Genesis 5, Life is Hard Then You Die
Chapter 5 serves to transition the book of Genesis from the generations of Adam (5:1) to the generations of Noah (6:9). The paragraphs are repetitive. A man will live several centuries, father sons and daughters, and die. The phrase “and he died” occurs eight times in the chapter. Despite this dark rhythm of the curse of sin, there are two significant notes of hope. First, Enoch walks with God and doesn’t die (5:24). Later, Noah is born with the expectation that he will bring relief from the cursed toil of working the ground (5:29).
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.” Genesis 5:29 (ESV)
Genesis 5 contains creation’s first obituary entry. Adam died. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the ancients to hear that the first human has succumbed to the curse? But, unlike Abel, no one murdered Adam. Adam just lived and died.
The serpent lied (3:4). Disobedience does end in death. Because of sin, every story ends the same, “and he died (5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31).” If it happened to Adam, it will happen to the rest of us.
You’re born. You live. You work. You die.
Is there any hope for humanity? As dark and repetitive as Genesis 5 reads, we find some indication that God is at work despite the rampant rise of death.
The first two sentences of Genesis 5 are good news. Despite disobedience, humans remain (both male and female) the images of God. God has not revoked our identity.
In Genesis 3 and 4, the images start sinning. In Genesis 5, the images begin dying, but God is faithful. Men are multiplying (5:3, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22 . . .). The fact that fallen images can still be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth is significant because it means that the hope of a saving seed born from the woman remains intact (3:15).
There’s more good news. There is a lone survivor. Enoch doesn’t die. Genesis 5:24 says:
Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. Genesis 5:24 (ESV)
Many will read this and want to know more about how and why “God took him.” Did Enoch vanish? Was he transported into an eternal state much like Scotty beamed up Captain Kirk and Spock in Star Trek? But a rule of thumb for Bible reading is to pay attention to what the Bible says rather than debate what it doesn’t. The point of the inspired text is to encourage every dying sinner to do what Enoch does, walk with God. Genesis 5 is an early indication that if we walk with God during our lives, the Almighty will do something about our death.
Genesis 3:15 puts the reader on a search for the saving son. The evil of Cain shattered Eve’s hope in him (4:1). Cain was not the saving son. But in chapter 5, Lamech says something about Noah that rekindles hope. He says of Noah:
“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.” Genesis 5:29 (ESV)
Lamech articulates the plight of every human. We not only need something better than death, but we need something better in life. Life is hard. Dear God, please give us some relief.
Is Noah the saving son? The narrative of Genesis now shifts from the generations of Adam (5:1) to the generations of Noah (6:9). Will Noah be a murderer or a savior? With baited curiosity, we continue to read the Bible.
Genesis 5 is a cruel reminder of the death we will die, but it is also a critical indicator of the life God calls us to live. We need to do as Enoch did and walk with God.
The curse of sin is taking a toll on humanity. Men live a long time, but Lamech indicates in v. 24 that life is hard and then you die. Genesis 5 is an early demonstration of Romans 6:23a, “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” As God gave Enoch grace by saving him from the curse of sin (5:29), so we can be saved from the penalty of sin by turning to Christ.
Questions to Discuss
- What does Genesis 5 reveal about God?
- How does the news of someone’s death affect you?
- How does Genesis 5 demonstrate the truth of Romans 6:23?
- What does it mean to “walk with God?” Search other Scriptures to help you answer this question.
Do you live in a way that demonstrates that you walk with God? What are your daily disciplines and decisions that indicate you are not just living to die, but that you are walking with God? Do you treat people in a way that demonstrates that they are the images of God and that you walk with God? What needs to change?