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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 5

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) This is the book of the generations of Adam.—See on Genesis 2:4, and Excursus on the Books of Generations.

In the likeness of God.—Man is now a fallen being, but these words are repeated to show that the Divine likeness was not therefore lost, nor the primæval blessing bestowed at his creation revoked. As man’s likeness to God does not mainly consist in moral innocence (see on Genesis 1:26), it was not affected by the entrance into the world of sin, except so far as sin corrupted the vessel in which this great gift was deposited. (Comp. 2 Corinthians 4:7.)

Verse 3

(3) In his own likeness, after his image.—That is, Adam handed down to his posterity that Divine likeness which he had himself received.

Seth.—See on Genesis 4:25.

Verse 5

(5) The days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years.—The numbers in the Bible are involved in great difficulty, owing to the Hebrew method of numeration being to attach numerical values to letters, and add them together; and as the words thus formed are unmeaning, they easily become corrupted. Hence there is a great discrepancy in the numbers as specified by the three main authorities, the Hebrew text making the length of time from the expulsion from Paradise to the flood 1656 years, the Samaritan text only 1307, and the LXX. 2262, while in almost all cases they agree in the duration of the lives of the several patriarchs. There is, however, an appearance of untrustworthiness about the calculations in the LXX., while the Samaritan transcript must rank as of almost equal authority with the Hebrew text itself. St. Jerome, however, says that the best Samaritan MSS. in his days agreed with the Hebrew, but none such have come down to us.

Not only is there no doubt that the Bible represents human life as vastly prolonged before the flood, while afterwards it grew rapidly briefer, but it teaches us that in the Messianic age life is to be prolonged again, so that a century shall be the duration of childhood, and a grown man’s ordinary age shall be as the age of a tree (Isa. Ixv. 20, 22). On the other hand, we may accept the assertion of physiologists that such as man is now, a period of from 120 to 150 years is the utmost possible duration of human life, and that no strength of constitution, nor temperance, nor vegetable diet could add many years to this limit. Hence many have supposed that in the early Biblical genealogies races or dynasties were meant, or that at a time when there were only engraved cylinders or marks scratched on stones or impressed on bricks as modes of writing, a few names only were selected, each one of whom, by the length of years assigned to him, represented an indefinitely protracted period. In proof that there was something artificial in these genealogies, they point to the fact that the tôldôth of Adam are arranged in ten generations, and that the same number of generations composes the tôldôth of Shem (Genesis 11:10-26).; while in our Lord’s genealogy names are confessedly omitted in order to produce three series, each of fourteen names. It is also undeniable that in Hebrew genealogies it was the rule to omit names. Thus the genealogy of Moses contains only four individuals: Levi, Kohath, Amram, Moses (1 Chronicles 6:1-3); while for the same period there are eleven descents given in the genealogy of Jehoshuah (1 Chronicles 7:23-27). All this is sufficient to convince every thoughtful person that we must not use these genealogies for chronological purposes. They were not drawn up with any such intention, but to trace the line of primogeniture, and show whose was the birthright. But the longevity of the antediluvian race does not depend upon these genealogies alone, but is part of the very substance of the narrative. It has too the evidence in its favour of all ancient tradition; but it is one of the mysteries of the Bible. We learn, however, from Genesis 6:3 that it did not prove a blessing, and we possibly are to understand that a change took place at the time of the flood in man’s physical constitution, by which the duration of his fife was gradually limited to 120 years.

We ought to add that modern scholarship has proved the identity of the names of the numbers up to ten in the three great families of human speech. Above ten they have nothing in common. It seems, therefore, to follow that primæval man before the confusion of tongues had no power of expressing large numbers. Hence in these lists the generations are limited to ten, and hence too the need of caution in dealing with the mystery which underlies the protracted duration of the lives of the patriarchs.

Verse 9

(9) Enos lived ninety years.—This proves that the years could not have been mere revolutions of the moon, as some have supposed. So Cainan was only seventy years of age at the birth of his son, and Mahalaleel sixty-five. In the LXX. no patriarch has a son until he is at least 162 years of age, so that the supposition there would be more tenable.

Verse 18

(18) Jared.—Heb., Yered. This name is supposed to mean the descent, especially of water. Hence many have endeavoured to show that he is the Indian water-god Varuna; but competent modern commentators regard all such Aryan expositions as exploded. Mr. Sayce tells us that the word in Assyrian means servant (Chald. Gen. 311), but this is not quite satisfactory. Until, however, this very ancient Semitic dialect is thoroughly explored, we are scarcely in a position to speak with certainty as to these old names.

Further, he was 162 years of age when he begat Enoch. It is probable from this that Enoch was not the eldest son, but that the birthright became his because of his special excellencies. It is also to be observed that Enoch holds the seventh place from Adam, seven being the number of perfection; that he attains to the highest rank among the patriarchs; and that he passes over into immortality without death.

Verse 24

(24) Enoch walked with God.—This is translated in the LXX., “Enoch pleased God,” whence comes the “testimony” quoted in Hebrews 11:5. Really it gives the cause of which the Greek phrase is the effect; for it denotes a steady continuance in well-doing, and a life spent in the immediate presence of and in constant communion with God. (See Note on Genesis 4:18.)

God took him.—Instead of the mournful refrain and he died, coming like a surprise at the end of each of these protracted lives, we have here an early removal into another world, suggesting already that long life was not the highest form of blessing; and this removal is without pain, decay, or death into the immediate presence of God. Thus one of Adam’s posterity after the fall succeeded in doing, though, doubtless, not without special help and blessing from the Almighty, that wherein Adam in Paradise had failed. We learn, too, from Jude 1:14-15, that Enoch’s was a removal from prevailing evil to happiness secured. Already, probably, the intermarriages between the Cainites and Sethites had begun and with it the corruption of mankind. Philippson, while regarding the phrase “God took him” as a euphemism for an early death, yet finds in it an indication of there being another life besides this upon earth. We may further add that Enoch’s translation took place about the middle of the antediluvian period, and that his age was 365, the number of the days of the year. As, however, the Hebrew year consisted of only 354 days, and the Chaldean of 360, the conclusion that Enoch was a solar deity has no solid foundation to rest upon. But see Note on Genesis 8:14.

Verse 29

(29) He called his name Noah.—This is the first recorded instance, since the days of Eve, of a child being named at his birth, and in both cases the name ended in disappointment. Noah brought no rest, but in his days came the flood to punish human sin. We have already noticed that this longing of Lamech for comfort is in strong contrast with the arrogance of his namesake of the race of Cain. (Comp. Genesis 4:18.)

This same shall comfort us . . . of our hands.—These words form a couplet in the Hebrew, and rhyme like the Arabic couplets in the Koran.

The ground (adâmâh) which the Lord hath cursed.—It is usual to style this section Elohistic, because it so evidently takes up the narrative at Genesis 2:3. Yet, first, the writer distinctly refers to Genesis 3:17, where it is Jehovah-Elohim who curses the ground; and next he uses the name Jehovah as equivalent to God, according to what we are told in Genesis 4:26. Here, then, as in several other places, the idea that Genesis can be arranged in two portions, distinguished as Elohistic or Jehovistic, according to the name of God employed in them, entirely breaks down. It is remarkable, also, that the word for “toil” in Lantech’s distich is the same as that rendered sorrow in Genesis 3:16-17, and that it occurs only in these three places.

Verse 32

(32) Noah was five hundred years old.—No reason is given why Noah had no son until he had attained to so ripe an age, nor, in fact, does it follow that he might not have had other sons, though unworthy of sharing his deliverance. It is remarkable also that neither of the three sons who were with him in the ark had offspring until after the flood. (See Genesis 11:19.) From them have sprung the three great lines into which the human family is divided. Shem means name: that is, fame, glory; and he, as the owner of the birthright, was the progenitor of our Lord. Ham, the dark-coloured, was the ancestor of the Egyptians, Cushites, and other black races of Arabia and Africa. Japheth, the widener, but according to others the fair, though the youngest son, was the ancestor of most of the races of Europe, as well as of some of the chief nations of Asia.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Genesis 5". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/genesis-5.html. 1905.
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