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CRITICAL NOTES.—Notwithstanding the measure of difficulty standing in the way of ascertaining the meaning of the proper names of Scripture, the subject cannot be wisely neglected: what we do know is every now and then most striking and suggestive; and what we do not know, and with existing appliances cannot learn, occasionally possesses an interest almost amounting to fascination. We know enough to feel intensely curious to know more. In fact, these old names have the charm of fossils—they were once living, and had a place in a living sphere of human hopes and fears, and passions and disappointments; and by them we seem every now and then to get a glimpse into a now buried world. These glimpses come like snatches of reality, and may be of considerable indirect service, even where we most feel that positive knowledge eludes our grasp. In the following summary of the meanings (certain or probable) of the proper names of this chapter, the reader will understand the appended initials to signify as follows:—G, Gesenius; F, Fürst; D, Davies; M, Murphy. Where the meaning has had to be gleaned inferentially from the author, it is enclosed in parenthetical marks “( )”: where the author expressly intimates a doubt as to the signification of a name, it is followed by the sign of interrogation “?”
Genesis 5:1. Adam] “Red”? G.; “made of dust or earth,” F.; “ruddy”? but prob. “earth born,” D.; “red” (from red soil), M.—
Genesis 5:3. Seth] “Placing,” “setting,” G.; “compensation,” F.; prob. “substitute,” D.; “placed,” “put,” M.—
Genesis 5:6. Enos] “Mortal, decaying man,” F.; “man,” D.; “man,” “sickly,” M.—
Genesis 5:9. Cainan] “Possession”? G.; “a child, one begotten,” F.; “smith,” or “lancer,” D.; “possessor” or “spearsman,” M.—
Genesis 5:12. Mahalaleel] “Praise of God,” G., D., M.; “praise or splendour of El,” F.—
Genesis 5:15. Jared] “Descent,” G., D.; “low ground,” “water,” or “marching down,” F.; “going down,” M.—
Genesis 5:18. Enoch] “Initiated,” or “initiating,” G.; “teacher,” “initiator,” F.; “teaching,” or “initiation”? D.; “initiation,” “instruction,” M.—
Genesis 5:21. Methuselah] “Man of a dart,” G.; “man of military arms,” F.; “missile man,” D.; “man of the missile,” M—.
Genesis 5:25. Lamech] “Strong,” or “young man,” G.; “overthrower” (of enemies), “wild-man,” F.; “destroyer,” D.; “man of prayer,” “youth,” M.—
Genesis 5:29. Noah] (“Rest”), G.; “consolation,” or “rest,” F.; “rest,” or “comfort,” D.; “rest,” M.—
Genesis 5:32. Shem] (“Name”), G.; “name,” “renown,” “height,” F.; “celebrity,” D.; “name,” “fame,” M. Ham] “Hot,” G., M.; “dark-coloured,” “black,” F.; “swarthy,” D.—Japhet] “Widely-extending,” G.; “extender,” or “spreader”; “or “beautiful”? (of white races), F.; “extension,” D.; “spreading,” M.
“In general little reliance can be placed upon the etymological significance of these early names as given by the lexicographers, whether we regard them as purely Hebrew, or as having been transferred from some older Shemitic tongue. In a few of them, however, there appear contrasts that can hardly be mistaken. Thus, for example, between Seth, the established, the firm, and Enosh, the weak, the frail (βροτός, mortalis, homo), the contrast is similar to that between Cain and Abel (gain, as the promised seed, and vanity or disappointment), as though the hopes of men, from generation to generation, were alternately rising and falling.”—Prof. T. Lewis, in Lange’s “Genesis.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Genesis 5:1-32
History is full of distinguished men, and it is interesting to study how they became so. There are many methods of becoming a distinguished man, and we shall notice a few as suggested by the names contained in this immortal chapter of early history.
I. Some men are rendered distinguished by the peculiarity of the times in which they live. Adam was thus distinguished. He was the first human being to inhabit the earth, to look out upon its bright glories, and to care for its produce. He was the first human being to hold sweet communion with God, and to feel the rapture of holy prayer. He was also, with his wife, the first human being to be led astray, into the woful experiences of sin, by the devil. Hence Adam as the first man is invested with a most wonderful and interesting history, from the time of his coming into the world, over which he had no control. God made him, and he entered into life under these unexceptionable circumstances. Hence his fame. Had Adam lived in these days the probabilities are that his name would have been unknown to the crowd, and unspoken by the multitude. He was not by any means a man of great genius. We are not aware that he had any extraordinary mental or moral gifts, he was commonplace in the measure of his soul. We do not read that like Cain he built a city, or that like Jabal he was the father of such as dwelt in tents, or that like Jubal he was efficient in musical arts and accomplishments, or that like Tubal Cain he was capable of numerous mechanical artifices. He was simply an ordinary man, who in different times, under less extraordinary circumstances, would not have attracted the slightest public attention, and in this respect Adam is a type of multitudes whose lives are chronicled in the world’s history. They were not intrinsically great men, either in their intellectual abilities or moral sentiments. They never once in their lives had a thought so sublime that they were under the necessity of calling for pen and ink to pursue an angel clad in such bright clothing. They were never capable of moral passion. Their lives were a stagnation, there were no great billows of impulse rolling in as from a great heart, indicative of the wild music of the soul. They were men, and that was all. You could see all they were. You could hear all they had. They were possessed of no unknown quality of being. Yet they rise to fame. Yes! But there was nothing meritorious in their notoriety. They were renowned because they could not help it. Some men are fortunate in the accidents of their lives. They happen to be born in a certain family, at a certain time, and as a consequence they become the world’s rulers and favourites. Such men should learn that a true and worthy fame is not the outcome of time or circumstance, but of earnest personal effort and achievement. It is not unlikely that the man who is born a hero may die a fool. He will be greater at his birth than at his death. At his birth wise men may come to pay him homage, but at his death there may be none to attend his funeral. Thus we find that some are distinguished men from the mere circumstances of their advent into the world.
II. That some men are rendered distinguished by their marvellous longevity.—We find that the men whose names are given in this list were remarkable for the length of their lives, Methuselah living to the age of nine hundred and sixty-nine years. There are multitudes of men who are remarkable for nothing else but their longevity. They had a good physical manhood, and consequently they were enabled to endure the storm of life for many years. They were men of bone and muscle rather than of thought and moral energy. They would be more useful in the army than in the church; better soldiers than Christian workers. But we gauge men’s lives by a wrong estimate. We cannot measure a man’s life by the number of years he has passed in the burden and battle of the world. A long life may be lived in a very short space of time, and a number of years may be the chronicle of a brief life. Man’s truest life is spent in and measured by deeds, thoughts, sympathies, and heroic activities. A man may live a long life in one day. He has during the day been instrumental in the salvation of one soul, then in that day he has lived a short eternity. A man who writes in a year a thoughtful book, which shall instruct and culture the minds of men, lives a century in that brief space of time. The schoolmaster who teaches a boy to think, the minister who helps men to be pure and good, the gentle spirits who aid by visitation and prayer the sorrowful and the sick, these are the world’s longest lives, these are the world’s true Methuselahs. Hence we should endeavour to live well if we would live long. Immortality will consist in moral goodness rather than in the flight of ages. But society is hardly awake to this measurement of time and this computation of the years, and hence it still continues to laud the man of three score years and ten, and to reckon him amongst its curiosities. Society gives fame to many men because it regards them in this light. We cannot say that such a fame is worthy of envy. Grey hairs, when found in the paths of rectitude, are worthy of all honour and respect, but he who can find no other claim upon the world’s admiration is destitute of that which can alone win the truest homage of mankind.
III. That some men are rendered distinguished by the villainy of their moral conduct. There are many in this list whose lives are characterized by utter degeneracy. In the first verse we are told that God created man in his own pure image, and then by way of contrast, and of shewing the extent of the fall of man, we have given several names by way of illustration. The image of God and the life of man is in terrible contrast. But it is well that sin is not always made known in its full extent in human history. These verses do not contain a record of the sins of which some of the men named were guilty. They sum up the life in a name. History cannot write the wickedness of men. It is too dark for the pen to sketch. It would be too awful for the world to read and contemplate. When men die it is well that the remembrance of their sins should be buried with them. Their villainies are best forgotten. But history will not altogether permit the sins of men to pass from remembrance. The annals of crime soon allow their heroes to banish from the world’s memory. But monarchs who have been despots, place-seekers who have been murderers, and the outbreaks of popular rage, are retained on the pages of history. And these men owe their historic distinction to their crimes. Crime soon brings men into unenviable fame; a fame they had better be without.
IV. That some men are rendered distinguished by their ancestral line of descent. This chapter contains the line from Adam to Noah, in which are stated some common particulars concerning all, and certain special details concerning three of them. The genealogy is traced to the tenth in descent from Adam and terminates with the flood. The scope of the chapter is to mark out the line of faith, and hope, and holiness from Adam, the first head of the human race to Noah, who became eventually the second natural head of it. And so it is, some men are only known in the line of their ancestral relationships. They are slight links in a great chain. They are feeble lights in a grand constellation. Their greatness is reflected from the toils or achievements of others who have lived before them. They catch a borrowed lustre. Such lives are the relief of history. They subdue its grandeur. They contrast with its pageantry. They make it approachable. If the pages of history were filled with the exploits and records of men essentially and intrinsically great, they would be unapproachable by the ordinary reader. Hence we gladly welcome, now and then in its annals, the little manhood of great ancestry, but destitute of moral force.
V. That some men are rendered distinguished by their true and exalted piety.—We are told in this chapter, that Enoch walked with God and was not, for God took him. This is a distinction of the very truest kind, it arises from the moral purity of the soul. It is not always that the men who walk the most intimately with God are the most famous on earth. Sometimes they are persecuted. They are often rejected by the common multitude. Some envy the beauty of their moral characters. Others mock them. But the favour of national crowds is very fickle and transient, and is not worth having. But the favour of all worthy spirits will ever be the heritage of the good. Heaven will also take notice of them, and cause its benediction to rest upon them. Good men are the true kings of the world, the true prophets, the great victors, and the only ones worthy of permanent fame and celebration. And when the great ones of the earth, whose praise has been from men, shall be forgotten, then the good shall shine as stars in the Kingdom of God for ever and ever. Then let all young men seek the distinction which cometh from above, that only is worthy their search, and alone will repay the energies of their immortal souls. LESSONS:—
1. That a good old age is often the heritage of man.
2. That noble lineage is the heritage of others.
3. That true piety may be the heritage of all.
4. That true piety has a substantial reward as well as a permanent record.
I. The longevity of the antediluvian race. Here are men who lived through periods varying from eight hundred to almost a thousand years. This longevity might be explained on natural principles. These men inherited good constitutions; they were of stalwart frames, with pure blood coursing through their veins, and every part of their organization well strung together. The varying temperatures, the fogs and malaria belonging to these western regions, so inimical to health, had no place in their land. Their diet was simple; those intoxicating beverages and unwholesome confectionaries which come to our tables were probably unknown to them. They knew not the anxieties and competitions of the merchant. Who but God can tell how long the human body organically strong, and thus guarded, would live? Their longevity was for special ends. It served to populate the world. It supplied the want of a written revelation. From the death of Adam to the call of Abraham was a period of about eleven hundred years. During that period a large population grew, discoveries were made, great deeds were wrought, great communications received from God; but there was no historian to hand down to the children the experiences of their sires. Thus the longevity of man supplied the place of books. Their longevity contributed to their depravity. The fear of death somewhat restrains evil even in the worst men. Death is a useful minister. Were the Herods, the Neros, the Napoleons to live nine hundred years, would society be better than hell? As long as depravity is in the world, it is necessary there should be mortality.
II. The poverty of human history. All that we have of the human race for upwards of a thousand years is to be found in these verses. The myriads who lived during this period sustained the same relation to each other, to God, and to the universe as we do; and the ideas, feelings and habits common to the race were theirs. Each had a history of his own, but there is no record, the pale of oblivion is over them. They are only mentioned. There is an awful sadness in this. To leave the world in which we have lived and laboured, enjoyed and suffered, and to be forgotten for ever, is humbling to our vanity, and sickening to our very heart. The millions are forgotten as a dream, a few years after their death. A few by literature and art are kept in memory a little longer; but the hour comes with them, when the last letter in their names is washed out from the sands of life by the tidal wave of time.
III. The materializing tendencies of sin. All that is recorded here of these great men, except Enoch, is that they begat sons and daughters. There is no harm in this, but there is no virtue in it. There is in it that which indicates their alliance with the lower creation, nothing to indicate their alliance with the spiritual universe and with God. There is no spiritual act here recorded of them. It is not said that they read the meaning of some page in the volume of nature, or that they reared altars to the God of heaven. Why are these things not recorded? Because not accomplished? Why? Had they not souls? Had they not a God to worship? Their souls were materialized. The material pleasures are the pleasures taught by the million.
IV. The inevitableness of man’s mortality. These men lived hundreds of years, yet it is said of each, “he died.” Death may delay his work, but does not forget his mission. No money can bribe death, no power can avert his blow.
“All that tread
The globe, are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.”
V. The blessedness of practical Godliness. “Enoch walked with God.” This expression implies an abiding consciousness of God’s presence. He “saw Him who is invisible.” The Divine presence was not with him a mere dogma; it was a living conscious fact. He felt God nearer to him than nature, nearer than any other being, the constant companion of his spirit. The language implies cordial fellowship. To walk with another implies a mutual sympathy and agreement of soul. Spiritual progress. He walks, every step bearing him onward into higher truths and richer experiences.—(Homilist.)
SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Genesis 5:1-2. Providence has made a sufficient register of the rise, growth, and state of the Church to satisfy faith rather than curiosity.
The genealogy of the Church revealed by God ought to be known and believed by men.
God’s will is that His Church should be propagated by generation, not by creation.
The generations of the Church were ordered to be from Adam fallen, that grace might appear.
The record of man’s creation in God’s image is necessary to be studied by man in his fall.
God’s blessing only makes man fruitful to propagate His Church.
One name and nature has God given to both sexes of man, that they may learn their union in conjugal estate.
Genesis 5:3-5. The Spirit of God hath taken care to give a sufficient chronology unto the Church from the first.
Some distance of time may be in delaying the reforming seed of the Church, but it shall come.
Sinful Adam begets his seed in his full image, sinful as himself.
Grace can make a sinful seed of man to be a settled Church reformer.
Providence gave large progenies, and long time, to the first fathers.
The Spirit has willingly silenced the history of all the first times but of the Church.
God’s pleasure has been to give the world a full witness of his creation.
ENOCH, ONE OF THE WORLD’S GREAT TEACHERS
Genesis 5:22-24. (Compare Genesis 5:22-24; Hebrews 11:5; and Jude 1:14-15.) There are three very strange things that strike us in connection with the history of Enoch. It is strange that so little is said about him. The verses we have read comprehend all our reliable knowledge of him. It is true that there is a book called by his name—a book which, although perhaps as ancient as the Epistles, is evidently apocryphal, and therefore not to be trusted. Reference is also made to him in Ecclesiasticus, a book which, although bound up in some of our Bibles, has no right to a place in canonical writings. One might have expected that a man who lived so many years as he did, lived a life so divine and useful, would have had an ampler history in the Book of God. Another thing that strikes us as strange in this man’s history is the comparative shortness of his stay on earth. It is true that he was here three hundred and sixty-five years, a period which, although commanding a space equal to ten of our generations, was not so much as half of the age of many of his contemporaries. We should have thought that he would have lived longer than the wicked around him. Another thing that strikes us as strange in this man’s history is the manifest singularity of the life he lived.
I. He taught the world by his life.
1. “He walked with God.”
2. “He had the testimony that he pleased God.” How this testimony came to him we are not told. It is not necessary to suppose that it came in any miraculous way. It was the testimony of his conscience. How blessed such consciousness. Such a life as his was indeed a teaching life. As the load-star seems to beam more brilliantly in the firmament, the darker grows the clouds that float about it, so Enoch’s life must have been a luminous power in his age of black depravity. There is no teaching like life teaching. All mere verbal and professional teaching is as the tinkling cymbal to this true trump of God. It is the most intelligible teaching. Men reason against your Paleys, but they can’t reason against a good life. It is the most constant teaching. Letter and logic teaching is only occasional. But life teaching is constant. Its light streams through all the acts and events of every day life. It is not the brooklet that rattles after the shower, and is silent in the drought, but it is the perennial river rolling in all seasons, skirting its pathway with life and beauty, and reflecting on its bosom the heavens of God.
II. He taught the world by his translation. “He was not.” The expression, “was not found,” suggests that he was missed and sought for. Such a man would be missed. No doubt his age knew him well. How he was taken to heaven we know not. We learn—
1. That death is not a necessity of human nature. He did not see death. There are those who say that men are made to die; that, like all organized bodies, their dissolution is inevitable; that death with them, as with all animal existence, is a law of nature. Hence they say that the doctrine that men die because of sin is a mere theological fiction. It is also said that God intended men to die, otherwise He would not have allowed them to multiply so rapidly without giving them a world immeasurably larger than this. The translation of Enoch is an answer to all this. It shows that if death is the law of man’s nature, God is stronger than law, and can annul it at His pleasure. If the earth can only support a limited number of men, God could have taken a thousand generations in the same way.
2. That there is a sphere of human existence beyond this. Perhaps the men in those antediluvian times had lost all ideas of a future state of being. The translation of Enoch would reveal another sphere of life to them.
3. That there is a God in the universe who approves of goodness.
4. That the mastering of sin is the way to a grand destiny. Just as a man overcomes sin, and walks closely with his Maker, he gets translated.
III. He taught the world by His preaching. Jude gives a specimen of his preaching, and it includes three things:—
1. The advent of the Judges
2. The gathering of the saints.
3. The conversion of sinners.—(Homilist.)
THE HEAVENLY WALK
I. That it may be pursued notwithstanding the prevalency of sin around. The age in which Enoch lived was, probably, the darkest the world has ever known. It had wandered from God in thought, in purpose, in worship, and in life. It was altogether degenerate. We have a Divine description of it.
1. Lust was made the basis of marriage. “And the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.”
2. The longevity of man was productive of sin. “And the Lord said, my spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.”
3. Violence was prevalent amongst men. “There were giants in the earth in those days.” “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This is God’s description of the age in which Enoch was called to live. He was one star amid the darkness. He was one ray of light in the terrible storm of evil. He was one flower in that neglected garden. He was an oasis in the desert of wickedness. His life was in sublime contrast to all around him. He was the prophet of the age. He was the guide of the age. He was the benefactor of the age. This shows the intrinsic force of a godly spirit, in that it can repel the sin by which it is surrounded, and keep its own conscience from defilement. This shows three things:—
(1.) That man can be good notwithstanding the natural depravity of his heart.
(2.) Notwithstanding the wickedness of his companions. Man is not the creature of circumstances. He need not commit sin because he is surrounded by it. He can repel it in the home—in the workshop—whatever may be the disadvantages of his condition His surroundings are no excuse for evil doing. The soul can rise above them into the heavenly path of fellowship with God.
(3.) That man can be good notwithstanding the difficulty of the Christian life. It is not an easy thing to be a Christian. It is not natural for man to be good. Goodness is a conflict. Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads into the paths of moral rectitude. But this need not impede the spiritual progress of the soul in the ways of God, even in the most degenerate times. The darkness calls for light, and wickedness needs piety in its midst, if only to keep it from utter ruin, and to pray for its reformation.
II. That it may be pursued in the very prime of busy manhood. The life of Enoch was a comparatively busy one; he died in the prime of manhood. And yet at this period he was celebrated for his moral goodness. Some people have an idea that piety is all very well for little children, for women who are comparatively unoccupied, and for the aged; but they intimate that for men in the prime of life, in the midst of business, and who are thus in severe competition with the world, that it is an absurdity and an impossibility. These men hope soon to amass a fortune and retire from active life, and then they will commence the period of devotion. Who can estimate the folly and the moral wrong of such an idea? Piety is good for the most active business man. It will enrich his soul. It will sooth his care. It will quiet his anxiety. It will refresh his soul. It will give him the guidance of a Divine Father. Men can be honest in business. Multitudes are. They prosper the best. If the age is sinful, it likes to do business with a reliable man. Let the business men of England seek to enter upon the heavenly walk so gladly enjoyed by Enoch.
III. That it may be pursued in the very midst of domestic anxiety and care. “And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters.” He was not the mere creature of passion. He was not materialistic in his ideas. He walked with God amidst his family enjoyments, duties, and anxieties. Many people have lost their religion through the increase of domestic cares. But a godly soul can walk with God in family life, and take all its offspring in the same holy path. Enoch would instruct his children in the right way. He would pray for them. He would commend them to his Divine Friend. Happy the home where such a godly parent is at its head.
IV. That it may be pursued into the very portals of heaven and eternal bliss. Enoch walked with God, and one day walked right into heaven with Him. Heaven is but the continuation of the holy walk of earth. Going to heaven does not imply a cessation in the walk of moral goodness. With the good man life on earth naturally breaks into the glory of the skies. Some people imagine that heaven will consist in a miraculous change wrought upon the soul whereby it will enter into some grand, inexplicable sphere of being. No: Heaven is the soul’s walk with God on earth, rendered closer and more spiritual by the conditions of the new life above. The soul’s walk with God is a progress to eternal light. Let our prayer be—
“O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame;
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!”
ENOCH: ACCOUNTING FOR MEN’S DISAPPEARANCE FROM THE EARTH
“God took him.”
I. We should take an interest in the destiny of men.
II. We should recognize the hand of God in the removal of men
III. We should believe in the particularity of God’s oversight of men. When God takes a good man—
(1.) He takes that man to a higher blessing.
(2.) He will fill that man’s place as a Christian worker upon earth.
(3.) He trains survivors towards self-reliance and emulous work. Or, thus:
1. God took him—the assertion of a sovereign right.
2. God took him—an illustration of Divine regard.
3. God took him—an assurance of eternal blessedness.
4. God took him—a pledge that all like him will be associated. (City Temple.)
God of his own will hath chosen some eminent witness to bear out His name to all ages—Enoch, Elijah.
Eminent piety becomes those who are God’s chosen witnesses in a dark age.
Men who walk with God must discover Him to others.
God will take and crown those souls that walk with Him.
The advantages of walking with God:
1. The best security.
2. The purest happiness.
3. It will secure eternal life.
Genesis 5:25-27. The longest life on earth:—It will not give perfection.
2. It will yield to change.
3. It may yield to sin.
4. It must die.
Genesis 5:28-31. Outward names may be the same to the righteous and the wicked. Chapter Genesis 4:18. Compare Genesis 5:28.
God has set times for eminent refreshing to His church.
The first times before the flood had real and typical discoveries of God’s rest in Christ.
God makes the names of his seed prophetical of the peace of His church.
Genesis 5:32. A stated and full time of warning does God vouchsafe to men of His requirements.
It is a blessing upon the holiest to have families.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 5
REV. WM. ADAMSON
Adam! Genesis 5:1. The Apocalypse of Moses is a mythical narrative of the sickness and death of Adam and Eve. In it Adam is represented on his expulsion as petitioning the seraphim to allow him to carry away some of the perfume of Paradise. The boon is granted, and Adam takes that aroma of Eden which afterwards became the sacrificial incense. It also narrates how Adam sent his son Seth to go and fetch the oil of consolation, which flows from, the Tree of Life in Paradise—and how this favour was refused him because he was appointed unto death.
“Yes, I must die—I feel that I must die;
And though to me has life been dark and dreary,
Yet do I feel my soul recoil within me
As I contemplate the dim gulf of death.”—White.
Adam’s Death! Genesis 5:5. Tradition has invented an account of the last scene. Scarcely had he breathed his last than his soul was carried away by angels, and his body borne into Eden—there to await the resurrection. The death of him, who was created for eternal life, and was not to die, produces a deep tremor of awe throughout the universe. The earth refuses to receive his body—the sun and moon cover themselves with a veil—and wonders are wrought far and wide; all of which accounts are no doubt as deserving of Christian credence as are the startling phantoms of heathen prodigy or Roman calendar. Seth is represented as stating that Adam was buried by him in the “Cave of Treasures”—along with the incense and myrrh from Paradise—to which cave came in after times the magi to obtain the frankincense and myrrh which were brought to the Infant Saviour.
Godless Grey-hairs! Genesis 5:9. There is not a more repulsive spectacle than an old man who will not forsake the world, which has already forsaken him. As Spurgeon so wittily and weightily says, of all fools, a fool with a grey head is the worst fool anywhere. With one foot in the grave, and another foot on a sandy foundation, of him it may be asked: A few more nights, and where art thou?
“What folly can be ranker? Like our shadows
Our wishes lengthen as our sun declines:
No wish should loiter then this side the grave.”—Young.
Despots! Genesis 5:9. In pictured stone we see traces which speak of perfectly-organized, strong and beautiful life, and a record there also of imperfection and deformity; as in the records of the Bible are traces not only of those who excel in virtue, but of those who made a strong impression on their age through the magnitude of their vileness. Among such are those mentioned in this chapter. But
“Think’st thou there is no tyranny but that
Of blood and chains? The despotism of vice,
The weakness and the wickedness of luxury.”—Byron.
Adam to Noah! Genesis 5:9. The golden age was the first period of history in which truth—right—innocence and happiness universally prevailed. There were no instruments of war, and the earth brought forth her fruits spontaneously. Spring was perpetual—flowers grew up spontaneously—the rivers flowed with milk and wine, and honey dropped from the boughs of the oak. Then came the silver age—then the savage brazen age—then the murderous iron age, followed by the flood of Deucalion—while
“Faith fled, and piety in exile mourned:
And Justice, here opprest, to heaven returned.”—Dryden.
Ancestry! Genesis 5:10. King James I., in his progress in England, was entertained at Lumley Castle, the seat of the Earl of Scarborough. A relative of the noble earl was very proud in showing and explaining to his Majesty an immensely large genealogical line of the family. The pedigree he carried back rather farther than the greatest strength of credulity would allow, whereupon the witty Monarch quietly remarked that “he did not know before that Adam’s name was Lumley.”
“Of all the wonders which the eventful life
Of man presents—
Not one so strange appears as this alone,
That man is proud of what is not his own.”—More.
Memorials! Genesis 5:14. When we explore the caverns of Egypt we come upon the sculptured forms of ape and ibis. These serve to illustrate the shapes and idolatries of human conceits. They speak to us in language more powerful than the most minute details of history. And so, when we examine the vaults of pre-Noachic man, we come upon the names of successive generations which suffice to exemplify to us life-history of that era. They testify with more power and fulness than if there were a thousand rolls inscribed with their deeds and thoughts.
“Those strong records,
Those deathless monuments alone shall show
What, and how great, the Roman Empire was.”—May.
Rivers! Genesis 5:17. Life bears us on like the stream of a mighty river. Our boat glides down the narrow channel, through the playful murmuring of the little brook, and the winding of its grassy borders. The trees shake their blossoms over our young heads, and the flowers on the brink seem to offer themselves to our young hands; we are happy in the hope, and grasp eagerly at the beauties around us—but the stream hurries on, and still our hands are empty. Our course in youth and manhood is along a wider flood, amid objects more striking and magnificent. We are animated at the moving pictures of enjoyment and industry passing us—we are excited at some short-lived disappointment.
“It may be that the breath of love,
Some leaves on its swift tide driven,
Which, passing from the shores above,
Have floated down from heaven.”—Bell.
The stream bears us on, and our joys and grief are alike left behind us. We may be shipwrecked; we cannot be delayed. Whether rough or smooth, the river hastens to its home, till the tossing of the waves is beneath our feet, and the land lessens from our eyes, and floods are lifted around us, and we take our leave of earth and its inhabitants until of our further voyage there is no witness but the Infinite and Eternal.—(Heber.)
Antiquity! Genesis 5:20. Wandering during a bright autumnal afternoon over one of the loftiest chalk cliffdowns in our island, and often looking out over the great far-stretching ocean that rolled up in monotonous murmurs to the foot of the precipitous white rock walls, on the top of which he then stood, Mr. Leifchild was deeply impressed with a feeling of the limitations of all human knowledge. Down below, some 800 feet under him, and for many miles before him was the vast unsounded sea. High up above that was the lofty, inaccessible sky. Immediately beneath his feet were solid layers upon layers of accumulated and piled-up chalk. He beheld the sea and sky under a full sunshine, but he knew nothing absolutely of what was in them—of what was below them—of what was above them. Even of the visible and sea-derived rock underneath, he knew little more than that it was the white sepulchre of countless centuries—the mighty monument of historic ages—the dead deposit of once boundlessly swarming life. So may we stand in regard to the generations of men recorded in Genesis 5:0. We see around and above them; but we cannot see what is in them. Full blazing light is over all, but light is not in all.
“When fain to learn we lean into the dark,
And grope to feel the floor of the abyss.”—Ingelow.
Faith-vision! Genesis 5:24. Birds have an extraordinary power of changing the focus of the lens of their eye, at will and instantly. By this means they are enabled to perceive distant objects invisible to human gaze, as if just under their beaks. The optician cannot give you an eye-glass to distinguish with equal clearness near objects and remote. Yet birds possess this power. And so the Christian possesses this twofold spiritual vision. The prophet Enoch—without increasing or diminishing—was able to cause the faith of his soul to change instantly the globular form of the crystalline lens, and thus augment the power of refraction. Looking at will and instantly, he could see the sins near at hand, and yet behold the grand solemnities of the last assize far off.
“From Adam to his youngest heir,
Not one shall ’scape that muster-roll;
Each, as if he alone were there,
Shall stand, and win or lose his soul.”—Montgomery.
Immortality! Genesis 5:24. All heathen nations have believed in the immortality of the soul. The Greeks and Romans had their Hades—their Elysian fields—their infernal regions; but these, as Macmillan remarks, were only ghost worlds, inhabited by the shades of the departed. They felt that the dust could not be the end of him who has been privileged to walk with God among the trees of the garden, and to hold communion with the Divine in the thoughts that breathe and words that burn in all the magnificence of Nature’s creation.
Was made upright, immortal made, and crowned
The king of all.”—Pollok.
Wickedness! Genesis 5:22. There was never a ray of starlight in the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky—only the red glare of torches ever lights its walls. So there were many men in the era from Adam to Noah whose minds were all underground, and unlighted save by the torches of selfishness and passion.
“Meanwhile the earth increased in wickedness,
And hasted daily to fill up her cup.”—Pollok.
Family! Genesis 5:22. The religious father may be regarded in his family as the keystone to the arch of a building which binds and holds all the parts of the edifice together. If this keystone be removed, the fabric will tumble to the ground, and all its parts be separated from each other. Or, he is to his family as the good shepherd, under whose protection and care the flock may go in and out, and find pasture; but when the shepherd is smitten, the sheep will be scattered. Yet
“His hand who rent shall bind again,
With firmer links, thy broken chain,
To be complete for ever.”—Fitzarthur.
Holy Walk! Genesis 5:24. The Emperor of Germany was one day visiting one of the public schools of Prussia; and, being desirous of personally testing the intelligence of the children, he held up a stone, and enquired to what “kingdom” it belonged. Having received the reply that it was a member of the mineral kingdom, he held up a little flower, and repeated the question to what kingdom it rightly belonged. The prompt response was given that it was classed in the vegetable kingdom; whereupon the veteran monarch, drawing himself up to his full stature, enquired: “To what kingdom do I belong?” To his pleased surprise, a voice immediately shouted: “To the kingdom of heaven.” True indeed of the aged champion of the Kingdom of Christ on earth; would that it could be said of every child of man: “To the kingdom of heaven!” This is secured by “walking with God;” and
“Though small the seedling, from it grows
Heaven’s boundless bliss.”—Judson.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Genesis 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25