SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS)-Week 4 Genesis 5-6

Welcome to the SDMB weekly Bible Study (SDMBWBS). This week we will be discussing Genesis 5-6. Since the discussion can turn into a very broad and hijackable thread, we would like the following rules to be adhered to:

  1. These SDMBWBS threads are to deal with the books and stories in the Bible as literature. What I’m hoping to achieve is an understanding of the stories, the time in which they were written, context, and possibly its cultural relevance.

  2. While it is up to the individual to choose to believe or disbelieve any portion, that is not to be the discussion of the thread. If you must, please choose to witness/anti-witness in Great Debates.

  3. The intention is to go through the Bible from front to back in order. While different books are needed to be referred to in order to understand context, please try and keep the focus on the thread’s selected chapter(s)/verse(s).

  4. Since different religions have chosen which books to include or omit, the threads will use the Catholic version of 46 Old Testament Books and 27 New Testament Books. It’s encouraged to discuss why a book was included/omitted during the applicable threads only. BibleHub, as far as I know, is a good resource that compiles many different versions of the verses into one page.(Also the SDMB Staff Reports on Who Wrote the Bible). Please feel free to use whatever source you want, including-and even more helpfully-the original language.

  5. Hopefully we can get through these threads with little to no moderation. A gentle reminder that if a poster comes in and ignores these rules, please use the “report post” function instead of responding.

Links to previous threads:
Genesis 1:1 to 2:25
Genesis 3
Genesis 4

Genesis 5 is a lot of begats so I was thinking that might not be too conversation worthy so I combined it with Genesis 6. So, hope it’s not overstretching.

Genesis 5
New International Version (NIV)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

From Adam to Noah
5 This is the written account of Adam’s family line.

When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. 2 He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind”[a] when they were created.

3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. 4 After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 5 Altogether, Adam lived a total of 930 years, and then he died.

6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he became the father** of Enosh. 7 After he became the father of Enosh, Seth lived 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8 Altogether, Seth lived a total of 912 years, and then he died.

9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he became the father of Kenan. 10 After he became the father of Kenan, Enosh lived 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Altogether, Enosh lived a total of 905 years, and then he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel. 13 After he became the father of Mahalalel, Kenan lived 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Altogether, Kenan lived a total of 910 years, and then he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared. 16 After he became the father of Jared, Mahalalel lived 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Altogether, Mahalalel lived a total of 895 years, and then he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. 19 After he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Altogether, Jared lived a total of 962 years, and then he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. 22 After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. 24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 After he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. 29 He named him Noah[c] and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” 30 After Noah was born, Lamech lived 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Altogether, Lamech lived a total of 777 years, and then he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, he became the father of Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Genesis 6
New International Version (NIV)

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Wickedness in the World
6 When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with[a] humans forever, for they are mortal**; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”

4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.

5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Noah and the Flood
9 This is the account of Noah and his family.

Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress[c] wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high.[d] 16 Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit[e] high all around.[f] Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks. 17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark—you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive. 21 You are to take every kind of food that is to be eaten and store it away as food for you and for them.”

22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

Well, the thing that sticks out in Chapter 5, obviously, is the story of Enoch. And I use the word “story” reluctantly because we really only have one sentence about him: “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Enoch seems to be the only person in the bible other than Elijah to be bodily assumed into heaven without having died, if we accept that that is what is described here. There is a Christian tradition that Enoch and Elijah are the two prophets who return and preach during the end times described in Revelation.

Of course the other really fascinating snippet in this section, before we start getting into the Noah story, is the “sons of God / daughters of humans” and the Nephilim. I hope someone in this thread can shed a little light on that little narrative jewel. It definitely seems like the author assumes that the audience has a level of familiarity with the story already, which we seem to have lost over time.

In the Persian Shahnameh, an epic poem by Ferdowsi, the reigns of the first ten kings are:
The reigns of several shahs in the Shahnameh, an epic poem by Ferdowsi, are given as longer than a century:

Zahhak, 1000 years.
Jamshid, 700 years.
Fereydun, 500 years.
Askani, 200 years.
Kay Kāvus, 150 years.
Manuchehr, 120 years.
Lohrasp, 120 years.
Goshtasp, 120 years

The first ten kings in Sumeria supposedly reigned for 72,000 years each.

Primeval longevity in the Near East is common to most of the religions/histories.

As I mentioned last week, the genealogy of Seth is very similar to the genealogy of Cain.

Most sources I’ve read equate the “sons of God” with angels (or, for some interpreters, fallen angels). They also show up in the prefatorial frame in Job. Angels in Hebraic and Christian lore come in various ranks: archangels, seraphim, cherubim, powers, principalites, and it’s a matter of pure supposition which, if any, of these ranks is meant.

Nephilim are giants. They show up again in Numbers 13:33 as dwelling in the land of Canaan, and possibly in Ezekiel 32:27 to refer to dead Philistine warriors. (The last has a Hebrew word with the same consonant but different vowel sounds. Since the vowels weren’t written in ancient Hebrew, such confusion cannot be discounted.) The etymology of “Nephilim” is dubious, according to the Brown-Driver-Briggs Lexicon, and may mean “fallen”, “those who make others fall”, “those who have fallen away”, or other similar (or dissimilar) meanings.

The Dead Sea Scroll Qumran fragment 4Q417 contains the earliest known reference to the phrase “children of Seth”, stating that God has condemned them for their rebellion. Other early references to the offspring of Seth rebelling from God and mingling with the daughters of Cain, are found in Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, Augustine of Hippo, Julius Africanus, and the Letters attributed to St. Clement. It is also the view expressed in the modern canonical Amharic Ethiopian Orthodox Bible.

The New American Bible commentary draws a parallel to the Epistle of Jude and the statements set forth in Genesis, suggesting that the Epistle refers implicitly to the paternity of nephilim as heavenly beings who came to earth and had sexual intercourse with women. The footnotes of the Jerusalem Bible suggest that the Biblical author intended the nephilim to be an “anecdote of a superhuman race”.

(these last two paragraphs from Wiki)

I’ll comment more on Noah later.

How could they show up again if they died in the Flood?

It appears that this follows on the description of the patriarchs living for hundreds of years. “For those born from now on”, God says, “120 is the upper limit. Because men are sinners and I don’t want them to suffer for centuries.”

Or maybe the age limit applies only to the children of the Nephilim.

But you are correct. There’s all kinds of stuff that the narrator seems to take for granted that we know about, like Enoch and giants.


The simplest answer is that the Canaan-dwelling Nephilim were very tall descendants of Noah who reminded people of the earlier giants. While I haven’t checked the Talmud for this particular feat, I’m certain it’s been discussed there.

The pseudegraphical 1st Book of Enoch, BTW, describes the Nephilim:
“And they became pregnant, and they bare great giants, whose height was three thousand ells: Who consumed all the acquisitions of men. And when men could no longer sustain them, the giants turned against them and devoured mankind. And they began to sin against birds, and beasts, and reptiles, and fish, and to devour one another’s flesh, and drink the blood.” It also mentions there were several types of Nephilim. The angels who fathered the Nephilim are referred to therein as the Watchers.

To continue a conversation from last week, I wanted to chime in to say that I also find the references to the Midrash to be very helpful and interesting, and hope that cmkeller and others will continue to share insights.

It feels a little frustrating that someone (God) would start with two people, and then get to a nice population size after ten generations just to start all over again with a single family unit. It’s like a 4-H project gone wrong.

It also feels a little scant in the details of what has gone amiss with humanity’s behavior, but then extremely thorough in how to build an ark.

One of the problems of being Catholic is that there are a lot of quirky religious folk stories you hear as a kid, and sometimes it strikes me that I have no idea if any of them have actual Biblical origins or if they sprung up in more recent times in the dark forests of Eastern Europe. One that I remember is something about antediluvian animals being smaller than modern animals, which was meant to explain how Noah could fit them all in the ark.

I don’t know if this is too far afield for this thread, but Madeleine L’Engle (the author of A Wrinkle In Time) wrote another YA novel about the events leading up to the Flood, including the story of Enoch, and the Nephilim. It’s a weird little book in many ways, but it includes the “small animals” thing (Noah’s family has a tiny mammoth as a pet) which at least reassured me that it wasn’t a story my grandmother invented.

Approximately how tall would that be?

Well, an ell is a cubit, the length of a man’s arm from his elbow to the tips of his fingers, so… 4,500 feet, give-or-take. The Book of Enoch was written in Hebrew (or a related Semitic language: the only existent full text we have is in a variant language called Ge’ez). Hebrew being a terse language, the translation of this term as “ell” may be wide off the mark, or not.

Greek mythology: [all excerpts from Wikipedia]
The Deucalion legend as told by the Bibliotheca has some similarity to other deluge myths such as the Epic of Gilgamesh and the story of Noah’s Ark. The titan Prometheus advised his son Deucalion to build a chest. All other men perished except for a few who escaped to high mountains. The mountains in Thessaly were parted, and all the world beyond the Isthmus and Peloponnese was overwhelmed. Deucalion and his wife Pyrrha, after floating in the chest for nine days and nights, landed on Parnassus. An older version of the story told by Hellanicus has Deucalion’s “ark” landing on Mount Othrys in Thessaly. Another account has him landing on a peak, probably Phouka, in Argolis, later called Nemea. When the rains ceased, he sacrificed to Zeus. Then, at the bidding of Zeus, he threw stones behind him, and they became men, and the stones Pyrrha threw became women. The Bibliotheca gives this as an etymology for Greek Laos “people” as derived from laas “stone”. The Megarians told that Megarus, son of Zeus and a Sithnid nymph, escaped Deucalion’s flood by swimming to the top of Mount Gerania, guided by the cries of cranes

Sumerian mythology:
Where the tablet picks up, the gods An, Enlil, Enki and Ninhursanga create the black-headed people and create comfortable conditions for the animals to live and procreate. Then kingship descends from heaven and the first cities are founded: Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larsa, Sippar, and Shuruppak.

After a missing section in the Eridu Genesis tablet, we learn that the gods have decided not to save mankind from an impending flood. Zi-ud-sura, the king and gudug priest, learns of this. In the later Akkadian version, Ea, or Enki in Sumerian, the god of the waters, warns the hero (Atra-hasis in this case) and gives him instructions for the ark. This is missing in the Sumerian fragment, but a mention of Enki taking counsel with himself suggests that this is Enki’s role in the Sumerian version as well.

When the tablet resumes it is describing the flood. A terrible storm rocks the huge boat for seven days and seven nights, then Utu (the Sun god) appears and Zi-ud-sura creates an opening in the boat, prostrates himself, and sacrifices oxen and sheep.

After another break the text resumes: the flood is apparently over, the animals disembark and Zi-ud-sura prostrates himself before An (sky-god) and Enlil (chief of the gods), who give him eternal life and take him to dwell in Dilmun for “preserving the animals and the seed of mankind”. The remainder of the poem is lost.

The Gilgamesh epic:
Utnapishtim (or Utanapishtim) is a character in Gilgamesh epic who is asked by Enki, (Ea) to abandon his world possessions and create a giant ship to be called The Preserver of Life. He was also tasked with bringing his wife, family, and relatives along with the craftsmen of his village, baby animals and grains. The oncoming flood would wipe out all animals and humans that were not on the ship, similar to that of the later Noah’s Ark story. After twelve days on the water, Utanapishtim opened the hatch of his ship to look around and saw the slopes of Mount Nisir, where he rested his ship for seven days. On the seventh day, he sent a dove out to see if the water had receded, and the dove could find nothing but water, so it returned. Then he sent out a swallow, and just as before, it returned, having found nothing. Finally, Utanapishtim sent out a raven, and the raven saw that the waters had receded, so it circled around, but did not return. Utanapishtim then set all the animals free, and made a sacrifice to the gods. The gods came, and because he had preserved the seed of man while remaining loyal and trusting of his gods, Utanapishtim and his wife were given immortality, as well as a place among the heavenly gods.

A great many cultures worldwide have a flood myth, but these are the main ones of the same area as Israel.

It definitely wasn’t an upper limit for everyone, because later in Genesis, Abraham lives to 175, and apparently was quite vigorous in his later years. After his wife Sarah died when he was 137, he took another wife, and had half a dozen sons with her.

However, Moses lived to exactly 120 years.

There’s also some question about how long a “year” was. The very remarkable Enoch was taken after he had lived 365 years, which immediately suggests a connection to a solar calendar like the Egyptians used, but the Jews, and the Babylonians who influenced them, had a lunar calendar, and who knows what system of intercalary days or months they were using when various portions of the Bible were written, or whether the author used a more ancient system to correspond to his source material?

Maybe it was just for the Nephilim, then. Or a combination of different traditions, like the two Creation accounts, and the J-E-P-D authors.

The explanation that I got during my days as a fundamentalist about the great ages of the patriarchs was that it was referring to the tribes these people founded, which could last for centuries before splitting off or disappearing. I got the discussion about differing units in relation to Goliath, who was six cubits and a span, which would have been something like nine feet - unless it was Greek cubits, in which case more like 6’10".

But that can wait until 1 Samuel.

It’s funny that the Flood story breaks off in the middle of a chapter. The chapter divisions don’t usually make sense to me. I can’t remember the guy who assigned verse numbers, but wasn’t that until well into the Christian era?


First, on the nephilim, see: (Staff Report I wrote a few years ago is fairly extensive and exhaustive.)

Note that it is ten generations from Adam to Noah. Ten is a mystic number in the bible, like seven, implying completeness. There will also be ten generations from Noah to Abraham.

There’s an interesting larger pattern. Assuming that God wants some Message delivered to humans; he starts with one family (Adam and Eve) and an almost perfect world, and that fails. Ten generations later, humankind has failed miserably, so He wipes them out and starts again with one family (Noah) to help perfect the world. That also fails, so ten generations later, he tries a different tack with one family (Abraham.) That family becomes the Israelites, and during the books of Exodus - Deuteronomy, they continually fail and God threatens to wipe them out and start a new tack again with one person (Moses.) Moses convinces God, several times, to stick it out with the Israelites. Hence later-day Judaism believes that they are a people chosen to deliver God’s Message. (Christiany appends this by saying that God goes back to one person, Jesus, for bringing about a perfected world.)

Chapter 5 could be the P-source, but could arguably be an edited version from an otherside book, distributed throughout Generis 1 - 11, to set a chronological flow to the stories.

The overlap of Cain’s and Seth’s descendents may imply both are derived from an earlier (Mespotamian?) source.

Gen 5:24, Enoch “walked with God” – the verb in Hebrew is reflexive, so “he walked himself with God” makes it emphatic, implying it was his choice and his action.

Gen 6:3 sets 120 years as the alloted days of humans. Later, Joseph lives to 110, Moses to 120, and Joshua to 110.

Gen 5:29 that Noah’s name means “relief” but it canalso mean “regret.” In Gen 6:6, “The Lord regretted that he Had made human beings…” the Hebrew “regret” is a pun on Noah, implying Noah must decide if he will be a relief/comfort or a source of regret.

Another note on 6:5-6:

5 The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.

To the ancient Hebrews the bowels were the seat of the emotions; the heart was where the mind dwelt. The brain was just so much head-filler. So when the author speaks of the thoughts of the human heart, he’s not meaning “bad emotions” as “wicked thoughts”.

I think it would make sense that it’s just exaggeration, the same explanation some have for the longevity of the early patriarchs.

There is one other interesting thing I haven’t seen mentioned: Methuselah, son of Enoch. Not so much because of how long lived he is, but the fact that he dies the year of the flood. That’s what makes me question the “exaggeration” argument. Unless some scribes got together and made sure the numbers lined up or something.

At least, that’s the case in the Masoretic and Samaritan texts, according to Wiki. It would not surprise me if the Septuagint missed this, as it’s just not something the translators would be looking for.

Some scholars have tried to make sense of the long lives by suggesting that the word for years should have been months: 960 months is 80 years. This falls apart, however, when you apply it to parts such as “When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he became the father of Jared”, because then Mahalalel is a father at the age of about 5 1/2.

Young earth creationists and some others who interpret Genesis literally have a “scientific” explanation for the long age spans. They look at the description of the new earth in chapter 1 of being a firmament between two waters as meaning that in addition to the waters of the ocean, there was a vast, thick canopy of water vapor in the atmosphere. This canopy protected the generations of Adam from harmful solar radiation, which allowed humans to live much, much longer. In the deluge, this canopy collapsed, flooding the earth but also exposing it to direct sunlight. In the generations after Noah, life spans gradually shrunk back to what we would consider normal as a result.

I’ve mentioned this, almost word for word, in a post a few years back, but since it didn’t get an answer and since it will probably never be as relevant I’ll ask here again.


Then GENESIS 5 mentions the descendants of Seth, whose great-grandson was Jared.

18And Jared… begat Enoch:

21And Enoch … begat Methuselah:

25And Methuselah … begat Lamech.

So in Genesis 4 you have the Enoch/Irad/Mehujael/Methusael/Lamech line, which is then never mentioned again and presumably their posterity died in the Flood (save any members of the 8 known people on the ark who were descendants).
Then in Genesis 5 you have the Jared/Enoch/Methuselah/Lamech lineage.

Both stories have an Enoch and end in a Lamech, and for the intervening names, they aren’t exactly the same, but they’re very close:


The main distinction is that Genesis 4 is the descendants of Cain and Genesis 5 gives the descendants of Seth.

Since I can’t be the first person to notice the more than just passingly similar names or ask the “why concern yourself in the first place with Cain’s descendants who were, presumably, drowned out anyway” question*, I was wondering if there is an official teaching on this, or perhaps some apocryphal stories about why Cain’s Enoch to Lamech line matters (or if it’s in fact the same one but disputed progenitor [Cain v. Seth])?

*If I was writing a geneaology of Barack Obama, I might mention some non-direct ancestors like his great-uncle who liberated the camp in WW2 or his African grandfather’s last wife who was not biologically B.O.'s grandmother but called herself such due to custom, I might even mention the half siblings he barely knows , but I’m not likely to have a section- even an appendix- on a line that descended from a g-g-g-g-g-g-g-grandfather and wasn’t remarkable in any way and all died out in the 1840s. I figure there has to be some reason the Gen4 genealogy was mentioned to begin with (and as I mentioned in the Gen4 thread, it’s clear that whoever wrote it seemed to think these people’s descendants were still alive and living in tents and raising livestock and playing flutes and all).

I mentioned this during last week’s lesson. A great number of Genesis scholars have pointed out it’s a collection of stories, and lacks both unity and historicity. There’s one tradition that has the Cain genealogy, and another with Seth’s, and there is, as you noted, a fairly direct correlation between the names with some mixing of order and spelling.

Since modern scholarship indicates there were at least two sources (and variations of these sources) redacted into Genesis, and the redactors, when faced with two versions of the same story, decided they were both important and included them. It’s been the grounds for millennia of imaginating conjecture.

There’s an apocryphal story, related by Louis Ginzberg in Legends of the Jews:

“The end of Cain overtook him in the seventh generation of men, and it was inflicted upon him by the hand of his great-grandson Lamech. This Lamech was blind, and when he went a-hunting, he was led by his young son, who would apprise his father when game came in sight, and Lamech would then shoot at it with his bow and arrow. Once upon a time he and his son went on the chase, and the lad discerned something horned in the distance. He naturally took it to be a beast of one kind or another, and he told the blind Lamech to let his arrow fly. The aim was good, and the quarry dropped to the ground. When they came close to the victim, the lad exclaimed: “Father, thou hast killed something that resembles a human being in all respects, except it carries a horn on its forehead!” Lamech knew at once what had happened–he had killed his ancestor Cain, who had been marked by God with a horn. In despair he smote his hands together, inadvertently killing his son as he clasped them. Misfortune still followed upon misfortune. The earth opened her mouth and swallowed up the four generations sprung from Cain–Enoch, Irad, Mehujael, and Methushael. Lamech, sightless as he was, could not go home; he had to remain by the side of Cain’s corpse and his son’s. Toward evening, his wives, seeking him, found him there. When they heard what he had done, they wanted to separate from him, all the more as they knew that whoever was descended from Cain was doomed to annihilation. But Lamech argued, “If Cain, who committed murder of malice aforethought, was punished only in the seventh generation, then I, who had no intention of killing a human being, may hope that retribution will be averted for seventy and seven generations.” With his wives, Lamech repaired to Adam, who heard both parties, and decided the case in favor of Lamech.”

The statement that Lamech had two wives is sometimes given as evidence of the wickedness of mankind prior to the Flood.

It’s possible, from a literary viewpoint, that one or more of Noah’s sons married a descendant of Cain. There’s something of a tradition that Naamah, a descendant of Cain, married Noah.

But nothing official or authoritative, as far as I know.