The Scriptorium

Setting the Stage

The first genealogies chart the course for all that follows. Genesis 5.1-32

Gleanealogy: Foundations (2)

Pray Psalm 67.1, 2.
God be merciful to us and bless us,
And cause His face to shine upon us,
That Your way may be known on earth,
Your salvation among all nations.

Sing joyfully and with confidence Psalm 67.1-3.
(Solid Rock: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less)
O bless us, Savior, by Your grace, and shine upon us with Your face,
that we Your way may loud proclaim and tell to all the earth Your fame!
Refrain v. 3, 5
Let all the peoples praise You, Lord,
Rejoicing in Your holy Word!
Rejoicing in Your holy Word!

Read Genesis 5.1-32.

1. What strikes you as unique about this genealogy?

2. What does this genealogy “bridge”?

As we have seen, one of the primary purposes of the genealogies is to unite the Scriptures within the framework of God’s covenant. Like all Scripture, genealogies are meant to edify those who believe (2 Tim. 3.15-17), not to divide them. In Paul’s day, people were using genealogies wrongly, to vaunt their pedigrees rather than seek unity in God’s covenant (1 Tim. 1.3, 4). But as we shall see in this first genealogy of Scripture, God intended to unite His people around a special purpose.

This genealogy begins with the phrase “This is the book of the genealogy…”, which in the Hebrew is zeh sepher toledoth.[1] We have seen that the toledoth is an ancient literary form not unique to ancient Israel, used to introduce a record of some sort. Here the record begins with Adam and ends with Noah and his sons. This genealogy thus spans the time from creation to the flood. This genealogy appears against the backdrop of a brief one given in Genesis 4.17-22, the genealogy of the descendants of Cain, who murdered his brother Abel and was cast out from the presence of God. His descendants begin the line of those who have no faith in God and who pursue an autonomous ethic based on power (Gen. 4.23, 24; 6.1-5). The line that descends through Seth, on the other hand, represents the first generations of those who trust in the Lord.

We can see this in various ways. The introduction to this toledoth (Gen. 4.25, 26) tells us that with Seth’s line, “men began to call on the name of the LORD.” We see in the names of certain of his descendants the suggestion of ongoing trust in the Lord: Mahalalel (“praise of God”), and Jared (which can carry the meaning “to bow down”). We also note that Enoch is described as having “walked with God three hundred years”, during which time we can be sure he had an influence on many of the descendants of Seth. Enoch’s having been “taken” by God raises the question, “Taken where?” At the very least, this means to point us beyond the present life to some other existence where God takes people at His pleasure.

It is possible that, in the generation following Enoch, the people of Seth’s line and those of Cain’s began to interact in ways that brought compromise and turmoil. Lamech named his son Noah, which means “rest”, and expressed the hope that in his day, the people might once again be comforted. They were beginning to find the burden of their labors irksome (v. 29), and they may have begun to experience conflict with the descendants of Cain. We know that, by Genesis 6, the men of this line had begun to intermarry with the “daughters of men”, thus introducing compromise and conflict, which may also have helped to provoke Lamech’s longing (I accept “sons of God” in Genesis 6.2 as referring not to angels, as some suggest, but to the faithful descendants of Seth).

We also note in this genealogy the mention of how long people lived, which seems extraordinary to us today, but which we accept as a faithful record. The mention of daughters is also a unique factor in this genealogy, and precludes our wondering where all these men found wives.

This toledoth sets the stage for a struggle between two families of people – those who trust the Lord and those who look to autonomy and power to accomplish their ends. These two families are anticipated in Genesis 3.15 by the “Seed of the woman” and the serpent’s seed. But we should point out that this is not the first toledoth in Genesis. Genesis 2.4 informs us, “This is the history (toledoth) of the heavens and the earth when they were created…” The toledoth in Genesis 5 connects by association with this toledoth, which provides the temporal setting in which the drama of the two families will unfold.

The mission of the family of Seth, in a world where creation groans and men grasp for power, is to bring comfort and rest to the world. Place, people, project: Creation, the faithful seed (pointing to the Seed of the woman), and rest. The stage is set for the divine covenant and the economy of redemption that comes with it.

1. Three genealogies present three foundational ideas that will run through all of Scripture. What are they?

2. Why do you suppose God in His sovereignty allowed people to live so long in those days?

3. Why do we need to know not only that there was a Godly line of people, but a line of people who did not believe in God? Is it just to condemn that second line? Or are they part of the project of God’s people?

Then the Scripture states that after some time had elapsed, there was a man named Enoch, whose justice merited a singular privilege: that he should not experience present death but should be transported to immortality from the midst of mortals.
Augustine 354-430), Christian Life 7

Lord, as I am part of the line of those meant to bring comfort and rest to the world, use me today to…

Pray Psalm 67.
How will you help the nations and peoples of the earth sing the praises of Jesus today? Give thanks to God for all His bounteous blessings, then commit yourself and them to making Him known today.

Sing Psalm 67.
Psalm 67 (Solid Rock: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less)
O bless us, Savior, by Your grace, and shine upon us with Your face,
that we Your way may loud proclaim and tell to all the earth Your fame!
Refrain v. 3, 5
Let all the peoples praise You, Lord,
Rejoicing in Your holy Word!
Rejoicing in Your holy Word!

Let all the nations gladly sing and joyous praise before You bring!
You judge them by Your holy worth and guide the nations of the earth.

The earth in full its bounty yields – the blessed harvest of the fields.
We gather blessings from Your Word that all the earth may fear You, Lord.


T. M. Moore

The genealogies of Scripture reveal the heart of God in His covenant relationship with His people. To learn more about God’s covenant, order our book, I Will Be Your God, by clicking here. You can learn to sing all the psalms to familiar hymn tunes by ordering a copy of The Ailbe Psalter (click here).

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).


[1] For this and subsequent installments on toledoth, I am indebted to Jason S. DeRouchie, “The Blessing-Commission, the Promised Offspring, and the Toledoth Structure of Genesis,” JETS, Vol. 56. No. 2, June 2013.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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