The introduction to this section of Genesis identifies it as the “book” of the “generations of Adam” or of his descendants. This introduction repeats words from Genesis 1:26-28, indicating that “God created man” in his “likeness.” God created them male and female, gave them the name “man,” and blessed them. Being in the “likeness” of God did not mean that Adam looked like God, but he had attributes that the animals he named did not possess. Adam could love, manifest wisdom, think, reason, be creative, and appreciate beauty and order. (5:1, 2)
After Adam lived 130 (230 [LXX]) years he became the father of a son “in his own likeness, after his image.” This son was like him and also had the flaw of the sinful condition that made it impossible for him to reflect the likeness of God in the manner his father could prior to his transgression. Adam named his son Seth. According to verse 25 of chapter 4, Seth was the name his mother Eve gave him. This suggests that Adam agreed with his wife on the name of this son who was regarded as a replacement for Abel. (5:3)
When, according to the extant Hebrew text, the ages at which Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mehalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah became father to a son are added, the total comes to 1,456 years. The sum in the existing Septuagint text is 2,142 years. This difference exists because the age for each of the seven men from Adam through Enoch is increased by a 100 years. Additionally, Methuselah is said to have become father to Lamech at the age of 167, and Lamech to Noah at the age of 188. Instead of 167 and 188, the Hebrew text says 187 and 182. Another difference is in the number of years that Methuselah lived after becoming father to Lamech (802 [782 Hebrew text] years, with the age at death being 969 [as in the Hebrew text]) and the number of years Lamech lived after becoming father to Noah (565 [595, Hebrew text]) and the age at death (753 [777, Hebrew text]). In his Antiquities (I, iii, 4), Josephus follows the Septuagint for the men from Adam through Enoch but agrees with the Hebrew text for Methuselah and Lamech. (5:3-32)
The age at which Methuselah became father to Lamech as contained in the Septuagint cannot be correct, for it would mean that Methuselah lived 802 years after becoming father to Lamech and, therefore, about 14 years after the flood began (802 years minus 788 years [the age of Noah when the flood began (600 years), plus the age of Lamech at Noah’s birth (188 years [LXX])]). An ancient explanation for the addition of the 100 years is that the Septuagint translator considered the ages to be a tenth of the numbers and then added 100 when it would have been impossible for a man to have been old enough to become father to a son. He also subtracted 100 from the number of years the man lived after becoming father to a son, preserving agreement with the age at death found in the Hebrew text. The writings of Josephus are in Greek, and this probably accounts for his use of the numbers for the ages that are increased by a hundred years and, in his preface to the Antiquities (section 3), for his reference to the “sacred books” as containing a history of 5,000 years. (5:3-32)
With the exception of Jared, the Samaritan Pentateuch agrees with the Hebrew text for the ages at which each of the seven men from Adam through Enoch became father to a son. It contains different ages at which Methuselah and Lamech became fathers to a son (67 for Methuselah and 53 for Lamech). For Jared, the number of years he lived after he became father to Enoch was 785 (800 [Hebrew text]), and his age at death was 847 (962 [Hebrew text]). Disagreement with the Hebrew text also exists regarding the ages for Methuselah and Lamech after the birth of a son (653 for Methuselah and 600 for Lamech; 782 for Methuselah and 595 for Lamech [Hebrew text]) and for the ages at death (720 for Methuselah and 653 for Lamech; 969 for Methuselah and 777 for Lamech [Hebrew text]). When, according to the Samaritan Pentateuch, the ages at which each of the ten men from Adam to Noah became father to a son are added, the total comes to 1,207 years.
Only regarding Enoch and Lamech are a few details provided aside from the ages at which they fathered a son, the number of years they lived thereafter, and the total years of their life. Additional details about Enoch are found in other writings and in the book of Hebrews and the letter of Jude.
Enoch is identified as a man who “walked with God,” indicating that he proved to be a man devoted to God throughout his life. Regarding Enoch it is then stated, “He was not, for God took him.” The Septuagint reads, “Enoch pleased God well. And he was not found, for God removed him.” (5:22-24) According to the reading of Genesis 5:24 in the extant text of the Septuagint, the Greek term for the “change” or “removal” is the same as in Hebrews 11:5. Ancient Jewish writings present the view that the change or removal referred to Enoch’s being taken to another realm without undergoing death. Josephus (Antiquities, I, iii, 4) wrote that Enoch “departed and went to God,” and for this reason nothing was recorded about his death. Philo maintained that Enoch was “carried off in such a way as to be invisible, for then he was not found,” and suggested that he “was translated from a visible place, perceptible by the outward senses, into an incorporeal idea, appreciable only to the intellect.” (Book 41, Questions and Answers on Genesis, I) The “Book of Jubilees” (chapter 4) says that Enoch was conducted “into the Garden of Eden in majesty and honor.” According to chapter 12 of the Book of Enoch, “Enoch was hidden, and no one of the children of men knew where he was hidden, and where he abode, and what had become of him.” Targum Jonathan states that Enoch “ascended to the firmament,” whereas the Targum of Onkelos says that the “Lord had not made him die.”
The letter of Jude refers to Enoch as “the seventh one from Adam” and as prophesying, “Look! The Lord came with myriads of his holy ones to render judgment against all and to convict every soul [‘all the ungodly,’ according to other manuscripts] regarding all their ungodly works that they committed in an ungodly manner and regarding all the harsh [literally, ‘hard’] words [missing in numerous manuscripts] ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14, 15) These words indicated that God, accompanied by a host of numberless angels, would expose the record the impious had made for themselves and execute judgment against them for their words and deeds, which had dishonored him.
The Genesis account does not contain any mention of Enoch’s prophesying (verses 14 and 15 of Jude), but the same basic thought is expressed in 1 Enoch 1:9. Among the Dead Sea Scrolls, twenty fragments of the book of Enoch have been found. This is just as many fragments as were discovered for the book of Genesis, suggesting that the book of Enoch appears to have been highly valued. At the present time, only the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel) accept 1 Enoch as part of the Scriptures.
The portion of 1 Enoch 1:9 that is preserved in 4Q204 (a manuscript thought to date from the latter part of the first century BCE but copied from a manuscript believed to have been approximately 100 years older) is very limited. Most of the text has to be reconstructed to be meaningful. In the book The Dead Sea Scrolls: A New Translation, by Michael O. Wise, Martin G. Abegg, Edward M. Cook, the rendering with the supplied parts in brackets is as follows, “[...he will come with] myri[ads of his] holy ones […] [… to judge all f]esh for [their] works [of …] […] great and harsh […].” The complete text, as preserved in the Ethiopic version (in the Ge’es language), reads, “And look! He is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones to execute judgment upon all, and to destroy all the ungodly; and to convict all flesh of all the works of their ungodliness that they have committed in an ungodly manner, and of all the hard things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Comments about Enoch contained in the Scriptures do not provide enough details for reaching any definitive conclusions about what actually happened to him after 365 years of life. It would appear that Jesus’ words (in John 3:13) do not support the view that Enoch was taken to heaven. “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”
Lamech, the father of Noah, is quoted as saying about his son, “This one will bring us rest [or relief] from our work and from the toil of our hands on account of the ground that YHWH has cursed.” The thought appears to be that, during the lifetime of Noah (whose name appears to be drawn from a Hebrew word meaning “quietness,” “rest,” or “consolation”), the ground would no longer remain under the curse God expressed against it after Adam and Eve transgressed the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (5:29) Noah did not have any sons until he reached the age of 500. His three sons were named Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (5:32)
In the first century CE and in earlier centuries, the Jews regarded the names in Genesis as those of men who had actually lived, and so did the early Christians. Jesus Christ used the written record in the early chapters of Genesis in a way that recognized them to be reliable history. (Matthew 19:4, 5; 23:35; Mark 10:6-9; Luke 11:51) Many have found the reference to the long life spans of the men questionable. It should be kept in mind, though, that people lived far shorter lives when the words in Genesis were committed to writing. The collection of sacred songs known as Psalms contains the words, “The days of our years [are] seventy years and, if for [reason of] strength, eighty years.” (Psalm 90:10) Based on what is recorded about the time Noah and his family spent in the ark, the years men lived before the flood were full years and not much smaller parts of a year. (Genesis 7:11, 12, 17, 24; 8:3-6, 10-14) Nevertheless, life spans far longer than 70 or 80 years have been preserved in writing, translating, and recopying of the Genesis account. Persons who believe in God as the Creator of the first humans accept that men lived far longer in very ancient times, although no other corroborating writings exist. There is, however, a significant difference between the ages in the Genesis account and the fantastically huge number of years that antediluvian rulers are said to have reigned. The Sumerian King List, for example, indicates the length of the reigns of eight rulers to have been 28,800, 36,000, 43,200, 28,800, 36,000, 28,800, 21,000, and 18,600 years respectively.
Millions of people today would be unable to trace their ancestry back for more than 400 years, and no one can definitively verify the exact length of life spans of their earliest ancestors who lived thousands of years ago. As to what conclusion individuals may draw about the ages recorded in the book of Genesis, this depends on whether they believe that God is the Creator of the first humans or that he does not exist. Just because a person cannot prove the existence of ancestors beyond a relatively recent time in history does not establish that earlier ancestors who accomplished remarkable tasks never lived. Likewise, one cannot prove that there is no God or that he had no part in bringing earthly life into existence. At a certain point in history, we reach a beginning for humankind, and Genesis identifies YHWH as the Creator and the God who is linked to that beginning.