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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 5

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 1-8

C. What became of Adam 5:1-6:8

The primary purpose of this second toledot section appears to be to link the generations of Adam and Noah. The cursed human race continued to multiply, and human beings continued to die. Yet the record of Enoch gives hope.

"Genealogies in this book of genealogies . . . serve several purposes, depending in part on the nature of the genealogy. Broad genealogies present only the first generation of descendants (e.g., "the sons of Leah . . . the sons of Rachel . . . " in Genesis 35:23-26; cf. Genesis 6:9-10; Genesis 25:13-15). Deep genealogies list sequential descendants, in this book usually numbering from two to ten. (There are ten generations from Adam through Seth to Noah. In the eleventh generation the genealogy becomes segmented.) Linear genealogies display only depth (e.g., "Cain . . . gave birth to Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad . . ." Genesis 4:17-18; cf. Genesis 5:1-31; Genesis 11:10-26; Genesis 36:31-40). Segmented genealogies display both depth and breadth (e.g., "This is the account of Shem, Ham and Japheth. . . . The sons of Japheth: Gomer . . . The sons of Gomer . . ." Genesis 10:1-29; cf. Genesis 11:27-29; Genesis 19:36-38; Genesis 25:19-26; Genesis 36:1-5; Genesis 36:10-30; Genesis 46:8-25). The distinctions of broad, deep, linear, and segmented genealogies help explain the various functions of genealogies." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 105. See also David M. Howard Jr., An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books, pp. 249-50; M. D. Johnson, The Purpose of the Biblical Genealogies, pp. 77-82.]

"Genesis begins the process of identifying the seed that will rule the earth (Genesis 1:26-28) and crush the Serpent (Genesis 3:15). Book 2 [Genesis 5:1 to Genesis 6:8] traces that lineage from Adam to Noah, even as the matching ten-generation genealogy of Book 5 [Genesis 11:10-26] traces it from Shem to Abraham. Book 2 concludes with the progressive and rapid hardening of sin and the inability of the godly seed of the woman on its own to reverse it. Sin, like the Serpent, is too strong for them. Clearly, both God’s judgment and deliverance are needed." [Note: Waltke, Genesis, p. 109.]

Verses 1-32

1. The effects of the curse on humanity ch. 5

There are at least three purposes for the inclusion of this genealogy, which contains 10 paragraphs (Genesis 5:1-32).

1. It shows the development of the human race from Adam to Noah and bridges the gap in time between these two major individuals. One writer argued that the ages of these patriarchs were inflated to glorify them. [Note: R. K. Harrison, "From Adam to Noah: A Reconsideration of the Antediluvian Patriarchs’ Ages," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37:2 (June 1994):161-68.] I think not as this would seemingly undermine the trustworthiness of Scripture.

"The genealogies [in chapters 5 and 11] are exclusionist in function, indicating by linear descent the one through whom the promissory blessing will be channeled." [Note: Mathews, p. 298.]

2. It demonstrates the veracity of God’s word when He said that people would die as a result of sin (cf. Genesis 2:17). Note the recurrence of the phrase "and he died" (Genesis 5:5; Genesis 5:8; Genesis 5:11; Genesis 5:14; Genesis 5:17; Genesis 5:20; Genesis 5:27; Genesis 5:31).

3. It contrasts the progress of the godly line of Seth culminating in Enoch who walked with God and experienced translation (Genesis 5:6-24) with the development of the ungodly line of Cain. Cain’s branch of the human race culminated in Lamech who was a brutal bigamist (Genesis 4:16-24).

"The author’s return to the theme of God’s ’blessing’ man (cf. Genesis 5:2) is also a part of his overall scheme to cast God’s purposes for man in terms that will recall a father’s care for his children. Throughout the remainder of the Book of Genesis, a recurring theme is that of the father’s blessing his children (Genesis 9:26-27; Genesis 27:27; Genesis 48:15; Genesis 49:1-28). In keeping with such a theme, the author shows at each crucial turning point in the narrative that God himself renewed his blessing to the next generation of sons (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 5:2; Genesis 9:1; Genesis 12:3; Genesis 24:11). Seen as a whole, the picture that emerges is that of a loving father insuring the future well-being of his children through the provision of an inherited blessing. In this way the author has laid a theological foundation for the rest of Scripture. God’s original plan of blessing for all humanity, though thwarted by human folly, will nevertheless be restored through the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15), the seed of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), and the ’Lion of the tribe of Judah’ (Genesis 49:8-12; cf. Revelation 5:5-13). It is on this same foundation that the apostle Paul built his view of Jesus as the one through whom God has ’blessed us’ (Ephesians 1:3) and ’adopted us as his sons’ (Genesis 5:5) so that ’we have obtained an inheritance’ (Genesis 5:11, KJV) from the one we may call ’Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15)." [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," pp. 70-71.]

Some commentators have seen evidence in the text that this genealogy is not complete. [Note: E.g., Mathews, p. 305.]

1. The word "father" can just as accurately be translated "ancestor" (Genesis 5:3, et al.). It does not require a literal father-son relationship. [Note: See Kenneth Kitchen, The Bible In Its World, p. 33.]

2. The fact that Lamech, the sixth name in Cain’s list (Genesis 4:16-24), corresponds to Enoch, the sixth name in Seth’s list (Genesis 5:6-24), is suggestive. It indicates that God wanted to point out the contrast between the generations of these two sons of Adam. One was ungodly and the other godly. This purpose seems to some writers more dominant than that God wanted simply to preserve a complete record of all the generations between Adam and Noah. Lamech and Enoch were each the seventh generation, as recorded in this list, from Adam (cf. Judges 1:14). Matthew 1:1-17 contains another genealogy in which 14 men from each of three historical periods appear, and it is not complete.

3. The writer did not list Noah’s sons in the order of their birth (cf. Genesis 5:32 and Genesis 9:24).

4. The genealogy in chapter 11 may not be complete. [Note: See my comments on 11:12. For defense of the view that the Scriptures do not fix and were not intended to fix the dates of any events before the time of Abraham, see W. H. Green, "Primeval Chronology," in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, pp. 13-28; and B. B. Warfield, "On the Antiquity and the Unity of the Human Race," Princeton Theological Review 9:1 (January 1911):1-25.]

The careful recording of the age of each man when he fathered the next man in the list strongly suggests that this list is complete. Furthermore the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 1:1-4 and Luke 3:36-38 are identical to the one in Genesis 5. There are probably no missing generations. [Note: See Keil and Delitzsch, 1:120-27. Wenham, pp. 130-34, wrote an excursus on the ages of the antediluvians that is the best discussion of this issue that I have found.]

"The genealogy of Seth in Genesis 5 is thus intended to take up the creation story which had reached its first climax in the creation, as we would now read it, of Adam. The elemental orderliness of the genealogy continues the order begun at creation; indeed, it reaffirms that order after the threatened slide back into chaos narrated in the intervening chapters. But the genealogy does more; it imparts movement to creation. The Genesis 1 creation story is essentially static. When God rests on the seventh day, all phyla of creation are in their proper order and the earth is at rest. There is little suggestion of movement or further development, no story to be traced. The sole dynamic elements lie in God’s command to newly created humanity to ’be fruitful and multiply’ and ’subdue the earth.’ The genealogies document the fruitfulness of humanity and thus become the expression of the fulfillment of God’s mandate, providing movement away from the steady state of creation but at the same time preserving its orderliness. Creation’s order advanced through the genealogy.

"Connection of the genealogy to creation also exerts a reciprocal influence on our understanding of this and subsequent genealogies. The genealogies represent the continuation of creation’s fundamental order through time. As a result, they assume theological significance. The organic and orderly succession of generations is not an expression of thematically empty biological necessity but of God’s initial creative activity. Birth awakens not neutral destiny but enrollment in the continuing order of creation ordained by God. The genealogies become bearers of the creation theme and, by their elemental, organic nature, its fit expression." [Note: Robert B. Robinson, "Literary Functions of the Genealogies of Genesis," Catholic Biblical Quarterly 48 (October 1986):600-601.]

Even though the death motif is strong in this chapter there is even more emphasis on God’s grace. We see this in the references to life, fertility (sons and daughters), Enoch’s translation, and other blessings. The enjoyment of God’s blessings depends on walking with God. "Walk" is a biblical figure for fellowship and obedience that results in divine blessing (cf. 1 Samuel 15:25; Ephesians 4:1).

"Enoch is pictured as one who did not suffer the fate of Adam (’you shall surely die’) because, unlike the others, he ’walked with God.’

"The sense of the author is clear. Enoch is an example of one who found life amid the curse of death. In Enoch the author is able to show that the pronouncement of death is not the last word that need be said about a person’s life. One can find life if one ’walks with God.’" [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 118. Cf. 3:8; 6:9; 15:6; 17:1; 24:40; 48:15; Deuteronomy 30:15-16; Micah 6:8; Malachi 2:6. See also Timothy J. Cole, "Enoch, a Man Who Walked with God," Bibliotheca Sacra 148:591 (July-September 1991):288-97.]

"’Walked with God’ is metaphorical and indicates that Enoch had a lifestyle characterized by his devotion to God. The sense of ’walk’ (halak) in its verbal stem indicates a communion or intimacy with God." [Note: Mathews, p. 313. Cf. 3:8; 6:9.]

"The double repetition of the phrase ’walked with God’ indicates Enoch was outstanding in this pious family." [Note: Wenham, p. 127.]

Repetition usually reinforces and emphasizes in Scripture. The central lesson of the section appears to be that the godly can experience victory over the effects of the curse by walking with God. [Note: For additional study of the genealogies, see Kenneth Kitchen, Ancient Orient and Old Testament, pp. 36-39; Schaeffer, pp. 122-124; Kidner; "Chronology" in Westminster Dictionary of the Bible; International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. "Antediluvian Patriarchs," by John J. Davis; James L. Hayward and Donald E. Casebolt, "The Genealogies of Genesis 5, 11 : a statistical study," Origins 9:2 (1982):75-81; Frederick Cryer, "The Interrelationships of Genesis 5, 32; Genesis 11, 10-11 and the Chronology of the Flood," Biblica 66:2 (1985):241-61; and Barr, pp. 584-85.]

"The finality of death caused by sin, and so powerfully demonstrated in the genealogy of Genesis, is in fact not so final. Man was not born to die; he was born to live, and that life comes by walking with God. . . . Walking with God is the key to the chains of the curse." [Note: Cole, p. 294.]

"Within the time-scale of Genesis, this chapter [5] covers the longest period in world history." [Note: Wenham, p. 145.]

As the story of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:3-24) interrupted the genealogy of Adam in Genesis 4:1-2; Genesis 4:25-26, so the story of the Flood (Genesis 6:1 to Genesis 9:27) interrupts the genealogy of Noah in Genesis 5:32 and Genesis 9:28-29.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Genesis 5". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/genesis-5.html. 2012.
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