The Line of Seth

“When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands’” (Gen. 5:28–29).

- Genesis 5:1–32

After concluding Cain’s history, Moses devotes today’s passage to Seth’s descendants. Though this genealogy may seem far removed from us in the twenty-first century, it was very important for the first audience of this book — the nascent nation of Israel — to understand where they came from. Furthermore, this chapter (and 6:1–8) introduces Noah, the brightest light in the primeval darkness.

Chapter 5 begins with a brief recapitulation of mankind’s origin (vv. 1–5). Reminding us of our status as God’s image-bearer is important since the deaths recorded in this chapter reveal that man was not then, and is not now, enjoying Eden’s blessing. Nevertheless, humanity retains the imago Dei while exiled from paradise.

The great life spans recorded in this chapter are of special significance. During the primeval period, human beings lived much longer than they do now. It is not exactly clear why this was so, but in any case, none of these men achieved one thousand years of earthly existence. Moses is thus emphasizing the mortality introduced by the fall in contrast to the eternity our sovereign Lord experiences. For Him a thousand years are but a day (Ps. 90:1–4).

Seth’s family stands in stark contrast to Cain’s in terms of its faithfulness. He too had a descendant named Enoch, but this Enoch knew it was more important to walk with God than to establish a legacy of his own in this world with a city named after himself (Gen. 5:24; 4:17). The Lord rewarded Enoch and immediately translated him into heaven, just as He later honored the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 2:1–12a). Enoch’s story is one of the few direct allusions to eternal life with God in the Old Testament, given, as Calvin says, “to elevate the minds of his [the Lord’s] saints with certain faith before their death…that a better life was elsewhere laid up for them.”

In Seth’s line there is also a Lamech (Gen. 5:28–31), but he is far more pious than the Lamech among Cain’s relatives (4:23–24). His devotion is evident in his hope for Noah to provide relief from the curse (5:28–29). As we will soon see, this happens after a fashion, but not in the way Lamech necessarily expected.

Coram Deo

Today’s passage illustrates the principle that “whenever a good man dies, God takes him, takes him from here, and receives him to himself” (Matthew Henry). Even though most of the Lord’s people will have to experience physical death, those who by faith have laid hold of Christ’s righteousness will receive the same eternal reward as Enoch (John 3:16). Take some time today to meditate on your reward and ask the Lord to help you serve Him in gratitude for it.

Passages for Further Study

Deut. 5:33
Mic. 6:8
Rom. 5:12–14
Heb. 11:5
1 John 2:6

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