I couldn’t have been less interested when my parents started to research our family ancestry. When I was younger I failed to see the importance of learning about my ancestors. As far as I was concerned, their history had nothing to do with my present life. But as I’ve gotten older I now understand that the past is what shapes the future. Although the genealogy of Genesis is filled with many unknown names with seemingly unimportant ages, it has much to teach us about the origins of the relationship between God and mankind.
In the fourth chapter of Genesis, we are introduced to the beginning of Cain’s family line. Cain’s opposition toward God would allow immoral and evil practices to multiply under his offspring. In this chapter, we follow the history of God’s elect from Adam to Noah.
When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.Genesis 5:3-5
It’s hard to believe that anyone could live over 900 years. But if we accept scripture as the inerrant word of God, early long life was a fact. It’s difficult to believe humans could live so long, especially when living to age 100 is such an accomplishment today. Our bodies are mortal, or corruptible, which means they deteriorate over time. Much of the disease and health defects we suffer from today stem from the genetic mutations that have accumulated over generations. A problem that wasn’t present after creation. It’s like comparing an original document with a copy, of a copy, of a copy, and so on. Our health has also been affected by the consequences of sin. Humanity has caused significant harm to the environment in the course of advancing humanity. These environmental changes affect the purity of the food we eat, water we drink, and the air we breathe. Lastly, sin causes self-inflicted damage on our bodies which shorten our lifespan. Pleasures such as overconsumption of food or alcohol, substance abuse, smoking, and sexual promiscuity introduce changes to our bodies that affect both our personal health and the genes we pass down to our offspring. Considering this, it is not so imaginable that humans may have indeed had very long lifespans before our bodies experienced progressive corruption.
When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.Genesis 5:6-8
It seems strange that it would take 100 years to father a child. However, we must remember that the genealogy follows God’s elect only. The text does not say that the child mentioned was the first child. In fact, we know that Seth was Adam’s third son. Scripture also tells of other sons and daughters. By mentioning the age of those who maintained relationship with God, we are able to better understand the timing of early events. The amount of time between creation of Adam and Noah and the flood was 1,656 years.
When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.
When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.
When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. After he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Mahalalel lived a total of 895 years, and then he died.
When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.Genesis 5:9-24
Very little about information is provided regarding the first seven generations. What we do know is that because their longevity the younger generations were able to know their more distant ancestors. This allowed direct sharing of first-hand knowledge of God to the younger generations. One example was the unique relationship between Enoch and God. We are told that Enoch walked faithfully with God before he was taken away. This means that Enoch did not die, but was taken directly to heaven like Elijah. Therefore, Enoch may have been the first prophet. The New Testament refers to Enoch twice (Hebrews 11:5; Jude 1:14). The Book of Enoch is not scripture. It’s writing is not considered God inspired and was never canonized by the Hebrews. It’s true authorship and date written is unknown. It may have been a product of progressive accumulation, like a diary or journal with several contributors. However, it is clear that the early church was familiar with its content. So it may still be useful as a tool to better understand certain Biblical content that assumes knowledge of certain events. However, it is important to remember that the content is not inerrant.
When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.
After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.Genesis 5:25-32
This difficult, but necessary, chapter lays the foundation for the events that lie ahead. The ages that are provided tell us that Noah’s father, Lamech, died five years prior to the flood. His grandfather, Methuselah, died the very year of the flood. Since God protected Noah from the flood, none of God’s followers were eliminated. What about Noah’s brothers, sisters, and extended family? We can infer that all had strayed from God into corruption because none of them were saved. Possibly the growing immorality had created new temptations they couldn’t overcome. This should serve to remind us how easily our hearts are corrupted. One day God will come to exercise his judgement again. If we hope to endure, we must guard our hearts against temptation while we continue to share our faith with future generations.