Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Genesis 5 (2004)

In this post, I will comment on some of my notes for my 2004 weekly quiet time on Genesis 5.

1. "Matthew Henry insights: God describes more fully the line of Seth than that of Cain, for the name of the just is blessed, while the name of the wicked will rot. God let them live for so long to perpetuate his truth. Adam was made in God's image, but Seth was born after the image of Adam---sinful and on his way to death. Enoch walked with God after Methuselah was born, meaning he arrived at his eminence by degrees. (Note: Philo says that God's forgiveness of Cain encouraged Enoch to repent.) Enoch walked with God in that he agreed with God (Amos 3:3) and was like a priest preaching righteousness and prophesying of Christ's second coming (see I Samuel 2:30, 35; Zechariah 3:7; Jude 14). (Note: E.W. Bullinger sees Enoch's walking with God as literal, in light of Genesis 2-3). Even though Enoch never had a city named after him (as the Cainite Enoch did), he was translated."

I actually like this note, whose points I got from Matthew Henry and other interpreters, such as Philo of Alexandria and E.W. Bullinger. Why do I like it? Because I appreciate attempts to find significance in every detail of Scripture, which is one reason that I study rabbinics. Here, Matthew Henry is addressing the question of why the genealogy of Seth is more detailed than that of Cain---in that Seth's genealogy goes into how old a person was when his child was born, and how long he lived after the child's birth. For Henry, the message here is that the name of the righteous will endure longer than the name of the wicked, and that the righteous lived for a long time so that God's truth could be promulgated. Another explanation could be that God values the righteous, and so he dwells on their lifespans---as if he is interested in every detail of their life.

Do we really know that the line of Seth was righteous? The text doesn't say. If you do the math on the chronology, you will find that Methuselah died in the flood, so how can we say that the line of Seth was righteous, since the life of Methusaleh was not spared? I suppose that there were more people in Seth's line whom we know to be righteous---Enoch, Noah, and maybe Noah's father, Lamech, who was a believer in God---whereas Cain's line had some wicked people, such as Lamech. And it was also the case that the line of Seth was preserved in the Flood, whereas the line of Cain was killed off. (But it's worth noting that, in Prologue to History, John Van Seters makes the point that Genesis 4 does not assume the Flood, for the line of Cain was making significant cultural contributions---such as dwelling in tents, metal-work, and music---things that continued up to the author's day. Did the author of that particular story really believe that a Flood cut short these cultural contributions?) So I guess I can see why one would view the line of Seth as righteous, and the line of Cain as wicked.

But does God love the righteous more than the wicked? I think that God cherishes and appreciates those who try to do his will---who agree with him on the value of righteousness. And maybe those particular people have an especially intimate relationship with God---a point that E.W. Bullinger may have been making when he said that Enoch practically had a pre-Fall sort of interaction with the divine. But what I appreciate about my first note is that it makes points about God loving everybody, and about even the righteous being imperfect. Enoch had to grow into the sort of person who walked with God, meaning that he wasn't always righteous. God preaches righteousness to sinners, indicating that he desires their repentance. And yet, it's not always the case that a goody-two-shoes preaching righteousness is what brings a sinner to repentance, for, according to Philo, God's mercy towards repentant Cain was what encouraged Enoch to get right with God.

I do not know if the name of the righteous outlasts the name of the wicked, as Matthew Henry states. There are names of righteous and wicked people that have lasted for a considerable amount of time. But it is worth noting that God cares when we do the right thing, even if nobody else does. Perhaps that is why God muses over the line of Seth, and why the line of Seth was valuable, even if, unlike the line of Cain, it did not have worldly accomplishments attached to it.

2. "Nahum Sarna says that, in Genesis 5, Enoch actually does die, since God taking people refers to death in Ezekiel 24:16, 18 and Jonah 4:3."

This caught my eye because it resembled my Armstrongite background, which said that Enoch actually did die. The reason that the Armstrongs said that Enoch did die was twofold: (1.) Hebrews 11:13 says that "all these died in faith", after discussing Enoch, and (2.) John 3:13 affirms that no man has ascended into heaven, except for Jesus Christ. For the Armstrongs, when Hebrews 11 says that Enoch did not die, what it means is that God preserved Enoch's life from those who wanted to kill him, by taking him to a safe location. But Enoch then lived out his life and passed away, like every human being.

I really don't know how I feel about this issue nowadays. I don't particularly care, to be honest. It's an example of how the Armstrong religion prided itself on knowing things that others did not know, an attitude of arrogance that I prefer to avoid nowadays. And yet, at the same time, I'm open to different interpretations of Scripture. I think that what underlies the Armstrongite position is the view that all of Scripture is consistent, since it is the Word of God, a belief to which most conservative Christians would assent. But what if the Enoch story contradicts John 3:13, or the author of Hebrews 11 contradicted himself when he said that Enoch did not die, before saying later that "all these die in faith"? Human beings can make mistakes, such as not remembering every single passage of Scripture when they make a point, or writing something that's internally inconsistent. If the authors of the Bible were humans who made mistakes, does that thoroughly undermine the existence of spiritual truth, or the reality to which they were pointing?

Then there's the issue of I Enoch, which says that Enoch went to heaven. Some believe that I Enoch was based on Genesis 5, whereas, believe it or not, others hold that the passage about Enoch in Genesis 5 was a condensed version of I Enoch. Does this mean that the author of Genesis 5 thought that Enoch went to heaven? Then there's Jude 14, which overlaps strongly with I Enoch 1:9. Does that mean that elements of the early church viewed I Enoch as inspired, which would mean that they thought that Enoch went to heaven?

Perhaps, when it comes to the Bible on the translation of Enoch, the Armstrongs were both right and wrong---there is a case for saying that he died and did not go to heaven, and there's a case for saying otherwise. Does it matter? Perhaps what's important is that God took care of someone who tried to follow God's righteousness.

3. "Noah brought rest, maybe because he invented the plow, or his dad predicted that Noah would bring rest because he had high hopes in Noah (fulfilled in Christ)."

I read another view in John Van Seters' Prologue to History: Noah brought rest in Genesis 9, where he established agriculture and invented wine! As a recovering alcoholic, I don't go to the bottle to solve my problems. But the Bible does have positive things to say about wine (Psalm 104:15; Proverbs 31:6), and it also has negative things to say about it (Proverbs 20:1; 21:17; 23:30-31; 31:4). It can be conducive to celebration and help people feel better, but it can also cloud people's judgment and place them in embarrassing situations, as it did for Noah. We have to make our own decisions about what to do with alcohol, remembering that there can be consequences from drinking.