Genesis 5 – Intentional Contrasts and the Sumerian King List

enoch

Before we consider the contents of the text at hand, it would be wise of us to recognize that we are looking at a unique type of literature that is no longer used today.  To see this, there are two considerations we must examine.

First, this list is very similar to the Sumerian King list.  The Sumerian King List also discusses the time periods before the flood and after the flood.  We will only focus on the period prior to the flood.  However, if you were to look at the post-flood kings you would see a very large list that has reigns slowly decreasing from very large to low numbers.[1]  The Sumerians, at an early state of their record keeping, used 60 as their base number (equivalent to our concept of 1), and so I have done the math for you and reduced the numbers in the 2nd column of the chart.[2]

Original Changed to Decimal Genesis
No mention of the first human(s) in this list. No mention of the first human(s) in this list. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.
After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridu.
In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 28,800 years.
After the kingship descended from heaven, the kingship was in Eridu.
In Eridu, Alulim became king; he ruled for 480 years.
When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.
Alalgar ruled for 36,000 years.
Two kings; they ruled for 64800 years.
Alalgar ruled for 600 years.
Two kings; they ruled for 1080 years.
When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.
Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira.
In Bad-tibira, Enmen-lu-ana ruled for 43,200 years.
Then Eridu fell and the kingship was taken to Bad-tibira.
In Bad-tibira, Enmen-lu-ana ruled for 720 years.
When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.
Enmen-gal-ana ruled for 28,800 years. Enmen-gal-ana ruled for 480 years. When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.
The divine Dumuzi, the shepherd, ruled for 36,000 years.
Three kings; they ruled for 108,000 years.
The divine Dumuzi, the shepherd, ruled for 600 years.
Three kings; they ruled for 1800 years.
When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch. Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.
Then Bad-tibira fell and the kingship was taken to Larak.
In Larak, En-sipad-zid-ana ruled for 28,800 years.
One king; he ruled for 28,800 years.
Then Bad-tibira fell and the kingship was taken to Larak.
In Larak, En-sipad-zid-ana ruled for 480 years.
One king; he ruled for 480 years.
When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
Then Larak fell and the kingship was taken to Sippar.
In Sippar, Enmen-dur-ana became king; he ruled for 21,000 years.
One king; he ruled for 21000 years.
Then Larak fell and the kingship was taken to Sippar.
In Sippar, Enmen-dur-ana became king; he ruled for 350 years.
One king; he ruled for 350 years.
When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.
Then Sippar fell and the kingship was taken to Šuruppak.
In Šuruppak, Ubara-Tutu became king; he ruled for 18,600 years.
One king; he ruled for 18,600 years.
Then Sippar fell and the kingship was taken to Šuruppak.
In Šuruppak, Ubara-Tutu became king; he ruled for 310 years.
One king; he ruled for 310 years.
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.
Five cities; eight kings ruled for 385,200 years.
Then the Flood swept over.
Five cities; eight kings ruled for 6420 years.
Then the Flood swept over.
[If we were to add up the total number of years lived the result would be: 7625.  If we exclude Adam (since the Sumerian list excludes the first man) the total is: 6695
No mention of the flood survivor in this list No mention of the flood survivor in this list After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

It sounds like there is a straight line of succession of kingship, but the Sumerians didn’t actually believe this was literally so.  This is a stylized arrangement that’s meant to give the appearance of kingship being passed down from one king to another without overlap or delay, despite the fact that these kings did overlap.  The arrangement is meant to communicate that kingship is only meant to be held at one place at a time; there could only be one king in the world.  This was a handy thing for the Sumerians to say, since they claimed that they held the kingship and that they should be the rulers of the world.  So, they arranged history to fit with the message they wanted to communicate, while at the same time both they and their audience understood that the list wasn’t meant to be taken as a straightforward reading.

Second, this is somewhat similar to the genealogy of Matthew, which counts 3 groups of 14 generations from Adam to Jesus.  The number 14 corresponds to the name David and the total number of generations corresponds to the total number of stages of travel (42) between the Exodus to the Promised Land (Numbers 33).  So, we see that the Bible commonly takes genealogical lists and chooses not to include individuals in the modified list so that the resulting list will fit with the message that the author is looking to communicate.  The genealogies before and after the flood are symmetrical: 10 generations with the 10th generation having 3 sons where one of the 3 sons has something negative happen to him.  Furthermore, Luke indicates to us that the list of 10 generations after the flood is missing at least one individual (Luke 3:36).  What does that mean for us when we want to understand Genesis 5?  It means that the list could be missing many generations of individuals and it is not meant to be taken as a straightforward full genealogy.  It also means that the intended meaning of the text is found in how it is arranged, which is where we will focus our attention.

Line Comparisons:

Cain’s Line Seth’s Line
3rd from Adam (Enoch) has a city named after him 3rd from Adam relies on God through prayer
  Seth’s Enoch walks with God
7th from Adam (Lamech) is a polygamous murderer 7th from Adam walks with God and is transported to Heaven – he doesn’t die
  Seth’s Lamech desires salvation from God’s curse

Since the genealogy is arranged to communicate a message, we will look for that intended message.  First, the numbers 3 and 7 stand out in the Bible and so readers are meant to pay attention to them when they appear.  The third from Adam in Cain’s line has a city named after him – a worldly accomplishment for a worldly person.  The third from Adam in Seth’s line relies on God through prayer – a detail that demonstrations humble devotion.  The seventh from Adam in Cain’s line is a polygamous murderer – he’s the picture of true scum and embodies the attitude of the world.  The seventh from Adam in Seth’s line walks with God and is taken from the world before he dies – he’s the picture of true hope: some people will escape the curse and will come to know God personally.    So, we are meant to compare and contrast the 3rd and 7th individuals in each of these respective lines.

Second, the names of individuals in the two lines are meant to be contrasted.  The Enoch of Cain’s line has a city named after him while the Enoch of Seth’s line is transported to Heaven.  The Lamech of Cain’s line enjoyed sin and relished taking the lives of others in a fallen world, while the Lamech of Seth’s line was burdened by the fallen world and desired for the curse to come to an end.  Seth’s Lamech named his son Noah, which means “rest,” in the hopes that Noah will be the one to bring the world rest from the curse.

Essentially, the highlights of Cain’s line are worldliness and evil while the highlight of Seth’s line is their relationship to God.  This would be a good moment to look to yourself and ask what the highlight of your life is?  Is it the job you once had?  A prize you won?  Something you accomplished in life?  Or is it your walk with God?  When you wake up in the morning and go about your day, what is the joy of your day?  Think carefully, because the thing you find most joy in during your day is going to be what the highlight of your life currently is.

Consider these passages:

Oh how I love your law!  It is my meditation all the day. (Ps 119:97)

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. (Ps. 1)

Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD. (Ps. 107)

Can you relate to this?  Are the Bible and the things God has done (both in the past and in the present) the highlights and joy of your day?   If so, then you are walking in the path of the saints who came before you!  If not, then you are dangerously far from God.  Consider carefully where your heart is.

Third, the most striking difference between Cain’s line and Seth’s line is that Seth’s line mentions life spans and that the individuals died.  Cain’s line implies that they died, and has no concern to tell us how long they lived.  In short, these sorts of details for the ungodly aren’t worth mentioning – they have no hope and no future; there’s no need to waste space on their fine details.  Ultimately, Cain’s line is destroyed in the flood while Seth’s line makes it through the flood.

We will consider the details of the flood in weeks to come, but we should take note of the fact that those who are cut off in the judgment are so unimportant that space isn’t given to the small details of when they had families and when they died.  They lived, they sinned – some sinned so badly it was worth pointing out how horrible they were – and then they died.  It’s a dreary view that demonstrates the low value that is set on their lives when compared to the high value set on the lives of those who love God.  Let’s take a moment to consider how God values those who care for Him:

King David writes:

            You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.   Are they not in your book?  Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call.  This I know, that God is for me. (Psalm 56:8-9)

The Psalmist teaches us that “From oppression and violence God redeems the lives of His saints, and precious is their blood in his sight,” and that “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”  (Psalm 72:14; 116:15)

Or consider the teaching of the Apostle Peter:

            For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority.  (2 Peter 2:4-10)

Do you see the difference?  There is no emphasis on God keeping a record of the sleepless nights of those who hate Him, or that he remembers their tears, or that their lives are precious in His sight.  He takes no pleasure in their death (Ezek 18:23), and even bemoans having to punish them (Isa 16:11), but nowhere is He said to treasure them.  The two genealogical lists emphasize the differences between the two groups, and we ought to take note of these things and consider our lives in light of these facts.  Why should we live meaningless and valueless lives when instead we can live for God and have every moment of our day be counted as important by the Divine King?

[1]http://www.livius.org/k/kinglist/sumerian.html

[2]For a fuller spelling out of the mathematical justification, see: https://answersingenesis.org/bible-history/the-antediluvian-patriarchs-and-the-sumerian-king-list/

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About salutations75

Born and raised Atheist turned Reformed Baptist.
This entry was posted in Ancient Near East, Genesis, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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