In the last episode we discussed Cain’s punishment for killing Abel, as well as the ever-popular question “Where did Cain get his wife”? And we mentioned a couple of different possibilities.
Now Chapter 5 is a chapter that many people, even if reading through the book of Genesis, will quickly skim over, or skip entirely, because it is just a list of people, their ages, and their descendents. Nothing important to see here, move on!
However, there are plenty of worthwhile discussions that come from this chapter. So with that being said, let’s take a look at chapter 5 with a fresh set of eyes, and see what we can learn
5.1- This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. 2 Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.
So the first two verses here are just a quick summary, reminding us that God created man in His own image. I am not going to cover or rehash this material again right here. But if you are interested, and have not listened to that material yet, you can find it in episodes 7 & 8 where I discuss creation Day 6, and God’s creation of Adam and Eve
But I will point out one thing here in the first verse. It reminds us, yet again, that man was created in the image of God. And we discussed what that means in an earlier episode. And if you believe that Adam and Eve were the only two people on the planet in the beginning, it also reminds us that we are all related. All of us! We are related by Adam and Eve, and we are all created in the image of God. And it doesn’t matter where you are from. It doesn’t matter how light or dark your skin is. It doesn’t matter what language you speak. Everyone is ultimately related, and everyone has inherent worth and value because everyone is made in the image of God. And it is truly astounding to me personally that some people have yet to figure that out. Maybe we should all spend a little more time in God’s Word, and a little less time listening to what the world, social media, and news outlets want us to believe.
But I want to quickly move into what is the primary theme of chapter 5 here, which is to trace the line of descendents from Adam to Noah.
Notice how V1 begins here, that- “this is the book of the generations of Adam”. This expression occurs only one other time in all of scripture, and that is in the very first verse of the New Testament, in Matthew 1:1, where it reads “the book of the generation of Jesus Christ”. So we see this expression in relation only to the first Adam and the last Adam.
Did you kow that? Be honest! Were you aware that the first 17 verses of the New Testament do nothing other than lay out the genealogy of Jesus Christ?
Remember that God promised Adam and Eve that one of their descendents would defeat Satan. As history unfolds, God would reveal more and more of His plan of redemption, and He would begin to zero in on exactly which line and through whom the Messiah would come . Eventually, we learn that the Savior would descend from Abraham, and eventually through the line of David. The genealogy of Jesus demonstrates that he was a descendent from the line foretold by God, and together with many other prophecies, demonstrates that He was in fact the Messiah, the promised Savior.
3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.
So this is the first of 9 or 10 very similar sets of verses that lays out the line of descendents from Adam, to Seth, and ends at Noah. But, this line of descendents that begin with Adam and Seth and onto Noah will ultimately end at with Jesus
Each set of verses lays out the name, age, how many years they lived after the birth of the son, the acknowledgement of other children, and then their total lifespan.
6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. 7 Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.
9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.
12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.
15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.
18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God[b] after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
I want to mention a couple of things about Enoch here. It says that when Enoch was 365 years old that “God took him”. What does that mean, that “God took him”? Well, first, Enoch’s description here departs from the genealogical description of everyone else in the list. It doesn’t say that he died. That phrase “took him” is much different from the meaning of the phrase “to take the life of someone”, or referring to an untimely death. Some commentators even translate that phrase as “to “snatch away”, or “to rapture”.
It also says that Enoch walked with God. This is a very rare expression, and it doesn’t mean just to live a good, and righteous life. It means that Enoch enjoyed a supernatural and intimate fellowship with God. Enoch’s life affirms that those who walk with God will ultimately experience life, not death.
For those Christians who believe in the Rapture of the church, some believe that God “taking Enoch” before the flood is also a representation of how God will protect his church, that is, believers, from the Great Tribulation described in the book of Revelation. This is one of the verses they point to in support of the Rapture. They argue this is a picture of the Rapture, which is God ‘taking” out his people before the judgment. IOW, Enoch was righteous, he walked with God, so God “took him”. He removes Enoch, he protects him, prior to the judgment of the flood that was about to come.
25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.
28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died. 32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
Shem, Ham, and Japheth are important here because they will all three survive the flood. They will become the progenitors of mankind. What we see is that Shem will become the father of the line of descendants resulting in the Semitic peoples, Ham will be the father of the line of people with African descent, and Japheth is associated with the European peoples.
Just to be clear, the Lamech mentioned here in this genealogy is NOT the same Lamech that we discussed in the last episode. That Lamech was a bloodthirsty descendent of Cain, this is a different Lamech who was a descendent of Seth, and the father of Noah. And Noah is going to be the central figure in the next few chapters, as we discuss the ark and the flood
But I want to shift gears and talk about the long lifespans mentioned and listed in this genealogy, and how we can make sense of someone living 600, 700, 900 plus years!
Because of these “hard to believe” ages many people chalk it up to just myth, or fable, or legends. So I think it is important to at least talk through this topic.
It seems that we have at least three different ways to approach these long ages. One is to see the numbers as symbolic or poetic in nature. Another way is to explore the possibility that the people back then measured years differently than we do now. A third possibility is that the people actually lived that long.
So let’s look at the first possibility, that the ages should be viewed symbolically. Now there is, of course, symbolism used throughout the Bible, and also with respect to numbers. For example, certain numbers can mean something other than, or in addition to, also meaning a literal number of years.
So take the number 40, it can mean 40 of course, but it is also used as a number signifying a specific period of time and one in which God is involved. For example, the 40 days and 40 nights of rain associated with the flood, the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert, the 40 days and nights Moses was on Mt Sinai receiving the 10 commandments, and then the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. Again, these could have all been a literal 40 days, but they could also signify a time of testing, and not necessarily be exactly 40.
So how would that apply to the ages we see here in chapter 5? Well, some have noticed that there is symbolism in the number of years Enoch lived before God took him, 365, which is equal to the number of days in a year. Lamech lived 777 years, which is equal to the synodic periods of Jupiter + Saturn. A synodic period is how long it takes a planet to return to the same place in the sky relative to the Sun and an observer on earth. Jared’s 962 years equals the synodic periods of Venus + Saturn.
There are other examples, but I think you get the point. And so the hypothesis is that perhaps the cycles of a man’s years may match the cycles of heavenly bodies, to show that their lives follow a meaningful pattern, and that they end with a completed cycle. So that is one option for interpreting the long lives in Ch 5.
Well what about the option that people in ancient days counted years differently than we do today? Maybe they used the lunar cycle to measure a year rather than a solar cycle?! Well, there is really no evidence that people from ancient times counted time differently than we do. And if you remember from our earlier episodes during creation week, during creation day 4, God created the Sun, Moon, and stars not only because life on earth requires them all, but they were also to be used as signs and for seasons.
Don’t think or believe for a minute that these people were unsophisticated or ignorant. As far back as the Babylonians and Sumerians, these people were very knowledgeable and sophisticated in ther astronomical knowledge. They knew full well the motions of stars, moon, and planets. They tracked them. They predicted eclipses. And they certainly knew how to track and keep time. They were able to measure a year’s time within a few minutes’ precision.
So in order to get at this another way, some people try and do all sorts of mathematical exercises, and suggest that maybe they were using a Babylonian or Sumerian sexagesimal, or base 6 system of math, versus our base 10 system. Or maybe, they used lunar years rather than solar years, so that 1 year back then equals 10-12 years today, then it would make the lifespans very comparable to ours today!!
But when you do that, and apply it to the geneologies and lifespans we read in Chapter 5, you get all sorts of weird things, like men fathering children when they are 5 or 6 years old. The bottom line is, the math doesn’t work.
So what about the third option…that people actually lived as long as it is recorded in scripture? How is that possible?
We need to keep in mind that these long life spans are not the norm, even in the Bible. After the flood, we see the lifespans begin to drop dramatically after God announces that man will live no more than a maximum of about 120 years. And that is still true today. So what we are talking about in the way of long lifespans was only for a very limited time. Genesis 6 tells us what God did and why, but not how
Some have suggested that the long lives could be a result of an enduring effect from Adam and Eve’s diet from the Tree of Life prior to their Fall. But that of course is pure seculation
If we look for possible scientific explanations, there are a few possibilities worth mentioning. And although many have been suggested as impacting life spans, I will mention just a few, just to give you a flavor of the possibilities
One of the factors could have been the very low level of radiation from igneous rocks these early people were exposed to. In our modern society, things like the burning of coal, paved roads, asphalt, concrete, all sorts of building materials, guarantees our constant exposure to the radiation emanating from them. Ancient people on the other hand would have had almost no exposure to this type of radioisotope decay
Another possible factor for the now shorter lifespans is the damage to our bodies from cosmic rays. By far, the most damage is caused by the cosmic rays from past supernova explosions, which are giant star explosions. These, along with pulsars, produce, by far, the deadliest radiation
Teams of astronomers from various countries have identified a past supernova explosion , occurring at the right distance and the right period in human history, that would have reached earth shortly after the flood. So God may have used this, in part at least, to shorten the life spans shortly after the flood.
Without going into a biology lesson here, another potential factor are the telomeres in our genes. Think of telmomeres as the timekeepers of a cell’s life. Each time a cell divides, it copies its chromosome’s DNA, and telomeres signal the end of that copying process. But with each cell division, they grow shorter and shorter, and eventually disappear. Think of it sort of like a candle wick that gradually shortens as it is burned. Cells are unable to replicate, damaged cells cannot be replaced, and death is the eventual result. And guess what causes telomeres to shorten at different rates?? Exposure to UV light.
There is a lot of research going on in this area right now. In fact, in my office, I have a Time magazine from Feb, 2015, and on the cover is a picture of this beautiful baby, Gerber baby age, and the cover of the magazine reads “ This baby could live to be 142 years old”.
If we have the ability to potentially increase lifespans, don’t you think God could do the same? I have mentioned a few factors, but there are several others
The truth is, there are simply some things that we don’t yet know or fully understand. No one knows exactly how God regulated human life spans. That truth remains shrouded in mystery.
At the end of the day, all we can do is consider some reasonable, plausible explanations for the long lifespans. But as long as reasonable scenarios exist, we cannot just dismiss the truthfulness of the account, and chalk it up to myth, or allow others to do so unchallenged.
And we will see another example of that in the next episode when we are introduced to, and have a discussion around, the Nephilim. If you have never heard of the Nephilim, believe me, you don’t want to miss this one!
But until next time, remember one other thing about the list of the genealogy here in chapter 5. Even though they lived a very long time, with the exception of Enoch, what did they all have in common? They all died. And the last time I checked, unless Christ comes back before then, so will all of us.
That’s right. None of us are getting out of this alive! And the sobering part is you have no idea when it’s your turn
And it doesn’t matter whether you are 59 or 959, you will look back and say that you can’t believe how fast it went by. It will be upon you like a thief in the night.
Think about how many people, every day, before they walk out the door, tell their family goodbye, love you, see you later…and then never walk back through that door again
They had no idea that today would be their last day. I encourage you to take advantage of the time you have been given, while you still have the ability to do so, and consider the truth claims of Jesus
Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. I think he was right. And many people today are just too busy, or frankly, just not interested, in thinking about eternal, everlasting matters. Too many of us allow the urgent to get in the way of the important.
At some point, you need to pause and seriously consider the truth claims of Christianity. There is no other worldview, no other-ism or philosophy, no scientific theory, no other religion, that explains all of the data of human history like Christianity does. If you are not a Christian, I pray you would seriously, not superficially, but seriously consider taking another look. Realize that simply having the knowledge is not enough. The bible teaches us in James 2:19 that “19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!” In other words, even the demons believe. Even demons have correct knowledge. But that isn’t doing them any good. Because knowledge alone will not save you. You must exercise trust in Jesus for what He has done for you to pay the price for your sin.
If you are a Christian, I pray you would recommitt to your faith, to take it a little more seriously. To spend a little more time in prayer and study, and realize who it is that you represent when you claim to be a Christian.
God told us in Exodus 20:7, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain…” That doesn’t have anything to do with cursing and saying GD. It is about ambassadorship, and representing Him to the world, and realizing whose banner you are claiming to carry.
And for all of us, I pray we would heed the words of Socrates, and examine our lives. But more importantly, that we would heed the words of God in Psalm 46:10 to “Be still, and know that I am God”.
Thanks for listening. And I hope you’ll join me in the next episode for our discussion of the Nephilim. Until then, God bless.