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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Genesis 5




Toledoth II (Genesis 5:1)

This remarkable chapter bridges the time-lapse between the Creation and the Flood, that is, from Adam to Noah. It is an error to view this genealogy as merely a variation of the Cainite line given earlier. The resemblance between some of the names is of no significance whatever, but a characteristic exhibited in many Hebrew genealogies. We also reject the notion that this chapter should be identified with so-called "P," the alleged priestly document. The whole complicated theory of the document sources of Genesis is cumbersome, unprovable, and unreasonable. (See the Introduction to Genesis.)

The great problems connected with the chapter are: (1) the longevity of the antediluvian patriarchs, and (2) the chronology of the passage which gives us 1,656 years[1] as the elapsed time between the Creation and the Great Deluge.

Regarding the first of these, there is nothing actually unreasonable about the extremely long lives of men in the morning of the race, before ravages of sin and disease had brought about the deterioration of men's bodies. All of the machinery for immortality already exists in the human body; and not even the separation of Adam's race from the "tree of life" would have prevented longevity in the first few generations. What is really remarkable about the ages of the patriarchs given here is that they are so dramatically different from the fantastic ages accredited to ancient men in various mythologies dealing with the same period. For example, the ages often great heroes up to and including the Flood, according to Babylonian myth, varied between 18,000 and over 64,000 years each,[2] thus giving a total of some 432,000 years for the consecutive reigns of those ten kings.[3] There are certainly a lot fewer problems with the Genesis account!

Some flatly refuse to believe that men once lived so long, pointing out that research done on ancient skeletons reveals extremely short lifetimes. Life Magazine published a survey done on prehistoric fossils, concluding that less than 3 percent reached age 50,6 percent lived to past 40, and all the rest died between 20 to 40 years of age.[4] So what? It cannot be proved that those skeletons even belonged to the human species, much less to the posterity of Adam. Besides that, the dates assigned to so-called "prehistoric" fossils must ever be held as suspect. The notorious case of Piltdown Man immediately comes to mind. Also, the major assumption underlying much of the dating of excavated materials is that all things "continue as they were from the beginning of the creation," a proposition that is categorically declared to be false by an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:4). (See the Introduction for more on this.)

Still others have attempted to make dynasties out of the persons whose names appear in this chapter, or to understand "months" instead of years in the numbers given for their ages, or to allegorize the whole passage. The text will not bear any such devices. "The statements are meant to be understood literally, and the author had in view actual individuals."[5]

With reference to the problem of a mere 1,656 years lying between the Creation and the Flood, this presents no problem at all for the believer who accepts the Bible as true. For all that anyone really knows, such a period is absolutely accurate. Remember, it is not from the creation of the world, but from the creation of Adam to the Flood; and, while it is true enough that the earth itself is God's book, and men are justified in reading the record of the fossils, etc., as they reach for conclusions regarding those far-off times, it must never be forgotten that between us and those dim yesteryears, there roll the vast waters of the mighty Deluge itself, involving not merely the inundation of the earth, but tremendous and cataclysmic changes that accompanied it. In short, the pages of God's book (the earth) have been disrupted and shuffled. If we knew all of the facts, we would have no difficulty with what the Holy Spirit has revealed on these pages. A physician called upon to examine Adam half an hour after he was created, or a wine-taster estimating the age of the wine that Jesus created in Cana, would doubtless have reached conclusions far different from the facts in the case, with reference either to the age of the wine, or of Adam.

The great purpose of the chapter was not to give the age either of the earth or the human race when the flood came, but to trace the line of people who continued to honor God in those generations leading up to the Deluge.

Verse 1-2

"This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created."

"The generations of Adam ..." Here is the same Hebrew word, [~toledowth], used nine other times in Genesis. Note the recapitulation regarding God having created man "in the image of God," etc., thus exhibiting the same pattern observable in the account of the description of the [~toledowth] of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 2:4). This is therefore not a clumsy effort to recount God's naming of his human creation at a later date, but a reference to what had already been done. Some of this information is, of course, supplementary. We learn here that Adam was the family name as well as the personal name of Adam.

Verse 3

"And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth."

Some commentators make a big thing out of Seth's being begotten after "the image" of Adam, concluding from this that he was also "in the image of God", but to us it appears that there is a world of difference. While true enough that some vestiges of the "image of God" belong to every man ever born, it does not follow that certain persons (Seth, for example) are born in "God's image" just as Adam was created. No, the stark contrast in what the Bible says forbids such a view. God created Adam "in his own image"; and then, after the Fall, Adam begat a son in his own image, a far different thing.[6] This is to say that, "He transmitted the image of God in which he was created, but 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."

Verse 4

"And the days of Adam after he begat Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters. And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died."

The pattern that appears here is repeated exactly throughout the rest of the chapter. Archbishop Usher formed his famous Bible chronology upon the basis of the ages given for the patriarchs in this chapter. However, the distinctive habit of the Hebrews of omitting names from genealogies, together with the obvious lack of any purpose on the part of the author of Genesis to give the age of the earth, strongly suggests that it might be a gross misuse of this chapter to make it the basis of dogmatic postulations about the age of the world. That is a question to which the Bible does not give a definite answer.

Verse 6

These verses relate, after the same pattern, the nine other names in this list. Instead of copying the text, we have arranged a table as follows:

Name of PatriarchAge atBirth ofYears lived afterTotal age

There are several points of unusual interest regarding what is added concerning each of these, and some attention will be given to those statements.

"And begat sons and daughters ..." This expression in Genesis 5:4,7,10,13,15,19,22,26,30, regarding all ten on the list (except Noah) indicates the stripped down nature of the genealogy. The naming of any individual was for the special purpose of establishing the line of Noah back to Adam. Most of the sons and all of the daughters were omitted. Note also that the total number of children born to any in the list is not even mentioned. How many children did each have? The number could have been truly fantastic. No doubt there were many children born to each of these patriarchs prior to the particular son who was designated. Only those who were destined to appear in the Messianic lines were singled out for identification.

"And he died ..." Eight times these ominous words appear in this chapter, emphasizing the reign of death in the long antediluvian journey of Adam's fallen race. What a brutal lie the glib denial of Satan proved to be! The big thing in the chapter, however, is the revelation that in spite of the universal reign of death, "the sons of God," that is, people who responded to God's love and honored him, were continued in the posterity of Seth. Apparently, Eve was the first to recognize the special significance of this patriarch, through whom the Chosen People would descend, and through whom, at last, the Messiah would be born. It is quite obvious that the Cainite descendants of Adam were "sons of the devil," and that the Sethites were the "sons of God." This chapter is particularly concerned with tracing the line of the "sons of God." This is evident in the very names that were given: SETH means appointed or seedling; ENOSH means inquire of the Lord; MAHALALEL means praise of God; JARED means descent; ENOCH means dedicated; NOAH means rest.[7]

Of special interest is METHUSELAH, which means he dieth and the sending forth. "Thus Enoch gave it as a prophecy of the flood,"[8] Another meaning advocated by some is, "He dieth, and it is sent." This prophecy proved to be correct, for a calculation of the years given here indicates that Methuselah died in the flood.

"And Enoch walked with God ..." The fact of his having done so only "after he begat Methuselah," suggests that prior to that event he had not done s*o. Many a man has held his little son in his arms and resolved upon following a godly life, and it may be supposed that Enoch did the same thing. In any case, he was the most successful righteous man of all antiquity, because it is said that, "He was not, because God took him," also, that "Enoch walked with God." The significance of this is that it signaled to mankind that salvation was indeed possible, that, in time, God would provide it, and that it ultimately included victory over death.

The O.T. states also that Noah walked with God (Genesis 6:9). "The word signifies intimate companionship (1 Samuel 25:15), and here denotes a fellowship with God morally and religiously perfect."[9] Based upon the expression, "He was not, for God took him," we are to conclude that Enoch never died, but was translated into an eternal fellowship with the Creator. "By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death" (Hebrews 11:5). From these words Willis drew the conclusion that, "The word take functions as a technical term for man's translation by God to a higher existence."[10]

This tremendously important event occurred at the half-way point between Adam and the Flood, "in the 987th year after the creation of Adam."[11] At that point in time, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalalel and Jared were still alive, as were also Enoch's son Methuselah, and his son Lamech, the later being 113 years of age. The comparatively young age at which Enoch was translated was perhaps the basis of the proverb that "The good die young!"

[~Elohiym] for God is used 29 times in this chapter, and for that reason, the source-splitters attribute the chapter to "P", but Genesis 5:29 flatly contradicts their theory by the use of "Yahweh."[12] Of course, the old reliable "redactor" is dragged in and designated as the source of this verse. As we have repeatedly affirmed, the redactor to whom the critics frequently appeal is non-existent. He is everybody and nobody. He is ancient and modern. He is Jewish, pagan, or Gentile. He is brilliant, he is stupid. He is learned, ignorant, careless, skillful, or anything else the critics may fancy they need to sustain a prior-conceived theory. In short, he is neither science, learning, nor scholarship; he is fraud. Every appeal to a "redactor" is an admission that the theory cannot stand alone, that it has broken down, and an unconscious admission of those relying upon such a device that their theory is untenable. We have not hesitated to name the redactor as the Piltdown Man of Biblical Criticism. Block, Davidson, Colenso, and other scholars were quoted by Thomas Whitelaw to the effect that, "This clause (using Jehovah, Yahweh) is not a Jehovist interpolation, but a proof that the Elohistic theory is unfounded."[13]

Verse 29

"And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us in our work, and in the toil of our hands, which cometh because of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed."

Unger has pointed out that Jewish scholars insist that Noah's name means "to comfort" instead of "rest," referring it rather to the occupation of Noah than to the strict etymology of the word.[14] The Jewish traditions make Noah an inventor of agricultural instruments and a rescuer of the soil from the ravages of poor tillage. This was pointed out by them as the manner in which Noah "comforted" those who were struggling so diligently against the hardship imposed by the curse of God upon the ground.

Verse 32

"And Noah was five hundred years old; and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth."

"Shem" means fame; and, although he stands ahead of his brothers in this list, he was not the oldest[15], but he received this pre-eminence because he was the head of the Messianic line. This whole chapter is designed especially with the ancestry of the Lord Jesus Christ constantly in view. Of course, Noah could have had many other sons and daughters, but these three sons are specifically mentioned because of their importance. Shem was the head of Messiah's line, and Ham and Japheth, along with Shem, constituted a new point of departure for the human race, a new beginning after the great Flood, becoming the ancestors of the whole post-diluvian human family. Ham is from the root [~hamam], meaning "to be hot," perhaps carrying the thought, "hot blooded, sexually."[16] It also might have applied prophetically to the temperature of the dwelling place of Ham's posterity - Africa. Japheth means "to make wide or spread abroad," and would also appear to be prophetic of the enlarged borders of Japheth and the spreading of his posterity all over the earth. Some scholars get fairness of complexion out of the name, a characteristic of European races.

This chapter is preliminary to the account of the Deluge which was God's punishment upon rebellious mankind, but significantly, God was preparing a new beginning already present in the posterity of Noah.

The significance of the two divergent lines of the Cainites and the Sethites will appear at once in the following chapter. The Cainites grew progressively worse and worse, resulting in the judicial hardening of the entire race. The corruption could not be contained in the line of the Cainites but through their intermarriage with the Sethites, practically the whole of humanity came to be in total rebellion against Almighty God. When such a condition has prevailed some three different times already in the history of mankind, God always intervened. In this the first instance of it, that intervention took the form of the wholesale destruction of the race with only a remnant (the family of Noah) preserved as the seed of a new beginning. The Book of Genesis will soon recount a second instance in the widespread debauchery and hardening of mankind in the days of Abraham. (See the introduction to Genesis 12.) The third instance came in the rejection of the Messiah by Jews and Gentiles alike. God's intervention on that third occasion was the First Advent of Christ, a mission of mercy. There is yet to be a fourth and final hardening of mankind near the end times; and God's answer to that will be the Second Advent of Christ, not a mission of mercy at all, but a mission of judgment and destruction.


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Genesis 5:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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