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cChart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the OT - used by permission
|Summary Chart of
The Book of Genesis
|Topics||Beginning of the Human Race
(Race As A Whole)
|Beginning of the Hebrew Race
(Family of Abraham)
|Faithfulness of Mankind
|Faithfulness of One Man's Family
From Eden to Ur
From Canaan to Egypt
(20% of Genesis)
|About 300 Years
193 Yr in Canaan, 93 Yr in Egypt
(80% of Genesis)
Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.
- book- The original word rendered "book," signifies a register, account, history, or any kind of writing. Ge 2:4 6:9 10:1 1Ch 1:1 Mt 1:1 Lu 3:36-38
- in the likeness - Ge 1:26,27 Ec 7:29 12:1 1Co 11:7 2Co 3:18 Eph 4:24 Col 3:10 Heb 1:3 12:9
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.
QUESTION - What is the definition of antediluvian?
ANSWER - Antediluvian (literally, “before the flood”) refers to the time period before the flood recorded in Genesis 6—8. The righteous people who lived before Noah’s time are called antediluvian patriarchs. Those men are listed in Genesis 5 and include Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Enoch, and Methuselah, who lived to be 969, making him the oldest person on record. The word antediluvian has also come to mean “extremely old” or “out-of-date.”
We know from the genealogies listed in Genesis 1—6 that people lived much longer in antediluvian times than they do today. Adam, the first man, lived to be 930 years old (Genesis 5:5). His son Seth lived to be 912 (Genesis 5:8). The length of the antediluvian period, based on the genealogies, was approximately 1,656 years.
A significant change in human behavior occurred in the antediluvian period: “Men began to call on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 4:26). This fact is linked with the birth of Seth and then his son Enosh, indicating that, with the birth of Enosh, the family of Seth began to separate themselves from the wickedness of the world around them and were known as people who worshiped the Lord. The general trend of humanity, however, was spiritual decline. By the beginning of chapter 6, “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (verse 5).
The antediluvian era was also the time of the Nephilim. These were “heroes of old, men of renown,” who were the offspring of an unholy union between the “sons of God and the daughters of men” (Genesis 6:4). Whatever the exact nature of the Nephilim, they were one of the reasons God destroyed everything with a flood. Noah and his wife were not of the Nephilim race and therefore could repopulate the earth as God intended it to be.
Jesus alluded to the antediluvian period when He predicted signs of His second coming: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37–39).
The antediluvian period was unique in human history—a time of long life spans and bodies that were near perfection. Adam lived through more than half of the antediluvian days and was presumably available to recount firsthand accounts of Eden to anyone interested enough to listen. But it didn’t take long for wickedness to grow to such an extent that God had to destroy it all. After the flood, God promised Noah that He would never again flood the entire earth. The symbol of that promise was a rainbow (Genesis 9:12–17). That first rainbow signified the end of the antediluvian era and demonstrated God’s great mercy in giving humanity another chance to know Him. Every rainbow since then is a continuing reminder of the grace of God.GotQuestions.org
Genesis 5:2 He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.
- Male - Ge 1:27 Mal 2:15
- their - Ge 2:15,23 *marg: Ac 17:26
He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.
Genesis 5:3 When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.
- hundred - The chronology differs in the Hebrew Text, the Samaritan, the LXX., and Josephus. The LXX. adds 100 years to each of the patriarchs Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, and Enoch, before the birth of their sons; while they take 20 from the age of Methuselah, and add 6 to that of Lamech. Thus the space from the creation to the deluge is made 2,242 years, according to the Vatican copy, but 2,262 by the Alexandrine; and the sum total by Josephus is 2,265, by the Samaritan 1,307, and the Hebrew Text, 1,656. The sum total from the Deluge to the 70th year of Terah, according to these authorities, is, Heb. 292; Sam. 942; Sept. Vat. 1,172; Alex. 1,072, and Josephus 1,002.
- in his - Job 14:4 15:14-16 25:4 Ps 14:2,3 51:5 Lu 1:35 Joh 3:6 Ro 5:12 1Co 15:39 Eph 2:3
- called - Ge 4:25
When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth.
Genesis 5:4 Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters.
- And the - 1Ch 1:1-3 Lu 3:36-38
- and he - Ge 5:7,10,13,19,22,26,30 1:28 9:1,7 11:12 Ps 127:3 144:12
Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters
Genesis 5:5 So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.
- nine - Ge 5:8,11,14,17-32 De 30:20 Ps 90:10
- and he died - Ge 5:8,11,14-32 3:19 2Sa 14:14 Job 30:23 Ps 49:7-10 89:48 Ec 9:5,8 Ec 12:5,7 Eze 18:4 Ro 5:12-14 1Co 15:21,22 Heb 9:27
So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died
Genesis 5:6 Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh.
- begat - Ge 4:26
Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh.
Genesis 5:7 Then Seth lived eight hundred and seven years after he became the father of Enosh, and he had other sons and daughters.
Then Seth lived eight hundred and seven years after he became the father of Enosh, and he had other sons and daughters
Genesis 5:8 So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.
- Ge 5:8
So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.
Genesis 5:9 Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan.
- Cainan - Heb. Kenan, 1Ch 1:2 Lu 3:37
Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan
Genesis 5:10 Then Enosh lived eight hundred and fifteen years after he became the father of Kenan, and he had other sons and daughters.
- begat - Ge 5:4
Then Enosh lived eight hundred and fifteen years after he became the father of Kenan, and he had other sons and daughters
Genesis 5:11 So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died.
- died - Ge 5:5
So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died
Genesis 5:12 Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel.
- Mahalaleel - Gr. Maleleel, Lu 3:37
Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel.
Genesis 5:13 Then Kenan lived eight hundred and forty years after he became the father of Mahalalel, and he had other sons and daughters.
- and begat - Ge 5:4
Then Kenan lived eight hundred and forty years after he became the father of Mahalalel, and he had other sons and daughters
Genesis 5:14 So all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years, and he died.
- Ge 5:5
So all the days of Kenan were nine hundred and ten years, and he died
Genesis 5:15 Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Jared.
- Jared - Heb. Jered, 1Ch 1:2
Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Jared.
Genesis 5:16 Then Mahalalel lived eight hundred and thirty years after he became the father of Jared, and he had other sons and daughters.
- and begat - Ge 5:4
Then Mahalalel lived eight hundred and thirty years after he became the father of Jared, and he had other sons and daughters.
Genesis 5:17 So all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years, and he died.
- died - Ge 5:5
So all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years, and he died
Genesis 5:18 Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and became the father of Enoch.
- Enoch - Ge 4:17 1Ch 1:3, Henoch, Lu 3:37 Jude 1:14,15
Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years, and became the father of Enoch
QUESTION - Who was Enoch in the Bible?
ANSWER - There are at least four different men in the Bible named Enoch (Genesis 4:17; 5:18; 25:4; 46:9). We should note that, in Genesis 25:4 and Genesis 46:9, the NIV gives the name “Hanok,” while some other translations, such as the Darby translation, give the name “Enoch” instead. In both verses, the name “Hanok” is from the same Hebrew word translated “Enoch” in Genesis 4:17 and Genesis 5:18. Other translations say “Hanoch” or “Henoch.” The only difference is one of English spelling.
It is only the Enoch mentioned in Genesis 5:18 that the Bible gives any significant information about. This Enoch was the great-great-great-great-grandson of Adam. Genesis 5:22–24 says,
“After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
Hebrews 11:5 gives a little more detail:
“By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’ For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.”
This being “taken away” is what Enoch is most famous for. Only two people in the Bible are said to have been chosen by God to escape death, Enoch and Elijah. Enoch appears to have been given this privilege due to being a man who walked faithfully with God (Genesis 5:24) and pleased God (Hebrews 11:5). For what purpose was Enoch taken away? The Bible does not specifically say. The most common assumption is so that he could serve as one of the two witnesses, alongside Elijah, in the end times.
There are also three pseudepigraphal books using Enoch’s name, with 1 Enoch being the most well known, often referred to as the Book of Enoch. None of the pseudepigraphal books of Enoch were actually written by the biblical Enoch. However, since the biblical book of Jude quotes from 1 Enoch and attributes the quotation to the biblical Enoch (Jude 14), at least that one small prophecy must be truly attributable to the biblical Enoch.
Enoch draws a lot of attention due to the mystery surrounding him. Far too much speculation has gone into how and why God took Enoch away. Instead of conjecturing, we should be seeking to follow Enoch’s example by being men and women who walk faithfully with God and seek to please Him with our lives.GotQuestions.org
Genesis 5:19 Then Jared lived eight hundred years after he became the father of Enoch, and he had other sons and daughters.
- and begat - Ge 5:4
Then Jared lived eight hundred years after he became the father of Enoch, and he had other sons and daughters
Genesis 5:20 So all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years, and he died.
- he died - Ge 5:5
So all the days of Jared were nine hundred and sixty-two years, and he died
Genesis 5:21 Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah.
- Methuselah - Gr. Mathusala, Lu 3:37
Enoch lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Methuselah
Genesis 5:22 Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters.
- Ge 6:9 17:1 24:40 48:15 Ex 16:4 Lev 26:12 De 5:33 13:4 28:9 1Ki 2:4 2Ki 20:3 Ps 16:8 26:11 56:13 86:11 116:9 128:1 Song 1:4 Ho 14:9 Am 3:3 Mic 4:5 6:8 Mal 2:6 Lu 1:6 Ac 9:31 Ro 8:1 1Co 7:17 2Co 6:16 Eph 5:15 Col 1:10 4:5 1Th 2:12 4:1 Heb 11:5,6 1Jn 1:7
Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah, and he had other sons and daughters.
Genesis 5:23 So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.
- Ge 5:23
So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years
Genesis 5:24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
- walked - Ge 5:21
- he was not - The same expression occurs, Ge 37:30 42:36 Jer 31:15 Mt 2:18
- for - 2Ki 2:11 Lu 23:43 Heb 11:5,6 1Jn 1:7
2 Kings 2:11 (ELIJAH TAKEN TO HEAVEN) As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven.
Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him
QUESTION - Why did God take Enoch and Elijah to heaven without them dying?
ANSWER - According to the Bible, Enoch and Elijah are the only two people God took to heaven without them dying. Genesis 5:24 tells us, "Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away." 2Ki 2:11 tells us, "Suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind." Enoch is described as a man who "walked with God for 300 years" (Genesis 5:23). Elijah was perhaps the most powerful of God’s prophets in the Old Testament. There are also prophecies of Elijah’s return (Malachi 4:5-6).
Why did God take Enoch and Elijah? The Bible does not specifically give us the answer. Some speculate that they were taken in preparation for a role in the end times, possibly as the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3-12. This is possible, but not explicitly taught in the Bible. It may be that God desired to save Enoch and Elijah from experiencing death due to their great faithfulness in serving and obeying Him. Whatever the case, God has His purpose, and while we don’t always understand God’s plans and purposes, we know that “His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).GotQuestions.org
Walter Kaiser - 5:23–24 What Happened to Enoch? (Go to page 74 of Hard Sayings)
Too many people assume that there is no uniform and sure doctrine on the subject of life after death in the Old Testament. Only one reference in the Old Testament is counted as a clear and undisputed reference to the resurrection of the dead by most Old Testament scholars, Daniel 12:2: “Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” Unhappily, however, even those who concede this point incorrectly place Daniel in the second century B.C.
A few scholars are willing to add Isaiah 26:19 to the Daniel 12:2 passage and count it as a second passage supporting the idea of resurrection of the dead in the Old Testament. It reads, “But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.”
Nevertheless, it is amazing to see how many learned men and women will deny even these two texts and argue that the Old Testament teaches virtually nothing about resurrection or life after death.
The truth of the matter is that ancient peoples were more attuned to the subject of life after death than moderns suspect. The peoples of the ancient Near East wrote at length about what life was like after one left this earth. One need only consult such representative pieces as the Gilgamesh Epic, The Descent of Ishtar into the Netherworld, the Book of the Dead and the Pyramid Texts. Indeed, the whole economy of Egypt was geared to the cult of the dead, for all who wished a part in the next life had to be buried around the pyramid of the Pharaoh. What these Egyptians could expect in that afterlife was depicted in the scenes on the walls of their mortuaries: eating, drinking, singing and all the joys of this life. Each joy, of course, would be magnified and still enjoyed through a body.
By the time Abraham arrived in Egypt, such concepts had been emblazoned on their walls in hieroglyphics, murals and models made of clay, to make sure no one missed the point. Life after death was not a modern doctrine developed by an educated society that began to think more abstractly about itself and its times. Instead it was an ancient hunger that existed in the hearts of humanity long before the patriarchs, prophets and kings of the Old Testament began to function. Why should we attribute this idea to the second and third centuries B.C. if already in the third and second millennium B.C. there is strong evidence to support it?
The earliest biblical mention of the possibility of a mortal’s inhabiting the immortal realms of deity can be found in Genesis 5:24. There we are told that a man named Enoch lived 365 years, all the while “walking with God.” Suddenly, “he was no more, because God took him away.”
Enoch, whose name means “beginner,” must have been unusually godly—not that he achieved this distinction by removing himself from the world and contemplating only the presence of God. In fact, he fathered the famous Methuselah (the man who lived the longest that we know about on planet Earth, 969 years!). And he had other sons and daughters. This man was hardly removed from the daily grind and the problems of life. Nevertheless, he was able to walk with God.
Since this quality of “walking with God” is ascribed only to Enoch and Noah (Gen 6:9), it is significant that Malachi 2:6 shows that the concept involved having a most intimate communion with God. What a tribute to a mortal who is also a sinner! On the other hand, since Exodus 33:20 teaches that “no one may see [God] and live,” the possibility of an outward, physical meeting with God is ruled out.
Many think that only since New Testament times have such nearness and inner communion with God become possible. But here was one who found such uninterrupted consciousness of the living God that it appears to match what we in the post-New Testament era experience.
After 365 years of intimacy with the Almighty, suddenly the Lord “took” Enoch. What can it mean that he “took” him?
The Hebrew root for the verb to take is used over a thousand times in the Old Testament. However, in two contexts—this Genesis 5 passage and the account of Elijah’s assumption into heaven in 2 Kings 2:3, 10–11—it refers to a snatching of a person’s body up to heaven.
In light of these two cases of physical assumption, are there other cases where the verb is used in the Old Testament with a similar meaning?
There are two additional contexts in which more is intended than a mere rescue from dying or distress. Psalm 49 presents a stark contrast between the end of the lives of the wicked and the end of the lives of the righteous. The wicked are like “the beasts that perish” (Ps 49:12, 20) without any hope that they “should live on forever” (Ps 49:9). However, the righteous have the triumphant expectation that “God will redeem [them] from the grave [Hebrew Sheol]; he will surely take [them] to himself” (Ps 49:15). The idea is the same as that of Genesis 5:24: God will snatch, take or receive us to himself when we die. If the psalmist had in mind the fact that he would be rescued from death for a few years, though he knows he still must eventually die like the beasts, then the psalm has very little, or no, point.
Psalm 73:23–25 makes a similar contrast between the wicked and the righteous. Once again there is faith that reaches beyond this life, and it centers on this verb to take (Hebrew lāqaḥ). Says the psalmist, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory” (Ps 73:24).
Accordingly, it can be argued on very strong linguistic and conceptual grounds that the “taking” of a person from this earth implies that mortals are capable of inhabiting immortal realms. For the believer in Yahweh in Old Testament times, death did not end it all. There was life after death, and that life was to be in the presence of the living God.
While Enoch did not experience “resurrection,” he did experience glorification. He did, along with Elijah, transcend this mortal life and go in his body to be with God. Since Enoch had not died, he could not be resurrected.
Such a view of an immediate access into the presence of God would also close down all speculation on any kind of intermediate state, receptacle or location as unscriptural. To say that Old Testament believers stayed in a separate compartment in Sheol or in a kind of purgatory runs directly counter to the fact that God snatched Enoch and Elijah away “to himself.”
To say that the Old Testament offers the hope of personal fellowship with God beyond the grave with a real body is not outlandish or incorrect. That hope is a teaching of the text itself.
See also comments on GENESIS 25:8 (See page 98); JOB 19:23–27 (See page 228); PSALM 49:12, 20 (See page 241); ECCLESIASTES 3:19–21 (See page 265).
Genesis 5:25 Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and became the father of Lamech.
- Ge 4:18
Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and became the father of Lamech.
Genesis 5:26 Then Methuselah lived seven hundred and eighty-two years after he became the father of Lamech, and he had other sons and daughters.
- begat sons - Ge 5:4
Then Methuselah lived seven hundred and eighty-two years after he became the father of Lamech, and he had other sons and daughters.
Genesis 5:27 So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.
- e died - Ge 5:5
So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.
Genesis 5:28 Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son.
- Ge 5:28
Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and became the father of a son.
Genesis 5:29 Now he called his name Noah, saying, "This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed."
- he called - Ge 6:8,9 7:23 9:24 Isa 54:9 Eze 14:14,20 Mt 24:37 Lu 3:36 Lu 17:26,27 Heb 11:7 1Pe 3:20 2Pe 2:5
- Noah - Gr. Noe, i.e. rest or comfort
- because - Ge 3:17-19 4:11,12
Now he called his name Noah, saying, "This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed
QUESTION - Why did Lamech think Noah would bring comfort (Genesis 5:29)?
ANSWER - Many times in Scripture, we see that personal names have meanings that relate to the character of the people who bore them or to the times in which they lived. Noah’s name means “rest” or “consolation” and is related to a Hebrew word meaning “comfort.” Genesis 5:28–29 says, “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, ‘He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.’”
So, Lamech named his son Noah. Genesis 5:29 provides the basic idea regarding Lamech’s thought process. He specifically mentions that the ground had been cursed as part of God’s judgment (cf. Genesis 3:17–19). The birth of Noah when Lamech was 182 years old would have provided “comfort” or “rest” from some of the work of subsistence farming. A son would one day be able to join in the labors of farming, giving Lamech some relief from his many years of manual labor.
But Noah would provide more than physical rest. It appears that Noah’s name is also an inspired prediction regarding his life. The word Noah is taken from the Hebrew word for “rest,” nuakh (see 2 Samuel 14:17). Lamech lived in an evil time, before the Flood (Genesis 6:1). Noah’s father predicted that, in contrast to the world’s evil, Noah would represent righteousness and bring rest and peace in the midst of God’s judgment.
Later in Genesis, Noah was indeed used as God’s agent of peace. He was called by God to build an ark that would save himself, seven of his family members, and enough land animals and birds to keep the species alive. The dove used by Noah to help determine if the flood waters had receded would later become known as a symbol of peace. In Genesis 9:12–15 God promised that the earth would never again be covered by water, and the sign of this covenant of peace was a rainbow.
The New Testament affirms Noah’s role as one who brought comfort. Second Peter 2:5 calls Noah a preacher of righteousness. No others are mentioned as believing his message, and no one joined Noah’s family in the ark, but Noah had peace with God. He lived according to God’s ways and obeyed His commands in preparing for the Flood. If anyone had heeded Noah’s preaching, he or she could have found “rest” in the ark along with Noah, the man of rest.
In both a literal and prophetic sense, Noah lived up to his name as one who would bring comfort. To this day, Noah is seen as a man of peace who led people and animals through a time of judgment and into a new world.
Noah’s life was used as an illustration by Jesus in the Gospels: “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26). There is coming a time that will be like Noah’s time when God’s judgment will come upon the earth. The proper response is to be like Noah and obey the Lord’s call for salvation now, while time remains (2 Corinthians 6:2; John 3:16; Acts 4:12).GotQuestions.org
Genesis 5:30 Then Lamech lived five hundred and ninety-five years after he became the father of Noah, and he had other sons and daughters.
- begat sons - Ge 5:4
Then Lamech lived five hundred and ninety-five years after he became the father of Noah, and he had other sons and daughters
Genesis 5:31 So all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years, and he died.
- he died - Ge 5:5
So all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years, and he died.
Genesis 5:32 Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth
- Shem - Ge 6:10 7:13 9:18,19,22-27 10:1,21,32 1Ch 1:4-28 Lu 3:36
Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah became the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth
Walter Kaiser - 5:3–5 How Could Adam Live 930 Years? (Go to page 71 of Hard Sayings)
Everyone who reads the list of the ten antediluvians in Genesis 5 and the list of ten postdiluvians in Genesis 11 is immediately struck by the longevity of these patriarchs. How is it possible that these people were able to live so long?
Moreover, we are awed by the ages at which they were still able to father children. Noah became a proud father at a mere 500 years (Gen 5:32)!
The question of the possible reconciliation of the results of scientific inquiry and the claims of Scripture could not be more challenging. The claims for the long lives and the ages at which these men were able to sire children is enough to lead to a distrust of the Scriptures almost from the very first chapters of the Bible.
In fact, so notoriously difficult are the problems presented by the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 that they have been paraded for centuries as prime examples of chronological impossibilities in the Bible. A resolution for the kinds of issues raised here are found, however, in an understanding of the writer’s method.
In April 1890, William Henry Green of the Princeton faculty wrote an article in Bibliotheca Sacra pointing to some clear principles used by the writers of Scripture in the construction of genealogies. Those principles include the following:
1. Abridgment is the general rule because the sacred writers did not want to encumber their pages with more names than necessary.
2. Omissions in genealogies are fairly routine. For example, Matthew 1:8 omits three names between Joram and Ozias (Uzziah); namely, Ahaziah (2 Kings 8:25), Joash (2 Kings 12:1) and Amaziah (2 Kings 14:1). In verse 11, Matthew omits Jehoiakim (2 Kings 23:34). In fact, in Matthew 1:1 the whole of two millennia are summed up in two giant steps: “Jesus Christ, the son of David [about 1000 B.C.], the son of Abraham [about 2000 B.C.].”
3. The span of a biblical “generation” is more than our twenty to thirty years. In Syriac it equals eighty years. Often in the Exodus account a generation is 100 to 120 years.
4. The meanings of begat, son of, father of and even bore a son often have special nuances, as the context often indicates. To beget often means no more than “to become the ancestor of.” To be the father of often means being a grandfather or great-grandfather. The point is that the next key person was descended from that male named “father” in the text.
The most instructive lesson of all can be gleaned from Kohath’s descent into Egypt (Gen 46:6–11) some 430 years (Ex 12:40) before the exodus. Now if Moses (one in the Kohath line) was 80 years old at the time of the exodus (Ex 7:7), and no gaps (such as are suggested by the above-mentioned principles) are understood (as we believe the evidence above now forces us to concede), then the “grandfather” of Moses had in Moses’ lifetime 8,600 descendants. Amazing as that might seem, here is the real shocker: 2,750 of those 8,600 descendants were males between the ages of 30 and 50 (Num 3:19, 27–28, 34; 4:36)! It is difficult to believe that the writers of Scripture were that naive.
The form that Genesis 5 and 11 use, with few exceptions, is a stereotypic formula giving the age of the patriarch at the birth of his son, the number of years that he lived after the birth of that son, and then the total number of years that he lived until he died. It is the question of the function of these numbers that attracts our attention here.
Since Zilpah is credited with “bearing” (yālaḏ̄) her grandchildren (Gen 46:18) and Bilhah is said to “bear” (yālaḏ) her grandchildren as well (Gen 46:25), it is clear that a legitimate usage of these numbers in the genealogies might well mean that B was a distant relative of A. In this case, the age of A is the age at the birth of that (unnamed) child from whom B (eventually) descended.
The ages given for the “father” when the “son” was born must be actual years, as we shall presently see. The conflation takes place not at the point of supplying the actual years at which the father had a child; it is instead at the point where the name of the next noteworthy descendant is given instead of the immediate son. The ages given function as an indicator of the fact that the effects of the Fall into sin had not yet affected human generative powers as seriously as they have more recently. The same point, of course, is to be made with regard to human longevity. The fact that the record wishes to stress is the sad mortality of men and women as a result of the sin in the Garden of Eden. The repeated litany “and he died” echoes from the pages like the solemn toll of a funeral bell.
Attempts to make the numbers more palatable have been crushed by the internal weight of their own argumentation or from a failure to care for all the data in a single theory. One abortive attempt was to treat the names as names of tribes rather than as names of individuals. This would seem to work until we meet up with Enoch, who was taken to heaven. It hardly seems fair to imply that the whole Enoch tribe was taken to heaven, so we are left with the idea that these really are meant to represent individuals.
Another, equally unsuccessful, rationalization was that the “years” here represented a system of counting months, or something of that sort. In this view, the years would be reduced by a factor of 10 or 12. Accordingly, Adam’s total of 930 years could be reduced to the more manageable and believable 93 or 77 years. This theory runs into trouble when Nahor becomes the father of Terah at 29 years of age in Genesis 11:24. This would mean that he actually had a child when he was 2.9 or 2.4 years old! In that case we jump from the pan into the fire. Unfortunately for this theory, there are no known biblical examples of the word year meaning anything less than the solar year we are accustomed to in general speech.
One final warning might be in order: do not add up the years of these patriarchs in Genesis 5 and 11 and expect to come up with the Bible’s date for the birth of the human race. The reason for this warning is clear: the Bible never adds up these numbers. It is not as though the Bible never gives us sums of years—there are the 430 years of Egyptian bondage in Exodus 12:40 and the 480 years of 1 Kings 6:1. But in Genesis 5 and 11 the writer does not employ his numbers for this purpose; neither should we.
Some who have violated this simple observation have seriously argued that the human race was created on October 24, 4004 B.C., at 9:30 a.m., 45th Meridian time. Being careful scholars from Cambridge, the cynic William Brewster quipped, they did not dare say with any more precision when humankind was born!
The earliest definite date we can fix for any biblical person is around 2100 B.C. for the birth of Abram. The Julian calendar dates for anything before that are impossible to set with the present sets of data at our disposal.
The creation of the universe is dated in Genesis 1:1 as being “in the beginning.” Of that we can be as certain as we are of revelation itself. The creation of Adam came six “days” later, but one must be warned that right there in the first chapters of Genesis the Bible uses the word day with three different meanings: (1) daylight (Gen 1:5), (2) a twenty-four-hour day (Gen 1:14) and (3) an epoch or era, as we use the word in speaking of the “day” of the horse and buggy or Abraham Lincoln’s “day” (Gen 2:4; compare the RSV’s “In the day” with the NIV’s “When”). I would opt for the day-age theory, given all that must take place on the sixth “day” according to the Genesis record. Incidentally, this day-age view has been the majority view of the church since the fourth century, mainly through the influence of Saint Augustine.
So Adam did live a real 930 years. The sons attributed to him may have been his direct sons or they may have been from two to six generations away, but in the same line.
See also articles on “Why Don’t Bible Genealogies Always Match Up?” (Go to page 30 of Hard Sayings) and “Aren’t Many Old Testament Numbers Wrong?” (Go to page 32 of Hard Sayings)