Coming to Grips with Genealogies (Genesis 4.17-5.32)

➡ Average Reading Time: 9 minutes
Click and Read for explanation of Bible text format.

The following reading of Genesis 1.1-2.3 is formatted ala The Books of the Bible: Covenant History without any chapter or verse marketings. The description below is taken from Preface. It explains the use of line space and format instead of chapters and verses.

Because the biblical books were handwritten, read aloud, and then hand-copied long before standardized printing, their authors and compilers needed a way to indicate divisions within the text itself. They often did this by repeating a phrase or expression each time they made a transition from one section to another. We can confirm that particular phrases are significant in this way by observing how their placement reinforces a structure that can already be recognized implicitly from other characteristics of a book, such as changes in topic, movement in place or time, or shifts from one kind of writing to another. Through line spacing, we’ve marked off sections of varying sizes. The smallest are indicated by one blank line, the next largest by two lines, and so on, up to four-line breaks in the largest books. We’ve also indicated key divisions with a large initial capital letter of new sections. Our goal is to encourage meaningful units to be read in their entirety and so with greater appreciation and understanding.

Zondervan. NIV, The Books of the Bible: Covenant History: Discover the Origins of God’s People (Kindle Locations 265-272). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Click to Read Gen. 4.17-5.32

Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.
Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.
Lamech said to his wives,

“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.”

Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh.
At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD.

This is the written account of Adam’s family line.
When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.

When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father of Enosh. After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.
When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.
When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. After he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Mahalalel lived a total of 895 years, and then he died.
When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.” After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.

After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.


More and More People

Coming to Grips with GenealogyThose who read Scripture usually do not consider the genealogies the most exciting parts to read. For the most part, they are read once, if that, and then discarded in future readings. Beginning with Genesis 4.17 (see below) there is a proliferation of people. Scripture uses a literary device, which is called genealogy. In the First Testament sense, it is a list of names, which indicate the ancestors or descendants of individuals. Often it is a simple registration of names. It is clear that First Testament genealogies are not used in the same strict fashion that modern genealogies are in which each person in a line is listed. We find most of the genealogies in the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy), Ezra-Nehemiah, and the Chronicles.

Genealogies range from a list of names (1 Chron. 1.1) to a more common type, which links names and occasionally adds further information (Genesis 5.24) to a fully expanded historical account as in the book of Kings. There are ascending,  which use the formula “x the son of…” or descending, which uses “x begat…” The latter type often includes information about the age and actions of the individual while the ascending often is used to trace the ancestry of an individual back to some important person in the past.

Genealogies in Scripture often omit some generations. As an example, the genealogy of Aaron in Ezra 7.1-5 omits six names which are given in 1 Chronicles 6.3-14. In Ezra, the word son has the ability to also mean grandson or descendant.

Genealogies were a standard feature of the ancient historical tradition. The genealogies of royal families offer the best examples of an ancient method as do records of lawsuits over the ownership of land. There is a list of the Kings of Assyria, which spans a thousand years. There is a list of the kings of Babylon and their ancestors. There are King lists from Sumeria Hittite, Ugaritic, and Egypt as well, all of varying lengths and purposes.

These lists are not unlike the biblical genealogies in that they omit certain names. There is no reason to suppose that all the genealogies in Scripture claim to be complete since their main purpose was to establish the descent from some notable ancestor. Because the genealogies are abridged, it would not be safe to use them as a basis for numerical historical purposes.

The genealogies in this section of the Pentateuch enable the storyteller to bring together somewhat disconnected occurrences and makes the transition from Adam to Noah a rather smooth road. It also demonstrates how Genesis 1.28, “Have lots of children. Fill the earth with people…” (CEV) was fulfilled.


Cain and Seth: Genesis 4.17-26

Cain’s Family: Genesis 4.17-24. The text does not say anything about Cain’s marriage. It assumes that the marriage had taken place. His wife is not named but was most likely one of the other daughters of Adam mentioned in Genesis 5.4. Cain’s fear of being killed did not occur. The grace of God, provided by the sign, worked. His descendants were many. The genealogy continues from Genesis 4.2. The family tree suggests that God was not visiting the iniquities of the fathers upon the children (Ex. 20.5) at this point in the story of humankind. The lineage of Cain was not caused to suffer because of Cain.

Cain and his oldest son Enoch built a city, perhaps as some have suggested, in defiance of God’s judgment. However, nowhere in the text does God condemn Cain or show his displeasure for Cain’s endeavors. What may be the case is that God had lifted the punishment that was given to Cain. He was then free to establish roots again. While he may be aiming at providing a solution for the predicament that he got himself into, he cannot repair it by himself but only because of the grace of God.

The lineage of Cain displays an important function. They are the links that God used to populate the world and create a societal industry. It is in this story that we find the first breakdown of monogamous marriage. Lamech had two wives. God does not respond to this violation of Genesis 2.24. The event is simply recorded. Others follow in the steps of Enoch and the First Testament records the unpleasant suffering and shattering experiences, which are built on this breaking of God’s desire. The domestic struggles that pursue were devastating. Lamech and his two wives produced four children: three sons, Jabal, Jubal, Tubal-Cain, and one daughter whose name was Naaman (a word which means gorgeous). Each son produces some cultural accomplishments. Jabal was a shepherd. Jubal was a musician. Tubal-Cain was a metallurgist. This is the grace of God at work in a fallen world.

Seth’s Family: Genesis 4.25-26. Adam and Eve now reappear in the story as Eve gives birth to Seth. Eve saw the grace of God in this birth as a replacement for the son she lost to violence. Seth’s son was Enosh, which means to be frail. Around the time of his birth, humankind began to invoke the name of God (Yahweh), the covenant-keeping God. Prayer is developed apart from sacrifice as a part of worship to God. It may be that humankind’s consciousness of human frailty, which was symbolized by the name, Enosh, heightened his awareness of his total dependence on God, which led them to begin to communicate with God. We may note that we are again faced with monotheism over against polytheism as the belief that Israel should adopt.

From Adam to Noah: Genesis 5.1-32

The genealogy written in this chapter shows a descendancy from Adam to Noah through Seth. In the previous Cainite list (Genesis 4.17), there are seven generations from Cain to Jubal. The present genealogy has ten generations from Adam to Noah. Both of the lists end with three sons coming from the last name on the list: Jubal, Jubal, and Tubal-Cain from Lamech; Shem, Ham, and Japheth from Noah. In each list, only one man speaks. In the Cainite list, it is Lamech who mocks the previous curse of God on Cain. In the Sethite list, Lamech moaned under the curse and looked for comfort.[ref]G. Calthrop. “The Biblical Illustrator.” Electronic Version. 2011.[/ref]

In both the biblical record and the Sumerian King List (mentioned above) there are men of great longevity. One such individual named En-men-lu-ana in the latter list lived some 43,200 years. The long lifespan of the Sethites may be a reflection of God’s blessing upon them. Longevity in the First Testament thought is a sign of divine blessing upon the godly (see Deut. 4:25; 5:33; 30:20).

In this passage, Enoch is well-known. It should not be overlooked that he is the seventh (the perfect position) in this genealogy. Everyone else in the list dies, but Enoch is “taken away.” It may point out that long life may not be as great a blessing as one thinks it might be while being elevated into the presence of God is far better. Both Enoch (Gen. 5.22) and Noah (Gen. 6.9) are reported to have “walked with God.” God chose to use each in a different way.

Genesis 5.1-2. This section demonstrates for the reader a contrast between the divine creative act and human creative acts. In one sense, Adam is doing what God did: create. God created and humankind is procreating. These sentences give four details about creation.

  • First, God made humankind in his image.
  • Second, God made humankind male and female.
  • Third, God blessed them.
  • Fourth, God called them man (male and female) creating humankind to live in a community.

This was a message that Israel needed on their way to the Promised Land and is still a message that the ecclesia needs to teach today. Individuals, in fact, find their greatest potential inside an ecclesia.

Genesis 5.3-32. As God created in his likeness, Adam created in his likeness. The capacities and qualities of parents are passed on to their children in natural reproduction. One characteristic in this chapter cannot be overlooked. Each of the generations, with the exclusion of Enoch, died. While God told humankind to reproduce, he also places the duration of time on their life after the curse. This section of the story makes a resounding claim: humans are born and humans die. At the conclusion of the section, there is a glimmer of hope in the birth of Noah who becomes the dominant force in the next section of the story. As Noah walked with God, he found favor in his eyes.

Community Discussion Questions

➡ |CDQ Info|

  • Why do you think that you skip over the genealogy sections of Scripture?
  • Why are the arts often seen as being a part of the fallen world? Does the genealogy of Cain give any value to that opinion?
  • How frail do we have to become before we place our dependence on God?
  • How will living and working in a community (the ecclesia) improve your relationship with God?

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Read Me First


Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.


I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."


Happy Reading!

Read Me Second


Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.


Happy Reading!

Read Me Third


The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.


Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.


Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers


There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.


(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)