When reading Genesis 5, we are presented with the genealogical record of patriarchs leading from Adam to Noah. Most of the names have very little information regarding them, but one thing that does stand out is the substantial ages that are associated with each person. Methuselah is especially noticeable, as he lived for 969 years before his death. This chapter of Genesis has spawned quite a few questions, and many of them still remain unanswered today. Perhaps, if we break down the way that we approach this chapter, we might be able to glean some additional information.

As Allegory

When we look to this chapter form meaning beyond the obvious line of patriarchs that is provided, perhaps it is best to provide some historical context about what we are reading. The Sumerian King List is an ancient Mesopotamian document that lists the duration of reigns for Sumerian kings prior to, and after, a tremendous flood. While the lifespans listed in Genesis may seem unbelievable, they pale in comparison to antediluvian Sumerian kings.

If we are looking at Genesis 5 in an allegorical perspective, the first thing that we might notice is that Genesis is differentiating itself from contemporary patriarchs by dramatically reducing the lifespans of its patriarchs. First, it should be noted that the Sumerian King list is considered to be partial fact and partial myth. The ages of the antediluvian kings of Sumer are considered to be myth due to their incredible timespans, and are presumed to have been exaggerated in order to reflect their importance. In this way, the ages of the Sumerian Kings represents them as something beyond human, something that is virtually immortal. Genesis, on the other hand, significantly shortens the lifespan of its patriarchs in comparison, making them very much mortal in the process. Additionally, as opposed to tremendous lifespans being a good thing, the single shortest lifespan of Genesis 5 draws in our attention.

When Enoch was 65 years old, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he had become the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. So Enoch lived a total of 365 years.

Genesis 5:21-23

Enoch appears to have lived the shortest life of the patriarchs, and is the only one that is noted as having “walked with God”. Considering that Enoch is quoted in the book of Jude, as well as being mentioned in a very unique way in Genesis, it is safe to say that there is something special about Enoch. The Book of Enoch was originally attributed to him, but that attribution has been debated by the church over the years and is why it was excluded from the Bible. This does not mean that the Book of Enoch should be disregarded however, it simply means that its origin is debated, and, as a result, it was not considered to be canonical scripture. It is still used as a resource for those looking to understand the historical context and thought processes of the early church.

Another note about Enoch has to do directly with the numbers of the ages used in Genesis. Enoch was a 7th generation patriarch, lived for exactly 365 years, and was taken by God directly.

Enoch walked with God, and then he was no more, because God had taken him away.

Genesis 5:24

Some take this verse to mean that Enoch was taken directly to heaven, like others in the Bible, but the verbiage used appears to be intentionally vague and so it seems to me that the author is saying that Enoch passed unexpectedly, while saying it in a way that implies Enoch continues to live. Extrabiblical sources, like the Book of Jasher, describe Enoch’s ascent to heaven very much literally. If we combine this line of thinking with the other obvious clues supplied, there may be a deeper meaning. Take a look at the list below for an example.

  • Enoch was a 7th generation patriarch (7 days in a week)
  • Lived a total of 365 years (365 days in a calendar year)
  • Was taken by God and presumed not to have died (an analogy of the endless cycle of the calendar, the year ends or dies, but still continues to live on)

Here, it appears that we are being pointed to a reference about time itself, and reading through the book of Enoch, we are given a description of a calendar. As I mentioned, there is a great deal of controversy regarding the Book of Enoch, so I will not go into detail here about the calendar or its many related theories. The point here is to notice the connection. Enoch lives 365 days, we currently use a calendar with 365 solar days in a year. Once we see that there is a real connection between the age of Enoch and the solar calendar, we have to ask if there are any other patterns that we can notice in Genesis 5. Below, I have constructed a table of the antediluvian patriarchs and their corresponding ages listed in Genesis.

NameMeaning of NameAgeEvent
AdamHuman Being130Birth of Seth
800Had other sons and daughters
930Death
SethSubstitute105Birth of Enosh
807Had other sons and daughters
912Death
EnoshBloodthirsty90Birth of Kenan
815Had other sons and daughters
905Death
KenanNest70Birth of Mahalaleel
840Had other sons and daughters
910Death
MahalaleelPraise of God65Birth of Jared
830Had other sons and daughters
895Death
JaredTo Descend162Enoch
800Had other sons and daughters
962Death
EnochTo train up, initiate65Birth of Methuselah
300Had other sons and daughters
365Was taken by God
MethuselahMan of the sword187Birth of Lamech
782Had other sons and daughters
969Death (in the flood)
Lamech??? – Unknown root182Birth of Noah
595Had other sons and daughters
777Death
NoahQuiet, rest500Became father of Shem/Ham/Japheth
600The flood
Table of Antediluvian Patriarchs – Genesis 5

As you can see, there are quite a few ages given and it certainly seems like a natural spread of numbers. It is not immediately noticeable, but we seem to be reading some fairly specific numbers. First, every number listed in the table ends with 0, 2, 5, 7, or 9. Out of 28 listed ages, each age ends with one of those five numbers. Looking at just the ages related to the birth of the next patriarch, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, and so on, we seen that those numbers all end in 0, 2, 5, and 7. So, what does this mean? Well, if we look at the meaning of each name, as well as the age of the previous patriarch at the time of their birth, we begin to see a pattern. Below, I have broken out all of the ages that end in 5.

NameAgeSon
Seth105Enosh (Bloodthirsty)
Mahalaleel65Jared (To Descend)
Enoch65Methuselah (Man of the sword)
Table of Antediluvian Patriarchs – Genesis 5

In reviewing the corresponding meaning of each name, it seems that we are being told something about the nature of the child being born based entirely on the age of their father at the time of their birth. Look at the meanings of each son’s name when their father was an age that ended in five at their birth. The names given in the chart above seem to have negative connotations to them. Compare those with the chart below.

NameAgeSon
Jared162Enoch (To train up, initiate)
Lamech182Noah (Quiet, rest)
Table of Antediluvian Patriarchs – Genesis 5

Here, it becomes a bit more noticeable and this time we see that when the age of the father ends in a 2, the corresponding child seems to end up having a special purpose within canonical biblical literature. Enoch is considered to be the first prophet and Noah is known for his righteousness.

The patterns I have noted thus far do not necessarily have any meaning, they are simply patterns that we can observe and question. Earlier, I noted that Methuselah was born when Enoch was 65 and that his name appears to carry negative connotations. The Book of Jasher portrays Methuselah as a good man and father. It even appears that God withheld the flood until after he had passed.

At that time, after the death of Methuselah, the Lord said to Noah, Go thou with thy household into the ark;

Jasher 6:1

Given this, perhaps the meaning of the name isn’t negative, but signifies something else. Without more context, it will be hard to know if any particular theory is correct. However, given that there are unquestionable irregularities with the ages given, and there does seem to be a pattern involved, it implies that there is some greater meaning in the text. If we look at the meaning of each name from a different perspective, using the root Hebrew words from which the names are derived, we find a slightly different pattern.

First with regards to Methuselah, who was the son of the first prophet Enoch, the grandfather of Noah, and who died immediately before the flood. Methuselah’s name could have been a combination of the root “Muth” and “Shalach”.

  • Muth: To die
  • Shalach: To send away; to send for

Keeping the meanings in mind, we are able to establish a different meaning than the standard Strong’s Hebrew meaning given for Methuselah. Literally, “His death will send for”, or more plainly, “His death will bring”. Was the name Methuselah a literal warning of the flood? According to the Book of Enoch, Enoch was given a prophecy of the coming flood. As I mentioned earlier, there is much debate regarding the Book of Enoch. However, it is quoted in the New Testament, and Enoch literally named his son as a warning of when the flood would occur. Given the naming style of Methuselah in Genesis, as well as the story of the flood, perhaps we should consider what other knowledge we may be able to glean from Enoch. Let’s start by looking at the each of the names.

  • Adam: Human, or man
  • Seth: Substituted, or appointed
  • Enosh: A mortal
  • Kenan: This one is a bit more difficult. Most sources equate Kenan with Cainan and quantify it with the same Hebrew root, which means “nest”. There is an alternative meaning, one that is also noted in scripture. A “sad poem” (qina) and “to chant” (qonen) are suitable roots to inspire the name Kenan and given the difference in the way it is written, and translated as Kenan vs Cainan, it is reasonable that it must have a different meaning from Cainan. If we accept this, then we can consider Kenan to mean “sorrowful”.
  • Mahalaleel: Praise God, Blessed God
  • Jared: To descend
  • Enoch: To train up, or to teach
  • Methuselah: His death will bring
  • Lamech: To be low, depressed, in despair
  • Noah: Another interesting one. The root of Noah means “continuous” and yet, he was named Noah because he would bring comfort or rest (Genesis 5:29)

Now that we have established the meanings of each name, let’s look at them in order.

Man, appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the Blessed God shall descend (and) teach. His death will bring the despairing comfort.

Now that is pretty interesting, the meaning of each name of the antediluvian patriarchs seem to join together into a prophecy about Jesus. What is so incredible about this is that these names are found in Genesis, the Genesis Apocryphon, Jasher, Enoch, and elsewhere. Say what you want about the non-canonical nature of the Book of Enoch, but the fact that we have discovered a portion of it among the Dead Sea Scrolls and dated that fragment back to 150-50 BC says quite a lot about the message above. Genesis itself is estimated to be quite a bit older, with some estimates as early as 950 BC. Given that the name Enoch was used in scripture before Jesus was even born, it would be rather difficult to conspire to organize names with the appropriate meanings needed to encode a message about the Messiah prior to Jesus even existing. Add to this the fact that many of these books originated within Jewish culture and were maintained by Jewish Rabbis long before and long after Jesus, and it becomes even less likely that early Christians somehow orchestrated such a message. Such a claim would require evidence of a conspiracy starting over a hundred years prior to the birth of Jesus, and that plan would have to be carried out across multiple generations of people if we are to believe that Christians perpetrated such a thing.

Once again, the way that Genesis is able to weave together so much information, and draw our attention to it, is simply amazing.

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