Genesis chapter 5

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What does Genesis chapter 5 mean?

This is the book of the generations of Adam. Chapter 5 serves to link the history of creation and the earliest of the humans with the time of Noah and the flood. It accomplishes this with a simple genealogy of Adam's descendants through his son Seth.

The chapter begins by restating an essential truth about God's creation of humankind. He made men and women in His own likeness and used the name ā'dām, which is literally the Hebrew word for "human." This likeness isn't about a physical resemblance to God. It's about God giving His image to humans as His representatives on earth. It's about sharing with humanity His responsibility to rule and subdue the rest of creation. Being made in God's likeness also means that each human life has great value in God's eyes.

This likeness to God is passed down from one generation to the next in the same way that a father's likeness is passed down to his son. So as Adam fathers Seth and Seth fathers Enosh, the likeness of God and man are handed down through the years together.

Chapter 5 also reveals key details about the lives of people after the garden, spiritually and physically separated from God and under His curse. First, the lifespans (and reproductive years) of the earliest humans were extraordinarily long. The text gives explicit clues as to whether or not the numbers reported are actual years. However, it is difficult to square a non-literal interpretation with the figures given. Such lengthy lifespans would have been entirely possible on an earth free from pollution and genetic decay. This would have allowed for the earth to be populated very quickly.

Second, we see that though there is great progress—as mortal eyes see it, humanity thrives in this chapter—the curse remained as an oppressive reality in the lives of men. Chapter 4 detailed the lives of Cain's descendants, some of whom exhibited even more aggression than Cain did (Genesis 4:23–24). In contrast, Noah's father, Lamech, declares that Noah will provide comfort or rest for him in the painful work of pulling his livelihood out of the ground.

Finally, no matter how long these first generations of humans lived, one theme is constant in their lives: They die. This ultimate consequence of sin becomes the norm. Enoch, commended for walking with God, becomes the exception that proves this rule (Genesis 5:24). His case becomes unique in all of history.

The long lives of these patriarchs also highlight another crucial aspect of the fall of man. According to the numbers given in this chapter, Adam and Seth are both still alive when Lamech, Noah's father, is born. Methuselah, who dies in the same year as the flood, lived more than 200 years before Adam passed away. The sin and depravity humanity falls into, as chapter 6 describes, is not something which can be blamed on ignorance. Right up to the moment of the flood, humanity had access to men and women who were first-hand eyewitnesses of God's power and providence. Our decay was not due to simple error, but willful disobedience.

The chapter ends with the birth of Noah's sons, preparing us for the story of God's righteous judgment of human sin through the flood.
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