When we try to read through the Bible, most people’s eyes start to glaze over at Genesis 5. I think most people skim from Cain murdering Abel (Genesis 4) to Noah’s Ark (Genesis 6). But there is a massive, powerful truth hiding in the middle of all the “So-and-so begat so-and so and lived for x amount of years and died,”’s.
To understand that truth, you need some context.
In the ancient world, there was a list of kings. This list of kings started with a man some think was considered at least partly divine, a demigod, who lived for a very long time: 28,800 years. About seven or so kings descend from this demigod and live for over 10,000 years each. After that, the lifespans start dropping into the hundreds and low thousands. By the time you get to actual history, the lifespans start to look mostly normal.
When you read Genesis 5, you will also see people living for a very long time: Adam lives to be 930, Seth, 912, Enosh, 905, Kenan, 910, and so on. This list also goes back to God. It says God made Adam in the image of God.
The lists are similar in some ways, but the big difference between the Genesis 5 list and the list of kings is that the Genesis 5 isn’t a list of kings.
Genesis 5 is a list of everybody.
In the biblical story, everyone who ever lived is descended from Noah. Noah is the last person on the Genesis 5 list.
Many biblical scholars believe Genesis 5 is resistance writing. When it was written down, the people of God had been captured and dragged away to a foreign land. This land was ruled by people whose names were on the list of kings.
The list of kings implies those kings ruled because they were descended from the gods. Genesis 5 implies being descended from the gods does not give someone the right to rule over others, because everyone bears the image of God. Everyone is descended from Adam, who was made in the image of God.
Today, we are tempted to rank some people higher than others, but the message of Genesis 5 is that we are all descended from Adam. Adam bears the image of God. As Adam’s descendants, we also bear God’s image, and so does every other person we meet.
I have friends who are interested in their genealogy. They try to find out if they are related to kings twenty-some generations back. That is interesting, but I think this is better: We are all related to Adam and Eve, the first humans, who were made in the image of God. Which is about as close as you can get to being divine.
So next time you meet someone who treats you as less-than, remember the Bible says you are descended from someone who was made in the image of God. And next time you see someone you are tempted to treat as less-than, remember that they are, too.
Not bad for a list of “so-and-so begat so-and-so and lived for x many years.”
This column appeared in The Herald-Palladium on May 11, 2019.