Verses of Genesis 5

Genesis 5 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Ch. 5. The Descendants of Seth. (P.)

On the Cainites and Sethites, see note at the close of the chapter. In Gen 4:25-26 a commencement was made of the Sethite genealogy taken from J. In ch. 5 a fresh start is made, and the line of Seth is traced from Adam to Noah. The genealogy is taken from a different source, which is clearly P. ( a) The contents of Gen 5:1-3 refer back to Gen 1:26-28; ( b) the “generations” ( tôl’dôth) of Gen 5:1 is the expression employed by P as the superscription of successive sections in his narrative (see note on Gen 2:4); ( c) the name Seth in Gen 5:3 is given by Adam; according to J (Gen 4:25) it was given by Eve; ( d) the formal and systematic description of the patriarchs, consisting of (1) their names, (2) their age at the birth of their firstborn, (3) the length of their life, corresponds with the characteristics of P’s literary style and his fondness for statistics. With the exception of Gen 5:29, the whole of the chapter may be regarded as the writing of P and the continuation of Gen 1:1 to Gen 2:4 a.


According to chap. 5 (P), the interval of time between the work of Creation (Gen 1:1 to Gen 2:4 a) and the visitation of the Flood (Gen 6:9 ff.) is occupied by a list of ten Patriarchs.

The chronological scheme of P, according to the Hebrew text, makes this period to consist of 1656 years (in the Samaritan text, it is 1307 years; in the LXX, 2242). The description given of the ten Patriarchs is precise and formal. It is limited in each case to the bare formulae narrating facts respecting (i) the age of the Patriarch at the birth of his firstborn, (ii) the number of his remaining years, and the fact that he was the father of other children, (iii) his age at the time of his death.

The account which is thus given furnishes an explanation of the great population of the earth which is overthrown in the Flood. The chapter, however, contains no mention of the growing wickedness of the race. And it does not appear that P takes any account of the Narrative of the Fall (chap. 3 J). Budde, indeed ( Urgesch. 93 103), contends that the names of the Patriarchs are intended to symbolize the condition of their age, the names Jared (= descent), Methuselah (= the man of the weapon, or the man of violence) denoting its deterioration.

The ten names represented the history of the human race before the Flood. The distribution of these ten names over the period of 1656 years implies a minute and elaborate calculation by the chronologists and chroniclers, whose work has been employed in P.

I. Ten Babylonian Kings

It is impossible to resist the conclusion that there is some sort of connexion between the ten Antediluvian Patriarchs of Genesis 5 and the ten kings before the Flood in the Babylonian Legends. The names of the ten kings are as follows:

(A. According to Berossus.) (B. According to cuneiform inscriptions.) 1. Alôrus. 1. Arûru. 2. Alaparos. 2. Adapa. 3. Amêlôn. 3. Amêlu (= Man, ? = Enosh). 4. Ammenôn. 4. Ummanu (= Master-crafts-man, ? = Kenan). 5. Megalâros.

6. Daônos.

7. Euedôrachos.

8. Amempsinos. 7. Enmeduranki (?=Enoch).

8. Amel-Sin (= Man of the god Sin, ? = Methuselah). 9. Ôtiartes. 9. Ubara-Jutu. 10 . Xisûthros. 10. Ḥasisatra (?=Noah). In this list there may possibly be discerned some points of correspondence with the Hebrew. ( a) In No. 3 Amelu (= Man) may be translated in Enosh=Man. ( b) In (4) Ummanu (= Workman), in Kenan; and in (8) Amel-Sin (Man of Sin), in Methuselah (= Man of Shelah). ( c) No. 7, Enmeduranki (king of Sippar, the city of the Sun-god, Shamash), who was the friend of the gods Ramman and Shamash, looks as if he must stand in some close relation to Enoch, whose life was 365 years and who walked with God. ( d) The 10th in the list, Xisuthros or Ḥasisatra, the Ut-napishtim of the Epic, is the hero of the Babylonian Flood, and corresponds to Noah in the Hebrew list.

In the Babylonian list, the ten kings are assigned a period of 432,000 years.

II. Sethite and Cainite Genealogies

It is important to compare the two lists of the Sethite (P) and Cainite (J) Genealogies.

Sethite (chap. 5). Cainite (chap. Gen 4:17-24). 1. Adam 1. Adam 2. Seth 3. Enosh 4. Kenan 2. Cain 5. Mahalalel 3. Mehujael 6. Jared 4. Irad 7. Enoch 5. Enoch 8. Methuselah 6. Methushael 9. Lamech 7. Lamech 10. Noah | Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-Cain. | Shem, Ham, Japheth. ( a) The general resemblance in the names is very striking. ( b) One list contains the perfect number ten, the other the perfect number seven. ( c) Each list concludes in a family of three sons. We have to deal either with two variants of the same tradition; or with two distinct traditions, in which the same stock of primitive legendary names is found very closely repeated.

III. Different Chronologies

The Chronology of the Antediluvian Patriarchs varies in the three principal sources for the text, (1) the Massoretic (Hebrew), (2) the Samaritan, (3) the Septuagint. They are presented in the following Table.

Massoretic Text Samaritan LXX Year ( Anno Mundi) of Death Firstborn Remainder Total Firstborn Remainder Total Firstborn Remainder Total Mass. Text Samaritan LXX 1. Adam 130 800 930 130 800 930 230 700 930 930 930 930 2. Seth 105 807 912 105 807 912 205 707 912 1042 1042 1141 3. Enosh 90 815 905 90 815 905 190 715 905 1140 1140 1342 4. Kenan 70 840 910 70 840 910 170 740 910 1235 1235 1534 5. Mahalalel 65 830 895 65 830 895 165 730 895 1290 1290 1696 6. Jered 162 800 962 62 785 847 62 785 847 1422 1307 1923 7. Enoch 65 300 365 65 300 365 165 200 365 987 887 1484 8. Methuselah 187 782 969 67 653 720 167* 802* 969 1656 1307 2256 9. Lamech 182 595 777 53 600 653 188 565 753 1651 1307 2204 10. Noah 500 500 500 Till the Flood 100 100 100 Year of the Flood 1656 1307 2242 These different figures are not due to errors in the text. They seem to arise from the adoption of differing systems for the calculation of the chronology.

It has commonly been supposed that the Hebrew figures (1656) are part of a scheme which calculated 2666 years to have been the interval between the Creation and the Exodus, and that 2666 years represented two-thirds of a cycle of 4000 years.

The 2666 years are computed as follows:

1656 Creation to Flood 290 Flood to birth of Abraham 100 To birth of Isaac (Gen 21:5) 60 To birth of Jacob (Gen 25:26) 130 To Jacob’s descent into Egypt (Gen 47:9-28) 430 Sojourn in Egypt (Exo 12:40) 2666 The Samaritan figure of 1307 is part of a system which calculated 3007 years to intervene between the Creation and the entrance into Canaan. The calculation was as follows:

Creation to Flood = 1307 years Flood to birth of Abraham = 940 years Birth of Abraham to descent into Egypt = 290 years Sojourn in Egypt = 430 years Wandering in Wilderness = 40 years 3007 years Skinner ( in loc.) points out, that, if the calculation be made in round numbers=3000, the entire period may then be divided into three decreasing periods of 1300, 940, 760 years, of which the second exceeds the third by 180 years, and the first exceeds the second by twice 180 years (2x180) = 360 years.

The LXX figure of 2240 is the equivalent of the Samaritan calculation from the Creation to the Flood (1300 years) + the Samaritan calculation from the Flood to the birth of Abraham (940 years). But whether this be the result of accident or design, it is impossible to say.

IV. Longevity of Patriarchs

The Hebrew tradition evidently assumed that human vitality, in the era immediately following upon the Creation, was at its highest point, and that, in consequence, immense longevity was to be expected in the lives of the Antediluvian Patriarchs.

The immense duration of life assigned to these ten Patriarchs has always been the occasion of difficulty. Attempts have been made to explain away the figures. ( a) It has been suggested that the names of the Patriarchs represent dynasties. But the mention of the first-born and of other children obviously refers to personal history. Nor does the transference of these enormous figures to the duration of dynasties greatly diminish the improbability of their literal historicity. ( b) It has been suggested that the Hebrew word for “year” ( shânah) is used in this chapter to denote a shorter period of time. But this arbitrary solution is devoid of any evidence in its favour. Familiar Hebrew words, like “years” in this chapter, or like “day” in chapter 1, must not be supposed, because of our difficulties in interpretation, to require new meanings.

There is no reason not to interpret the statements respecting the longevity of the ten Antediluvian Patriarchs quite literally. The account of them belongs to the domain of primitive tradition. It would be strange, if the primitive unverifiable tradition were not accompanied by the exaggerations which popular legend weaves around prehistoric names.

It is instructive to compare the ages of the Antediluvian and Postdiluvian Patriarchs with those of the famous Israelites of more historic times.

Adam, the first of the Antediluvians, lived 930 years Seth, the second of the Antediluvians, lived 912 years Noah, the tenth of the Antediluvians, lived 950 years Shem, the first of the Post-diluvians, lived 600 years Arpachshad, the second of the Post-diluvians, lived 408 years Terah, the tenth of the Post-diluvians, lived 205 years Abraham lived 175 years Isaac lived 180 years Jacob lived 147 years Joseph lived 110 years Moses lived 120 years Joshua lived 110 years David reigned 40 years Solomon reigned 40 years Rehoboam lived 58 years (2Ch 12:13) Hezekiah lived 54 years (2Ch 29:1) Manasseh lived 67 years (2Ch 33:1) It is clear that this descending scale, in the duration of life, corresponds to the stages of transition from legend to history.

There is no evidence to shew that the earlier phases of civilization were more favourable to longevity than the later.

Verses of Genesis 5

Consult other comments:

Genesis 5:0 - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Genesis 5:0 - Commentary on the Holy Bible by Thomas Coke

Genesis 5:0 - John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible

Genesis 5:0 - Matthew Henry's Whole Bible Commentary

Genesis 5:0 - Jamieson, Fausset and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Genesis 5:0 - Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament

Genesis 5:0 - English Annotations on the Holy Bible by Matthew Poole

Genesis 5:0 - Whedon's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges