Genesis 5 deals with the family of Adam. Basically, it just lists who begot whom, how old they were at the time of begetting, and how long they lived.
This is the first chapter that I just couldn't stand to read. It is boring. Why does God care whether I know this? It's just an opportunity for someone to mess up a genealogy later in Bible study. And if this genealogy is so important, why don't we have chapters following the geneology all the way to today?
Aside from the boredom, I have really only one major issue with this chapter: the old age these guys achieved. I don't think I believe it. Adam, as you may recall, should have dropped dead the day he touched the fruit of the tree of knowledge. (Genesis 2:17) However, in chapter five, we learn that Adam lived 930 years (Genesis 5:5). Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Jared and Methusaleh lived over 900 years as well.
Adam has already been dispatched from the garden, so he was living in the same imperfect world that houses us today. Except his tree of knowledge didn't give him knowledge of such life-extending scientific discoveries as penicillin and other modern medicines. We know, from historical records, that during the time Adam was living out these 900 years, nearby cultures, such as the Egyptians, had flourishing societies, sophisticated argriculture and ranching, and rudimentary knowledge of medicine. And they were considered old men if they reached 40 years. Infant mortality was high, and parasites and infection meant that a drink of stale water, a simple hand wound or a throat infection could kill a healthy man in a few days. There is no apparent reason why they would have lived such long splendid lives. 900 years without war, famine, disease, injury? Not on this planet.
I've heard only two explanations for this: (1) it is literally true, for reasons we can never know until we die and all will be revealed to us ; and (2) a "year" meant a shorter period of time back then. A lunar cycle was suggested by some as being called a "year." This would put Adam's death at a more believable 77 years. The problem with this analysis is that these guys were 90 years old or younger when they started having kids. If a "year" was really a "month", than Enosh, the 90-year-old father of Cainan, was only seven when his wife conceived. Which means this is as far-fetched as explanation number one.
Yesterday, I went over the explanation that Cain's wife must have been a sister. Well, Genesis 5:4 seems to confirm my initial view. "4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters." This is the first mention of daughters of Adam. No mention of daughters before Seth was born to replace Abel. Yet, daughters were clearly important enough to mention.
On a petty note -- and this was from an email that an atheist sent -- verse two says "Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created." God called the women "Adam", too? Said atheist also says this passage says man and woman were made at the same time. I don't think the language is that clear. But that problem was really flushed out in my discussion of chapters one and two anyhow.
And I was initially confused about Lamech being Noah's father. But then I went back and noticed that Cain's descendant Lamech was the son of Methushael (4:18). Noah's father Lamech, descendent of Seth, was the son of similarly named Methuselah (5:25).
Now that Noah has been begotten, I know I am about to embark on the most fundamentally unbelievable literal story of the Bible. So I'm going to work on it over the long weekend. As I do so, I will also ponder this: can I be a Christian if I think the Jews were wrong in believing that Genesis was the divine and inerrant Word of God?