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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Genesis 5




II. History of Adam - Genesis 5-6:8

Generations from Adam to Noah - Genesis 5

The origin of the human race and the general character of its development having been thus described, all that remained of importance to universal or sacred history, in connection with the progress of our race in the primeval age, was to record the order of the families (Gen 5) and the ultimate result of the course which they pursued (Genesis 6:1-8). - First of all, we have the genealogical table of Adam with the names of the first ten patriarchs, who were at the head of that seed of the woman by which the promise was preserved, viz., the posterity of the first pair through Seth, from Adam to the flood. We have also an account of the ages of these patriarchs before and after the birth of those sons in whom the line was continued; so that the genealogy, which indicates the line of development, furnishes at the same time a chronology of the primeval age. In the genealogy of the Cainites no ages are given, since this family, as being accursed by God, had no future history. On the other hand, the family of Sethites, which acknowledged God, began from the time of Enos to call upon the name of the Lord, and was therefore preserved and sustained by God, in order that under the training of mercy and judgment the human race might eventually attain to the great purpose of its creation. The genealogies of the primeval age, to quote the apt words of M. Baumgarten , are “memorials, which bear testimony quite as much to the faithfulness of God in fulfilling His promise, as to the faith and patience of the fathers themselves.” This testimony is first placed in its true light by the numbers of the years. The historian gives not merely the age of each patriarch at the time of the birth of the first-born, by whom the line of succession was continued, but the number of years that he lived after that, and then the entire length of his life. Now if we add together the ages at the birth of the several first-born sons, and the hundred years between the birth of Shem and the flood, we find that the duration of the first period in the world's history was 1656 years. We obtain a different result, however, from the numbers given by the lxx and the Samaritan version, which differ in almost every instance from the Hebrew text, both in Gen 5 and Gen 11 (from Shem to Terah), as will appear from the table on the following page.

The principal deviations from the Hebrew in the case of the other two texts are these: in Gen 5 the Samaritan places the birth of the first-born of Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech 100 years earlier, whilst the Septuagint places the birth of the first-born of all the other fathers (except Noah) 100 years later than the Hebrew; in Gen 11 the latter course is adopted in both texts in the case of all the fathers except Shem and Terah. In consequence of this, the interval from Adam to the flood is shortened in the Samaritan text by 349 years as compared with the Hebrew, and in the Septuagint is lengthened by 586 ( Cod. Alex. 606). The interval from the flood to Abram is lengthened in both texts; in the Sam. by 650 years, in the Sept. by 880 ( Cod. Alex. 780). In the latter, Cainan is interpolated between Arphaxad and Salah, which adds 130 years, and the age of the first-born of Nahor is placed 150 years later than in the Hebrew, whereas in the former the difference is only 50 years. With regard to the other differences, the reason for reducing the lives of Jared, Methuselah, and Lamech in the Samaritan text after the birth of their sons, was evidently to bring their deaths within the time before the flood. The age of Methuselah, as given in the Cod. Alex. of the lxx, is evidently to be accounted for on the same ground, since, according to the numbers of the Vatican text, Methuselah must have lived 14 years after the flood. In the other divergences of these two texts from the Hebrew, no definite purpose can be detected; at the same time they are sufficient to show a twofold tendency, viz., to lengthen the interval from the flood to Abram, and to reduce the ages of the fathers at the birth of their first-born to greater uniformity, and to take care that the age of Adam at the birth of Seth should not be exceeded by that of any other of the patriarchs, especially in the time before the flood. To effect this, the Sept. adds 100 years to the ages of all the fathers, before and after the flood, whose sons were born before their 100th years; the Sam., on the other hand, simply does this in the case of the fathers who lived after the flood, whilst it deducts 100 years from the ages of all the fathers before the flood who begot their first-born at a later period of their life than Adam and Seth. The age of Noah alone is left unaltered, because there were other data connected with the flood which prevented any arbitrary alteration of the text. That the principal divergences of both texts from the Hebrew are intentional changes, based upon chronological theories or cycles, is sufficiently evident from their internal character, viz., from the improbability of the statement, that whereas the average duration of life after the flood was about half the length that it was before, the time of life at which the fathers begot their first-born after the flood was as late, and, according to the Samaritan text, generally later than it had been before. No such intention is discernible in the numbers of the Hebrew text; consequently every attack upon the historical character of its numerical statements has entirely failed, and no tenable argument can be adduced against their correctness. The objection, that such longevity as that recorded in our chapter is inconceivable according to the existing condition of human nature, loses all its force if we consider “that all the memorials of the old world contain evidence of gigantic power; that the climate, the weather, and other natural conditions, were different from those after the flood; that life was much more simple and uniform; and that the after-effects of the condition of man in paradise would not be immediately exhausted” ( Delitzsch ) . This longevity, moreover, necessarily contributed greatly to the increase of the human race; and the circumstance that the children were not born till a comparatively advanced period of life, - that is, until the corporeal and mental development of the parent was perfectly complete, - necessarily favoured the generation of a powerful race. From both these circumstances, however, the development of the race was sure to be characterized by peculiar energy in evil as well as in good; so that whilst in the godly portion of the race, not only were the traditions of the fathers transmitted faithfully and without adulteration from father to son, but family characteristics, piety, discipline, and morals took deep root, whilst in the ungodly portion time was given for sin to develop itself with mighty power in its innumerable forms.

(Note: The numbers in brackets are the reading of the Cod. Alexandrinus of the lxx. In the genealogical table, Genesis 11:10 ff., the Samaritan text is the only one which gives the whole duration of life.)

Verse 1-2

The heading in Genesis 5:1 runs thus: “This is the book ( sepher ) of the generations ( tholedoth ) of Adam.” On tholedoth , see Genesis 2:4. Sepher is a writing complete in itself, whether it consist of one sheet or several, as for instance the “bill of divorcement” in Deuteronomy 24:1, Deuteronomy 24:3. The addition of the clause, “ in the day that God created man ,” etc., is analogous to Genesis 2:4; the creation being mentioned again as the starting point, because all the development and history of humanity was rooted there.

Verses 3-32

As Adam was created in the image of God, so did he beget “ in his own likeness, after his image; ” that is to say, he transmitted the image of God in which he was created, not in the purity in which it came direct from God, but in the form given to it by his own self-determination, modified and corrupted by sin. The begetting of the son by whom the line was perpetuated (no doubt in every case the first-born), is followed by an account of the number of years that Adam and the other fathers lived after that, by the statement that each one begat (other) sons and daughters, by the number of years that he lived altogether, and lastly, by the assertion ויּמת “ and he died .” This apparently superfluous announcement is “intended to indicate by its constant recurrence that death reigned from Adam downwards as an unchangeable law (vid., Romans 5:14). But against this background of universal death, the power of life was still more conspicuous. For the man did not die till he had propagated life, so that in the midst of the death of individuals the life of the race was preserved, and the hope of the seed sustained, by which the author of death should be overcome.” In the case of one of the fathers indeed, viz., Enoch (Genesis 5:21.), life had not only a different issue, but also a different form. Instead of the expression “and he lived,” which introduces in every other instance the length of life after the birth of the first-born, we find in the case of Enoch this statement, “ he walked with God ( Elohim ) ; ” and instead of the expression “ and he died, ” the announcement, “ and he was not, for God ( Elohim ) took him .” The phrase “walked with God,” which is only applied to Enoch and Noah (Genesis 6:9), denotes the most confidential intercourse, the closest communion with the personal God, a walking as it were by the side of God, who still continued His visible intercourse with men (vid., Genesis 3:8). It must be distinguished from “walking before God” (Genesis 17:1; Genesis 24:40, etc.), and “walking after God” (Deuteronomy 13:4), both which phrases are used to indicate a pious, moral, blameless life under the law according to the directions of the divine commands. The only other passage in which this expression “walk with God” occurs is Malachi 2:6, where it denotes not the piety of the godly Israelites generally, but the conduct of the priests, who stood in a closer relation to Jehovah under the Old Testament than the rest of the faithful, being permitted to enter the Holy Place, and hold direct intercourse with Him there, which the rest of the people could not do. The article in האלהים gives prominence to the personality of Elohim , and shows that the expression cannot refer to intercourse with the spiritual world.

In Enoch, the seventh from Adam through Seth, godliness attained its highest point; whilst ungodliness culminated in Lamech, the seventh from Adam through Cain, who made his sword his god. Enoch, therefore, like Elijah, was taken away by God, and carried into the heavenly paradise, so that he did not see (experience) death (Hebrews 11:5); i.e., he was taken up from this temporal life and transfigured into life eternal, being exempted by God from the law of death and of return to the dust, as those of the faithful will be, who shall be alive at the coming of Christ to judgment, and who in like manner shall not taste of death and corruption, but be changed in a moment. There is no foundation for the opinion, that Enoch did not participate at his translation in the glorification which awaits the righteous at the resurrection. For, according to 1 Corinthians 15:20, 1 Corinthians 15:23, it is not in glorification, but in the resurrection, that Christ is the first-fruits. Now the latter presupposes death. Whoever, therefore, through the grace of God is exempted from death, cannot rise from the dead, but reaches ἀφθαρσία , or the glorified state of perfection, through being “changed” or “clothed upon” (2 Corinthians 5:4). This does not at all affect the truth of the statement in Romans 5:12, Romans 5:14. For the same God who has appointed death as the wages of sin, and given us, through Christ, the victory over death, possesses the power to glorify into eternal life an Enoch and an Elijah, and all who shall be alive at the coming of the Lord without chaining their glorification to death and resurrection. Enoch and Elijah were translated into eternal life with God without passing through disease, death, and corruption, for the consolation of believers, and to awaken the hope of a life after death. Enoch's translation stands about half way between Adam and the flood, in the 987th year after the creation of Adam. Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, and Jared were still alive. His son Methuselah and his grandson Lamech were also living, the latter being 113 years old. Noah was not yet born, and Adam was dead. His translation, in consequence of his walking with God, was “an example of repentance to all generations,” as the son of Sirach says (Ecclus. 44:16); and the apocryphal legend in the book of Enoch Genesis 1:9 represents him as prophesying of the coming of the Lord, to execute judgment upon the ungodly (Judges 1:14-15). In comparison with the longevity of the other fathers, Enoch was taken away young, before he had reached half the ordinary age, as a sign that whilst long life, viewed as a time for repentance and grace, is indeed a blessing from God, when the ills which have entered the world through sin are considered, it is also a burden and trouble which God shortens for His chosen. That the patriarchs of the old world felt the ills of this earthly life in all their severity, was attested by Lamech (Genesis 5:28, Genesis 5:29), when he gave his son, who was born 69 years after Enoch's translation, the name of Noah , saying, “ This same shall comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed .” Noah , נוח from נוּח to rest and הניח to bring rest, is explained by נחם to comfort, in the sense of helpful and remedial consolation. Lamech not only felt the burden of his work upon the ground which God had cursed, but looked forward with a prophetic presentiment to the time when the existing misery and corruption would terminate, and a change for the better, a redemption from the curse, would come. This presentiment assumed the form of hope when his son was born; he therefore gave expression to it in his name. But his hope was not realized, at least not in the way that he desired. A change did indeed take place in the lifetime of Noah. By the judgment of the flood the corrupt race was exterminated, and in Noah, who was preserved because of his blameless walk with God, the restoration of the human race was secured; but the effects of the curse, though mitigated, were not removed; whilst a covenant sign guaranteed the preservation of the human race, and therewith, by implication, his hope of the eventual removal of the curse (Genesis 9:8-17).

The genealogical table breaks off with Noah; all that is mentioned with reference to him being the birth of his three sons, when he was 500 years old (Genesis 5:32; see Genesis 11:10), without any allusion to the remaining years of his life-an indication of a later hand. “The mention of three sons leads to the expectation, that whereas hitherto the line has been perpetuated through one member alone, in the future each of the three sons will form a new beginning (vid., Genesis 9:18-19; Genesis 10:1).” - M. Baumgarten .


Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Genesis 5:4". 1854-1889.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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