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III. The History of Adam (5:1-6:8)
We may find subdivisions in Genesis and append to them our own titles. Moses has taken care of the major divisions by inserting them himself as "histories" (toledôth). On the meaning of the term toledôth and the instances of its occurrence see 2:4.
As it was necessary at 2:4 to determine with what propriety the section there beginning could be called the "history of heaven and earth," so here there is necessity to discern how very appropriate it is to term this portion "the history of Adam." Had the choice of title been left to us, we should perhaps have felt inclined to term this a genealogy of the patriarchs, which it also certainly is. But with greater propriety Moses speaks of the "history" or "story" of Adam. For this whole period of development of the line of godly men was Adam’s history working itself out; the age was dominated by the spirit and the influence of Adam. This group, not the other described in 4:16-24, had the spirit of Adam. So we notice at the same time that only the group described in chapter 5 carries along with it the promise of the seed of the woman. The men here described are for the present the woman’s seed, and in this line the Seed of the woman is ultimately to develop. The writer saw this, for he knew the promise given to Abraham and Israel and observed that only this one line terminated in Abraham. We may further say that in another sense Adam dominated this age and this group. For what he taught as truth or as God’s Word concerning the original state, concerning the Fall and God’s promises after the Fall, as well as his attitude in faith toward all these promises of God dominated more than one half of the entire period, namely Adam’s lifetime, and continued to be the controlling influence during the rest of it. For this whole group walked in his footsteps. True, in the concluding section 6:1-8 the definite departure from what he taught and exemplified is recorded, but just that prepares for the definite conclusion of this era. It certainly was in a prominent sense the Story of Adam.
On the whole, these patriarchs, it appears, may well be regarded as men deserving of an unusual measure of renown. If during a millennium and a half these are the only names worthy of being handed down in the inspired record, we may well conclude with Luther that they "were the very greatest heroes who ever came upon earth barring Christ and John the Baptist." Besides, since this point of view is supported even by the fact that in point of longevity their strength and natural vigour far excelled that of later generations, it would seem quite proper to conclude that in other respects also they represented a less decayed stage of human life.
(a) The Separate Development of the Godly (5:1-32)
1, 2. This is the book of the history of Adam. At the time when God created Adam He made him in the likeness of God. Male and female He created them and He blessed them, and He called their name man at the time of their being created.
In this instance the demonstrative "this" points forward: what follows is Adam’s history. The heading is unusual: instead of the usual expression, as in 2:4 and in all other headings of this character in Genesis, "this is the story," we read: "this is the bookof the story." "Book" (sépher) refers to any document, long or short, as long as it is complete in itself. In Deut. 24:1 the term is applied to a bill of divorce; in (Jer. 32:12) to a deed. Here 5:1-6:8 is the "book." Does this seem to indicate a written document from antiquity which Moses incorporated in his book? Who can say? At least, such a possibility cannot be ruled out. Since we have no means of knowing who was the one that penned the document, we are hardly safe in following Whitelaw, when he ascribes the writing to antediluvians and so arrives at conclusions concerning the culture and the degree of advancement of these early peoples. Yet the possibility of what he contends for cannot be denied. The first Adam, ’adham in v. 1, is certainly a proper name, according to the analogy of all the other headings of this nature in Genesis, in all of which, with the necessary exception of 2:4, proper names occur. The next ’adham in v. 1 seems to hover on the border-line between the proper noun and the generic word "man." The ’adham of v. 2 is quite likely the generic. Then v. 3 ff. the word again is to be regarded as the proper noun. Such seeming vacillation is due to the process of gradual crystallization of the generic noun into a proper noun (K. C.).
The rest of v. 1, plus v. 2, is not to be combined into a very complex sentence, a thing foreign to the simple style of Genesis here (K. S. 416 a). But why repeat things previously stated? Why recall the God likeness, the two sexes, God’s blessing and the naming of the race? This brief recapitulation serves to recall the first chapter and the glorious original state of the first man as well as his glorious destiny. After the things recorded in chapters 3 and 4 man, destined to such high things as the opening chapters indicate, achieves a record no higher than that of this fifth chapter. All things in these opening chapters belong together in a most intimate sense. Here is not a more or less clumsy combining of various sources, P dominating the scene (except in v. 29) for the first time since 1:1-2:3. The whole is poured into one mold by one author, and part balances and supplements part in the most skilful style of writing possible.
Verse 1 b and 2 recall the following to our mind: "At the time (beyôm "in the day" in the broader sense) when ’elohîm (the Creator who is to be feared) did create man He made him in the likeness (not "after the likeness" as in 1:26, for the two prepositions are often used interchangeably) of God" (not merely His likeness—emphatic repetition); besides, even as in 1:26; 2:5, 2:18 ff. man is first referred to generically and then follows the definite indication that man had a woman at his side, so here v. 2 supplies "male and female He created them"—the separate mention of woman’s being created as well as man’s being quite necessary for the Orient in days of old already. That these persons enjoyed God’s blessing is recalled as a matter still calling for grateful remembrance. A fact not previously mentioned is supplied here, that the naming .of man, which might have been inferred from 1:26, was attended to by God at the time when He created man. After such a beginning of man’s history what a marvellous future could not have been expected! Instead, what a poor and meagre history—as the chapter now proceeds to unfold!
3-5. And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years and begat (a son) in his likeness, according to his image, and he called his name Seth. And the days of Adam after his begetting Seth were eight hundred years, and he begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Adam which he lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.
This gives the brief record of the first of the patriarchs in the form which is stereotyped after this pattern with a few exceptions, such as the more elaborate form of v. 3; v. 22 and v. 24; the words after "saying" in v. 29; v. 32; wayhiv. 31 for wayyihyû in the preceding instances. Of course, the critical assertion is now almost universal; that so precisely formal a style is one of the outstanding characteristics of P. But the simpler and more obvious explanation is that Moses, the inspired writer, possessed the capacity of employing a great variety of styles as the circumstances suggested. What is more concise than such a formal style when a broad area of time is to be covered rapidly in a condensed account that emphasizes the chronological aspect of history? Yet, even so, the author is complete master of the situation. Outstanding matters like 3 a, v. 22 and v. 24, as well as v. 29 are preserved, and the iron fetters of routine form are broken. Criticism ascribes v. 29 to another author J, so postulating for P a binding rigidity of style. This priestly author appears to them to have been so tightly manacled by his style that, after he once had cast the mold, it was impossible for him to extricate himself. But by the solemn repetition of the concluding phrase, "and he died," Moses was able to emphasize besides the sad mortality of man. There is something appalling about the dread finality of this phrase. Bonar is said to have described this as "the solemn toll of the patriarchal funeral bell." When discussing the style of the chapter, critics should extol the merits of it and laud that capable flexibility of it which Moses, like other great masters of style, displays—although this is a matter that has to do purely with externals.
At once we are struck by the longevity of these patriarchs; all except three lived in excess of nine hundred years. It is useless to attempt to evade this fact. The attempt to let the personal names represent tribes shatters on the clear statement of how old each father was when he begot a son. A complete generation is not thus brought forth within a tribe. Equally abortive is the attempt to claim that numerous links in the chain may have been omitted. Again the precise measuring of each forward step in reference to successive individuals peremptorily rules out such a claim. The most common suggestion by way of escape from the difficulty is to make "year" mean a shorter period, either one month or two, etc. Unfortunately, the term "year" knows of no such usage, and the suggestion must be treated as a mere surmise. He, however, who is duly impressed by the excellence of man’s original estate, will have no difficulty in accepting the common explanation that even under the curse of sin man’s constitution displayed such vitality that it did not at first submit to the ravages of time until after many centuries had passed. Besides—a fact established by fossil finds—there are ample indications of a more salubrious climate in the antediluvian days. Nor should we forget that here is the race of godly men who lived temperately and sanely.
If Adam was one hundred and thirty years old when Seth was born, and if, on the other hand, it seems extremely likely that Cain and Abel had been born quite a while before that, we may well wonder at the great lapse of time between the birth of the first two and the birth of Seth. The common explanation is not without merit, that the grief over Abel weighed very heavily upon the first parents. On the other hand, there is a very strong possibility that, as in many instances, a century or more passed before the son was born that carried on the line, so in the more deliberate course of events of these early days Adam may have been nearly a hundred years old before Cain and Abel were born. But we do observe distinctly that all life was marked by a certain leisureliness and temperate self-control that makes it stand out over against the hectic present.
The outstanding thing to be remarked about Seth is that he was in the likeness and according to the image of his father. First, note that the order of nouns and of prepositions is reversed from 1:26; for here we read, "in his likeness, according to his image." This, of course, proves nothing more than that the distinction between "image" and "likeness," as well as the distinction between the two prepositions "in" (be) and "according to" (ke), is not very pronounced. Yet this use of both phrases here emphatically asserts what it asserted when it was said of man that he was to be made in God’s image and according to His likeness, namely: he was made in a very distinct resemblance with, and correspondence to, the original Pattern. Here now with emphasis: Seth was a being essentially like Adam. Now, as stands out as clearly as it can, between 1:26 and 5:3 the Fall intervened. The pristine likeness is God. It may yet be said with far less emphasis than in 1:26 that man is "according to the likeness of God," but after all that chapter three told that implies, as our dogmaticians so aptly have stated the case, that the formal side of the divine image alone remains; the material side has been lost. Therefore Scriptures do in a modified sense assert that man has something of the divine image left; cf. 1 Cor. 11:7; Jas. 3:9. This verse, then, by contrast actually may be read thus: "Adam begat a son in his image according to his likeness."
Criticism, treating Genesis as a book made up of composite elements that have not been fused into a unified and harmonious whole, gets into somewhat of a tangle at this point, a tangle that works out to the sad discredit of Genesis. Since this is ascribed to P, and P did not write chapters three and four, P knows nothing of a Fall (argument purely from silence). Therefore, if 5:1 says God made man in His image, and v. 3 says Seth was in man’s image, ergo: Seth must be in God’s image as Adam originally was. Then, concludes criticism, the Bible does not rate the Fall half as seriously as do our dogmaticians. But notice what this says about the Scriptures. The author of chapter three (J) knows of a Fall extremely serious in its consequences. Chapter five (P) knows of no such Fall: contradiction within the Scriptures. So, while forfeiting the reliability of the Scriptures, the natural powers of man are exalted and man is praised and flattered. What a sorry denial of truth!
Seth is mentioned as the one who carried on the line of promise. Cain belongs to another group, see 4:16 ff. Abel is dead. Criticism again makes the assertion: P knew nothing of Cain and Abel.
After the birth of Seth other sons and daughters are born. How many, we are not told. The emphasis lies on the chronology and on setting forth the prominent links of the chain. Adam came to be among the oldest of mankind. His total age was 930 years.
The solemn "and he died" is offset by the fact that in spite of death God’s promise prevailed in the more abundant seed of the woman. God’s justice and wrath against sin as well as His mercy are thus strongly emphasized in this chapter. These two facts are held in clear balance over against one another. "Death reigned" indeed "from Adam" (Ro 5:14) onward; so by emphasizing the mortal consequences of sin the scriptural record lets no man esteem lightly the transgressing of the commandments of God. But where sin prevails, grace does the more prevail. This the Scriptures never minimize. Man is not to be left comfortless.
For convenience sake we tabulate at this point what the record offers, as well as a few suggestive computations based on the figures of this chapter.
Chronological Table—Adam to Noah
Age at birth
N. B. We have included two of the above numbers in parenthesis. The 987 stands under the caption, "Year of death," but Enoch did not die; consequently marks of parenthesis, In the case of Noah the same mark enclosing the 500 indicates a mere possibility: nowhere does the account indicate that the above, mentioned after Adam, are really the first-born. Seth definitely was not. The likelihood is very strong that the three sons of Noah, born when he was 500 years old, will not have been his eldest children.
Other suggestive points to be discerned from this Table are that Enoch’s translation (987) occurred about midway between Creation and the Flood (1656). Again, Adam was still living when Lamech, Noah’s father, was born (874). Any tradition that Adam desired to hand down was only in the second generation at the time the Flood came: Adam to Lamech. Methuselah died in the year of the Flood (1656), yet he need not have perished in the Flood. It is facetiousness to let him perish in the Flood and then to remark that he died "of an accident." Apparently, the Flood did not sweep a single one of the Sethites, the true "seed of the woman," away. There is a fine propriety of divine grace in that fact. Besides, it may be remarked that Noah barely missed knowing Adam and Seth; Lamech did know Adam. What a power for godliness that should have been to see so many staunch believers living simultaneously and encouraging one another in steadfastness!
There is no reason for doubting the correctness of the chronology submitted by the Hebrew Masoretic text. This is and is intended to be a complete chronology, complete as far as marking the actual lapse of time is concerned. No other nation has anything to compare with it. Yet, strange to say, the only reliable chronology which we have, which actually purports to be an adequate chronology dating back to Creation, is continually being questioned, corrected, amended and condemned in favour of fallible documents which are historically but poorly attested and marked by many a gap. The claim that the Scriptures do not give a complete and accurate chronology for the whole period of the Old Testament that they cover is utterly wrong, dangerous and mischievous. At the slightest objection men are ready to cast aside as inadequate the only adequate chronology mankind possesses.
The variations, offered both by the Septuagint and by the Samaritan Pentateuch are so manifestly altered according to a particular principle as to be useless, especially when we consider that both groups were ready to alter the text to suit their convenience, a charge that cannot be laid against the Jewish scribes. So, for example, the Greek version lengthens almost all the figures in the first column, usually by adding one hundred years, so that their first column would read 230, 205, 190, 170, 165, 162(!), 165, 167(!), 188(!), 500. Then they are able later on to give a total for the age of the postdiluvians until Abraham that is more nearly like the age limit of Moses’ time, i. e., seventy to eighty years. Again, the Samaritans have diminished a few of the totals of the first column to make it appear that the decrease in age from Adam on was more regular. The numbers of the first column, if taken from the Samaritan Pentateuch, would run thus: 130, 105, 90, 70, 65, 62, 65, 67, 53, 500. Such artificial regularity does not mar the Hebrew numbers. Volumes have been written on this question, and most of the present-day treatment is entirely without value, because the reliable figures of the Hebrew text are, without valid reason, treated as undependable. If a man wants the only correct chronology reaching back to the beginning, here it is—Chapter Five.
The famous list of the first ten Babylonian kings, as given by the Babylonian priest Berossus, quoted by Eusebius, has nothing in common with our chapter, except the number ten and perhaps a few very minor points of similarity on the meaning of certain names. But these points of correspondence become the merest trifles if held over against the glaring dissimilarities of the two lists, which Strack has successfully emphasized. Chief among the dissimilarities is the fantastic age limit of these Babylonian kings: Alorus begins with 36,000; Megalorus, Euedorachus, and Xisouthrous each achieve 64,800 years. This whole fantastic record may have retained a few traces of the original tradition which the Bible gives with unimpaired correctness. N. B. "begat" (v. 3) has no object; the object is easily supplied.
6-8. And Seth lived one hundred and five years and begat Enosh. And Seth lived after his begetting Enosh eight hundred and seven years, and he begat sons and daughters, and all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died.
The meaning of the names Seth and Enosh has been discussed; see 4:25 and 26.
9-11. And Enosh lived ninety years and begat Kahan. And Enosh lived after his begetting Kahan eight hundred and fifteen years and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years; and he died.
"Kenan" perhaps means "smith." As might have been remarked above on v. 5, the expression "all the days of" is idiomatic for "the whole length of his life."
12-14. And Kenan was seventy years old and begat Mahalalel. And Kahan lived after his begetting Mahalalel eight hundred and forty years and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Kahan were nine hundred and ten years; and he died.
The name Mahalalel may be interpreted to mean "Praiseworthy is God."
15-17. And Mahalalel lived sixty-five years and begat Jared (or Heb. Jeredh). And Mahalalel lived after his begetting Jared eight hundred and thirty years and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Mahalalel were eight hundred and ninety-five years; and he died.
Jared means "descent." It may indicate the decline in longevity which has been in evidence in each successive case, Jared being the first man to fall under the total of nine hundred. This explanation acts on the assumption that Jared may not have been the name originally given at birth, because he was born in the year 460 from Creation. The name surely has nothing to do with the chimerical Jewish notion that the name was given in remembrance of the fact that in his day angels began to "descend" to earth in order to commingle with men.
18-20. And Jared lived one hundred and sixty-two years and begat Enoch. And Jared lived after his begetting Enoch eight hundred years and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Jared were nine hundred, and sixty-two years; and he died.
Enoch (Heb. chanôkh), means, as in 4:17, "beginner." This name and that of Lamech are identical in the Cainite and the Sethite line.
21-24. And Enoch lived sixty-five years and begat Methuselah. And Enoch walked with God after his begetting Methuselah three hundred years and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.
Methuselah seems to mean "man of the weapon" or spear (Mann mit Wurfgeschoss—K. W.). Why he should be so called is hard to determine, except that he may have excelled in the use of the spear, but surely not for murderous purposes like Lamech the Cainite. Then also not for the purpose, of hunting, unless it be for securing the pelts of animals for clothing.
But this man Enoch, who represents the seventh generation in his line, even as Lamech the Cainite did in his, commands attention. If seven, be the number of divine operation, then Enoch’s case would exemplify what divine grace can accomplish by way of complete consecration. We do not believe that the seven is secured in this instance by manipulation of the genealogy or by skipping intervening grades. Enoch actually was the seventh from Adam.
Now the significant thing reported concerning him is that he "walked with God". (hithkallekh’eth ha’elohîm) The Hithpael stem signifies "to walk about"—"to live." The particular preposition used, ‘eth, denotes "intimacy, fellowship" (B D B). Here it is customary to collate the other prepositions that are used in connection with the same stem. "Before God" (Heb. liphne) is found in 17:1; 24:40; or "after" (’acharey) in Deut. 13:5 (4); 1 Kings 14:8. Now it is true that ’eth in reference to God appears only in reference to Enoch and Noah ( 6:9) and so gains the meaning in Mal. 2:6 of the most intimate communion with God as exemplified by the most godly of men. But true as all this is, the expression as such is not sufficiently analyzed when this fact is determined. Does "to walk with God" actually mean a physical, outward meeting as the expression of closest fellowship? So some maintain, citing the following supposition as proof: God still had the place of his manifestation on earth at the Garden; there Enoch met with Him and walked with Him. But several valid objections rise at this point. Was Enoch not a sinner also? If so, was not he, as well as all his fellow-sinners, to be kept from the garden by the cherubim and the swords of fire? Besides, was not the general rule of Moses’ day, applicable in this instance as well as in all others: "man shall not see me and live" (Exod. 33:20)? This maxim was not a human opinion but spoken by God Himself.
We are thus driven to take the expression, "to walk with God," figuratively, in the sense of inner communion, as living one’s life in such a way that in faith one remains uninterruptedly conscious of the nearness of the almighty God and so walks as the thought of that presence determines. Life was lived to please God, so far as this was humanly possible. This involved, in complete conformity with what the New Testament teaches, a life of prayer and of watchful use of the means of grace, that is, in this instance, holding fast and feeding upon the promise of victory through the Seed of the woman. To interpret "to walk with God" in this sense is further recommended by certain grammatical considerations. Certainly, the parallel expressions are to be taken figuratively and not literally: 17:1 cannot be taken in any other sense than this; Deut. 13:5 (4) plainly refers to fidelity in following after Jehovah in the sense of the explanatory expressions following: "fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and—serve Him and cleave unto Him." In other words, the type of walking with God which is still possible is the type that Enoch exemplified. Even the article ha’elohîm, i.e., "the true God," points in this direction. Any other type of communion with the true God is visionary and the dreamer’s choice. The versions, finally, fully confirm this interpretation. For the Septuagint says: εὐ ἡρέστησεν τῶ θεῶ="he was well-pleasing to God." The Targum has: "He walked in the fear of Yahweh." See also Heb. 11:5.
One side of such walking with God is very fortunately stressed by Luther on good scriptural grounds over against the purely mystical and contemplative aspect of it that we might be inclined to overstress. Developing the thought expressed in (Jude 14, 15), Luther rightly contends that Enoch’s communion with God was coupled with aggressive testimony to the unbelievers of his generation, and, therefore, he is to be regarded as a man who manifested "great boldness in testifying for the Lord and His church against Satan’s church and that of the Cainites." To this must be added another factor clearly contained in the text. Such communion with God went hand in hand with raising a family and begetting children: "Enoch walked with God and—begat sons and daughters." Celibacy is not requisite for a holy life.
When the statement occurs a second time (v. 24), "and Enoch walked with God," it is for the purpose of binding it up closely with what follows: "and he was not, for God took him." These two so combine that their meaning is designed to be: the reason why God did this unusual thing in Enoch’s case was because Enoch walked with God. The expression "he was not" (’ênénnû) means he was translated. See Heb. 11:5. It could not mean: he died, because of the double preceding emphasis on his communion with God, and because "God took him" (laqach) involves the same word as that used in the translation of Elijah (2 Kings 2:3, 5). In a chapter where every other life (except that of Noah and his sons for the present) closed with: "and he died," the omission of that phrase is too significant to allow for the conclusion that he did die.
Standing thus halfway between Adam and the Flood, this translation of Enoch constitutes a most welcome testimony to the prospect of life eternal, both to the older generation as well as to all those who were to follow as his younger contemporaries. For a group of believing men, such as the Sethites were, would not have failed to see the purpose of his being taken away. Skinner must have ranked the spiritual capacity of godly men like these patriarchs very low to advance the claim: "it is hardly correct to speak of it (the use of "He took") as containing a presentment of the idea of immortality." It was the first definite indication of immortality offered in the Scripture when God took Enoch.
Some take grave exception to the thought apparently involved in this translation of Enoch if it be claimed that this translation involves immediate glorification. This, they say, is impossible, because "the first-fruits" of the resurrection must be Christ (1 Cor. 15:20). Correct as is this claim in reference to Christ, it should be particularly noted that this involves only being the first-fruits in the resurrection. However, in Enoch’s case glorification only is involved. Not having died, Enoch could not be resurrected. But since Enoch was of the Sethite line where faith in the Saviour to come prevailed, he having lived in such faith, after his removal shares the glory that is theirs who believed on the Saviour. He is glorified as believers in Christ are, and that, of course at once. They who here invent an intermediate state, a receptacle where the Old Testament saints abode till Christ came, are building up an unscriptural speculation. This modern view of Sheol is wrong and very mischievous. Such an interpretation runs afoul of the verb here used: God "took" him. What manner of taking would that be where the individual taken is left in Sheol to wait in a shadow existence for long centuries? Besides, the Bible teaches nothing about a Totenreich with various compartments.
The total age of Enoch, 365 years, presents an accidental correspondence with the number of the days of the year. No further significance is to be attached to the fact.
On the forms and the use of ’ênénnû see G. K. 152 m. Though the term means "he is not," yet in connection with a past tense in the narrative it comes to mean: "he was not" (K. S. 140 b).
25-27. And Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years and begat Lamech. And Methuselah lived after his begetting Lamech seven hundred and eighty-two years and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died.
"Lamech" may mean "warrior or conqueror." Methuselah was that one of the patriarchs who lived the greatest number of years.
28-31. And Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years and begat a son. And he called his name Noah, saying: This one will bring us comfort in the face of our work and (more particularly) in the face of the toil of our hands (arising) from the soil which Yahweh has cursed. And Lamech lived after his begetting Noah five hundred and ninety-five years and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years; and he died.
"Noah" means "rest." The birth of this son is recorded in such a way as at once to make it evident that he stands out in connection with a critical juncture in the history of the race. For, first of all, departing from the stereotyped expression used in the chapter, Moses says: "Lamech begat"—not Noah—but "a son" and called his name, etc. Then, in the second place, with a measure of formality he adds, "and he called his name," an expression not used since v. 3. Thirdly, the reason for the giving of this name is mentioned: "He will bring us comfort." He is called Noach for yenach (ch) am. The author is not giving etymological derivatives. Noach as such comes from an entirely different word, viz. nûach, "to rest." But the two verbs nuach and nacham have a kind of assonance, they sound somewhat alike, and Lamech played upon this similarity in a perfectly permissible pun. The name Noach was to remind of the comfort this man would bring. By the spirit of prophecy Lamech, like other godly patriarchs, sensed that in an unusual way this one would bring comfort to the troubled race. In reality Noah did this by preserving the small godly remnant in the ark. This unusual form of the comfort Lamech may never have dreamed of. Yet his prophecy is a valid one. No doubt, in expressing it he had hoped for much more. His prophecy, however, may meet its highest fulfilment in the removal of the curse from the earth, which removal came after the Flood, 8:21 f.
This comfort was to come in the face of (min, like 4:11,="over against," gegenueber—K. W.) "our work," "and in particular (waw augmentativum, K. S. 375d) in the face of the toil of our hands." Apparently, the misery of work in the sweat of the face as "toil of the hands" was beginning to weigh heavily upon men. Life in the externals was a ceaseless round of toil. Men longed for deliverance or at least for comfort under the burden. They knew definitely the whole situation that had made human existence so wretched; they traced their wretchedness back to the curse pronounced upon the ground because of man ( 3:17). Here Lamech says of their misery that it is "(arising) from the soil which Yahweh has cursed." The particular emphasis on "which he has cursed" is secured by putting in the clause after the sentence seems to run to a conclusion (K. S. 375 d). In reality, according to 9:8 ff., Noah does become the mediator of a new and definite relationship between God and mankind, a relationship guaranteed by a covenant with a particular sign, the bow in the heavens. In the face of all this it is not good to claim that Lamech prophesied but missed the mark, as even Luther suggests.
On the other hand, the favourite modernistic interpretation of the comfort brought by Noah is both shallow and unscriptural. The wine, (9:20 ff.) which Noah discovered, was, it is claimed, the comfort of which Lamech prophesied. In the face of the much greater things that came from God through Noah, as indicated above, such an interpretation is quite trivial. Besides, also 9:20 ff. makes it more than doubtful whether the author regards wine as a great comfort of the human race, not to mention the many warnings against abuse of this divine gift recorded here and there in the Scriptures. Meek must have been trying to incorporate this misconception when, misconstruing and misplacing phrases, he arrives at the rendering: "This is the one, after the work and the labour of our hands, to bring us consolation from the very soil which God cursed."
Interpreters misconstrue the passage and the spirit it breathes if they lay into it the idea that some personal, purely human achievement of Noah’s is the ultimate source of the comfort that is to be brought to mankind. Prophecy does not thus glorify human prowess and capacity. The basic thought of the prophecy is that God has destined this son to be the channel or mediator of great comfort to the human race. The divine agency in the blessing is the big factor.
32. And Noah was five hundred years old, and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
At this point important developments in the history of the race appear, developments in which the three sons of Noah figure. Therefore, the line of descent has to supply more than one name. The Hebrew idiom uses the noun ("son of") for the adjective ("old"), see K. S. 306h. Certain details that might satisfy our curiosity but are otherwise unimportant are not definitely decided by the brief statement of this verse; such as: Were other sons begotten of Noah before these three? (Most likely not!) or, Were these three triplets? (most likely not; for begat here has the looser meaning, "began to beget," as in 11:26).
The meaning of these three names involves etymological difficulties. "Shem" may mean "renown." Ham, Hebrew cham, may be derived from the root chamam, "to be hot," and may thus involve a reference to the fact that most Hamites live in hot, southern countries. Therefore, perhaps, "Southlanders"; (K. W,). Its resemblance to the original Egyptian for Egypt is etymotogically doubtful (Buhl). "Japheth" might mean "beauty" (K. W,); but compare 9:27.
But this "History" (toledôth) involves more than the genealogical table of the Sethites: it includes 6:1-8.
Not every man would venture to use this chapter as a text. We should hardly favour that method of treatment which picks out a few verses at random and uses them separately or jointly, like v. 3, 24 and 29. But if it is borne in mind that the chapter tells how the race of godly men developed in the days before the Flood, we certainly have a unity in the text, and certain items of this development are true as long as the world stands. The factors that stand out call for a rearrangement in homiletical treatment. To give due prominence to the hope characteristic of such lives the truth expressed in 29 should be given the strongest emphasis: Men of God had hope, hope to come of one born of woman; their life was not aimless; God-promised deliverance made life worth living. Then it may well be pointed out how such hope influenced the lives of godly men: in Enoch’s case this was particularly apparent; he lived a godly life and received a gracious reward. But the stern realities of life are also reckoned with by godly men: they know how sin has mutilated man—now each man begets children "in his own image" (v. 3) no longer in God’s image (v. 1); now every man must reckon with the closing chapter that reads: "and he died." The longevity referred to in this chapter shows the high original estate from which we have fallen and to which we shall be renewed.
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