Genesis 5 “Why Study the Genealogies?”
Redeemer Church Sunday School
Genesis: Finding Answers to Life’s Crucial Questions
Sunday, October 26, 2008 Genesis 5:1-31 “Why Study the Genealogies?”
Literary analysis: The next unit in Moses’ outline is ch. 5:1-6:8 and could be called “The Account of Adam” since it uses Moses’ key word, toledoth, in the opening line. But even though it is the generations of Adam, the story is really of Seth who represents the godly line, the line that will fulfill the promise of 3:15. It is Seth’s line that is in the covenant with the Lord and Seth is a deliberate contrast with Cain.
Verses 1-2 are a summary of Gen.1-2:3 that is given not merely to emphasize the creation of man, but to link Seth with creation. Vss.3-32 contain 10 paragraphs that are all structured alike, each one listing one of the generations of Adam through Seth. Here is another case of Moses using a form that is familiar to the Sumerian people to the East of Israel. The Sumerians have a king list that is remarkably similar to this genealogy including the long life spans of the individuals. The Sumerian king list has 8 kings prior to the flood but their life spans go up to about 72,000 yrs. After the flood the Sumerian kings life spans gradually decline. But while Moses freely borrows the form, he substantially changes it as well.
More significant than the similarities to Sumerian king lists is the similarities and contrasts with the line of Cain in ch. 4. In the genealogies of both Cain and Seth there is a linear descent from one generation to the next but both end with someone who has three sons. We will see that Cain’s line dies in the flood while Seth’s line is preserved from the flood. Cain the murderer begets another murder, Lamech, while Seth I slinked to Adam (the founder of the human race) and Noah (the one who founds the human race anew after the flood). Enoch the son of Cain founded a city and civilization but Enoch, 7th from Adam, walked with God and was translated to heaven. Lamech in the line of Cain (7th from Adam) was also a violent man but Lamech in Seth’s line names his son Noah in hope that the Lord will bring relief through Noah. Lamech of Cain’s line and Enoch of Seth’s line are both in the 7th spot and also contrast each other- one was the epitome of sinfulness and the other the epitome of godliness. The 10 generations of Adam to Noah are matched in 11:10-26 with the 10 generations from Shem to Abram and again, the toledoth ends with a man who has three sons.
In 6:5-8 this toledoth comes to a conclusion with a warning of the judgment of God upon the sinfulness of man. Thus ch.1 begins with a statement about the watery chaos of the world before God finished creation and the second toledoth ends with another foreboding of a similar watery chaos that is to come. This ending of the toledoth in 6:5-8 creates a dramatic tension in the story much like the story of Cain killing Abel did at the end of the previous toledoth. What will happen to this family God created after the firstborn kills the second born? What will happen to the world and mankind after the flood?
There is another pattern we are seeing in Genesis, that I believe I mentioned last semester. This is a pattern of big picture followed by close up, overview followed by details. In Gen.1:2-3 we see the big picture of creation but in 2:4-25 are the details. Now ch.5 is another overview but chapters 6-9 give us a detailed story.
For most modern readers the genealogies are boring and we sometimes wonder why God allowed them to be a part of the Bible, the inspired Word of God. That attitude reveals more about us than it does about the Bible. We are the most self centered generation, even as Christians, we have a tendency to think it is all about us. The ancient tribal world of Moses day was deeply concerned about genealogies because they valued the older generations, those who had gone before. Today we have almost stopped teaching history- it is possible to get a BA from most universities to day without taking even one history class. Beyond knowing your grandparents, most of us do not know our family histories. So when we read a genealogy in Scripture we need to approach it with several key ideas: 1) ancient people were interested in family origins; 2) the genealogies show us a continuity in the Bible’s story; 3) they show the value of individuals to God, even when all we are given is a name, a family line, an age and that he died; 4) they reinforce the idea that the Bible is rooted in history, it is not fiction, it discusses real people and real events; 5) there is even some good theology hidden in these genealogies; 6) they are written in an artistic manner, they are not merely dry lists, and when we discover the artistry that Moses used, we gain appreciation for the Word of God and the Holy Spirit who inspired Moses; 7) the genealogies show the faithfulness of God in regards to the blessing of fruitfulness.
Verse by Verse Analysis: The theological purpose of this toledoth, this account of the line of Adam through Seth, is to show 1) how all humans are connected and related and are hoping for the universal blessing of God; 2) to show that the penalty of death was in fact real; 3) it shows the theme of conflict introduced back in 3:15; 4) it shows the sinfulness of man.
Here is a question- QQ: Are the genealogies accurate and precise or representative both in the ages listed and in the numbers of people and generations? Keil&Delitzsch (p.76 of vol.1) lists the duration of this first period of human history at 1656 years figured up by adding up all the birth years and ages. In other words, from Adam’s creation to the flood was 1656 yrs. But in the Samaritan Pentateuch the total is1307 and in the LXX it is 2242. AA: I believe that the genealogies are accurate in that the persons listed actually lived and the ages listed may also be accurate. In other genealogies in the Bible, notably the genealogies of Jesus in Matthew and Luke, we do see some manipulation of the names to achieve a theological purpose. Ezra’s priestly genealogy differs somewhat from the similar genealogy in 1Chron. 6. Therefore, we should not approach the genealogies with a 21st century demand for 100% all inclusive precision. I think some generations were skipped over; probably a lot of generations were skipped! I do not have any problem with the ages given because I tend to think that so soon after creation the gene pool was very pure and man, who was designed to live forever with God, did live longer than we do today, by a factor of ten. That being said, I don’t think the precision of the ages is necessarily important for the doctrine of inerrancy because of the overarching theological purpose of genealogies and the artistic streak in the various authors throughout Scripture who composed the lists, adapting them as they saw fit for their purposes. The words for “father” and “son of” can also legitimately be interpreted as “ancestor” and “descendant”.
Verse 1-2 “This is the book of…” Here we see that Moses references a book, indicating that he used a prior existing source, a written source. While certainly Moses lived in an oral culture, there were apparently some written sources available.
“When God created man….when they were created.” There are 4 points about man’s creation bracketed by these two comments on creation. 1) Man is created in God’s image; 2) man is created male and female; 3) man was blessed by God; 4) God exercised his Lordship over man by naming him Man.
What does it mean to be created in the likeness of God? First of all we need to understand that this doctrine is a fundamental doctrine and is a non-negotiable. Here is one place where I believe those Christians who believe in evolution really lose it. God created man in a special and unique way to reflect his image and likeness; this is not said about any of the animals nor is it said of angels. See other texts- Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6; 1Cor.11:7; Col.3:10; James 3:9. See also Psalm 8.
Being created in the image of God means that we were designed to relate to God in a spiritual, moral, intellectual and willful manner. This gives immeasurable worth to the individual human and will affect many of our behaviors and laws. Man is given dominion over the animals and is to participate in creation with our creativity, ability to procreate beyond the instinctive level of animals, and we are to tend the garden. The ultimate expression of this being created in the image and likeness of God is shown in the incarnation, birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
V. 3- Notice that Seth is not created, fashioned or formed, he is fathered. The fact that he is in the likeness and image of his father, Adam, shows that both the image and likeness of God was passed down but also the sin nature was bequeathed to Seth.
At this point we ran out of time so I will pick up here in a couple of weeks. There will be no Sunday School next week as we are having our annual Reformation Celebration.