Friday, May 25, 2007

The Seventh Generation

Any New Testament scholar knows how important it is to read the New Testament in light of the Old. However, reading the Old Testament in light of the New can also be quite profitable. This week I had another confirmation of that dictum.

Whenever I teach OT, I like to emphasize that genealogies have a purpose--they virtually always have some deep significance. The generations of Adam in Genesis 4 and 5 are a good case in point. From Adam emerges two lines of descent--a wicked line through Cain and a righteous line through Seth. Read Genesis 4 and 5 carefully and you'll discover that the full flowering of wickedness or righteousness becomes apparent in the seventh generation from Adam in each respective line. One might make a few observations.

Through Cain's line, the name of his son--a family name--is promiment (Gen. 4:17). This line is associated with building cities (civilization) and learning music (leisure) (cf. Gen. 4:21-22). In the seventh generation from Adam in Cain's line emerges Lamech, a vengeful murderer (Gen 4:19-24.

However, in the seventh generation from Adam in Seth's line emerges Enoch, who "walked with God... and God took him" (Gen 5:21-24). This line is associated with men who call on the name of the Lord (Gen 4:26). In contrast to the Cainites, the Sethites are linked with those who are described as living the life of toil--bearing one of the curses of Adam and Eve's sin (Gen. 3:17; Gen 4:29).

Now, whenever I explain all this I always have to point out that Genesis never explicit mentions the significance of the seventh generation--it is only evident after a close literary analysis.

However, as I was covering Jude this week in my Into to NT class, I noticed something interesting in Jude 14: "It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied..." Seems that Jude was counting the generations as well...

No comments: