Growing up my favorite movie was Willy Wonka (the terrifying and trippy Gene Wilder version). I remember the first time I saw the Everlasting Gobstopper scene, I begged my mom to go buy me one. I mean how great would it be to have candy that never ran out?? I was a little confused when I got the box and there were so many Gobstoppers in there. If it’s everlasting all you would need is one, right? Did they think I had a million friends to share them with? Or maybe they aren’t as everlasting as I thought…
If you’ve been reading along with us in our “Garden to City” reading plan – at this point we are well into the book of Genesis and already encountered some pretty intense stories. Our hope throughout the year is to occasionally share some thoughts on chapters that won’t get talked about on Sunday mornings.
In Genesis chapter 5 we encounter a section of scripture that, if we are honest, many of us glaze over when we get to it. It’s the genealogy of Adam to Noah. And it’s basically a list of names and how long they lived and who their kids are. It’s not overly interesting. But one thing does stand out.
As you read the genealogy, over and over again, you come to a line that reads, “Thus all the days of ______ were ______ years, and he died”
This happens 6 times – and then we get to a guy named Enoch and at the end of his account, it doesn’t say, “and then he died”, rather it says, “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.”
Seems odd right? Why didn’t Enoch die? What is the significance of that?
If you remember back to Genesis 3, one of the reasons Adam and Eve were afraid to eat of the tree was fear of death. But the serpent promises, “You will not surely die” and so they eat. Much of life is about avoiding death, about protecting those we love, about extending life as long as we can, but what Genesis 5 shows us is that death is unavoidable. Even the guys mentioned in Genesis 5, who lived for 700+ years, eventually die, kinda like my Gobstopper. Life as we know it is not as everlasting as we would like. That’s a fact of the fallen world.
So in the midst of a chapter filled with, “And then he died, and then he died and then he died”, it should send off bells and whistles when we get to Enoch and notice, he didn’t die. He simply was no more.
After hundreds of years of Adams descendants living in death, living in the fear of death, living surrounded by pain – we get a glimmer of hope.
As boring as a genealogy can be to read, this one is significant and packed with meaning. In the hebrew world, 7 carried significance as wholeness and perfection – is it significant that Enoch is mentioned 7th in the genealogy? Is it a reminder that God is still at work, that death doesn’t win? In God’s perfect world, life wins. Hope wins. Maybe that’s it.
More importantly this passage shows us – when we rely on ourselves, when we live life according to our own desires and plans, no matter how amazing we are or how long we live, it all ultimately leads to death. But Enoch, “walked with God” and didn’t taste death.
One scholar put it this way, “The finality of death caused by sin, and so powerfully demonstrated in the genealogy of Genesis, is in fact not so final. Man was not born to die; he was born to live, and that life comes by walking with God.… Walking with God is the key to the chains of the curse. Enoch’s transport yet says more for the broader salvific plan of God. It is signal confirmation of God’s merciful designs to fulfill his promises of life and blessing. Such favor upon Seth’s lineage indicates that his will be the elected vehicle.”
In the midst of the fall, in the midst of death and pain, God inserts a seemingly innocent line into the script. One where life sneaks back in and death doesn’t win.
The reference to Seth’s line should point us to Jesus. The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus comes from the line of Seth.
Here’s why all of this is important, and why genealogies maybe aren’t as boring as we think.
All the way at the beginning of the bible, early in Genesis, God points us to Jesus. God reminds us of his love for us and of his plan to redeem and renew and restore all things. All the way back in Genesis 5 we are pointed to Jesus and reminded – that in this life we are surrounded by death – but in Jesus and in walking with Jesus we find life.