The First Genealogy
To many of us genealogies are the least attractive portions of Scripture and yet as part of the inspired Word God has something to say to us through them (2 Tim. 3:16). Precious gems rarely lie on the surface: the miner has to dig for them. Similarly, hidden within the genealogical registers of the Bible God has placed nuggets of spiritual value for us to dig out. I would like us to do a little spiritual digging in Genesis 5––the first genealogy of the Bible.
Perhaps you want to stop me right there and tell me that this is not the first genealogy but that the line of Cain precedes it (Gen. 4: 17–22). Certainly the Spirit of God puts Cain’s seven generations first, but they do not constitute the first genealogy. Instead they serve as the background with which the first genealogy may be contrasted. Adam was the first man, and thus the first genealogy is his.
Now in the Bible that which is first and that which is last are often linked together in a distinct way (witness the correlation between Genesis and Revelation). The link applies to the genealogies. The first genealogy is Adam’s and the last is Christ’s. No genealogy is recorded in Scripture after that of the Lord for He is the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15: 45). Many of the genealogies recorded in Genesis begin with the words “And these are the generations of…”. How does the first genealogy begin? “This is the book of Adam’s generations” (Gen. 5: 1). How does the last genealogy begin? “Book of the generation of Jesus Christ” (Matt. 1: 1). No other genealogy uses this peculiar phraseology Book of the generation, and thus these two are linked together.
Having established that Adam’s is the first genealogy, let us see what we can learn from its details. This genealogy takes us from Adam’s creation to the five hundredth year of Noah’s life––a century before the flood. You will notice that we are told how old a father was when his eldest son was born, how long he lived after the birth, and the total years of his life. Looking a little closer, certain features are revealed which raise interesting questions: Of the ten generations, nine terminate before the flood. Why nine? One of these (Methushelah) dies in the year of the flood. What is the significance of this? He was 969 years old when he died. Is there anything to be learned from his age? Why does Adam die before Enoch is translated? Why was Enoch translated before Noah was born? Why did Lemech live such a relatively short life compared to the others? Finally, and most importantly of all, why did none of the antediluvians reach 1000 years?
There are ten generations, of which Noah is the tenth, and Enoch the seventh. Seven is the number of completion in spiritual things (whether good or bad), and ten is the number of human responsibility. In the NT both Noah and Enoch are identified with the second coming of Christ (Luke 17: 26; Jude 14, 15). One was a preacher (2 Pet. 2: 5) and the other a prophet (Jude 14). Both men are said to have “walked with God” (Gen. 5: 24; 6: 9). Yet there was this difference: God took Enoch out of this world so that he did not experience the judgement of the flood, while He preserved Noah and his house in the ark through the judgement. This leads me to think that these two men are representative of two different companies of saints. The first company, as represented by Enoch, consists of those saints who will be alive when the Lord comes in the air and are taken out of this scene before God’s judgement falls upon it. To them it is said “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee out of the hour of trial, which is about to come upon the whole habitable world, to try them that dwell upon the earth” (Rev. 3: 10). Noah represents the second company which will be made up of the saints who come to light after the removal of the first company, and are preserved through the Great Tribulation. Of them it is said “These are they who come out of the great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7: 14).
It says of Enoch that “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him; for before [his] translation he has the testimony that he had pleased God” (Heb. 11: 5). When it says he was not found, the underlying thought is that he was missed and was looked for. No doubt when saints are raptured from this world by the Lord, they too will be searched for and, like Enoch, will not be found. Enoch is representative of those that Paul speaks of in 1 Cor. 15: 51 “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all fall asleep…” When the Lord comes the dead will be raised first (1 Thess. 4: 16) but those who are alive and remain will, like Enoch, be translated into the presence of the Lord (v17).
When Enoch was translated just before the end of the first millennium, seven of the men in the genealogy were still alive: Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Methushelah and Lemech. Adam, however, though he lived for 930 years, had already gone. Now the Bible identifies men as being in one of two categories: in Adam or in Christ. The first order of man, as represented by Adam, has no part in the things of God (see 1Cor. 2: 14). Thus if Enoch represents those who are “Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15: 23), Adam represents an order of man which must pass away. All this is suggested by the fact that Adam was the only man in the genealogical line that had died when Enoch was translated (see chart).
Now if Enoch represents those who do not “come into judgement” but are “passed out of death into life” (John 5: 24), Noah represents those who will be preserved through judgement. The Lord Himself directly aligns the days of the “great tribulation” (Matt. 24: 21) with “the days of Noe” (v37), and in that “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30: 7), God will see to it that a remnant of Israel is preserved (see Rev. 12: 6). Now Noah is the tenth generation and accordingly in his days the responsible history of the Adamic earth is closed in judgement. While both Enoch and Noah testified to judgement, their testimonies were distinct and separate since when Enoch was translated Noah had not even been born. God’s testimony through those who form the Church (of whom Enoch is a picture) is one of grace. By contrast the remnant of Israel who will testify in a day to come (as pictured by Noah) will have the same character of testimony as that of John the Baptist––one of coming judgement. When the Church is gone, and not until then, God will take up Israel again in a remnant. This is suggested in the fact that Enoch was translated 69 years before Noah was born (see chart).
Moving on to Lemech, his death at 777 is striking. Leaving aside the actual number (which in itself is of interest being a triad of sevens), Lemech is the only one in the genealogy (Enoch of course excepted), that failed to live for roughly nine centuries. He lived 118 years less than the youngest (Mahalaleel) at 895, and died just five years before the flood. The question is why? Now God’s word to Noah in the year of the flood was “for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Gen.7: 1), and previously we have “Noah was a just man, perfect amongst his generations: Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6: 9). On the ground of Noah’s righteousness, he and his house qualified for the safety of the ark, but it appears Lemech did not. In grace God removed Noah’s father Lemech prematurely before the flood.
The flood was God’s judgement on man. If you check out the meaning of the numbers in the Bible you will find that six is the number peculiar to man, and that nine is the number of divine judgement (one short of ten, the number of human responsibility, and so when man fails in responsibility, judgement follows). In this genealogy nine lives terminated before the flood came (Adam, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methushelah, and Lemech), and only six of those lives exceeded nine hundred years (Adam, Seth, Enosh, Cainan, Jared, and Methushelah). Indeed the matter is even more sharply defined for one of those six lives actually terminated in the very year of the flood. He was the oldest man that ever lived, and he was 969 when he died. What was his name? Methushelah! His name (coming from his father Enoch) was prophetic for it means ‘when he is dead it shall be sent’ or ‘when he dies it will come’. The year that Methushelah died was the year of the flood!
However, the greatest fact to come out of this first genealogy is that which concerns Christ. While six of these antediluvians lived over nine hundred years, not one of them made the millennium. The Spirit of God appears to stress this fact by using a simple though seemingly unnecessary clause that He does not use in any other genealogy. I refer to the words “and he died”. Over 900 years? Yes, but still he died! Why then has no man ever lived for 1000 years? When God warned Adam regarding the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, He said “in the day that thou eatest of it thou shalt certainly die” (Gen. 2: 17) You may say that the moment that Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, the process of dying began in his body. That is as may be, but it hardly answers to the full force of the verse quoted ‘in the day…’ The key to this lies in 2 Pet. 3: 8: “But let not this one thing be hidden from you, beloved, that one day with [the] Lord [is] as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. Adam lived 930 years, but he did not live to see the day out––he did not have 1000 years on earth. Even Methushelah, the oldest man who ever lived, only managed 969 years. In contrast with Adam and his generation I read of “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1: 8; see 1 Cor. 5: 5 and 2 Cor. 1: 14), of “Jesus Christ’s day” (Phil. 1: 6) and of “Christ’s day” (Phil. 1: 10, 2: 16). He is the one man who will have a full day in His own right. He will have the complete thousand years (Rev. 20: 4–6). Yet in grace He will not have it alone, for others will live and reign with Him–those who are of His generation (Heb. 2: 13). So we read “they lived and reigned with the Christ a thousand years” (Rev. 20: 4). Christ, and Christ alone, is the Man of the millennium!
The Last Genealogy
There are many aspects of the Scriptures that fail to get our attention, but perhaps none has suffered as much as the genealogies. To the Jew genealogies were vital (see Neh. 7: 64) and will be indispensable in a coming day when the priesthood will be re–established (Ez. 45: 4). To the early Jewish Christians they had wrongly become an obsession which warranted warnings by the Apostle Paul (see 1 Tim. 1: 4 and Tit. 3: 9), but to current Gentile Christians they are deemed scarcely worthy of notice. How often in public Bible readings is a passage of Scripture containing a genealogy either not read or passed over without comment! This is clearly a bad practice because all Scripture is inspired and profitable (see 2 Tim. 3: 16).
Now genealogies belong to men––no angel has one––and there are many genealogies in the Bible. All are in the OT except the final one. This last genealogy is the most important of all, for it is that of the Lord Jesus Himself (Matt 1: 1–17; Luke 3: 23–38). His must be the last because He is the last Adam (see 1 Cor. 15: 45). No other genealogy can follow that of Christ.
There are four Gospels but only two contain the genealogical record of the Lord. Why is this? In Matthew the divine presentation is “Behold, thy King” (Zech. 9: 9); in Mark the word is “Behold my servant” (Is. 42: 1); in Luke “Behold a man” (Zech. 6: 12); in John “Behold your God!” (Is. 40: 9). Now a servant has no need to produce his genealogy and God cannot have one. A king must have one and a man should have one. Therefore we have two genealogies for the Lord and no more than two.
However, the genealogy in Matthew is not the same as given by Luke! The first difference to note is that Matthew’s is a descending one (going down from Abraham to Christ) while Luke’s is an ascending one (going up from Christ to Adam and thence to God). This is because kings must trace their descent while men simply trace their ascent back to some ancestor.
Now Matthew records only from Abraham to Christ and even then omits certain kings; Luke’s record is comprehensive with not a single omission. Matthew, concerned only with Christ as Israel’s King, begins where Israel began––with Abraham the Hebrew (see Gen 14: 13), heading his genealogy: “Book of the generation of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham” (Matt. 1: 1). Luke, presenting the Lord as man, traces his lineage unbroken all the way back to Adam and God. Further differences can also be seen: Matthew’s line passes from David through Solomon to Jacob and thence to Joseph and Christ; Luke’s line passes from David through Nathan to Eli and thence to Joseph and Christ. Why these two different routes?
The answer can be compressed by simply saying that as Matthew gives the royal line it must be the line of legal succession to the throne of Israel; Luke simply tracing the Lord as a man must give the line of natural descent––the lineal genealogy. The former was the result of the will of God in choosing Solomon, a younger son, while the latter was the result of the will of man, and in order of human birth.
However, it is worth considering the matter in detail. The Lord was to be Son of Man and Son of David but also Son of God. The angel told Mary “[The] Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and power of [the] Highest overshadow thee, wherefore the holy thing also which shall be born shall be called Son of God” (Luke 1: 35). Thus we read that Mary “was found to be with child of [the] Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1: 18) before they had come together, so much so that Joseph in his ignorance was ready “to have put her away secretly” (Matt. 1: 19) that is, quietly divorce her. Thus the virgin birth is vital since the real father of the Lord was God not Joseph. In keeping with this Matthew freely uses the word “begat”, indicative of natural descent from father to son, until he comes to the Lord where he simply says “Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matt. 1: 16). Hence David’s throne could not be claimed on natural lines through Joseph.
What about the Lord’s mother, Mary? Could David’s throne be claimed on natural lines through Mary? Now we read in Ps. 132: 11 “Jehovah hath sworn [in] truth unto David; he will not turn from it: Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne”. Evidently this was well known as the Jews said “Has not the scripture said that the Christ comes of the seed of David …?” (John 7: 42) and Paul refers to Christ as the seed of David as well in Rom. 1: 3 and 2 Tim. 2: 8. The inability of this natural link being fulfilled through Joseph means that it can only be satisfied through Mary. Through her the Lord can be literally the seed of David (John 7: 42), the seed of Abraham (Gal. 3: 16) and of the seed of woman (Gen. 3: 15) and thus naturally Son of Man. Through Mary alone could that distinctive word of Ps 132 be fulfilled: “Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne”. The requirement of the Scriptures for a natural or lineal line to David is thus satisfied through Mary. What then of the requirement for an indisputable legal right to the throne of David?
Now although it may seem strange to Western minds, women are never used in the Bible as links in genealogical registers (the four women mentioned by Matthew do not form part of the genealogical chain). Hence the claim to David’s throne could not be legally made through Mary. This leaves Joseph. That Joseph had a legal title to the throne from Matthew’s genealogy is clear because the descent from David to Joseph is a natural one (“Jacob begat Joseph” etc.) but that natural line terminates in Joseph. However, when Mary became Joseph’s husband the legal title became available to Mary’s firstborn son through her marriage and the Scripture with great care records “and Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ” (Matt. 1: 16) and that Christ was “her firstborn son” (Matt. 1: 25). Now the Lord could not claim the title to the throne until Joseph died. Interestingly, with that in mind, the last that we hear of Joseph is when the Lord was twelve (Luke 2: 41–52). When the Lord began His public ministry and laid claim to David’s throne, He did so legally as Joseph must have died.
Yet how do we know that Luke’s genealogy is that of Mary when no woman forms part of a genealogical link and Mary is not even mentioned ? Not only that, but Joseph is said to be the son of Eli when Matthew claims that he was the son of Jacob!
We have already noted that Matthew uses the word “begat”––a word that indicates natural descent. That word occurs nowhere in Luke’s genealogy. Luke says “son of” once and then simply “of”. Now only a father can beget a son but a son can only be born of a mother. In Matthew’s record we have the legal and the lineal line from David down to Joseph. There the lineal line terminates in Joseph but the legal line continues to Jesus as the Christ. (The omission of certain kings does not affect this as the lineal line was still there even though it suited Matthew to omit certain names.) However, the expression given by Luke is much wider and does nothing more than simply own a man as related to his forebear. Thus while Joseph was the actual son of Jacob, as given by Matthew, he was the son of Eli (as given by Luke) only through his marriage to Mary (Eli’s daughter). That is, he was legally linked through marriage. Yet there is something more for us to consider here. Luke says “And Jesus himself … being as was supposed son of Joseph; of Eli …” (Luke 3: 23). These words “being as was supposed son of Joseph” form a parenthesis. This supposition here spoken of is generally interpreted as meaning that men imagined Joseph to be the real father of Jesus. However, the Greek word translated “as was supposed” (enomizeto from nomizw) never means to imagine. The sense of the word is to conclude from custom, law or evidence. It is found in Acts 16: 13 for the custom of the women to meet at the river for prayer. Our English word suppose is generally satisfactory but the supposition is based on law or evidence and never imagination. In Luke 3: 23 it refers to the Lord as being the son of Joseph by the custom of the law. Being in a parenthesis, it may also have reference to Joseph only being the son of Eli in law through his marriage to Mary. Either way, it leaves no doubt that Joseph was but the legal father of the Lord and that Mary was His natural mother. Hence the Lord’s legal title to the throne of Israel as the Son of David was through Joseph; His claim to be Son of Man was a lineal one through Mary; that He was God’s Son required the virgin birth through Mary.
There is much more in the two genealogies of the Lord that could be profitably investigated. For example, why does Matthew group his limited descent in three groups of fourteen generations? Or why does he introduce four women (probably, not one of whom was a Jew) and yet omit four kings? Again, is there significance in that in Luke’s genealogy there are 77 names in total? All this and more I leave to the reader to prayerfully inquire.
In considering the genealogy of the Lord let us never forget that He who is the “offspring of David” is also David’s root (Rev. 22: 16) and that He who is David’s son is also David’s Lord (Matt. 22: 45). As David’s offspring and son He is man; as David’s root and Lord He is God.
Finally, I would like to enquire about your genealogy. Can you give it? It is vital. In Ezra’s day there were those who “sought their genealogical register, but they were not found” (Ezra 2: 62). The fact that you may be able to trace your natural forebears through several generations on the one hand, or not even know who your father and mother were on the other hand, is irrelevant. What matters is your spiritual genealogy. The believer’s genealogical register is very short. It contains but two names: that of the believer and his Father. Thus we read “According to his own will begat he us … (James 1: 18) so that we are “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by [the] living and abiding word of God” (1 Pet. 1: 23). Thus “Every one that believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten of God” (1 John 5: 1).
The Thousand Years
To many saints there is nothing more dry and unattractive as genealogies. Indeed the writer has been in more than one Bible Reading in which a genealogy has been purposely omitted from the reading of the Scriptures. Yet God says in 2 Tim. 3: 16 “Every scripture [is] divinely inspired, and profitable for teaching, for conviction, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be complete, fully fitted to every good work”. Genealogies are an essential part of God’s Word. On the surface they may appear to have little to offer, but underneath they yield some of the brightest gems from the divine treasury. However, like diamonds, you need to dig for them, they do not lie on the surface.
Now the first genealogy in the Bible is the generations of Adam, (Gen. 5); the last genealogy is that of Christ, (Matt. 1 and Luke 3). No genealogy comes after that of the Last Adam. Indeed it is not only the last in the Bible, it is the only one in the N.T.. However, it is the first genealogy with which I wish to engage you.
When God warned Adam regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He said “in the day that thou eatest of it thou shalt certainly die”, (Gen. 2: 17). However, I read in Gen. 5: 5 that “.... all the days of Adam that he lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died”. You may say that the moment Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, the process of death, of dying, began in his body. That is as may be, but it hardly answers to the full force of the verse already quoted “in the day that thou eatest of it thou shalt certainly die”.
You must always use Scripture to interpret Scripture. As the old hymn writer said “God is His own interpreter, and He will make it plain”. The key lies in 2 Pet. 3: 8: “But let not this one thing be hidden from you, beloved, that one day with [the] Lord [is] as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day”. Adam lived 930 years, but he did not live to see the day out, he did not have 1000 years on this earth.
Now let us examine the rest of the genealogy of Gen. 5. There are a number of interesting facts given to us here, but I will just show you one in order to whet your appetite so that you might search the others out for yourself.
This genealogy contains not just a list of names but the age of each person is given. These men are the oldest men on Scriptural record: Adam lived 930 years, Seth 912 years, Enosh 905 years, Cainan 910 years, every one living more than 900 years but not one having a full day of 1000 years. Next there is Mahaleleel with 895, then Jared with 962 years but still not a 1000. Enoch has a relatively brief 365 years before God takes him, but his son Methuselah is the oldest man who ever lived with 969 years, yet still 31 years short of the millennium. Lemech follows with a mere 777 years in comparison, and not without reason. The genealogy is terminated with Noah and his three sons. Elsewhere, (Gen. 9: 29), we learn that Noah’s life lasted for 950 years. Thus God instructs us in this first genealogy that Adam and his descendants did not see the day out: “in the day that thou eatest of it thou shalt certainly die”, (Gen. 2: 17).
In contrast with Adam and his generation, I read in the N.T. of “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”, (1 Cor. 1:8). Again in 1 Cor. 5: 5 and 2 Cor. 1: 14 I read of “the day of the Lord Jesus”, in Phil. 1: 6 of “Jesus Christ’s day” and in Phil 1: 10 and 2: 16 of “Christ’s day”. He is the one Man who will have a full day in His own right; He will have the complete 1000 years, (Rev. 20: 4–6). He will not have it alone, others will live and reign with Him, those who are of His generation, (Heb. 2: 13). So we read “they lived and reigned with the Christ a thousand years”, (Rev. 20: 4). When the dead in Christ are raised, (1 Thess. 4: 16), it is not just the Church, but all who are His that rise. Hence the marvel is, that while not one of that list of names from Adam to Noah saw the day out in their own right, they will all share Christ’s glorious day.