Genesis 5 tells us in a grabbing way the result of the fall. God had warned that if Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, death would result. While Adam and Eve began the death process the very day they ate the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they did not breathe their last that day.
We know, of course, in light of all Scripture, that God hates death and loves life (cf. Rom 8:18-39; 1 Cor 15:50-58; 2 Cor 5:1-8; 2 Pet 3:9). God never wanted this result for mankind.
We also know from Scripture that death is a very temporary event in human history. Assuming creation was around 4,000 BC, and assuming the Lord returns soon, the total number of years in which humans will have died will be around 7,000 years. Now imagine 7 BILLION years, a MILLION times more than 7,000. Seven billion years from now, no one would have died in all that time. But that is just the start of forever. Forever never ends.
God is all about life. Man chose death, but God made provision by sending His Son to die on the cross for our sins and to rise from the dead so as to end death. One day soon we will all be resurrected and one day soon death will be no more.
But until then, we live in the age of death. Genesis 5 is the most graphic portrayal of the age of death. In this chapter we are faced over and over again with the stark reality of death.
Genesis 5 recounts the key fathers and sons between Adam and Noah, and in every case but one Moses concludes with the words “and he died.” Genesis 5 is an amazing chapter. It had several powerful lessons for Israel and it has several powerful lessons for us today as well.
The Trail of Death
With but one exception every time a man and his key son is mentioned, we are told how many years he lived and then we read the jarring words, “and he died.”
Look at Gen 5:5: “So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died” (italics added). This is the first natural death mentioned in the Bible. This is the death of our first father.
Note how old Adam and Eve were when Seth was born: 130! And remember that on the day of their creation they were fully grown young adults, not babies. Assuming that Cain and Abel were born when Adam and Eve were around ten or twenty (though they would actually have been capable of having children their first year on earth), they had children for over 100 years. While the text doesn’t tell us, they probably had 50 or more children.
Seth is the son of Adam and Eve who is in the line of the Messiah. He lived “nine hundred and twelve years; and he died” (Gen 5:8). A pattern is emerging. “And he died” is the epitaph for Adam and Seth and that pattern will continue.
Then comes Seth’s son Enosh. He lived 905 years “and he died” (Gen 5:11).
The son of Enosh was Cainan. He lived 910 years “and he died” (Gen 5:14).
Mahalalel was the son of Cainan. He lived 895 years and then we read again, “and he died” (Gen 5:17).
The son of Mahalalel was Jared. He lived longer than anyone mentioned before: 962 years. But then we read once more: “and he died” (Gen 5:20).
My seminary professor for a Hebrew class on Genesis, Dr. Allen Ross, made this comment about Gen 5:1-20: “People are dying like flies.” The result of sin is death. Moses is emphasizing this to the nation, and to us, in Genesis 5.
A Break in the Trail of Death
The key son of Jared was Enoch. Genesis 5:21-24 tell us about Enoch, and there is a remarkable break in the story. Here we do not read the words repeated of each of the previous men, “and he died.”
Here we read, twice, something not said of anyone since Adam and Eve in Gen 3:8, “Enoch walked with God” (emphasis added). The literal walking of Adam and Eve with Jesus in the Garden becomes the figurative designation of someone who is pleasing God. To walk with God is to please Him, to live in fellowship with Him.
Of course, the NT picks up this idea as well. Paul prayed that the believers in Colossae “may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him” (Col 1:10). He taught the believers in Thessalonica how they “ought to walk and to please God” (1 Thess 4:1).
John said that only if we “walk in the light as He is in the light” do “we have fellowship” with Him and “with one another” (1 John 1:7).
See also Gal 5:16 and Eph 4:1 and 5:8 concerning the theme of walking with God.
Genesis 5:21-24 is a mini-sermon on walking with God and the blessings that flow from doing so.
Israel was to walk with God and receive rich blessings from Him. So today the Church is to walk with God and receive rich blessings.
Both Israel and the Church should see in Enoch the promise of a coming day in which there will be no more death. There is a day coming when life and blessing will reign. That is the day when the ultimate Son of Adam, the promised Messiah, will come. Of course, as we learn in the NT, He has come once to die for us. Soon He will return to abolish death and to establish His righteous reign of blessing.
Enoch foreshadows the coming of that day when death will be no more. Enoch’s story foretells a day when all people on earth, on the New Earth, will walk with God.
God made an exception concerning the penalty of death in the case of Enoch, and later Elijah. The promise of death was for Adam and Eve and their offspring, but there could be and were exceptions. While Enoch was before the death of Christ, it was that coming event that permitted God to waive the death penalty in the case of Enoch.
There will be lots of people at the time of the Rapture who will not experience death either. The same will be true at the end of the Tribulation and at the end of the Millennium.
Enoch is the father of the man who is the oldest reported man to ever live. And Enoch is the grandfather of Noah, the great deliverer of mankind, the one through whom every single person on earth is descended.
The Trail of Death Continues until Noah
(Whose Name Means Rest) Gen 5:25-32
Methuselah was 187 when his son Lamech was born. All together Methuselah lived 969 years “and he died” (Gen 5:27).
If you add the dates from Methuselah to the flood, it appears he died in the very year of the flood. Most likely God waited for him to die before bringing the flood.
Again the pattern continues with the words “and he died” (Gen 5:27).
Lamech became the father of Noah at age 182. He called him Noah, which means rest, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed” (Gen 5:29).
While Lamech likely didn’t know how Noah would comfort mankind, he had high hopes for his son. Possibly he received this via prophecy. In any case, Noah is the second glimmer of hope in the chapter in relation to the curse. First Enoch escapes the curse of death. Second, Noah will be used of God to comfort those under the curse, actually delivering mankind from annihilation and starting over.
(Possibly Noah was a comfort before the flood as well. He preached righteousness for 120 years as he built the ark. Probably many were comforted by his love and generosity and also by his preaching.)
Lamech is aware of the curse of Genesis 3. Surely Adam and Eve taught their children who in turn taught their children and so on.
Lamech “only” lived 777 years “and he died” (Gen 5:31). He died about 5 years before his father, Methuselah. That is, Lamech died about 5 years before Noah’s flood.
Why Did They Live So Long And We Don’t?
Skeptics find the reports in Genesis 5 of people living 900 and nearly 1000 years to be preposterous. They think these are myths.
Yet Moses, who wrote Genesis, knew that in his day most people lived 100 or fewer years. Moses knew what he was writing.
As we read on in Genesis we see that people after the flood had greatly reduced lifetimes. Quickly after the flood people’s life spans are reduced to around what they are today.
Though Genesis does not explain why this is true, the flood resulted in people living much shorter lives. One theory is that before the flood there was a vapor canopy around the earth that shielded humans from the harmful radiation of the sun. That makes sense to me. Another theory is that God simply changed people, making them die much more quickly.
Whatever the cause, there is no reason to question the long life spans recorded in Genesis 5. After all, there is a day coming during the Millennium when people born in the first year will live the entire 1,000 years in natural bodies. And we will live forever in glorified bodies, never experiencing death again.
So, the reason we don’t live 900+ years today is because of what happened in Gen 6:1-8. Great sin led to a tenfold reduction in man’s lifespan.
Let’s Live in Light of the Time
In Which Death Shall Be No More
We live in an odd part of human history. Death was not part of God’s original design. God didn’t want death.
Once death came, God was very gracious in allowing people to live very long lives. However, because of the wickedness of men, God reduced the life span about tenfold after the flood.
After the Millennium there will no more death. The Millennium will be here very soon. When it ends, we will move to the new earth (Rev 21:1-3ff), and we will be part of a kingdom of humans in which no one dies and no one suffers pain.
Sin brought about the reign of death found in Genesis 5 and throughout the Bible. Without sin there would have been no death.
The more we sin today, the fewer years we get. While many premature deaths are simply due to God’s plan which we do not know, there are also many who die prematurely because of drug abuse, crime, violence, immorality, and rebellion against God. Enoch reminds us that if we walk with God, He will bless us.
Enoch reminds us that there is a day coming when there will be no more death. Enoch is a harbinger for the glorious eternal kingdom. May we live in light of that coming day.