pivotal figures we come across in Scripture as being significant.  This Enoch is the same person who is attributed with writing the extra-biblical Book of Enoch, and he is recalled in Scripture as a very godly man who also had prophetic insight. At the age of 65, Enoch witnessed the birth of his son Methuselah, and in the 300 years he lived after Methuselah, Enoch is described as a man who "walked with God."  During that time, as verse 22 states, Enoch had many other children.  In verse 23, Enoch's lifespan is listed as being 365 years, which by comparison with his ancestors was young, but there is a difference with Enoch.  In verse 24, we actually read that Enoch may not have died, but was rather one of the first "raptured" directly into heaven while living (the only other person in Scripture who experienced this was the prophet Elijah in I Kings).  As a result of this, Enoch is believed to be one of the "two witnesses" we read about in Revelation 11:3-12, two enigmatic characters who actually confront the Antichrist in the last days during the Tribulation period (the other is of course Elijah).  Although some debate this and contend that Moses is the other "witness" in that passage, it would make more sense believing it was Enoch, as Enoch and Elijah never experienced natural death, yet the witnesses mysteriously appear after the new Temple is built, are killed, and then they are resurrected back to heaven within three days of their murder/assassination by the Antichrist.   Given Enoch's character as well as the insights contained in the book attributed to his authorship (which to this day is still part of the Ethiopic canon of Scripture), it makes perfect sense that Enoch would be one of the future witnesses mentioned in Chapter 11.  

In verses 25-27, the life of Enoch's son Methuselah is discussed.  Methuselah is the oldest man in recorded history, living to be just under a millennium.  At 187 years of age, Methuselah witnessed the birth of his son Lamech, and afterward Methuselah lived an additional 782 years before finally passing away at the age of 969 years. 

Verses 28-31 discuss Methuselah's son Lamech, who was also Noah's father.  At the age of 182, Lamech witnessed his son Noah's birth, and then lived an additional 595 years, having other children.  In verse 30, we read that Lamech reposed at age 777, which also was young for many of the earliest generations of man.  

Only one verse is devoted to Noah is in Genesis 5, due to the fact his story would be the focal point of the next 3 chapters.  In verse 32, we are told that at the age of 500, Noah witnessed the birth of his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth.   With that mention, the chapter has then effectively bridged the gap between Adam and Noah, and the next part of the narrative is now set up to begin later in chapter 6. 

The Church Fathers share also some insights with us on this chapter, in particular St. Augustine, who notes an allegorical dimension in particular with Seth's life.  To Augustine, Seth is a typological prefigurement of Jesus Christ, in that the father's image is reproduced in the son.  This is the one example of Christocentricity we see in the genealogies, but they also contain another rich truth embedded in the very names of these people. 

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NAMES OF THE OLD TESTAMENT GENERATIONS AND THEIR MEANINGS[1]

Name
Meaning
Adam
“Man” or “taken out of the earth”
Seth
“Appointed” or “substitute, replacement”
Enos
“Mortal” “frailty, feeble”
Cainan (or Kenan)
“Sorrow” or “possession”
Mahalalel
“The Blessed God” or “God is splendor”
Jared
“Shall come down” or “descending, he that descends”
Enoch
“Teaching” or “dedicated, consecrated”
Methuseleh
“His death shall bring” or “when he is dead it shall be sent”
Lamech
“The Despairing” or “one who overthrows, destroyer”
Noah
“Rest” or “confort”


If you put the above meanings together for this, it has this message – “(the one) taken from the earth (is) appointed (to be) possessed with mortality (or weakness), (but) the blessed God shall descend, consecrating by His death, bringing the despairing rest.” 
The names of the earliest generations in Genesis 5 reveal a Christocentric message, as we see God’s plan at work even in the “boring begats” of Scripture!




[1] Missler, Chuck.  Alien Encounters.  Coeur d’Alene, ID:  Koinonia House Publishers, 1997. p. 220. 
Cornwall, Judson, and Stelman Smith. The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names.  North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998.

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The above reference is something I found in reading a book about a subject that relates more to Genesis 6 than it does Genesis 5, and that book was Chuck Missler's Alien Encounters.  What this illustrates is the importance that we often overlook regarding the significance of why people are named what they are named in Scripture.  There is also nothing esoteric about this either, as in many cases in Scripture the meanings of these names are plainly given in the texts themselves, but the idea is to put together the names in sequence, and what then comes clear is that the Gospel is even foreshadowed in the meanings of the names these early generations gave their sons.  Several years back, a guy by the name of Michael Drosnin published a book on hidden "Bible Codes" which caused quite a stir among both secular and religious readers.  This "code" that Drosnin proposed consisted of a mathematical sequence of evenly-spaced letters at different intervals in Scriptural passages which, when put together, foretold future events.  Supposedly, these "codes" predicted the assassination of Reagan, the rise of Adolph Hitler, and even the untimely death of Princess Di, but to be honest many discerning Christians were understandably skeptical.  For the most part, Drosnin's book was a passing fad, and if you find it anywhere it might be a worn copy which will pop up occasionally on a shelf at the local Goodwill store.  In looking at the above etymology, it would be easy to dismiss it as similar to Drosnin's thesis, but there is no mystery or esoteric meanings to cover anything up in this one, and what the names together signify is the basic message of the Gospel.  As Catholic Christians, we are directed to see that the Old Covenant anticipates the New, and the New fulfills the Old, and being that is the case, we also believe that Jesus, as part of the Triune Godhead, is co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit and pre-existed prior to His Incarnation - this fact is again confirmed in John 1:1, Hebrews 13:8, and Revelation 1:8.  This is what we refer to as catechists as being a Christocentric hermeneutic of Scripture, in that as Monsignor Eugene Kevane writes, "Jesus teaches the divine authorship of the Bible by pointing out its unity through its fulfillment in Himself.  This is the great fact of facts about the Bible that bears witness that God is its Author."  (Eugene Kevane, Jesus the Divine Teacher.  Bloomington, IN:  AuthorHouse, 2005. p. 160).  What this means, therefore, is that even in what is insignificant there is revelation, and that even included the names of people.  We have mentioned many times throughout the course of this study that in the ancient world, a name carried special meaning and significance, and people just didn't name their children something because it "sounds good."  The original names of many of the Bible's characters, particularly these early generations, may have been lost, but God revealed them in their Hebrew translations to Moses on Sinai when He instructed Moses to write all this down, and my speculation is that the original language the name was in was accurately relayed to Moses by an omniscient God who had His purposes in directing people to name their children as they did then.  And, as we continue through Genesis and see the rest of the saga of salvation unfold, it becomes more obvious.  Therefore, as this lesson ends, we will pick up in the next lesson with the significance of the first few verses of Genesis 6, and why they are documented before the Flood narrative.