The first people

Although the genealogies we find in the Bible would probably not rate as our favorite passages of scripture, these list of names and ages contain gems of information that we might not have any other way. The first list of genealogies starts with the first man, Adam, and goes down ten generations to Noah.

One of the first things that is striking about the list in Genesis 5 is the ages that these men lived to. Adam lived 930 years, and with few exceptions this is roughly the ages that all of these men lived to: 912 years, 905 years, 910 years, 895 years, 962 years, and of course the oldest recorded in the Bible was Methuselah at 969 years.

Many have tried to explain away these ancient ages by suggesting some other means of calculating. One, which on the surface would seem to provide a possible answer, is that these are “lunar” ages – i.e. they advanced one year at the end of each lunar cycle. To simplify, this would basically mean that if we were to divide each age by 12 or 13 (the number of lunar cycles per year), we would arrive at the correct age for these people. This would have Adam only living 71-78 years, and Methuselah only living 75-80 years. Although these ages might satisfy our current longevity, if we follow through with this logic, it soon begins to crumble.

Notice that not only is the total years of the person given, their age at the birth of the one regarded as their firstborn is also given. If these are lunar years, these ages simply do not make sense. Mahalalel having Jared at 65, would really mean he was only 5-6 years old!

When we realise that God created everything, including humans, perfect, these long ages shouldn’t surprise us too much. We are used to death in our world at around 70-90 years. Usually it is health issues, such as cancer, which take our loved ones, although sometimes it is an accident. Yet it would seem these diseases were not initially part of the creation, as everything was very good.

Given a lack of disease and perfect health, and combine this with a perfect living environment, humans would be expected to live much longer lives. Add to this that we have records from other societies, which also have their ancestors living similar ages, it would seem that, although these are long ages compared to today, the Bible has recorded their correct ages.

When we examine the information about Adam in more detail, we discover the answers to other questions we may have from the early chapters of Genesis. Although we sometimes may get the impression that Adam and Eve only had three children, Cain, Abel, and Seth, we discover that they had other sons and daughters. This helps explain where Cain got his wife (it would have to be a sister) and why he feared for his life after killing Abel (there would have been a small community of people by this time, as Adam’s sons and daughters married and had their own children).

Of all the people listed in this chapter, Enoch is the one who is outstanding. “Enoch walked with God, and then he disappeared because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24 NET). He has the shortest life in years but his life never ended. He didn’t have to face death because God took him. He must have been an exceptional man to not only be listed as walking with God but being able to escape death.

Might we develop such a relationship with God that we are known as people who walk with God!

Bible Reading Schedule
13 July – Genesis 9
14 July – Genesis 10
15 July – Genesis 11
16 July – Genesis 12
17 July – Genesis 13

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Jon Galloway

After graduating from Freed-Hardeman College and teaching school for three years, as well as preaching for small congregations in West Tennessee, Jon & Arlene moved back to her home of Glasgow, Scotland. Since 1985 Jon has been involved in evangelistic work in the Glasgow area, currently serving the congregation in East Kilbride. They have three grown children. Besides writing 'Bible Bytes', Jon is also one of the editors of the "Christian Worker," a news magazine for congregations in the UK, and is a teacher and governor for the British Bible School.

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2 thoughts on “The first people

  1. Clearly stated. This was the approach I used teaching Genesis to 7th graders at a Christian school. The effort to calculate by a different kind of “year” breaks down upon examination. The same thing is true regarding days of creation. If we want to say for instance that the days were actually 1000 years, we have to deal with the evening and the morning each being 500 years. What green plants would survive that “long night”?

    Thanks for the article.

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