SBC Banner


Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

April 29, 2015

Genesis 5:1-32

  1. Background. Some things to consider when reading genealogies in the bible. One thing, we learn that genealogies were not intended to be used as a chronology. At first glance, the one who reads Genesis chapter 5 would think that one only need add up the numbers contained here in order to establish the age of civilization upon the earth. Also the naming of individuals did not necessarily imply that a continuous sequence was to be assumed. Another thing to consider is that often names were omitted and genealogical lists were selective. “The expression ‘A begat B’ does not always imply direct parentage.” Matthew 1:8 states that ‘Joram begat Uzziah,’ but from the Old Testament (II Kings 8:25; 11:2, 14:1, 21) we learn that Joram was the father of Ahaziah, who fathered Joash, father of Amaziah father of Uzziah. Thus ‘begat’ can mean ‘begat the line culminating in.’ As the scholar Kitchen states, “Terms like ‘son’ and ‘father’ can mean not only ‘(grand)son’ and ‘(grand)father,’ but also ‘descendant’ and ‘ancestor’ respectively.” Also, the arrangement of the genealogies into a neat and clean pattern also suggests something other than a chronological indicator. Matthew’s genealogy of Christ, for example (Matthew 1:1-17) is arranged into three successions of 14 generations each. And this genealogy is known to be selective. The numbers in the genealogies of the Ancient Near East were usually of secondary importance. The primary purpose was to establish one’s family identity, one’s roots. Nowhere in Genesis 5, the Bible, or elsewhere were the numbers ever totaled to establish any kind of chronology.

  2. Notice how the writer begins chapter 5 with the terminology of chapters 1 and 2 (e.g., ‘created,’ ‘in the likeness of God,’ ‘male and female,’ ‘blessed them’) in order to indicate to the reader that God’s purposes and program for man begun in the first chapters are to be carried out through Adam’s seed, but not through the line of Cain; rather through Seth. The whole of chapter 5 is a description of the ever-narrowing line through which the Messiah will come.

  3. Genesis 5 begins the process of identifying the seed that would eventually rule the earth (Gen 1:26-28) and crush the serpent/satan (Gen 3:15). This account traces that lineage from Adam to Noah (Gen 5:1-32). Genesis 5 contains ten formally identical paragraphs, one for each generation in Adam's line through Seth. There are significant connections between Genesis 5 and 4. The names in chapter 4 are similar to those in Seth's line (Gen. 5) because they parallel and contrast two offspring of Adam. The seventh from Adam through both Cain and Seth - the ungodly Lamech (Gen 4:19-24) and the godly Enoch (Gen 5:24), respectively - stand in sharp contrast to one another. The former inflicted death; the latter escaped it. It is interesting to compare the lists of descendants through Cain with those through Seth. The line through Cain (chapter 4) is a genealogy of seven names, the last-named entry having three sons (and one daughter); the line through Seth is a list of ten names, the last-named entry having three sons. It appears that the lists were arranged selectively to achieve this structure to compare and contrast. Structurally both genealogies begin in a linear fashion, focusing on one individual in each generation and concluding by segmenting the line into three sons (Gen 4:20-22; 5:32; cf. Gen 11:10-26). But they contrast sharply. The first genealogy presents the curse-laden line of Cain that ends with murderer begetting murderer (Gen 4:17-24), the second links the founder of humanity, Adam, with its re-founder, Noah (see Gen 4:25-26). The Enoch and Lamech in Seth's line should not be confused with the first and last descendants in Cain's line with similar name. Enoch, the seventh in this list of Seth's line, "walked with God; then . . . God took him" (Gen 5:24), and the Lamech in Seth's line named his son Noah, hoping the Lord would "comfort [them]" (Gen 5:29). Cain's line died out in the flood, whereas Seth's lived through it.

  4. The main contrast between the lines of Cain and Seth is what was emphasized of each. Cain’s line is credited with what might be called ‘worldly progress’ and achievements. Cain built the first city (4:17). From his descendants came the technological and cultural contributions. Metal workers, ranchers, and musicians were of this line. Now what is it that is emphasized about the line of Seth? No mention is made of any great contributions or achievements. Two things marked out the men of chapter 5. First of all, they were men of faith (cf. Enoch, 5:18, 21-24; Lamech, 5:28-31). These men looked back and grasped the fact that sin was the root of their troubles and travail. They looked forward to a redemption that God was to provide through their offspring. That brings us to the second contribution of these men of chapter 5—they produced godly seed through whom the purposes and program of God would continue. Now we are not told that every child of theirs was godly. But we do know that these were godly men and that through them and their children a line was continued which culminated in Noah. While the rest of mankind would be destroyed in the flood, through Noah, the human race (and more than this, the seed of Eve) would be preserved. The hope of men rested in the preservation of a godly seed.

  5. The contrast spiritually between the two lines is obvious. It can easily be illustrated by the two ‘Lamechs’ of chapters 4 and 5. Lamech (the son of Methushael, 4:18) of Cain’s lineage was the initiator of polygamy (4:19). Worse than this he was a murderer who boasted of his crime (4:23) and made light of God’s words to Cain (4:24). The Lamech of chapter 5 (the son of Methuselah and the father of Noah) was a godly man. The naming of his son revealed his understanding of the fall of man and the curse of God upon the ground (cf. 5:29). It also indicated his faith that God would deliver man from the curse through the seed of Eve. I believe Lamech understood that this deliverance would specifically come through the son God had given him.

  6. In the account of Cain’s descendants no numbers were employed, while the line of Seth has a definite numerical pattern. Figures in chapter 5 typically supplied: (1) the age of the individual at the birth of the son named; (2) the years lived after the birth of the son; and (3) the age of the man at his death. Essentially the life of the person falls into two parts: Before the child and after the delivery of the child. This division is not without significance.

  7. The length of the lives of the men in chapter 5 is unusually long, but every effort to explain this fact in some way other than taking the numbers literally has proven futile. Conditions were undoubtedly different prior to the flood. The long length of life would facilitate the population of the earth. Imagine what could be done in 900 years?

  8. Chapter 5 also serves to warn us all that even if we live long, we will die. Over and over again the text says, and he died. The people might have been great, but they all died, this should help us to remember that we too will die. The effects of the curse are clear, we shall die.

click here to select another lesson