The records of genealogy in the Bible are often the parts that we skip over. The names are confusing, hard to pronounce, all of the “begats” start to run together, and honestly -- it’s just not that interesting. But there are a few parts of Genesis, where the genealogy helps explain other passages in the Bible, and I’ve found them to be very interesting. We read in Jude that Enoch was a prophet who declared that God would execute judgment on the ungodly: “It was also about these that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.’ ”
In Genesis 5:21-27 we read that Enoch was the father of Methusaleh and that Methusaleh died at the age of 969. If you work the Genesis timeline backwards from Methusaleh’s death at the age of 969, you’ll find that Methusaleh died in the year of Noah’s flood. The interesting thing is that Methusaleh’s name can be interpreted to mean “When he dies, judgment” or “When he is dead, it shall be sent.” Jude tells us that Enoch prophesied of God’s judgment. The genealogy of Genesis tells us that after Methusaleh’s death the ungodly were condemned in Noah’s flood. It appears that Enoch knew that judgment would come to the world in some form when Methusaleh was born, 969 years before the flood.
This also gives us perspective and great reassurance about just how patient God is with sinful man: “For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” 2 Peter 3:5-9
The same God who flooded the world will one day consume it with fire. But that God doesn’t want anyone to perish. He wants everyone to reach repentance and is patiently waiting on man to turn to Him. How patiently is He waiting? Through Jude and the genealogy in Genesis it appears that God knew he would destroy the world nearly 1,000 years before the flood actually happened. We learn in Genesis 6 that God didn’t send destruction until “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” The genealogy of Genesis tells us that God endured nearly 1,000 years of rebellion, waiting until almost every-single-person had rejected him. That’s not a story of God’s anger, it’s a story of God’s love and patience.
In Genesis 47 we have the story of Jacob meeting Pharaoh. Joseph has revealed himself to his brothers, they’ve brought their entire family to Egypt and are about to be given the land of Goshen. When Jacob and Pharaoh first meet, Pharaoh asks how old Jacob is: “Then Joseph brought in Jacob his father and stood him before Pharaoh, and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Jacob, ‘How many are the days of the years of your life?’ And Jacob said to Pharaoh, ‘The days of the years of my sojourning are 130 years. Few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.’ And Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from the presence of Pharaoh.” - Genesis 47:7-10
The first part of Jacob’s answer is self-explanatory. Jacob is 130 years old. The days of his life had been “few and evil”. Knowing the story of Jacob, how else would you describe his life? In constant turmoil with his family, deceiving and being deceived, lying and being cheated, a permanent limp reminding him of the time he wrestled with God, raising a family of sons who were so full of hate they were willing to kill and sell one of their brothers into slavery. “Few and evil” is an understatement. At 130 years old it appears that Jacob was nearing the end of his life and knew it. In Genesis 44:20 his sons describe him as “an old man”.
In Genesis 45 Jacob sees the wagons that Joseph has sent for him and says, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” But the second part of Jacob’s answer isn’t so clear, “. . . and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.” What does Jacob mean by that? The genealogy of Genesis gives us the answer. (For reference, when speaking of these years I’m using the year of creation as Year 1 and counting forward from there.)
Adam was born in 1 and lived until 930. Methusaleh was born in 687 and lived until the flood in 1656. Shem lived through the flood and died in 2158. Abraham was born in 1948 and died in 2123. Jacob was born in 2108 and died in 2255. Jacob was contemporary with his grandfather Abraham for only 15 years. But he was contemporary with his NINTH GREAT GRANDFATHER, Shem, for 50 years. Imagine growing up bouncing on the knee of a man who lived through the flood, nearly 500 years earlier, and that man living longer than your grandfather.
Jacob could have been present for the funeral of Shem, at the age of 600, a man who had been a contemporary of Methusaleh for 100 years. But at only 130 years old knew that his life was almost over. Jacob was only three people (Shem and Lamech) removed from Adam. Jacob could have had direct contact with someone who saw the depraved condition of Noah’s day and lived through the flood. Thus, the genealogy of Genesis gives us a better understanding of what Jacob meant when he told Pharaoh that he had “not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their sojourning.”
Why is all of this important? Well, in one way you could say that it isn’t. We don’t have to understand any of these years and “begats” to understand that Jesus is the son of God, and that he died for our sins. But as children of God we should appreciate the story that God has given us.
Romans 15 tells us that the things written in the former days were written for our instruction. But there has to be more to the story than just facts and timelines to memorize. We should look at God’s word as a gift, a beautiful story that we should rejoice and delight in.
“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jeremiah 15:16
“I rejoice at your word like one who finds great spoil.” - Psalm 119:162
- Eric Wise