Read Genesis 5:4-20
This is one of the saddest passages in Scripture when taken in context of what we have already read in Genesis. God warned Adam that, should he eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would certainly die. And here we see the ultimate result of his sin: “and he died” (5:5). Not only did Adam die, but he passed his sin nature on to his children so that his son died (5:8), and his son died (5:11), and his son died (5:14), and so on.
Many of us marvel at the long lifespans in this passage. After all, seven of the ten patriarchs listed in Genesis 5 lived more than 900 years. But that is not the author’s focus. Had Adam not sinned, he would have lived forever! What is 900 years compared to eternity? “A mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).
The same is true of our life spans. We certainly will not live for 900 years. Many of us will be lucky to live for 100 years. The point is not the length of our life, but the reality that this earthly life will end. On all of our tombstones will be a date of birth and a date of death. We could add to our eulogies the same phrase that is repeated over and over in Genesis 5: “and he died.”
But this passage isn’t all gloom and doom. Remember back in Genesis 3:15 when God promised that the seed of Eve would one day crush the head of the serpent? Well, Adam and Eve thought that seed would come through Cain, but he offered an unrighteous sacrifice and then went out and murdered his brother, so God rejected him. Most scholars believe that Abel was given Cain’s birthright when he offered a righteous sacrifice and Cain and unrighteous one. So maybe the seed would come through Abel? Nope. He was murdered by his brother. This left Adam and Eve without hope. Would God fail to fulfill His promise?
Then Seth was born.
Seth was given to replace Abel, and to replace Cain. It would be through Seth that God would send His promised Deliverer. As long as the line of Seth continues, the hope of God’s promise continues. That is why each life listed in Genesis 5 has three important statements: (1) he lived for a number of years; (2) he fathered a son; (3) he lived more years and then he died.
The fact that each person died reminds us of the curse of sin, but the fact that each fathered a son reminds us that the hope of a promised deliverer remains! We always want God to save us in our timing. I’m sure that Kenan thought God would send the Deliverer through his son, Mahalalel, but God had other plans. Yet, as long as Mahalalel had a son, and that son had a son, the promise of a deliverer coming would remain—there would still be hope.
Looking back through history, we know that the genealogies ultimately lead down the ages to Jesus Christ, who alone has the power to deliver people from the power of sin. Jesus was the true seed of Eve who crushed the head of the serpent when He died on the cross and rose again from the grave. In Jesus, the promise of God was fulfilled.
This passage unfortunately reminds us of the sad reality that all of us will one day die. But it also reminds us of the only Person in whom we can place our hope of eternal life: Jesus Christ. As long as the line of Seth continued, the promise of eternal life remained alive. God fulfilled that promise in Jesus Christ, and if we are willing to trust in Him today, we too can be forgiven of our sin, and be granted the promise of eternal life.