Genesis 5

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. [1]

In Genesis 4, Moses gave us a record of the downward spiral of sin in the society of Cain. First, he showed us Cain’s cold-blooded murder of his brother Abel. It was Cain’s attempt to strike out at God for rejecting Cain’s faithless sacrifice. Cain showed no remorse at his arraignment by God, only self-pity over his judgment. Since he was barred from farming, Cain left God’s presence “bloody but unbowed” and ultimately settled in the Land of Wandering (Nod).

The second half of chapter 4 completes the record of Cainite civilization as Moses traces one particular line from Cain down to Lamech, who sings the first gangsta rap about his passion for vengeance and killing – a seventy-sevenfold increase in violence and vengeance. Lamech’s sons, no-doubt as God-hating as their father, still become inventors and innovators of common culture. Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-cain, reflecting the creativity of their Creator God, become the fathers of agribusiness, the arts, and technology. “And so it has been in the succeeding generations. People and nations have answered slights with swords and spears and machine guns and missiles. Civilization, with its abundance and arts and technologies, does not save. In fact, these very boons can be used for exponential evil.”[2]

But this sad picture of cultural advancement and increasing evil is not the only picture Moses gives us. Beginning in 4:25, we see a new line of Godly people emerging on the scene with the birth of Seth. “25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another [seed] instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.[3] The Godly line, the City of God, began to proclaim God’s name. They worshipped. They shared the good news of the Promised Seed with the Cainite pre-believers. The City of God grew alongside the City of Man as wheat among the tares. Seth’s line does not list cultural accomplishments. Their contribution was theological according to Moses.


Following this good news that the devil has not wiped out the line of the Promised Seed, Moses gives the toledoth (the account, or story) of Adam. This is the second of ten toledoths in the book, running from 5:1 to 6:8. The first part is the genealogy of the line of Seth, listing ten members of the line. By contrast, Cain’s genealogy listed only seven members and contained no ages because his line was cursed by God and would be wiped out in the coming flood. But Seth’s genealogy gives the age of each patriarch at the time of the son by whom the line Godly would be continued (not necessarily the firstborn!), the number of years that he lived after the birth, and then the total years of his life. Each individual is important to God’s eternal economy.[4]

Both Cain’s and Seth’s genealogies appear linear, running from the name of son to the next. Both end by branching out to list three sons of the last name on the list. Other ancient Semitic cultures have created 10-name genealogies. Most are lists of royal lines and contain references to kings who were elevated to gods. One scholar writes of this genealogy in Genesis 5, “However far one pushes back the origin of humanity, says Gen. 5, one never finds anything more than man. Man, even earliest man, never becomes a god. He is simply ‘earthling.’ The chasm between the infinite and the finite is never bridged.”[5]

If these Western Semitic genealogies and Genesis follow the same pattern, then there is no reason to view Moses’ list as perfectly sequential. If that is so (and I think it most likely), we cannot add the numbers to arrive at the age of mankind. Instead, we have two symmetrical genealogies: ten generations before the Flood (Gen. 5) and ten generations after the Flood (Gen. 11). So, when Gen. 5 says that “X fathered Y” it can mean that “X fathered the line concluding in Y.[6] Meredith Kline, in his commentary on Genesis writes:

The genealogy is selective, not exhaustive. This is signalized by the conventional numbers: ten generations from Adam to Noah, with three sons of Noah, paralleled in the genealogy of the covenant line in 11:10–26 by the ten generations from Shem to Terah and his three sons. (Cf. Matt 1, where the clearly incomplete genealogy is composed of three sets of double sevens.) Hence the age figures of these patriarchs cannot be used to compute chronologies.[7]

In other words, like other biblical genealogies (c.f. David’s genealogy in Ruth 4:18-22; Matthew 1, Luke 1), Moses lists only certain names in the line and not every name. There may be many, many more generations of people in this pre-flood line of the Promised Seed and a much larger space of time involved. That would mean culture and civilization advanced to a greater degree before the flood than most of us tend to think.


Moses introduces the account of Adam’s chosen line by pointing us back to his poem in 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, /in the image of God he created him; /male and female he created them.[8] The opening verse of chapter 5 reminded people that, though Adam had lost perfect life-giving fellowship with God, man still bore God’s image (9:6). As image-bearers, they had the capacity to hear God’s word – something no other earthly creature could do. Bearing God’s image also still made it possible for man to have an intimate spiritual relationship with him as his child.

Moses reminds us that the fall did not remove God’s blessing. Genesis 1:28 reads, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’[9] The line of Seth was blessed to make babies and blessed to rule in the same way we saw Cain’s line multiplying and advancing their society. And Seth’s line did multiply substantially, as Moses’ 10-generation selective genealogy suggests.[10] Moses repeated reference to “other sons and daughters” as well as their long lives suggests a great number of descendants in the line of Seth. Sadly, it also suggests that a great many in that line of descendants did not cling to God since only Noah and his family were left among the elect at the time of the flood.

Yet, Martin Luther rightly considers this line of 10 men to be the great saints of their age. He wrote:

This is the greatest glory of the primitive world, that it had so many good, wise, and holy men…. We must not think that these are ordinary names of plain people; but, next to Christ and John the Baptist, they were the most outstanding heroes this world has ever produced. And on the Last Day we shall behold and admire their grandeur. Likewise, we shall also see their deeds. For then it will be made manifest what Adam, Seth, Methuselah, and the others did; what they endured from the old serpent; how they comforted and maintained themselves by means of the hope of the Seed against the outrages of the world or of the Cainites….[11]

What a difference between Cain’s Lamech who celebrated vengeance and violence and Seth’s Lamech. The chosen Lamech spoke of redemptive hope to come through his son, Noah (5:29). “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”[12] Luther continues:

…this power and malice of the Cainites was the reason why the holy patriarchs taught their church so much more zealously and carefully. How many important sermons do we suppose were delivered by them in that entire course of years, when Adam and Eve told about their first state and the glory of Paradise, and gave admonitions to be on guard against the serpent, who through sin became the cause of so many evils! How careful shall we suppose them to have been in explaining the promise concerning the Seed; how sensible in cheering the hearts of their people that the latter might not become discouraged by the grandeur of the Cainites or by their own afflictions![13]


Moses writes something seemingly contradictory in verse 3. Recently I was asked if I thought that Eve had usurped Adam’s authority by naming her sons since God had given Adam the responsibility of naming the animals (2:19). Moses answers that question here in verse 3. In 4:25 we read, “And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, ‘God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.’[14] In 5:3 we read, “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.[15] The plain conclusion from the text is that both parents agreed on Seth’s name as they likely agreed on all their other children’s names.

Beginning in verse 3, we have the structure that will repeat through the chapter (excepting Enoch and Noah). First comes the age of the father at the birth of the son in the promised line, then the name of this son. The son’s birth, and that of subsequent children, is described repeatedly. The third part of the structure is the mention of how many years the father lived after the birth of this son. Fourth, comes the reference to the fathering of other children, sons and daughters. Fifth, and last, is the recording of the father’s age at his death.[16]

For all Adam and Eve’s optimism over God raising up another son to carry on the line of the Promised Seed, Moses drives home another obvious point in chapter 5. The dust-to-dust portion of the common curse of the Covenant of Works (3:19) is still in effect for all humanity. After almost every life summarized in this genealogy comes the refrain, “and he died.” No matter how extraordinarily long the pre-flood descendants of Seth lived, their story concluded with that one phrase, “and he died.” Methuselah fell 31 years short of living for a millennium, “and he died.” The Hebrew text is even more stark since it’s only one word. The Sethites lived under the blessing of being able to call on the name of the Lord and under the COW’s common curse of death.

This is life for all the children of Adam since his great rebellion. Citizens of the City of God and of the City of Man must and shall die an earthly death. “The day is coming when the earth will not know us. We will be gone. …At death, life is short for all. … Vast multitudes of people have been born bearing the image of God, originals all, so beautiful, so full of potential— but they have been plowed under. The rains have washed their names from the tombstones. Their bones are no more.”[17]  On and on goes the cycle of the dust-to-dust covenant curse: “and he died” — “and he died” — “and he died.”


But in the seventh generation from Adam comes a bright ray of hope, Enoch. Again, what a contrast between the namesake of Enochville in the line of Cain and the Enoch of Seth. The seventh in Cain’s line was violent Lamech. The seventh name in the City of God was Enoch, the man who walked with God. These two “sevenths” are eternal contrasts – Hell and Heaven, unbridled death and unbounded life.[18] Their placement in side-by-side genealogies is another point that suggests Moses has given us a selectively-arranged list of descendants.

Moses wrote that Enoch “walked with God.” This phrase “walked with God” is only applied to Enoch and Noah (cf. 6: 9) and describes the closest personal communion with God— as if walking at the side of God. There are other Old Testament phrases such as walking before God (cf. 17: 1; 24: 40) and walking after God (cf. Deuteronomy 13: 4), which describe blameless moral and ethical conduct. Walking with God is far more intimate. The minor prophets use this phrase, in fact, to describe the intimate walk of priests who entered the Holy of Holies to speak directly with God. “…the metaphor of walking suggests walking along God’s path, in the same direction.”[19]

Biblical genealogists often placed in the seventh position individuals who are uniquely important. Enoch is the one person of whom it is not said that he died. Instead, God took him. This may be one indication in this chapter that long life is not the most sacred and honorable blessing that can come from God. To be lifted aloft into God’s immediate presence is more of an honor. This is a privilege Enoch shares only with Elijah (2 K. 2:11). “We have here the intriguing situation of the father who does not die [Enoch] and the son who lives the longest of any human being [Methuselah]. And we have the person in Gen. 5 living on earth the shortest and fathering the person who in Gen. 5 lives the longest on earth.”[20]

Enoch is in the genealogical seventh pole position because he represents something to his generation among an increasingly wicked world who lived with the constant refrain “and he died.” Enoch represents the faith that delivers from death – trust into the person and work of the Promised Seed to come. Enoch doesn’t EARN freedom from death because he is a great guy! Noah, too, walked with God yet still had an earthly death. Enoch, like all the other sons in the line of the Promised Seed, is chosen by God and gifted trust by God. He is the beacon of hope. And God used Enoch to convey that hope to those who lived with the curse of death purchased by Adam at the tree of judgment in the garden-temple. Only the Last Adam has the power to break that curse. As Paul wrote:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.[21]

St Author of Hebrews said of Enoch:

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.[22]

There is great cultural achievement and many wonderful things in the City of Man, Cain’s city. God’s mercy is found in both Man’s City and God’s City. But only in the City of God can be found the hope of life that comes by trusting into the person and work of Christ, the Promised Seed of the Woman. Hope flows from life in and from the Promised Seed. And it is free for all who will but come and take hold of it.

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. [23]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 5:1–32.

[2] Hughes, 117. Kindle Edition.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 4:25–26.

[4] Hughes, 118.

[5] Hamilton, 253.

[6] Id, 254.

[7] Meredith G. Kline, Genesis: A New Commentary, ed. Jonathan G. Kline (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2016), 29.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:27.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 1:28.

[10] Hughes, ibid.

[11] Luther, 334.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 5:29.

[13] Id., 335.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 4:25. Emphasis added.

[15] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 5:3. Emphasis added.

[16] Hamilton, 255.

[17] Hughes, 119. Kindle Edition.

[18] Id., 120.

[19] Id.

[20] Hamilton, 257.

[21] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 5:12–17.

[22] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 11:5–6.

[23] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 22:17.