[K:NWTS 11/2 (Sep 1996) 7-14]

A Glimmer of Hope

Genesis 5

Jeong Woo (James) Lee

Kerux V11N2A2

The genealogy which we have before us is quite different from the famous genealogy we find in the New Testament, in the first chapter of the gospel according to Matthew. Although in Matthew we have an even briefer account of the lives of those belonging to Jesus' lineage summarized in the famous "begettings", each name, at least in the first fourteen generations, evokes in us many familiar biblical memories and stories. Starting with Abraham, we know how God supernaturally granted the birth of Isaac upon Abraham's long expectant waiting of twenty-five years. We know also of all the struggles and the drama involved in Jacob becoming the heir instead of his twin older brother, Esau. Furthermore, we are quite surprised to find out that the line of the Messiah continues through Judah, the fourth, not the eldest son of Jacob, and that through his humiliating affair with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. And so on and on ....

However, the genealogy which we find in Genesis 5 is not imbued with any biblical memories familiar to us. The names we read remain empty and distant, for we hardly know anything about their lives—except their ages and their respective heirs. Nevertheless, this genealogy is an important part of the antediluvian history, not merely as a document but also as a story in its own right, speaking through its selected voice and silence. More importantly, this history gives us, as all of Old Testament history does, a glimpse of Christ our Lord.

First of all, the genealogy in Genesis 5—that of Adam through Seth— speaks to us through its obvious contrast with the previous genealogy of Cain found in Genesis 4. In Genesis 5, the genealogy begins with the reminder that Adam was created in the image of God. The glorious beginning of man destined for eschatological union with God comes into view. Although Adam was created out of the dust of the ground, he was created different from all other creatures. In the creation of other creatures, the creative commands were given in the third person jussive: "Let there be .... " However, when the moment comes for the creation of man, God prefaces the act of creation in the cohortative: "Let us make ...." This use of the cohortative in the creation of man shows how much more intimately God was involved in it than in the creation of all other creatures. Not only that, the repeated prescription for God's creation of all other living things—"after its (or their) own kind"comes to an abrupt end as God declares that he will create man in his own image and according to his likeness. Man from the very beginning, was meant to have a special, unique connection with God as imago Dei. The very purpose of the probation in the garden was to confirm and perfect the imago Dei in man for a more intimate union between God and man. Since God dwells in the eschatological arena, the union too will have to be eschatological in order to be consummated.

Cain's genealogy, on the other hand, begins with an ominous note: "Cain went away from the presence of the Lord" (Gen. 4:16). The separation from God is the beginning of Cain's genealogy. And it ends with Lamech's blasphemy in which he lifts himself above God: "Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times" (Gen. 4:23, 24). And that is it. We no longer find any mention of Cain's genealogy. It is as though the lineage dissipates into thin air, never to be seen again. Indeed, they would perish in the great deluge and the line of Cain would be gone forever. And how the blasphemous and indolent boasting of Lamech rings hollow now, swept away by the raging waters, the thunderous roar of God. Seth's lineage (and more importantly the line of the faithful remnants) found in chapter 5, however, continues through Noah even until now. (Although the division between the seed of woman and the seed of the serpent still remains according to God's decree in Gen. 3:15, the seed of the serpent faces its inevitable doom as did the descendants of Cain).

Another point of contrast concerns the respective contents of the two genealogies. Cain's genealogy is filled with the accomplishments of the antediluvian patriarchs. The first city was built by Cain; Lamech's son, Jabal, became the first organized livestock breeder; his brother, Jubal, was the first musician; and their half-brother, Tubal-Cain, became the first bronze-and-iron smith. We celebrate scientific breakthroughs and inventions as a testimony to human potential and ability, and rightly so. Indeed, it is God who has given us the cultural mandate to subdue the earth and rule over other creatures. However, we must remember that to do so is in submission to the cultural mandate of God, as his servant-kings, not as independent, autonomous masters of our own destiny. The defiant spirit which permeates Cain's brief genealogy makes us wonder what drove the patriarchs to bring about such achievements. Could it be that beneath these glittering accomplishments lies the rebellious spirit which cannot humbly accept the divinely imposed common curse upon them and attempts to make the best of their cursed state, so well expressed by John Milton's Satan in Paradise Lost: "to make heaven of hell, and hell of heaven"? Separated from God and banned from the garden, the children of Cain embark on ambitious projects to make the best of their cursed life east of Eden—in defiance of God's curse. So they build, make and invent. Such has been the history of the sinful human race. And we continue to rebel against God.

Seth's genealogy, however, consists of simple, succinct records which mechanically tell of the genealogical succession from one generation to another. The only information that is mentioned in this story of the genealogy is the fact that they fathered their respective heirs and other children to continue their line—as if to continue the line for the seed of the woman to come and vanquish Satan is the most important mission in their lives. Concerning their other activities, there is only silence. If the spirit of the Cainites is self-reliance and autonomy, the spirit of the Sethites is quiet dependence and waiting, summarized in the phrase: "They called upon the name of the Lord" (Gen. 4:26).

There are other interesting minor contrasts drawn between these two genealogies. One obvious contrast is that there are two Lamechs—one in each genealogy. Both of them take a prominent place because they are the only ones who speak in their genealogies. Cain's Lamech sings a song of arrogance and blasphemy. The Lamech of Seth speaks as well—full of sorrow but not without hope. So in Genesis 4:23-24, the Lamech of Cain sings: "Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times." But listen to the Lamech of Seth (he named his son Noah and said), "He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed" (Gen. 5:29). In these words, we can see how this godly Lamech feels the very curse, possibly because he has been reminded through his family stories of the glory of the garden of Eden. Remembering through his imagination the great bliss his first parents must have experienced in the garden of Eden, he feels more acutely the very pain of the curse placed upon him and the rest of humanity, all the while longing for a time of comfort, longing for the promised Child who will bring deliverance from the curse.

The true counterpart of the Lamech of Cain, however, is Enoch. Interestingly enough, Lamech and Enoch are both the seventh generation from Adam. That is, they were most likely contemporaries (even if not chronologically so, they are placed side by side in these genealogies.) The most rebellious spirit is met with the most pious spirit. The empty boasting of Lamech in defiance against God is met with the quiet walking of Enoch with God. That contrast is indeed striking.

However, as much as the genealogy of Seth differs from that of Cain, we cannot lose sight of a very important fact concerning the genealogy of Seth. Although the genealogy of Adam through Seth shows God's faithful preservation of the seed of the woman, a dark cloud of death hovers over it through every generation. The first patriarchs of history are given longevity—lifespans nearing a millennium. Nevertheless, God has not forgotten the sin of Adam and the curse he placed upon this protological sinner and his descendants. Invariably, each patriarch, even Seth, humbly submits to the curse of death. Except Enoch! In the midst of the catalogue subsumed under the dark shroud of death, there shines a glimmer of hope.

Now we turn our attention to this person, Enoch, who stands out like a dissonant chord in the middle of a steady harmonic progression. Indeed, the genealogy of Adam through Seth plays like a song with a refrain. There is a certain pattern which is meticulously followed throughout this genealogy. First, there is the age of the patriarch until fathering the heir. So we have this formula: A lived x years and fathered B. And that "verset" (according to Robert Alter) or "colon" is followed by another which gives the span of life after the fathering of the child. So we have this formula: A lived y years after fathering B and had other sons and daughters. It is then followed by the span of life en toto: so A lived x plus y years. Then the stanza of the patriarch's life ends with an ominous refrain that comes to us again and again at a very steady tempo: "Then he died." That was the final refrain for the biographical notes on the patriarchs and it is the end of every man. No matter how much we try to prolong our lives—how much we exercise, how much we control our diet, how much we invest in health insurance—we shall someday all die.

But all of a sudden, that steadily recurring, dirge-like progression of this genealogy is met with something of a refreshing modulation when it comes to Enoch. The same pattern is used but with some minor changes all too significant. The beginning of Enoch's life is the same as all the others: "Enoch lived sixty-five years and became the father of Methuselah" (v.21) [A lived x years and fathered B]. However, the second verse, "A lived y years after fathering B and had other sons and daughters" has a small variation produced by an insertion, "Then Enoch walked with God" (v. 22). Then we go back to the standard formula for the total years of the patriarch's life: "So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years" (v. 23). This return to the standard formula after a brief variation, we quickly learn, was only to set us up for the climactic, triumphant appearance of the cacophony to the all too monotonous progression of the music of human history. The refrain which ends the biographies of all other patriarchs is missing in Enoch's stanza. "Then he died" is nowhere to be found. Instead we find: "And he was not, for God took him" (v. 23). There is the wonderful refreshing dissonance! That steady beat of death is broken off when it comes to the seventh generation of Adam. He does not merely live, but he walks with God. He does not die, for God takes him away from the grip of death!

"Walked with God" is a special phrase in the Old Testament. Only three people "walked with God" according to the Old Testament: Enoch (Gen. 5:22) Noah (Gen. 6:9), and Levi (Mal. 2:6). (But Levi here does not refer to an individual, the son of Jacob, but is a symbolic representation of the obedient priesthood at the very beginning of God's courtship with Israel. God reminisces about that time when Israel, out of that pure, innocent, virgin zeal for God, obeyed the commands of the Lord.) Yes, many people walked before the face (or presence) of God, but not many are given the privilege of being called as people who walked with God. And Enoch walked with God. He did not just live; he did not just continue his mere existence—being born and begetting, living and dying as others in the genealogy did. Enoch walked with God. (And he preached about the coming judgment of the Lord against the generation of Lamech, Jude 14-15.)

We should not spend too much time on this concept of "walking with God" at this time—what it might be, what Enoch might have done—because the very brevity of the description is a message in and of itself. When God and Moses chose not to elaborate upon this great event of Enoch being translated directly from this world to the heavenly place, when God's word keeps silent about this event, maybe there is a purpose behind it. Many details are left out. For what purpose? It must have something to do with the historically progressive nature of God's revelation. At this early stage of revelation, Enoch's translation from this world to heaven was to remain as a mere glimmer of hope—until the reality would come. And we are only to understand and be comforted by the fact that God allows an intimate communion between himself and his people, his own beloved children; how we are destined (from the moment of our creation in imago Dei) to go beyond the world into heaven itself where God dwells in his fullest glory; that the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman is not for the wealth of this world, nor for continuing posterity on this earth, nor even for the promised land. God tells us, through this brief story of Enoch, that the warfare we are involved in is a spiritual warfare, and that the paradise we should look for is not the paradise of Communism or Socialism or Democracy or even Capitalism, but the paradise of the very communion with God in heavenly places. Our goal is not to walk forever upon the dusty land, but to walk with God.

Yet, who can walk with God so perfectly as to be translated into heaven without experiencing the curse of sin—death? For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That was the verdict given by the inspired Paul upon the whole of humanity, starting from Adam down to this age and through the end for the world. Surely Enoch was not perfect. If Paul is right (and he definitely is!), Enoch was a sinner like us. His walk with God started only at the age of sixty-five when he fathered his son, Methuselah: "Then Enoch walked with God three hundred years after he became the father of Methuselah" (v. 22).

Indeed, there is no one who is righteous, no one who is able to enter into heaven on his own merit, on his own righteousness—no one except One. And that One is not Enoch, nor Elijah. That One is none other than Jesus Christ. Listen to what Jesus himself says and you will understand how Enoch was taken up to heaven. Jesus says to Martha who is weeping because of the death of her brother, Lazarus: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (Jn. 11:25-26). "Whoever lives and believes in me will never die." And he has given this glorious preview of our life, of our future life in Jesus Christ. Even if you die, you will be resurrected. But if you continue to live on this earth at the time of Christ's return, you will be gloriously translated and transferred to heaven without dying. Enoch was given the great privilege of experiencing this future glory in advance; and this not because of his own righteousness but because of Jesus Christ, the Life and the Resurrection. Enoch was to be a preview of our glorious resurrection and the direct translation from here to eternity in Jesus Christ, which we shall experience at the time of his second coming. In Jesus Christ, the glimmer of hope we see in Enoch is realized.

But our hope is not just in a far distant future. Because of Christ's death and resurrection, we are given the privilege to walk with God now. The privilege that was given to only three persons in the entire Old Testament is now given to all those who are in Christ Jesus. That is how much more glorious the new covenant is in Christ. And so, Paul says, "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). Because we are in the Spirit, we walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. We belong to a different world because we are surrounded by the very environment of heaven—the Spirit. So how do we walk in the Spirit? Hebrews 11:56 tells us: "By faith, Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away." The same principle remains with us, as Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:7: "We live by faith, not by sight." It is by faith we possess the invisible reality of the resurrection life which is more real than what we can see. Revelation 21:23-24 shows us the fixed destiny of our future: "And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it ...."

We do not have to wait until we go to heaven to experience eternal life because heaven itself has entered into our lives in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Such is the glory of the new covenant that we have in Jesus Christ. And this is how the genealogy of Matthew (the New Testament) is different from the genealogy of Genesis 5. Whereas the Genesis genealogy ends with death—except one—the Matthean genealogy has no mention of death. Why? Because of the One who died and rose again for his people. As Christ himself said, "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies. Do you believe this?" That is why Matthew records the genealogy of the Messiah in a different way. Although they died, they lived because of the One who died for them. Yes, in the genealogy of Genesis 5, everybody died except one. But in our new covenant genealogy, because One died, we all live and walk with God. This is your genealogy if you belong to Christ.

Again and again, even from the very first pages of Genesis, the Scripture tells us how this world is passing away. Your hope is not in amassing wealth in this world. You are right in the middle of the antithesis between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman; between this age and the age to come; between this earth and the heavenly place. Your life is more than being born, living, working, begetting, and dying. You are called to walk with God by faith. If Enoch was able to do so in the midst of a perverse generation, we who have the fullness of hope realized in Jesus Christ can do so even more faithfully through his Spirit.

New Life Mission Church of La Jolla, PCA
La Jolla, California