Generations of Adam

Generations of Adam

"Generations of Adam" is a concept in Genesis 5:1 in the Hebrew Bible. It is typically taken as name of Adam's line of descent going through Seth. Another view equates the generations of Adam with material about a second line of descent starting with Cain in Genesis 4, while Genesis 5 is taken as the "generations of Noah".


Seth and Cain

Both the Cainite and the Sethite lines begin with Adam. The Sethite line in Genesis 5 extends to Noah and his three sons. The Cainite line in Genesis 4 runs to Naamah. The seventh generation Lamech descended from Cain is described as the father of Jabal and Jubal (from his first wife Adah) and Tubal-cain and Naamah (from his second wife, Zillah). The ninth generation Lamech, descended from Seth, is described as the father of Noah. (Gen.4:17-22 Gen.5:1-32)

Sethite Cainite
Seth --
Enos --
Cainan Cain
Mahalaleel Enoch
Jared Irad
Enoch Mehujael
Methuselah Methusael
Lamech (father of Noah) Lamech

The Sethite line also gives ages at fatherhood and at death. In the Masoretic text, ages at death range from 777 (Lamech) to 969 (Methuselah), placing the text in the category of longevity narratives. The Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch differ somewhat in the ages given; in the Septuagint, the age at fatherhood is often 100 years later than that in the Masoretic text, extending the genealogy by several centuries.

The 2nd-century BC Book of Jubilees, regarded as non-canonical except by Coptic Christianity[citation needed], gives the wives' names for the Sethite line:

Husband Wife
Seth Azura
Enos Noam
Cainan Mualaleth
Mahalaleel Dinah
Jared Baraka
Enoch Edna
Methuselah Edna
Lamech Betenos
Noah Emzara


The word "generations", toldoth, appears 11 times in Genesis, providing a natural division of the book into nine to twelve narratives.[citation needed]

Because Methuselah has the oldest age appearing in the bible, the name "Methuselah" has become a general reference to longevity.

The enigmatic description given to Enoch is that he "walked with God, and was not", suggesting bodily translation to heaven and leading to speculation and lore such as the 2nd-century BC Book of Enoch, which is canonical in Coptic Christianity[citation needed].

Name Etymological translation[1]
Adam "Man", masculine of adamah, "earth", "ground".
Seth "Appointed [one]" (Genesis 4:25), from shiyth.
Enos "Mortal frailty", from anash, "sick", "frail", "mournful", "melancholy", "wicked". By analogy to anashim (cf. ben Yehuda, Aramaic Enosh in Daniel), may denote "peoples", alluding to the spreading forth of the population in his day.
Qenan "Habitation", "possession", "lot" or "Smith"; from primitive root qen, "birdsnest".
Mahalal'el "God [be] praised", from primitive root "shining forth" and El, "God".
Jared "Descent", from primitive verb "come down", "prostrate", perhaps alluding to the Watchers that wrongfully descended from heaven among men in his day and led them astray in the Book of Enoch.
Enoch "Dedication", "discipling", "teaching", from primitive root meaning "train up".
Methuselah Two alternative etymologies are suggested:
  • "[His] death shall bring to pass", from muth, "death", and shelach, "send forth"; - this translation is uncertain and it is also suggested that the name may come from root words meaning "death" and "to send forth." In this case is taken to be a prophetic reference to the Deluge; and it is notable that Methusaleh is recorded as having died in the same year as the Deluge came [Masoretic text] and described extra-canonically as having died seven days prior to the coming of the Deluge [Rashi]. The idea that Methuselah's death was a prerequisite before the Deluge was sent dates back at least to the Babylonian Targum [Sanhedrin 108]
  • "man of the dart", "spear", "sword", from math, "man", and shelach, "sword"; or "man sent forth"; or "from him sent forth", from me-otho, "from him". - this translation is more commonly espoused by modern translators
Lamech "Captive", "slave", "pauper", as a reversal of the letters in the root Melekh ("king"). Also suggested to mean "Conqueror" or "powerful" by relationship to the same root.
Noah "Rest", "comfort", from primitive root nuch, "rest".


Seth to Cain

Form critics consider the two lines as corruptions of one tradition. Both the similarities and the differences between lines are significant and do not admit simple explanation:

Sethite line Cainite line
Seth Yahweh
Enos (mortal) Adam (mankind)[¶ 1]
Kenan Cain
Mahalaleel Enoch
Jared Irad
Enoch Mehujael
Methuselah "Methuselah" (per Septuagint)[¶ 2]
Lamech Lamech

Robert Best[2] suggests that the sequence of Enoch and Mehujael are reversed in Genesis 4 and similarities in the following table suggest a common source.

Genesis 5 Genesis 4
Kenan Cain
Mahalalel Mehujael
Jared Irad
Enoch Enoch
Methuselah Methushael
Lamech Lamech

Seth to Sumer

Both the Sethite line and the antediluvian Sumerian king list have ten names prior to a flood and speak of exceptional longevity that significantly diminishes after the flood. However, tentative homologies between the names on the two lists, besides possibly Adamu (Adapa) and Adam, are matters of dispute.[citation needed]


  1. ^ cite book|title=Strong's Exhaustive Bible Concordance
  2. ^ R.M. Best, Noah's Ark and the Ziusudra Epic, page 154

Family tree notes

Other notes

  1. ^ cf Adamant
  2. ^ "Methusael" (per Masoretic)

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