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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 5

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary



Having now recorded the main features in the development of the race of Cain, and having also informed us of the birth of Seth and his appointment to pious Abel’s place, the sacred writer proceeds in the present chapter to record a more detailed and complete genealogy of this child of hope and of prophecy. Names, dates, and ages are carefully given, for this is the record of a chosen seed, through which, in an age long subsequent, the evangelist will trace the human lineage of man’s adorable Redeemer. Comp. Luke 3:36-38. Cain’s race had no such future, but all perished by the flood . They were, therefore, more rapidly passed over by the sacred historian, as calling for no such details as the permanent historic line of the godly race .

There are strong resemblances and contrasts between the Sethitic and Cainitic lines. There is an obvious similarity and sometimes identity of names. The names Enoch, or Henoch, and Lamech occur in both; Adam and Enos both signify man; and the resemblance between Cain and Cainan, Irad and Jared, Methuselah and Methusael, and Mehujael and Mahalaleel is striking. But there is a marked contrast when we consider the signification of the names. The etymology of some of them is obscure, but we give the two lines in contrast, with the most probable meanings attached to the names:

Cainitic line, chap. 4. Sethitic line, chap. 5.

1. Adam, (man of the earth.) 1. Adam, (man of the earth.) 2. Cain, (begotten.) 2. Seth, (appointed.) 3. Henoch, (initiating, or initiated.) 3. Enos, (weak man.) 4. Irad, (city dweller.) 4. Cainan, (possession.) 5. Mehujael, (smitten of God.) 5. Mahalaleel, (praise of God.) 6. Methusael, (man of God.) 6. Jared, (condescension.) 7. Lamech, (the strong.) Adah, (ornament;) Zillah 7. Henoch, (initiated.) 8. Methuselah, (man of the dart, Naamah, (loveliness.) or man of growth.)÷Genesis 5:8

Verse 1

1. This is the book ספר , translated book, is not necessarily an extended treatise; it is simply a writing complete in itself, long or short . The “bill of divorcement” (Deuteronomy 24:1; Deuteronomy 24:3) is ספר . In this passage the word is applied to an ancient genealogical register, perhaps of the age of Noah, which the inspired author incorporates in his work.

In the likeness of God Repeated from chapter 1:26, setting forth, in a single phrase, man’s original nature and character.

Verses 1-32

The Book of the Generations of Adam, Genesis 5:1 to Genesis 6:8.

Here begins another of the main divisions of our volume. As observed in the Introduction, (p. 50,) it is not an account of the origin or creation of Adam, nor even of his oldest progeny, but of his posterity through the line of Seth, who is treated as having taken the place of Abel. Genesis 4:25. It is our author’s habit to unfold a series of events connected as in a chain of causes and effects, and then to return and take up one or another for further development and detail . So in the following genealogy, the age, offspring, and death of each patriarch are given, and then the record returns in every case to narrate events in the lives of his descendants which transpired before his death.

Verse 2

2. Called their name Adam Adam, אדם , is the Hebrew word for man, and the reference is to Genesis 1:26, Let us make אדם . Adam means man of the soil: our word man, (Sanscrit, manuscha, Latin, reeds, Saxon, gemynd,) signifies thinking being. Man and woman were one at creation; their name was Adam.

Verse 5

5. Nine hundred and thirty years Widespread heathen traditions preserve the memory of the antediluvian longevity . Persian annals relate that the first Persian kings reigned from five hundred to one thousand years . The Arcadians had traditions that their first kings lived three hundred years . Berosus, the Chaldean historian, states that there were ten antediluvian patriarchs, and preserves the tradition of their great longevity .

Josephus states ( Antiq., 1. 3, 9) that “all who have written antiquities, both among the Greeks and barbarians,” are witnesses of this fact; and he mentions, among others, Manetho, Hieronymus the Egyptian, Berosus the Chaldean, Hesiod the Greek poet, and Hecataeus and Hellanicus, the earliest Greek historians. The works that he mentions exist now only in fragments, so that most of his statements cannot be verified; but it is not likely that he would thus have appealed to these authorities when extant unless they had corroborated the Scripture narrative.

Verse 6

6. Enos This word signifies man, and may denote that the race begins anew from Seth . For the meaning of the other names in the list, see above, page 110 .

Verse 8

8. In his own likeness, after his image Not God’s image and likeness, in which man had been created . The contrast is designed and striking . God’s image and likeness could not be transmitted in their purity through the fallen Adam .

Seth See Genesis 4:25. Seth only is here named of Adam’s sons, because he was the one divinely appointed to take Abel’s place as the heir of the great primeval promise . This is not a history of the antediluvian world, but of the gradually unfolding plan of salvation . They only are chronicled who transmitted God’s torch from age to age .

Verse 22

22. And Enoch walked with God ויתהלךְ חנוךְ את האלהים Not before God, as a messenger, or a workman beneath his eye: nor after him, as a servant; but with him, as a friend . A remarkable expression, occurring but twice in Scripture: in the text as applied to Enoch, and in Genesis 6:9, to Noah. In Malachi 2:6, it is, in our translation, applied to the faithful priest, but the Hebrew verb in this passage is in Kal, not reaching the high spiritual idea of the text . The verb as applied to Enoch and Noah is in Hithpael implying a voluntary and delightful walk . The passages which speak of walking before God (Genesis 24:40, etc . ,) and walking after him do not rise to the high conception of this text . The article is here, for the first time, used with Elohim, the one only God . The LXX translates Και ευηρεστησεν ‘ Ενωχ τω Θεω , and Enoch pleased God, which version Paul uses in Hebrews 11:5: “He had this testimony, that he pleased God . ” Intimate and confidential communication, such as exists between the nearest friends, is suggested by this peculiar language . This single example of eminent piety stands forth sublimely solitary in the antediluvian waste . While the patriarchs from Seth to Enoch, and from Enoch to Lamech, are but a series of Hebrew names, we see Enoch’s face as it shines in his godly walk, and hear him, as a prophet, testify against the sin of his age, and proclaim a coming judgment. Jude 1:14-15. The Jews have manifold traditions concerning Enoch, most of which are gathered in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, written, probably, in the last century B . C . There is a heathen tradition of the same wonderful history in the Phrygian legend of Annacus, a pious king, who lived and prophesied three hundred years, predicting the deluge of Deucalion .

Verse 24

24. The testimony to the exalted piety of Enoch is emphatically repeated; and where we might expect to read again the solemn phrase, “and he died,” we find instead the mysterious words and he was not; for God took him. The expression, and he was not, has frequent parallels in the Hebrew Scriptures, denoting any sudden and mysterious departure . Thus, Jacob says of his lost sons, (Genesis 42:13; Genesis 42:36,) “Joseph is not, and Simeon is not . ” The LXX translates, “And he was not found,” quoted in Hebrews 11:5. He was suddenly withdrawn from sight, for God took him. If the expression, “and he was not,” does not teach annihilation, much less, as Murphy remarks, does the phrase, “and he died.” Enoch’s life, by its brevity, strongly contrasts with that of the other patriarchs. His earthly existence was a year of years, symbolic thus of an ideal human life in its perfect cycle. Thus, perhaps, would man have lived and been “taken” had he never fallen. The apocryphal Book of Wisdom says happily of him, (chap. 4:13, 14,) “He being made perfect in a short time fulfilled a long time.” The Targums show that the story of Enoch was regarded by the Jews as a revelation of human immortality. It was also proof of the great doctrine afterwards intimated by the translation of Elijah, and fully revealed by the transfiguration and resurrection of Christ, that the human body will share in the bliss and glory of immortality.

Verse 27

27. Methuselah The etymology of this word is uncertain . Gesenius gives it man of the dart; it may also mean, he dieth, and sendeth forth, (that is, the deluge,) a prophetic name, given by his father, Enoch, when prophesying of God’s judgments, indicating that the deluge would take place at his death . He died in the year of the flood, having reached the greatest age recorded, nine hundred and sixty-nine years .

Verse 29

29. Noah This name signifies rest or comfort . The godly hope and prophetic aspiration of the Sethite, Lamech, as expressed in this name, contrast strongly with the fierce and defiant song of the warrior and polygamist of the same name, who was descended from Cain . Lamech groans under the curse of severe bodily toil, the consequence of sin . In this son he expects deliverance, and, therefore, names him Rest . Rest and deliverance came to man through Noah, but in a way that Lamech had not thought . Exactly what Lamech expected is not clear; perhaps, like Eve, he looked upon his firstborn son as the great promised Deliverer .

Verse 32

32. Noah was five hundred years old It is not meant that Noah had no children born to him for five centuries . Only those sons are mentioned with whom the narrative is specially concerned. Each patriarch had sons and daughters whose descendants multiplied through these centuries, but their names are lost to history. The order of age in Noah’s family is a matter of discussion. Shem is mentioned first, but it may be because he was the heir in the line of promise. Japheth, in Genesis 10:21, seems to be called the elder, but the meaning may be, “Shem, the elder brother of Japheth,” that is, older than Ham, though not older than Japheth . Ham is called the youngest in Genesis 9:24, yet the Hebrew may also be rendered younger . See Gesen . Hebrews Gram . , § 119 . From Genesis 11:10, it seems that Shem was a hundred years old two years after the flood, that is, in Noah’s six hundred and third year. He must, then, have been born in Noah’s five hundred and third year, and, as Ham was younger than he, it follows that Japheth only could have been born in Noah’s five hundredth year. Yet some understand that in Genesis 10:21, Shem is declared to be “elder” than Japheth, but this view cannot be harmonized with Genesis 11:10. Japheth is not called the eldest of the three in Genesis 10:21, but is conclusively shown to be so by the above comparison of passages. The Arabic writers represent Japheth as the eldest. Shem means name, fame; Ham means burnt, and Japheth means enlargement. Shem, the heir of Messianic hopes, the man of name, is placed first because Christ and salvation are ever first in revelation.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Genesis 5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/genesis-5.html. 1874-1909.
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