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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Genesis 5

 

 

Verse 1

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;

This is the book of the generations of Adam. This is the usual formula by which a new portion of the Scripture narrative is introduced. The original word, ceeper (Hebrew #5612), rendered "book" denotes also a record or register, and towl


Verse 2

Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.

Male and female created he them. The Hebrew word 'aadaam (Hebrew #120), like the Latin homo and the English word "person", is a generic term, including woman as well as man (Genesis 5:2; cf. Genesis 1:26; Genesis 2:7; Genesis 6:7; Numbers 31:25; Hebrew, Deuteronomy 4:32; Deuteronomy 8:3); but from being originally an appellative, it came, by frequent repetition, to be applied as the name of the first man, and in this application, according to Gesenius; it has commonly, in Hebrew, the prefix of the article. But this rule does not hold universally, as Genesis 3:17 presents a striking exception; and it cannot be doubted that, though without the article in this passage Adam designates the progenitor of mankind, both because the word is so used (Genesis 5:3), and because in several other parts of Scripture it clearly bears the same distinctive reference (Luke 3:38; Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Timothy 2:13-14; Jude 1:14).

The explanation just given is opposed equally to two theories of interpretation: the one, that in the first and second verses Adam is used collectively, not with reference to a particular individual, but to the human race, each country or climate having, according to this view, produced its own indigenous race of men, which sprang from its own prototypal Adam and Eve; and the other, that the Adam here mentioned was different from the first man, being the earliest chieftain of the Shemitic nations, and living in historic times - i:e., that there were different centers of creation and that all mankind, though similarly constituted, are not of the same race. With regard to the first of these theories, which received the apparent approval of Augustine, and which has been in recent times strenuously adopted by the author of 'The Genesis of the Earth and of Man,' and doubtingly supported by Dr. Pye Smith, it rests on the alleged obscurity, or rather, the ambiguous language, of the opening verses of this chapter, viewed in connection with Genesis 4:14-17, and Genesis 6:1-4. But we have already shown that two of these passages admit of an explanation perfectly consistent with the sole parentage of Adam; and we shall, in due course, prove that the other can receive no other interpretation than an exclusive reference to his descendants. The testimony of Scripture generally is most explicit on the point, and the researches of science, in archaeology, physiology, and philology, unitedly lead to the establishment of the same result, that all the families of mankind, however apparently diverse, have had a common origin, or sprung from the same ancestral pair.

The second theory does not claim the support of Scripture at all, but is founded on the alleged impossibility of knowing so much about the first man and his family history as this chapter indicates. 'For many generations,' says Rask, 'must have passed away, and the name of the first man (if he had a name) been buried in eternal oblivion long before our species could have arrived so far in intellectual attainments as to have a language containing words to denote the parts of time, their curiosity excited to observe its flight, and the desire of transmitting to posterity the observations they had made. What a length of time, then, must have elapsed between the first man and the Adam of this chapter, of the year of whose birth and death, of whose wife and children we have accounts!' This objection points to the favourite idea of sceptical philosophers, that man existed at first in a state of barbarism, from which, by dint of his own inherent energies, he gradually rose to the dignity, attainments, and habits of civilized life; whereas, it is the clear and unmistakable testimony of sacred history, corroborated by the concurring testimony of secular historians and travelers, that the original condition of the human creature was a social one; that he was endowed with the gifts of reason and language; and that the savage state was a second or subsequent one into which man fell through vice and voluntary degradation (see the notes at Genesis 1:1-31, p. 23, Colossians 2:1-23; Colossians 3:1-25 :, p. 49, Colossians 1:1-29; Colossians 4:1-18 :, Remarks).


Verse 3

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

Adam lived an hundred and thirty years. The period of time intended by Moses was a year of twelve lunar months, as is evident from the language that he employs (Genesis 8:5).

And begat a son in his own likeness - both physically and morally. In outward features the son would naturally exhibit a resemblance to the blended features of his parents; but especially as to the inward, his soul, the filial image would be conformed to the moral character of Adam, not as he was at the period of creation (see the note at Genesis 1:26), but since he had become a degenerate creature, and, though the divine likeness was not entirely effaced (cf. Genesis 9:6), subject to moral disorder, and deteriorated both in his intellectual powers and spiritual qualities by sin. Like begets like; and so Seth inherited (cf. John 3:6), as all people do, the corrupt nature of fallen Adam. (See the note at Genesis 2:7 as to the law of human propagation.)


Verse 4

And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:

And he begat sons and daughters. Neither their names nor their occupations, nor anything respecting them, being mentioned, it is probable that there was nothing worthy of note in the lives of any of them. But the principal reason why they are entirely omitted is, that the sacred historian did not contemplate a general history or a biographical memoir of the primitive family, but only a brief notice of one particular branch of it from which the Messiah was to derive his lineage. Omitting, in all probability, many sons in the successive families even of the Sethite line, he has given a genealogical list, which comprises in each only the name of that person who formed the connecting link in the chain of direct descent. The birth of Seth is recorded previous to the mention of the other sons and daughters of Adam; but there is every reason to believe that the birth of many of them was prior to his, and that Seth, who was born in his father's hundred and thirtieth year, was among the youngest of the family. This conjecture, which seems well founded, throws light on a circumstance otherwise difficult to be accounted for-namely, that the fathers in this enumeration were all considerably advanced in life at the birth of the son whose name is recorded; because they might already have been the heads of a numerous family when he was born, if, as in the case of Seth, and others, Isaac, Jacob, and Judah, the destined "heir of the promise" was always a younger son.


Verse 5

And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.

All the days that Adam lived. What vicissitudes must the personal history of Adam have comprised! What a momentous change from a state of unalloyed happiness to a condition of labour and varied suffering! and how frequently must the painful reflection have embittered his life, that all the errors and crimes, the misery and death, which he witnessed among his posterity, were the consequences of his own unhappy transgression of the Creator's easy law. But he is ranked in the list of antediluvian saints; and therefore the conclusion may be reasonably drawn, that he had happily repented, and believed the Gospel which was preached to him (Hebrews 6:2).

And he died. This event, with the announcement of which the notice of each of these antediluvian patriarchs is closed, is the more remarkable as their protracted lives may seem to have amounted almost to an earthly immorality; and yet the experience of all of them attested that the sentence denounced against the commission of sin was carried into immediate and universal execution. Since Abel's life had been abridged by violence, Adam, the first sinner, was probably the first to suffer the penalty of death in a natural way; and although the aggregate sum of his years is nominally less than that of some of his descendants, yet, considering that he was created in full maturity, and the number of years which, in that patriarchal age, separated infancy from manhood, his life, had he been born a child, would have been the longest on record.


Verse 6

And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos:

And Seth lived an hundred and five years. In enumerating these patriarchs in the pious family of Seth, the sacred historian, who wrote under the direction of the Spirit, mentions with minute particularity the year in the life of each successive member in the series, at the birth of his son, who is named, the number of years he lived after that, together with the fact of his having other children, and the entire age he had attained when he died. This course was not followed in regard to the Cainite patriarchs, because that family was soon to become wholly extinct, and to have no future history. But the Sethites would possess an interest for the Church in all time coming, and therefore their genealogies are given, in order to demonstrate the faithfulness of God to His promise concerning a Redeemer.


Verse 7-8

And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters:

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 9

And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan:

Cainan - or Kenan (1 Chronicles 1:2; cf. Luke 3:37), possessor, or, according to Gesenius, a smith.


Verse 10-11

And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters:

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 12

And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel:

Mahalaleel - praise of God.


Verse 13-14

And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters: No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 15

And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared:

Jared - descent.


Verse 16-17

And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters:

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 18

And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch:

Enoch - or Henoch (1 Chronicles 1:3), dedicated, or, according to Gesenius, initiated. These significations, because both of them are applicable, intimate, what from the subsequent conduct of Enoch there is reason to conclude, that he was early instructed in the things of God, trained to His worship, and devoted to His service. By this means, under the influence of the Spirit, his mind would receive that sacred bias which led him to act so decided a part, and to attain so great eminence in the service of Yahweh. The inspired record, in noticing this patriarch, deviates from the form observed in regard to all the rest, in two remarkable particulars; because, instead of saying that he lived so many years after the birth of the son by whom the genealogical series was continued, it states that he "walked with God;" and whereas it concludes the brief biography of the others with the announcement regarding each of them that "he died," the expression in Enoch's case is, that "he was not.'


Verses 19-21

And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 22

And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:

And Enoch walked with God - Hebrew, haa-'Elohiym (Hebrew #430), the God, a personal deity; because the Divine Being still condescended to manifest Himself visibly to His people. This phraseology, which is figurative, is intended to describe the close and constant communion of true believers with God. Since "two cannot walk together except they be agreed" (Amos 3:3); because without coincidence in sentiment and judgment, without congeniality of feeling and disposition, there can be no cordial union or harmony; and since it is only after man, through repentance and faith, becomes a new creature, he is brought into a state where he is disposed and able to walk so as to please God (1 Thessalonians 4:1; Hebrews 11:5), this may be considered as implied in the expression, 'walking with God;' and in some such manner as the following, it may be supposed that Enoch lived.

He gave evidence that religion had taken up her settled residence in his soul; but as genuine piety may be in the heart while the fruits of righteousness are not very conspicuous in the conduct, an expression is used in reference to Enoch's religious deportment, which describes not only the fervour of his piety, but the intimate communion of his heart with God as influencing his habitual conduct, and shedding a bright luster over the whole of his character.

This 'walking with God' would seem also to express his active exertions to promote religion around him; and thus, while he walked with God in the secret privacy of his soul, he was a fellow-worker with Him in enlightening, reclaiming, and saving sinners. In short, it is not said that he walked before God (Genesis 17:1), as one inwardly conscious of being always subject to His omniscient scrutiny, or that he walked after God (Deuteronomy 8:19; Deuteronomy 13:4) - i:e., served Him in the customary rites of His worship, and faithfully conformed to the external requirements of His law; but that he "walked with God" (cf. Genesis 6:9; Malachi 2:6); not only leading a prophetic life, spent in immediate converse with the spiritual world, but cultivating a habitual and exalted tone of sanctified character-that of a man who lived by faith in the Unseen; and who, though an inhabitant of earth, had his conversation in heaven. 'He is described' (Jude 1:14) as 'the seventh from Adam,' and the number is probably noticed as conveying, according to Augustine, the idea of divine completion and rest; while Enoch was himself, as Irenaeus expressed it, 'a type of perfect humanity, a man raised to heaven by pleasing God, while angels fell to earth by transgression' (quoted in Smith's 'Dictionary').

It can hardly fail to strike the attentive reader of this concise account of Enoch, that the eminence in religion for which he was distinguished is not ascribed to the early part of his life. The same language is applied to him at that period as is used in the accounts of the other patriarchs; but after the birth of Methuselah different language is employed in describing his character. "Enoch lived sixty and five years and begat Methuselah. And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah for 300 years, and begat sons and daughters." The change in the mode of expression is striking, and has not been made without an obvious design. It is witnessed of him, whose character while in the single state called for no marked eulogium, that after his entrance on the domestic life he "walked with God." Whether he had been indifferent to religion in the early part of his life, or, like Obadiah, "had feared the Lord from his youth," it was not until his sphere of duty was enlarged, and his responsibilities increased, that he became so distinguished for personal piety.

The statement is deserving of notice, since it demonstrates the error of those who think high attainments in religion inconsistent with the cares and perplexities unavoidably connected with active life; who recommend the recesses of the cloister and convent as the only places in which devotion is beheld in its purest attire; or point to the solitude of the desert as the only scene where high spirituality is likely to flourish, in the person of some ascetic recluse, who abandons the duties and rejects the comforts of life, and who shuts himself out from every sphere of usefulness, and devotes himself to perpetual celibacy and complete seclusion from the world as the only way of serving, in the highest possible degree, the end of his creation. The description of Enoch's character in this passage shows that 'walking with God' is perfectly compatible with the cares and comforts of domestic as well as social life, and consists much in the conscientious performance of relative duties ('Christian Repository').


Verse 23

And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 24

And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.

And he was not; for God took him. 'To be not,' is a soft archaic expression, several times used in this book in speaking of a person who is no longer visible in his usual place, or met with in the world, without reference to the mode of his disappearance (Genesis 37:30; Genesis 42:13; Genesis 42:36; Job 7:8; Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18). The versions give different explanations of the phrase. The Samaritan text has: 'He did not appear;' the Syriac text has: 'He ceased to be;' the Arabic text has: 'He died;' the Targum of Onkelos has: 'He was not found, for the Lord did not make him die.' The apostle, following the Septuagint text, translates it, "was not found;" an expression which does not seem to imply that a fruitless search was made for the missing Enoch, since it was insisted upon by some sceptical youths in the case of Elijah (2 Kings 2:16-18), but simply denotes that he had been removed, "for God took him" - i:e., without any previous sickness or decay-away from the earth, to reward him for his eminent piety by exalting him to His own dwelling-place in heaven: `to walk with God, High in salvation and the climes of bliss, Exempt from death.'

Compare John 14:3. This was Paul's view of Enoch's removal, because he considers the expression "for God took him" equivalent to 'for God translated him'-translated to Paradise merely (Luke 23:42), not to that heaven which is to be the glorious abode of the righteous at the general resurrection. It is considered that the language of Christ completely excludes the latter belief. 'Enoch was translated (transported) so that he should not see death, but he cannot have been exempted, any more than those to whom 1 Corinthians 15:50 refers, from those two elements connected with death, according to which it is both the result of sin and the condition of the resurrection. The manner, the character, and the place of the translation of Enoch, must all be fixed within these limits. Our ignorance of the circumstances and relations after death precludes our knowledge of further details' (Kurtz).

Dr. Warburton, whose favourite theory ('Divine Legation of Moses') was, that the Pentateuch contains no revelation of a future state, says that 'Moses knew and believed the immortality of Enoch, but purposely obscured the fact from whence it might have been drawn.' But there is no obscurity in this narrative, because the terms employed announce the translation of Enoch to a celestial abode as clearly as any fact that is related in the Bible. It was a most remarkable event, and designed, in the wisdom as well as mercy of God, to be subservient to the most important ends. It was calculated to give a practical refutation of the gross materialism of the age, which was occupied with things "seen and temporal," to the almost total exclusion of those which were "unseen and eternal."

The wickedness of men had risen to a fearful height of enormity, because Enoch was contemporary with the Cainite Lamech, and was fast hastening to the crisis of iniquity. Regardless of opposition and scorn, Enoch, as a preacher of righteousness, had remained faithful to his trust; and when his ministry was accomplished, he was effectually rescued from the malice his fidelity was sure to excite, in a way which testified most strikingly the divine approval of his conduct; which gave a convincing proof of the invisible world, as well as a future state of retribution; and which might have been felt an awful rebuke to his ungodly contemporaries. To the religious portion of the population, this event was most instructive and cheering at a period of abounding infidelity and corruption.

By applying the elementary rules of arithmetic to the data in this chapter, it will be found that when Enoch was translated, all the patriarchs here mentioned were alive, with the exception of Adam and Noah, the former of whom died 57 years before, and the latter was not born until 69 years after that event. The faith of Adam and Noah respecting a future state received a sensible confirmation by other means; but to all the rest of these patriarchs, who were, or might have been, witnesses of it, the transporting of Enoch was a sensible encouragement to their faith and hope concerning the realities of the invisible world.

Another thing worthy of notice in Enoch's removal was the period of his life at which it occurred. It was in the 'three hundred and sixty-fifth year' of his age, when he had not attained half the years of the other patriarchs. The question naturally occurs, Why was he removed so soon? The first and grand answer, of course, must be, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." But, subordinate to that, it may be allowed to say that he was removed from a world which was not worthy of him; that he had finished the work given him to do, which, as has been quaintly remarked by an old commentator, 'was done the sooner from his minding it so closely;' and that by his removal at an age which might seem premature, and in a manner so striking, he might speak to the worldlings who had disregarded his earnest ministry, in tones more persuasive than his living voice could command. It remains only to observe, that under each of the three dispensations of the true religion that have existed in the world, one eminent person has been translated to heaven.

Enoch was transported under the patriarchal dispensation; Elijah was selected for this honour under the Jewish; and the Great Captain of salvation, after laying the foundation of the Christian Church, ascended to heaven in His whole human nature; and thus was given to all true worshippers of God, under whatever dispensation they lived, a pledge of the resurrection of the just, and their eternal enjoyment of God in body as well as in soul, in the mansions of celestial glory.


Verse 25

And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech:

Methuselah - or Methusala (Luke 3:37), the man of the dart (Gesenius) - literally, man of sending, particularly with reference to water, and hence, the name Siloam (sent, John 9:7), given to a pool at Jerusalem. Hales interprets the name as signifying, 'He shall send his death;' and referring to the time when this patriarch was to die. His inspired father, who had announced the approaching judgment of God for the wickedness of his contemporaries (Jude 1:14-15), probably bestowed upon his son the name of Methuselah as prophetic of the threatened flood; and accordingly it is computed that Methuselah died that very year in which the deluge commenced. He is the oldest patriarch on record. 'God,' says Hales, 'adding to the son what he had taken from the father.'


Verse 26-27

And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 28

And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son:

Lamech - Hebrew, Lemech, strong, powerful. This was a different person from the Lamech mentioned in Genesis 4:1-26, and lived probably a considerable time after him, although this latter circumstance cannot be fully ascertained from want of dates in the record of the Cainite patriarchs. But both Lamechs have this in common, that they are distinguished by a fragment of rude, artless poetry, ascribed to them respectively.


Verse 29

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

Noah - rest [from nuwach (Hebrew #5118), to rest]. In the reason assigned for the bestowment of the name, therefore, it might have been expected that 'rest,' not 'comfort,' would have been expressed: and accordingly, the Septuagint has 'He shall give us rest;' so that the translators of that version must in their copy of the Hebrew Scriptures have read the Hiphil form of this verb; ours has a cognate word, which in the Piel signifies comfort, consolation. The import of the name, and the confident tone in which Lamech explained its signification, indicated something special in the destiny of this son. Though bestowed by his father, therefore, it must be considered as suggested by the Spirit, and therefore symbolical of the mission which Divine Providence designed Noah to execute:

This (son) shall comfort us From our work (labour) And the toll of our hands;

Because of the ground Which the Lord hath cursed.

These words have had various meanings put upon them. That they were an utterance of joy by a father on the birth of a son, which was hailed as an auspicious event, holding out to his family the prospect of future assistance in agricultural labours, and of having thereby the toil in the procuring of food diminished, is a low and commonplace view, altogether excluding the element of prophecy, and insufficient to account for their position in this record. On the other hand, the theory which takes them in the highest sense-considering Lamech, whose mind was full of the original promise, to have hailed his son as the expected Deliverer, who was to "bruise the serpent's head," and, by making an atonement for sin, release sinners from the penal consequences of the fall, temporal as well as spiritual-is a forced and obviously an ill-founded interpretation.

Since Lamech undoubtedly confided in the divine promise respecting deliverance from the curse of the earth, and foresaw that that deliverance would come through the agency of his son, he expressed his believing anticipations by the significant name given to him; and whether that name was bestowed at the birth of the boy, or in later days, when Noah, by his life of pre-eminent righteousness had shone a splendid exception in an age of universal apostasy and wickedness, Lamech seems to have regarded the tenth generation as the close of that era. In other words, the curse pronounced upon the ground in consequence of the sin of the first pair, had, through the awful prevalence of disorder and wickedness, increased to such a degree of severity as to have made the labour in mastering the stubborn resistance of a niggard or barren soil an almost insupportable burden; and a general expectation was cherished by the godly remnant that the righteous Ruler of the world would raise some distinguished personage, through whose instrumentality the rigour of the curse would be abated, and the earth restored to somewhat of its primitive productiveness.

Lamech was led by a divine communication to recognize this eminent benefactor in his son; and he published his faith in it by the significant name conferred on him. This view of the passage has been elaborately expounded by Dr. Sherlock ('Use and Intent of Prophecy'), and as confirmatory of it, it may be mentioned that when Noah, on the cessation of the deluge, offered his sacrifice (Genesis 8:2 l), the Lord smelled a sweet savour; literally, an odour of rest.

Moveover, the fact of his being the second father of the human race, in whose time a new dispensation was introduced-the grant of renewed dominion to man over the inferior animals, the enlistment of which in his service would diminish his labour, the allowance of animal food, and the promise regarding the permanent recurrence of seed-time and harvest, are accepted by this excellent writer as evidences that the earth has been to a great extent redeemed from the curse imposed on it at the fall, and is enjoying the continued influence of the blessing conferred upon Noah. Whatever objections may be urged against this exposition, it is substantially sound. At the same time, it must be borne in mind that Noah was only instrumentally employed in comforting mankind 'from their work and the toil of their hands, because of the ground which the Lord had cursed.'


Verse 30-31

And Lamech lived after he begat Noah five hundred ninety and five years, and begat sons and daughters:

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 32

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

Noah was five hundred years old. That he and the other patriarchs were advanced in life ere the children whose names are mentioned were born to them, is a difficulty accounted for, probably, from the circumstance that Moses does not here record the first-born sons of the preceding patriarchs, but only those who were in the line of succession from Adam, through Seth, to Abraham.

Noah begat - i:e., began to beget. He had reached the five hundredth year of his age ere he became a father. 'This,' as Schlegel remarks, 'is another striking example of a wonderful prolongation or delay of time. The first nine patriarchs of the primitive world propagated their race at the mean or average term of the 100th year of their lives: some near that period, others considerably earlier, and others again much later. But in the case of Noah we find that to the mean term of 100 years, 400 years were yet added; and that the patriarch was 500 years of age when he propagated his race. The high motive of this evidently supernatural delay may be traced to the fact that, although during this long prophetic period of preparations, the holy seer well foresaw and felt firmly assured of the judgments impending over a degenerate and corrupt world, it was not equally clear to him that he was destined by God to be the second progenitor of mankind, and the renovator of the human race. But that great doom of the world, already foretold by Enoch, Noah had probably expected to be its last end; and hence, perhaps, might consider the propagation of his race as not altogether conformable to the divine will, until the hidden decrees of the eternal were more fully and more clearly revealed to him.'

Shem, Ham, and Japhet. That Japhet was the oldest (see the note at Genesis 10:21), and that Shem was two years younger (cf. Genesis 11:10), appears from the fact that Japhet was born in the 500th year of his father's age, and consequently was 100 years old at the commencement of the flood, which occurred in Noah's 600th year; whereas it is distinctly recorded that Shem did not attain the 100th year of his age until two years after the deluge. Ham is regarded as the youngest of the three brothers by Josephus, who is followed by Bochart, Gesenius, Furst, and Delitzsch (see the note at Genesis 9:24); but others conclude, from his being always mentioned between the other two, that he was the second son of Noah. In this record Shem has the precedency assigned him, in preference to Japhet, on account of the distinguished honour conferred upon him of being the destined ancestor of Abraham, in whose seed the promised blessing was to be consummated; and the same order was followed in other familiar instances, such as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and Solomon, in which the prophetic blessing was not transmitted to the oldest of the family, along with the other rights of primogeniture.

"Shem" signifies a name, which was given to him apparently with reference to the fact of the knowledge of the true God being preserved among his posterity, and to the renown which, in consequence, they should acquire. Ham, the root of which is found equally in the Semitic chaamac (Hebrew #2554), to be warm or hot, and in the ancient Egyptian and the Coptic Kem, denotes sunburnt, swarthy, black, as the ancestor of those who should inhabit torrid regions; and Japhet is traced to yaapaah (Hebrew #3303), beauty, or fairness of complexion, corresponding to the physical features of the Japhetic races. Whether these two latter names indicate any natural variations in Noah's family, it is impossible to say. 'Any original difference of type that may have existed in this primitive household would be very rapidly developed; because there would be a greater tendency to the perpetuation of those varieties, in other words, to the origination of distinct races, during the earlier ages, than at the present time, when, in fact, by the increasing admixture of races which have been isolated, there is a tendency to the fusion of all those varieties, and to return to a common type (Carpenter's 'Physiology'). It is possible that these names were not borne by any of Noah's sons in the early portion of their lives, but were, according to ancient custom, bestowed on them at that memorable period when their venerable father, gifted with prophetic foresight, described their future destiny. A few observations require to be made on the contents of this chapter:

(1) This is the first specimen of those genealogical registers which are found abundantly in subsequent parts of Scripture. There are two views in which they may be regarded. First, as a proof of the great antiquity of the sacred record; because family registers must of necessity constitute the first materials of general history; and hence, we find them treasured, especially among the people of the East, in their early stages, previous to their emerging from their isolated or tribal condition into national existence. 'They are perhaps the oldest examples, first, of an oral, and then of a written tradition, that there are on earth. They derive their importance from two elements which belong to them. One is the Elohistic or general element, which relates to the past, and the other the Jehovistic or Messianic, which points forward to the future. The former has respect to the human race as God's creatures or offspring, the latter to the goal or destination for which he designed them. In the one point of view they serve as a means of adjusting the chronology, especially when, as in this fifth chapter as well as the eleventh chapter of Genesis, the year when the patriarchs had sons, and the duration of their lives are preserved with them. In the other, a new light is thrown upon the significance of the genealogical tables. It is the form specially adapted to the design of a book which has to do with the earliest origin of the holy people as a distinct family; and we learn also from this source the explanation of another fact: we see why the woman's seed only, the "generations" of Adam on which the welfare of mankind depends so much, are regarded as worthy of a continuous genealogy; while of the race of Cain a few names only are mentioned, and the succession is broken off as soon as the wickedness of the race has reached a characteristic height in Lamech and his family' (Hackett).

(2) There are considerable discrepancies with respect to numbers in the genealogical notices of these (2) There are considerable discrepancies, with respect to numbers, in the genealogical notices of these patriarchs as given in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Samaritan and the Septuagint versions. The following table will show this: The details recorded respecting this series of patriarchs form our only basis for the early chronology of the world; and in this view it is of importance to compare the numerical statements in the Samaritan and the Septuagint versions with those of the Hebrew text, from which our translation was made; because in both versions the discrepancies are very striking, and in the Septuagint actually amounts to a difference of more than 1,300 years.

Moveover, they exhibit so uniform and systematic a deviation from the Hebrew Scriptures, that they could not have been accidental, and must have originated in design. Thus, for instance, in the Septuagint, every patriarch is recorded as exceeding 150 years of age before he became a father. Where the Hebrew represents any as not having reached that term, the Septuagint adds a century, and deducts as much from the subsequent portion of his life; so that the sum total remains unchanged. This arrangement is observable in the first five members, as well as in the seventh member; and the effect of these alterations, together with the addition of six years to that of Lamech previous to paternity, is to extend the interval between the creation and the flood 606 years. On the other hand, the Samaritan version has proceeded on exactly the opposite principle-that of making the alterations so that no one is exhibited as having begotten his son after he had passed 150 years. Thus, since Jared is represented in the Hebrew copy as having begotten his son at the age of 162 years, the Samaritan text subtracts 100 years from the amount. In all these corrections the evidences of design are traceable.

What was the motive, and who were the parties by whom the changes were made; whether, as Hales affirms, they were the work of Jews in the beginning of the second century of the Christian era, who tampered with the original text in order to extend the predicted time for the advent of Messiah, and destroy the claims of Christ to that character by corrupting the dates in this history; whether, as Bertheau maintains, they were done in accordance with different chronological systems regarding the occurrence of the flood; or whether, with Augustine, they are regarded merely as errors of transcription, originating from a wrong of the value of ancient marks of notation, and perpetuated through the ignorance of subsequent copyists, it is impossible to say. But most critical writers in modern times, following in the wake of J.D. Michaelis, have decided that the numbers of the Hebrew text are the most original, and therefore the most correct, on the ground that the Septuagint and the Samaritan texts betray systematic alterations.

(3) The authenticity of this passage as a family record has been denied on various grounds. Buttmann, who considers the genealogies in Genesis 4:1-26 and Genesis 5:1-32 as embodying two traditions, the one taken from the Elohistic record, and the other from the Jehovistic, holds that the pedigree contained in the present chapter is nothing but a repetition, in a confused, disjointed form, of that given in the preceding one, so far as it goes. This view, which is adopted also by Von Bohlen, Hupfeld, etc., rests on resemblances which, appearing in some of the names, have been assumed as extending to all. But such analogy is a rash and groundless hypothesis; for the two registers are entirely different both at the commencement and the close; and although there is a partial similarity between them, as might be expected in the early stages of the human family, when the names in use were but few, and therefore repeated in successive generations; yet, when examined closely, they are seen to be separate and independent catalogs. Thus, Cainan is conceived to be a corrupted form of Cain, Mahaleel = Mehujael, Jared = Irad, Methuselah = Methusael. But the supposed identity or resemblance is more apparent than real. In the original Hebrew it does not exist, and, although there is one point of similarity-namely, that two of the Cainite patriarchs as well as the Sethites, have the name of 'Eel (Hebrew #410), God, incorporated with their names, thus affording ground of hope that the race was not universally atheistic-every scholar knows that there are verbal elements in the names of the latter which show that they are perfectly distinct and incapable of assimilation with the former.

Besides, the hypothesis overturns the entire order of this genealogy and destroys the relationship of fathers and sons; because the adoption of it would be necessary to change the succession of the generations, in order to make the persons bearing the names correspond to one another and to their parentage. Even in the two names which are the same in each genealogy, circumstances are added to the brief notice of the Sethites, as if for the express purpose of distinguishing them from the Cainite bearers of those names. Enoch, who "walked with God" - and 'was translated, that he should not see death' was a totally different personage from the son of Cain after whom the first city was called; and the godly, inspired father of Noah was a man of a character the very opposite of his namesake, who was a homicide and a polygamist.

There is no ground, then, because the allegation that the two lists form substantially one and the same family register: they are separate and distinct, though they run parallel to each other; and this is a sufficient refutation of the objection that, there being not one tradition but two, the genealogies cannot be considered of historical value. Equally arbitrary are other interpretations of this chapter by many learned men, who look upon it as an isolated document, inserted without any intelligible purpose in the midst of the history-the views, for instance, of Bredeau, Rask, and Gamborg, who consider the genealogical names as national appellatives: Adam, a chief or petty king who ruled in Babylonia, the same as the Aloros of the Chaldeans and the Horos of the Egyptians; and Seth, the first who established the most ancient form of divine worship in that country; as well as the theory of Bunsen, that the genealogical names here are ideal, not used to designate individuals, but to mark epochs or great cycles of time-Seth, as he writes it, Set or Suti, being the oldest Oriental god; Enos or Enosh (man), the first human creature; Enoch, 'seer of God,' signifying an era distinguished by a high degree of religious fervour; and the other patriarchs being representatives of periods corresponding to their respective names ('Egypt's Place'). Such extravagant interpretations, paraded as the scientific view of Scripture, would not deserve a passing notice, but for the authors who have formed and published them. Treated in this manner, the Bible may be made to say anything: for when men once forsake the obvious and literal import of the sacred record, and indulge a spirit of wild speculation, they will twist and bend the testimony of Scripture to support whatever theories their fancy may devise.

(4) Some are of opinion that, the "years" by which the patriarchal lives are reckoned did not embrace so great a length of time as is now understood by that term, and that when it is said the patriarchs existed on the earth for 800 or 900 years, the computation was made by the moon and not by the sun. 'In other words, the years were months; or, according to Hensler and Hufeland, they consisted of three months' duration until the time of Abraham, of eight months until that of Joseph, and not until after twelve months. According to this view it is not easy to discover what was the object of recording the lives of those patriarchs; because if the common interpretation appear a stumbling-block, as pointing to an existence protracted far beyond the known course of nature, the hypothesis of lunar years is equally objectionable, leading to the opposite extreme, reducing these lives to an unnatural brevity.

According to this theory the patriarchs must have been married, and have become fathers at the early age of four or five. The lives of several of them would scarcely be equal to the average duration of life in the present day, and even Methuselah himself, who lived 969 years, so far from enjoying the privilege of unprecedented longevity, attained to no greater age than 86 years and five months! Surely it cannot be supposed that Moses would commit so great an absurdity as to use the same words in the same history in senses so widely different-to mean by a "year" sometimes a month, and at other times twelve months (Genesis 8:13), without different-to mean by a "year" sometimes a month, and at other times twelve months (Genesis 8:13), without giving his readers any intimation of the change.

(5) Admitting the word as employed in this book to denote a common astronomical year, as has been often proved, and is generally acknowledged, some writers have urged the objection against this genealogy in another form, founded on the alleged fabulosity of the account. The story of the extraordinary longevity of these patriarchs, men who were so long in reaching maturity:

`That still a hundred years beheld the boy Beneath his mother's roof, her infant joy;'

And the lives of some of whom extended over a period equal to that from the Norman Conquest to the present day, is, it has been said, to be regarded as a myth of pre-historic times. Such millenarian existences are so far beyond the range of human experience, and so directly at variance with all the laws of animal organism, that they have been pronounced utterly incredible. But the principles of modern physiology are not applicable in such a case; because we are so entirely ignorant of the condition of mankind in an age so remote, and a state of the world so completely separated by an impassable wall from later ages, that we are not warranted to judge by present analogies.

Besides, there are remarkable instances on record of longevity in subsequent times. Not to detail some ancient cases mentioned by Pliny, of Greeks and Romans who lived 200 years and upwards, there are numerous examples even in the present day of a longevity far exceeding the ordinary standard of human life. 'In India it is by no means uncommon to meet with men, especially in the Brahminical caste, more than 100 years of age, in the enjoyment of a robust and even generative vigour of constitution. In the labouring class of Russia, whose mode of living is so simple, there are many examples of men living to more than 150 years of age' (Schlegel).

In our own country there are also some rare but well-authenticated instances, such as Thomas Parr, who lived 153 years; Henry Jenkins, 169; Mary Billinge, 112; Sarah Lee, 105. Old Parr was a simple labourer, and the report of the celebrated Harvey, who made a post-mortem examination of the body, was, that he might, and ought to have lived longer. His death was occasioned by no disease, but by an altered fare, the rich diet of the Court of Charles, which, by making too great a demand upon the digestive and other functions of his body, destroyed his little remaining vitality. His life would have been prolonged had he adhered to his usual food. Here, then, was a man whose life was equal in length to that of three ordinary lives; and as it is too well attested to be called in question, physiologists will find it as difficult to account for the extraordinary duration of the physical powers in such cases as in that of the patriarchs. The fact is, that they cannot tell what life is; and although a serene climate, simple, wholesome food, light work, the steady government of the passions, 'sana mens in corpore sano,' are undoubtedly conducive to longevity, it is useless to seek for the influence of secondary causes. The only rational way of accounting for the patriarchal longevity is by resolving it into the will of the Creator, who can impart the privilege of protracted existence to the present frame of man, as easily as to any other physical conformation.

(6) It has been alleged that this register bears evidence of artificial construction; for the genealogy before the flood, as well as that after it (Genesis 11:1-32), comprises just ten names. The coincidence is singular (cf. Matthew 3:17), but whether any intermediate links have been omitted, or, if so, why the number, ten, was fixed, is unknown.

(7) The preceding objections having been removed, the question occurs, Does the longevity of these patriarchs furnish a scale by which to measure the duration of human life generally before the flood, or was it the exclusive privilege of a few, who, being specially employed in the service of God, had their lives miraculously prolonged? From the first and the last of them having received direct communications from God, and from a third having been a 'seer,' the burden of whose solemn addresses was the infliction of divine judgment upon incorrigible sinners (Jude 1:14), it is highly probable that the other associated patriarchs sustained the same official character, and formed the first in that long series of "prophets who have been since the world began." They might be, and probably were, the media of transmitting the revelations originally communicated to the first pair by celestial visitants, respecting the origin of the world, the formation of man, as well as the lamentable incidents of the fall, the means announced for restoring man's severed relations with God, and the mode of worship appointed for a race of sinners.

On these topics of deep and universal interest, they would frequently converse with those around them; and, as Adam lived until the 57th year of Lamech, so that he thus was enabled to converse with eight generations of his children; since seven of these ten patriarchs were contemporaries with Noah, the course of tradition was direct and pure; a unity of sentiment, of feeling, and of worship, was preserved among the Sethites, which, at no subsequent period of the world's history, could possibly be maintained.

Moveover, as depositaries of general knowledge, they would fill an important and a most necessary place in the first ages for the instruction 'of mankind; and from their hoary age, and their sage experience, rich with the accumulated stores of information on all matters relating to the course of things in the world, successive generations would repair to those living oracles, as we consult monuments and coins, records and memoirs, as sources of historical information. For performing such important purposes, the lives of those holy men might have been supernaturally extended, and they would form remarkable exceptions to the usually brief term of man's continuance on earth. But this does not appear a correct view of the case; for numerous data are found in Scripture which warrant the conclusion that an extraordinary longevity, instead of being confined to a select few, was the common inheritance of all the antediluvians.

Not to insist on Genesis 6:3, the true meaning of which has been disputed, distinct allusions to the great length, and the subsequently gradual decrease of man's life, are made in Genesis 47:9; Psalms 90:10; and Isaiah 65:20. And this is just as might be expected, that sin would not produce all its physical effects immediately; that the original vigour of constitution and the temporal life of man would continue long ere the effects of the fall upon the human frame would be apparent; and that the diminution of its extraordinary vital power, and the corresponding faculties of vigour and energy with which it was endowed at creation, would, according to the usual course of Providence, take place only in a gradual manner. 'What in the present physical degeneracy of mankind forms but a rare exception, may originally have been the ordinary measure of the duration of human life, or, at least, may afford us some trace and indication of such a measure, more especially as other branches of natural science offer correspondent analogies. In that remote world, so little known to us, a standard for the duration of human life very different from the present may have prevailed; and such an opinion is extremely probable, supported as it is by manifold testimony, and confirmed by the sacred record of man's divine origin' (Schlegel).

The view given in the commentary is opposed alike to two theories: the one, that the genealogy in this chapter contains the account of a human creation posterior to that narrated in the three opening ones; and the other, that each country or climate produced its indigenous race of men [thence called geegeneis], sprung from its own prototypal Adam and Eve. The passage comprises in a few verses the history of 1,656 years, according to the Hebrew text, and of 2,242 years, according to the Septuagint. It is a bare register of names, without any historical notices, in accordance with the main purpose of its insertion, which was to show the genealogical descent of Christ from Adam through the line of Seth (cf. 1 Chronicles 1:1; Luke 3:36-38).

The best modern chronologists, Ussher, Clinton, and Parker, follow the dates given in the Hebrew text. The sacred record relative to the extraordinary longevity of the antediluvian patriarchs is confirmed by independent testimony from many sources. Josephus ('Antiquities,' 1: 3) has appealed to the unanimous testimony of ancient authors among all nations, that in the first ages man lived to the age of about one thousand years; and traditions to the same purport are found among the Indians, the Chinese, and even the Burmans. These ten patriarchs are distinctly mentioned, under different names, in the Sagas, not only of the Indians, but of other people in Asia. Seth, according to Josephus, made great acquirements in science, particularly in astronomy, and set up pillars inscribed with the result of his observations. Enoch, under the name of Idris, is not only celebrated as an astronomer all over the East, but his fame was carried by the Celtic emigrants to Britain, where, on the summit of a majestic mountain, called from him Caeder Idris, the antediluvian sage, according to tradition, was accustomed to pursue his investigations.

It has been objected that 'the fewness of the generations between the creation and the flood indicates an imperfect record, which is ill-adjusted by the preternatural lives of the patriarchs.' But surely it would have been more serviceable to Moses' purposes, if he had had any other object than a simple relation of the truth, that men should not have been so long-lived; because when he had so much scope for his invention (if it had been an invention of his own), he would have imitated the Egyptians, Chinese, and other nations, in their pretensions to an immense antiquity; instead of fixing the creation of the world at the distance of so few generations from the time at which he wrote, he would have represented the generations of men as greater, and their lives shorter, so that he might better have concealed his fictions in obscure and uncertain narratives, which must be supposed to have been transmitted through so many hands down to his age.

The longevity of the antediluvian world was highly conducive to intellectual development; and since it is easy to imagine what achievements would be made in any branch of knowledge if a Galileo, a Newton, or a Watt been preserved to continue their pursuits for a century or more, we may conclude that the arts and sciences must have made prodigious and constantly increasing progress in the world before the flood. In fact, the march of mind could never have been arrested or overtaken by the shades of night when the lamp was held up for one thousand years by the same mighty spirits who struck the spark and continually fed the flame. But now that the life of man has dwindled to threescore years and ten, it is obvious that such development would depend on a succession of gifted intellects, and that when the line was broken, the empire of thought would pass away. And it has passed from East to West; and its throne has been raised, and tottered and fallen, in almost every quarter of the globe, and never continued in one station' (Miller).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Genesis 5:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/genesis-5.html. 1871-8.

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