- Section V - The Line to Noah
- The Line of Sheth
1. ספר sepher “writing, a writing, a book.”
9. קינן qēynān Qenan, “possessor, or spearsman.”
12. מהללאל mahelal'ēl Mahalalel, “praise of ‹El.”
15. ירד yerĕd Jered, “going down.”
21. מתוּשׁלה metûshālach Methushelach, “man of the missile.”
29. נה noach Noach, “rest,” נחם nācham “sigh; repent; pity; comfort oneself; be revenged.”
32. שׁם shēm Shem, “name, fame; related: be high.” חם chām Cham, “hot.” יפת yāpet Japheth, “spreading; related: spread out.”
We now enter upon the third of the larger documents contained in Genesis. The first is a diary, the second is a history, the third a genealogy. The first employs the name אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym exclusively; the second uses אלהים יהוה yehovâh'ĕlohı̂ym in the second and third chapters, and יהוה yehovâh usually in the fourth; the third has אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym in the first part, and יהוה yehovâh in the second part. The name אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym is employed in the beginning of the chapter with a manifest reference to the first document, which is here quoted and abridged.
This chapter contains the line from Adam to Noah, in which are stated some common particulars concerning all, and certain special details concerning three of them. The genealogy is traced to the tenth in descent from Adam, and terminates with the flood. The scope of the chapter is to mark out the line of faith and hope and holiness from Adam, the first head of the human race, to Noah, who became eventually the second natural head of it.
These verses are a recapitulation of the creation of man. The first sentence is the superscription of the new piece of composition now before us. The heading of the second document was more comprehensive. It embraced the generations, evolutions, or outworkings of the skies and the land, as soon as they were called into existence, and was accordingly dated from the third day. The present document confines itself to the generations of man, and commences, therefore, with the sixth day. The generations here are literal for the most part, though a few particulars of the individuals mentioned are recorded. But taken in a large sense this superscription will cover the whole of the history in the Old and New Testaments. It is only in the prophetic parts of these books that we reach again in the end of things to the wider compass of the heavens and the earth Isaiah 65:17; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1. Then only does the sphere of history enlarge itself to the pristine dimensions in the proper and blessed sense, when the second Adam appears on earth, and re-connects heaven and earth in a new, holy, and everlasting covenant.
The present superscription differs from the former one in the introduction of the word ספר sepher “book”. There is here some ground in the text for supposing the insertion by Moses of an authentic document, handed down from the olden time, in the great work which he was directed to compose. The chapter before us could not have been completed, indeed, until after the birth of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. But if we except the last verse, there is no impossibility or improbability in its being composed before the deluge.
The invention of writing at that early period is favored by some other circumstances connected with these records. We cannot say that it is impossible for oral tradition to preserve the memory of minute transactions - sayings, songs, names, and numbers of years up to a thousand - especially in a period when men‘s lives exceeded nine hundred years. But we can easily see that these details could be much more easily handed down if there was any method of notation for the help of the memory. The minute records of this kind, therefore, which we find in these early chapters, though not very numerous, afford a certain presumption in favor of a very early knowledge of the art of writing.
And called their name man. - This name seems to connect man אדם 'ādām with the soil from which he was taken ארמה 'ădāmâh Genesis 2:7. It is evidently a generic or collective term, denoting the species. God, as the maker, names the race, and thereby marks its character and purpose.
In the compass of Genesis 5:3-5 the course of Adam‘s life is completed. And after the same model the lines of all his lineal descendants in this chapter are drawn up. The certain particulars stated are the years he lived before the birth of a certain son, the number of years he afterward lived during which sons and daughters were born to him, and his death. Two sons, and most probably several daughters, were born to Adam before the birth of Sheth. But these sons have been already noticed, and the line of Noah is here given. It is obvious, therefore, that the following individuals in the genealogy may, or may not, have been first-born sons. The stated formula, “and he died,” at the close of each life except that of Henok, is a standing demonstration of the effect of disobedience.
The writer, according to custom, completes the life of one patriarch before he commences that of the next; and so the first event of the following biography is long antecedent to the last event of the preceding one. This simply and clearly illustrates the law of Hebrew narrative.
The only peculiarity in the life of Adam is the statement that his son was “in his likeness, after his image.” This is no doubt intended to include that depravity which had become the characteristic of fallen man. It is contrasted with the preceding notice that Adam was originally created in the image of God. If it had been intended merely to indicate that the offspring was of the same species with the parent, the phrase, “after his kind” (למינהוּ lemı̂ynâh would have been employed, as in the first chapter. This is one of the mysteries of the race, when the head of it is a moral being, and has fallen. His moral depravity, affecting the essential difference of his nature, descends to his offspring.
As this document alludes to the first in the words, “in the day of God‘s creating man, in the likeness of God made he him,” quotes its very words in the sentence, “male and female created he them, refers to the second in the words, and called their name man” Genesis 2:7, and also needs this second for the explication of the statement that the offspring of man bore his likeness, it presupposes the existence and knowledge of these documents at the time when it was written. If it had been intended for an independent work, it would have been more full and explanatory on these important topics.
The history of the Shethite Henok is distinguished in two respects: First, after the birth of Methushelah, “he walked with the God.” Here for the first time we have God אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym with the definite article, with which it occurs more than four hundred times. By this he is emphatically distinguished as the God, now made known by his acts and manifestations, in opposition to atheism, the sole God in opposition to polytheism, and the true God in opposition to all false gods or notions of God. It is possible that in the time of Henok some had forsaken the true God, and fallen into various misconceptions concerning the Supreme Being. His walking with “the God” is a hint that others were walking without this God.
The phrase “walked with God” is rendered in the Septuagint εὐηρέστησε τῷ Θεῷ euērestēse tō Theō “pleased God,” and is adduced in the Epistle to the Hebrews Genesis 2:5-6 as an evidence of Henok‘s faith. Walking with God implies community with him in thought, word, and deed, and is opposed in Scripture to walking contrary to him. We are not at liberty to infer that Henok was the only one in this line who feared God. But we are sure that he presented an eminent example of that faith which purifies the heart and pleases God.
He made a striking advance upon the attainment of the times of his ancestor Sheth. In those days they began to call upon the name of the Lord. Now the fellowship of the saints with God reaches its highest form, - that of walking with him, doing his will and enjoying his presence in all the business of life. Hence, this remarkable servant of God is accounted a prophet, and foretells the coming of the Lord to judgment Jude 1:14-15. It is further to be observed that this most eminent saint of God did not withdraw from the domestic circle, or the ordinary duties of social life. It is related of him as of the others, that during the three hundred years of his walking with God he begat sons and daughters.
Secondly, the second peculiarity of Henok was his teleportation. This is related in the simple language of the times. “And he was not, for God took him;” or, in the version of the Septuagint, “and he was not found, for God translated him.” Hence, in the New Testament it is said, Hebrews 11:5, “By faith Enoch was translated, that he should not see death.” This passage is important for the interpretation of the phrase ואיננוּ ve'ēynenû καί ουχ εὑρίσκετο kai ouch heurisketo “and he was not (found).” It means, we perceive, not absolutely, he was not, but relatively, he was not extant in the sphere of sense. If this phrase do not denote annihilation, much less does the phrase “and he died.” The one denotes absence from the world of sense, and the other indicates the ordinary way in which the soul departs from this world. Here, then, we have another hint that points plainly to the immortality of the soul (see on Genesis 3:22).
This glimpse into primeval life furnishes a new lesson to the men of early times and of all succeeding generations. An atonement was shadowed forth in the offering of Habel. A voice was given to the devout feelings of the heart in the times of Sheth. And now a walk becoming one reconciled to God, calling upon his name, and animated by the spirit of adoption, is exhibited. Faith has now returned to God, confessed his name, and learned to walk with him. At this point God appears and gives to the antediluvian race a new and conclusive token of the riches and power of mercy in counteracting the effects of sin in the case of the returning penitent. Henok does not die, but lives; and not only lives, but is advanced to a new stage of life, in which all the power and pain of sin are at an end forever. This crowns and signalizes the power of grace, and represents in brief the grand finale of a life of faith. This renewed man is received up into glory without going through the intermediate steps of death and resurrection. If we omit the violent end of Habel, the only death on record that precedes the translation of Henok is that of Adam. It would have been incongruous that he who brought sin and death into the world should not have died. But a little more than half a century after his death, Henok is wafted to heaven without leaving the body. This translation took place in the presence of a sufficient number of witnesses, and furnished a manifest proof of the presence and reality of the invisible powers. Thus, were life and immortality as fully brought to light as was necessary or possible at that early stage of the world‘s history. Thus, was it demonstrated that the grace of God was triumphant in accomplishing the final and full salvation of all who returned to God. The process might be slow and gradual, but the end was now shown to be sure and satisfactory.
Methushelah is the oldest man on record. He lived to be within 31 years of a millenium, and died in the year of the flood.
In the biography of Lamek the name of his son is not only given, but the reason of it is assigned. The parents were cumbered with the toil of cultivating the ground. They looked forward with hope to the aid or relief which their son would give them in bearing the burden of life, and they express this hope in his name. In stating the reason of the name, they employ a word which is connected with it only by a second remove. נוּח nûach and נחם nācham are stems not immediately connected; but they both point back to a common root נח (n -ch ) signifying “to sigh, to breathe, to rest, to lie down.”
This is only another recorded instance of the habit of giving names indicative of the thoughts of the parents at the time of the child‘s birth. All names were originally significant, and have still to this day an import. Some were given at birth, others at later periods, from some remarkable circumstance in the individual‘s life. Hence, many characters of ancient times were distinguished by several names conferred at different times and for different reasons. The reason of the present name is put on record simply on account of the extraordinary destiny which awaited the bearer of it.
Which the Lord hath cursed. - Here is another incidental allusion to the second document, without which it would not be intelligible. If the present document had been intended to stand alone, this remark would have had its explanation in some previous part of the narrative.
And Noah was the son of five hundred years. - A man is the son of a certain year, in and up to the close of that year, but not beyond it. Thus, Noah was in his six hundredth year when he was the son of six hundred years Genesis 7:11, Genesis 7:6, and a child was circumcised on the eighth day, being then the son of eight days Leviticus 12:3; Genesis 17:12.
When the phrase indicates a point of time, as in Leviticus 27, it is the terminating point of the period in question. The first part only of the biography of Noah is given in this verse, and the remainder will be furnished in due time and place. Meanwhile, Noah is connected with the general history of the race, which is now to be taken up. His three sons are mentioned, because they are the ancestors of the postdiluvian race. This verse, therefore, prepares for a continuation of the narrative, and therefore implies a continuator or compiler who lived after the flood.
From the numbers in this chapter it appears that the length of human life in the period before the deluge was ten times its present average. This has seemed incredible to some, and hence they have imagined that the years must have consisted of one month, or at least of a smaller number than twelve. But the text will not admit of such amendment or interpretation. In the account of the deluge the tenth month is mentioned, and sixty-one days are afterward indicated before the beginning of the next year, whence we infer that the primeval year consisted of twelve lunar months at least. But the seemingly incredible in this statement concerning the longevity of the people before the flood, will be turned into the credible if we reflect that man was made to be immortal. His constitution was suited for a perpetuity of life, if only supplied with the proper nutriment. This nutriment was provided in the tree of life. But man abused his liberty, and forfeited the source of perpetual life. Nevertheless, the primeval vigor of an unimpaired constitution held out for a comparatively long period. After the deluge, however, through the deterioration of the climate and the soil, and perhaps much more the degeneracy of man‘s moral and physical being, arising from the abuse of his natural propensities, the average length of human life gradually dwindled down to its present limits. Human physiology, founded upon the present data of man‘s constitution, may pronounce upon the duration of his life so long as the data are the same; but it cannot fairly affirm that the data were never different from what they are at present. Meanwhile, the Bible narrative is in perfect keeping with its own data, and is therefore not to be disturbed by those who still accept these without challenge.
The following table presents the age of each member of this genealogy, when his son and successor was born and when he himself died, as they stand in the Hebrew text, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Septuagint, and Josephus:
d Line of Noah
d HebrewSam. Pent.SeptuagintJosephusDate
d Son‘s BirthOwn DeathSon‘s BirthOwn DeathSon‘s BirthOwn DeathSon‘s BirthOwn DeathOf BirthOf Death
d 1. Adam
d 130930130 9302309302309300930
d 2. Sheth
d 3. Enosh
d 4. Kenan
d 5. Mahalalel
d 6. Jared
d 7. Henok
d 8. Methuselah
d 9. Lamek
d 10. Noah
d On comparing the series of numbers in the Hebrew with those in the Samaritan, the Septuagint, and Josephus, it is remarkable that we have the main body of the original figures in all. In the total ages of the first five and the seventh, and in that of Noah at the flood, they all agree. In those of the sixth and eighth, the Hebrew, Septuagint, and Josephus agree. In that of the ninth, the Hebrew and Josephus agree, while the Samaritan and Septuagint differ from them and from each other. On examining the figures of the Samaritan, it appears that the sixth, eighth, and ninth total ages would have reached beyond the flood, if the numbers found in the other authorities had been retained. And they are so shortened as to terminate all in the year of the flood. This alteration betrays design. The totals in the Hebrew, then, have by far the preponderating authority.
Of the numbers before the birth of a successor, which are chiefly important for the chronology, the units agree in all but Lamek, in regard to whom the Hebrew and Josephus agree, while the Samaritan and the Septuagint differ from them and from each other. The tens agree in all but two, Methushelah and Lamek, where the Hebrew, the Septuagint, at least in the Codex Alexandrinus, and Josephus agree, while the Samaritan differs from them all. In the hundreds a systematic and designed variation occurs. Still they agree in Noah. In Jared, Methushelah, and Lamek, the Hebrew, Septuagint, and Josephus agree in a number greater by a hundred than the Samaritan. In the remaining six the Hebrew and Samaritan agree; while the Septuagint and Josephus agree in having a number greater by a hundred. On the whole, then, it is evident that the balance of probability is decidedly in favor of the Hebrew. To this advantage of concurring testimonies are to be added those of being the original, and of having been guarded with great care.
These grounds of textual superiority may be supported by several considerations of less weight. The Samaritan and the Septuagint follow a uniform plan; the Hebrew does not, and therefore has the mark of originality. Josephus gives the sum total to the deluge as two thousand six hundred and fifty-six years, agreeing with the total of the Hebrew in three figures, with that of the Septuagint only in two, and with that of the Samaritan in none. Some MSS. even give one thousand six hundred and fifty-six, which is the exact sum of the Hebrew numbers. Both these readings, moreover, differ from the sum of his own numbers, which itself agrees with the Hebrew in two figures and with the Septuagint in the other two. This looks like a studied conformation of the figures to those of the Septuagint, in which the operator forgot to alter the sum total. We do not at present enter into the external arguments for or against the Hebrew text. Suffice it to observe, that the internal evidence is at present clearly in its favor, so far as the antediluvian figures go.