A few days ago, I was in Ohio at the invitation of Pastor Bob Helm and his small Seventh-day Adventist congregation in Harrison. I was there to give a weekend seminar on origins, highlighting some of the research I had compiled for my book, “Dinosaurs—an Adventist View.” I had risen at 3:30 a.m. Friday morning to catch a 6:30 flight to Cincinnati, arriving at mid-morning, because I wanted to spend several hours at the nearby Creation Museum, which is affiliated with the “Answers in Genesis” apologetics ministry led by Ken Ham. I had preached a vespers Friday evening, and was scheduled to deliver the sermon plus a Sabbath Afternoon seminar, so I recouped some lost rest by sleeping in on Sabbath Morning. The lesson study was already in progress when I arrived at Sabbath School; I entered as unobtrusively as possible.
Just after I took a seat, one of the members stated that each time he read the Bible, he found new and deeper truths in it—except for the genealogies, which, he said, most people skip over because they are just long, boring lists of names. Most of the others chuckled or agreed that, yes, the genealogies are pretty boring. At that point, Pastor Helm chimed in and stated that there is value even in the genealogies. For example, when you concatenate the meanings of the names in the genealogy in Genesis 5, he noted, you will find that a prophecy emerges: “Humanity appointed wretched, falling. The blessed God will descend - dedicated. His death will bring power, rest.” The class was impressed: “that's why we love this man,” said one of the class members.
I was as impressed as the Harrison Sabbath School class, and also intrigued. After returning home, I researched this issue. Sure enough, there is a prophecy in the genealogy of Genesis 5, and Pastor Helm is not the first to have noticed it. Let's go through the names one by one.
Adam = manThe Hebrew word Adam means “man.” Adam is also phonetically very close to “adamma,” which means “ground,” from the dust of which Adam was formed (Gen. 2:7)
Seth = appointed, granted, given
After Cain murdered Abel, Eve became pregnant and gave birth to Seth, saying “God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (Gen. 4:25). The name Seth means “appointed,” “granted,” or “given.”
Enosh = mortal, frail, feeble
Enosh is from the root anash, meaning incurable, or leading to death, as in a mortal wound, a grief, a woe, a sickness, or a wickedness.
Kenan = Sorrow, dirge, lamentation
The exact meaning of Kenan is obscure, but it possibly means to chant a dirge or lamentation, or to sing a sad song. Other commentators state that the word means “possession.”
Mahalalel = The Blessed God, the Praiseworthy God
The first part of the name, Mahalal, means “blessed” or “praise.” The last part of the name, El, means “God.” (Interestingly, a plural form of El is Elohim, but when used in reference to the Hebrew God does not mean “gods” but “God,” as in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God [Elohim] created the heavens and the earth.”) Hebrew names often incorporate el, as in Daniel, which means “God is my judge.” Mahalalel means the “The Blessed God.”
Jared = Shall come down
The name Jared comes from the very common verb yaradh, which means to come down, go down, or descend, or to leave a prominent place such as a palace.
Enoch = Discipling
The name Enoch comes from the verb hanak meaning to dedicate (or initiate, or inaugurate), as one would dedicate a building, wall, altar, or image, after completing it. (Hanukka, which will be celebrated soon, means “feast of dedication.”) Alternative meanings are to imprint, to instruct, to make wise, and to train, as in, “train up (hanak) a child in the way he should go.” (Prov. 22:6) The derivative hanik means, “trained.” (see, e.g., Gen. 14:14)
A composite that incorporates all of these actions—training, instructing, making wise, and dedicating (ordaining, consecrating, setting apart)--is discipling, and discipling is a large part of what Jesus did when He was here on earth. A disciple walks with his master, and Enoch exemplified this characteristic; he “walked with God until he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). In Patriarchs and Prophets, Ellen White states that Enoch was a prophet and an evangelist who taught and preached widely, not only among the descendants of Seth, but among the Canites as well. Enoch was a disciple who walked with God and also discipled others.
Methuselah = His death shall bring
God revealed to Enoch His plan to destroy the world with a Great Flood (PP 85), apparently telling Enoch that as long as his son was alive, God would forbear judgment. Enoch made his son's name a prophecy: “When he dies, it will come” or “his death shall bring it.” If you add up the numerical data given in the chrono-genealogy of Genesis 5, you will see that Methuselah lived until the year of the Flood. (See, e.g., Spirit of Prophecy, v. 1, p. 170: “Methuselah, the grandfather of Noah, lived until the very year of the flood; and there were others who believed the preaching of Noah, and aided him in building the ark, who died before the flood of waters came upon the earth.” ) Methuselah's name is thus a prophecy within a prophecy.
Think about the fact that Methuselah lived longer than any other man who ever lived and died (969 years) in conjunction with the prophetic aspect of his name. God stated that he would bring the Flood at the end of Methuselah's life, then He made Methuselah the longest-lived man in history. Truly, God is “slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Num. 14:18). “God is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:8-10).
Lamech = the despairing
The name Lamech does not come from any Hebrew root word, but may be constructed of the particle le, meaning to or towards; and the verb muk, meaning low, depressed, down. Hence, the word could literally mean to lower, to depress. Some commentators note that Lamech is phonetically related to the English word lamentation, which is a noisy form of grieving, mourning, or despairing.
Noah = comfort, rest
Genesis 5:29 tells us that Lamech named his son Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.” Although Enoch was a prophet, Lamech clearly was not; Noah's life work would not be to comfort but rather to warn of the coming judgment, an uncomfortable message for the rebellious antediluvians. And while the ground was cursed in Lamech's day, it would be even more cursed and require more toil after the Flood Noah warned of. But although Noah's named proved not to be prophetic for his own life, it is prophetic in the context of the prophecy contained within the Genesis 5 genealogy.
Another meaning of the name Noah comes from the verb nuah, meaning to rest, to settle down, to stop wandering around. This root mainly signifies rest or repose, but with overtones of finality, victory, and salvation.
The prophecy found in the genealogy of Genesis 5 is thus, “Man given mortal sorrow. The Blessed God shall come down, discipling. His death shall bring the despairing comfort, rest.”
Obviously, no human compiler of the Scriptures could have placed a Messianic prophecy in the genealogy of Genesis 5. Its presence there points to a superintending Intelligence, a power beyond the merely human. God knew of the plan of salvation before the creation of the earth (Rev. 13:8; Rom. 16:25-27), and hence could inspire the antediluvian fathers to name their sons in a way that, taken together, would create a prophecy of that great plan.
The Bible, consisting of 66 books written over the course of hundreds of years by many different writers, displays a unity of theme and message that could only be the result of inspiration. This is why it is said that the Scriptures are self-authenticating; they give clear evidence of their own inspiration. We can have confidence that “all Scripture is theopneustos (“god-breathed”) and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 1 Tim. 3:16-17.