“The Seventh from Adam”
Have you ever made a “spiritual” new year’s resolution to read through the Bible in one year? If you are like most Christians, you may have launched off safely and made good progress on your voyage, but soon you began to flounder on the rocks of some difficult portion of the Old Testament. Oftentimes the scriptural peril that endangers such a well-meaning voyage is one of those seemingly unending lists of names that appear in many of the historical books. For example, the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles consist of nothing but the names of people from Adam to Ezra; i.e., the entire Old Testament period! Someone has called this section “nine chapters of scriptural Sominex!”
Is there any value in these genealogies of Scripture? Why did God include in the Bible what appears to many readers as boring “grocery lists”? Yet 2 Timothy 3:16-17 states that all Scripture is inspired by God and is “profitable” to equip the child of God. What is profitable about a genealogy? It is the purpose of this article to answer that question by studying two such genealogical lists in the early chapters of Genesis. It is my prayer that you will not only see the reason for biblical genealogies but that you will also gain practical lessons for life from the information they contain.
The first two chapters of Genesis describe the creation of the earth and the first inhabitants of that earth, Adam and Eve. Genesis 3 relates their fall into sin and the immediate consequences of that disobedience. Genesis 4:1-5 records the murder of Abel by Cain, the first two children of Adam and Eve. After Cain’s banishment by the Lord, Genesis 4:16-24 lists the descendants of Cain to the seventh generation. No information apart from their names is given for Cain’s descendants: Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, and Methushael (4:18). When the seventh generation is reached, however, the following is written. “And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. And Adah bore Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such that have cattle. And his brother’s name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and pipe. And Zillah, she also bore Tubal-cain, an instructor of every craftsman in bronze and iron: and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech; for I have slain a man who wounded me, and a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold” (4:19-24).
Lamech was notable for his disregard for the basic moral regulations regarding social life. The verses quoted describe his acts of both bigamy and murder. Lamech departed from the “one man, one woman” marriage institution begun in the garden (Gen. 2:24). The first instance of bigamy in the Bible was thus in the context of rebellion against God. Although polygamy was tolerated under the Old Testament economy, it was always wrong, even when practiced by such spiritual “stalwarts” as Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon. An examination of the scriptural record regarding these men reveals that whenever bigamy was practiced, there was trouble — envy, selfishness, and conflict — in the family relationships. God blessed these individuals in spite of, not because of, this practice.
In addition to bigamy, Lamech murdered a young man (4:23). Evidently he had been offended by this unnamed person, and he took his own personal vengeance on the offender by killing him. As if this were not enough, Lamech boasted about his act to his two wives. He even arrogantly declared that is anyone tried to punish him for his act, the punisher would be punished 77 times. It is possible to read verse 24 as “seventy times seven.” It is possible that Jesus was indirectly referring to Lamech’s arrogance when He declared that His followers should be willing to forgive an offender “seventy times seven” (Mt. 18:21-22). What a contrast between Lamech’s practice of arrogant vengeance and Jesus’ teaching of compassionate forgiveness!
Lamech was the prototype, self-made “macho man.” He was the embodiment of all the later Clint Eastwood/Charles Bronson types so idolized in today’s culture. This ancient “Rambo” took the law into his own form of justice with a vengeance — regardless of what God or others taught. Lamech and those he influenced were doubtless part of that group described later in Genesis 6:5, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” This example of rebellious pride was the “seventh from Adam” through the line of Cain.
There was, however, another “seventh from Adam.” Genesis 4:25 states that God gave Adam and Eve another child to replace the murdered Abel. “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and called his name Seth. For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” It was during the days of Seth that men began publically to worship Jehovah (Gen. 4:26). The second genealogy of Adam is recorded in Genesis 5. Ten generations from Adam through Seth are mentioned, ending with Noah, and his three sons (Gen. 5:32). As we read this chapter, certain matters come to our attention. There seems to be a formula for describing each of these generations. The pattern used for each member records that he lived a number of years more, fathered children, concludes with the total number of years he lived, and then records that he died. Consider, for example, generation two: “And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begot Enosh eight hundred and seven years, and begot sons and daughters. And all the dates of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died” (Gen. 5:6-8). The concluding phrase “and he died” is repeated over and over, no doubt for effect (5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31).
Genesis 5 has been called “the graveyard of Scripture,” while Horatius Bonar described the recurring phrase as “the solemn toll of the patriarchal funeral bell.” No greater evidence can be found of the truth of God’s original warning to Adam: “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17).
An exception to this monotonous pattern of life and death appears in the seventh generation (Gen. 5:21-24). After listing Enoch’s age, his son, and his total years, as all of the previous sections had done, the phrase “and he died” is omitted. In its place we read, “And Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). Nothing more is added, but volumes are included in that simple verse. The comment of the writer of Hebrews cannot be improved upon: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death, and was not found, because God had translated him; for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). Evidently here was a man who pleased God so much that He decided that the world was no longer worthy of Enoch’s continued presence.
One night Enoch and the Lord were out walking together. This was a common practice, and they must have experienced sweet communion together. As they neared the lane that led to Enoch’s house, the Lord must have grabbed Enoch by the elbow and said, No, Enoch, we’re not returning to your place tonight; we’re going to Mine. And he was gone! This godly man was one of only two individuals in history (see Elijah – 2 Ki. 2:11) who were awarded the privilege of exemption from the universal rule of death.
To walk with God means to agree with God (Amos 3:3); it means to please God (Heb. 11:5); and it means to trust God (2 Cor 5:7). Micah declares that the three things the Lord requires of His people are (1) to act justly, (2) to love mercy, and (3) to walk humbly before your God (Mic. 6:8). Enoch experienced that fellowship to such a degree that the Lord took him to Himself so he could enjoy it unhindered by any worldly distractions.
Like Lamech, Enoch was also a “seventh from Adam.” The New Testament author Jude describes him in just those words, “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, The Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints” (Jude 14). Evidently Enoch not only experienced a private communion with God but engaged in a public ministry for God — a ministry of preaching judgment on the ungodly of his day.
There were, therefore, two “sevenths from Adam.” There was Lamech, the shameful example of pride and ungodliness, and there was Enoch, the noble example of humility and godliness. And they both lived in the same generation! And there is every reason to believe that they knew each other. Perhaps Lamech was included among the “ungodly” whom Enoch denounced (see Jude 15). Can you imagine Lamech swaggering down the street with Adah on one arm and Zillah on the other arm and encountering Enoch on the corner delivering one of his “ungodly” sermons?
I believe that we can appreciate Enoch’s godly walk even more when we know that he walked in a generation that was marked by a character like Lamech. But we know this only by comparing these seemingly meaningless lists of names in Genesis 4 and 5. Thus, genealogies can and do perform a wondrous service for the observant reader of Scriptures. This is just one of many insights to be gained from paying close attention to the genealogies of the Bible.
Is it possible to live an Enoch life in the midst of a Lamech generation? Perhaps you work, or go to school, or live everyday with Lamechs, who flout God’s authority in every way. Enoch’s example teaches us that God’s saints are not holed up in some ivory tower, apart from the realities of life. Enoch was a family man (see Gen. 5:21-22). He also had to encounter the ungodly every day. The darker the night, the brighter the light! In December of 1970, I purchased an engagement ring for Helen. The jeweler in that shop on Sansom Street in Philadelphia did not place the ring on her finger for us to inspect. No, he placed it on a black velvet cloth where a directed light caused it to explode in brilliance. He knew that the diamond would shine brighter against a dark background. You may find yourself in such a dark context. If you do, walk ever closer with God, and you will then experience Jesus’ description of His followers: “ye are the light of the world” (Mt. 5:14).
Yes, it is possible to live an Enoch life in a Lamech generation. It is worth it, too. In Genesis 4, when the sons of Lamech and their contribution to civilization are described, nothing more is mentioned of Lamech’s descendants. They disappear from scriptural history, never to be heard of again. His line must have perished in the flood, along with the rest of the ungodly of his day. But Enoch is memorialized in Hebrews 11, that great “Hall of Fame of Faith.” While Lamech may have wielded great power and fame, he is forgotten today. But Enoch’s testimony lived on in his great-grandson, Noah, and in the lives of those of us thousands of years later who seek to follow his example.
Yes, it is possible to live an Enoch life in a Lamech generation. It is worth it, too — particularly, when we have the power of the Lord Jesus Christ who lives within us and the enabling presence of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul exhorts believers to be today’s Enochs. “As ye have, therefore, received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him” (Col. 2:6). Thus, those seemingly endless lists of names in Scripture do have significance — if we pay close attention to them.