Beginnings: Overlooked Chapters (3)

Male and Female He Created Them 

As we enter Genesis 5, we find here a long list of names and dates. This chapter traces the righteous line of Seth. Before we enter this list, however, I would like to bring your attention to the first two verses of this chapter: This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them Mankind (adam) in the day they were created.

These verses are very important, because they confirm the concept I shared with you previously: that the well-known words of English translations: “let us make man[1] was a very unfortunate rendering of the Hebrew original. Adam in Hebrew simply means “human” and doesn’t necessarily denote a male only. In this light, the traditional understanding – creation of the man occurs first, and creation of the woman some time later, after all the animals are created – might be (or even should be) reconsidered. Many Jewish commentators read the story of creation in a very different way. They point out that Genesis 1:26 first refers to adam in the singular, but then says that “they shall rule”. Who are “they”? The answer is found in Genesis 1:27 where the nature of this creation is clarified: male and female He created them.[2] The verses that open chapter 5 also confirm this: He created them male and female, and blessed them and called them adam.[3]

According to this concept, God creates a human who is both male and female. Different rabbinic commentaries maintain the view that the first human was actually comprised of both genders. Midrash Bereshit Rabba says: “man and woman were originally undivided, i.e. adam was at first created … hermaphrodite”. In Midrash Leviticus Rabbah we read: “At the time that the Holy One, Blessed Be He created Man, He created him as an Androgynous.” In Genesis 2, God is looking at this two-gendered creature and for the first time in all His creative work He says: lo tov – “not good”[4]. This was clearly not the ideal way of creating a male/female couple, so God divided them into two separate people – man and woman. That’s why, when a man and woman marry, they become “one” again: they return to God’s original design before man and woman were separated! From the opening verses of Genesis 5, we understand that the long list of male names in this chapter also means a long list of women, united with them according to the plan of God.

Walking with God

Here are the generations listed in this chapter.

  1. אָדָם (adam) “Adam”
  2. שֵׁת  (shet) “Seth”
  3. אֱנוֹשׁ  (enosh) “Enosh”
  4. קֵינָן  (kenan) “Kenan”
  5. מַהֲלַלְאֵל  (mahalalel) “Mehalalel”
  6. יֶרֶד  (yered) “Jared”
  7. חֲנוֹךְ  (chanoch) “Enoch”
  8. מְתוּשֶׁלַח  (metushelach) “Methusela”
  9. לֶמֶךְ (lemech) “Lamech”
  10. נֹחַ (noach) “Noah”

As we can see, Noah is Adam’s descendent number 10, and Enoch is number 7. Both numbers are very significant. Was there anything else that united Enoch and Noah?

As you probably know, Enoch occupies an absolutely unique place in this record: instead of the usual number of years a patriarch lived after the birth of his son, in the case of Enoch we read that “he walked with God after he begat Methuselah, for three hundred years”; instead of a simple note that “he died”, as with all other names in this list, we are told again that  “Enoch walked with God”, and then that – “he was no more; for God took him[5]. Thus, we are introduced to the expression “walk with God”. It’s important to note that this expression is unique in the Torah and occurs only once more. Where? You are right – exactly the same words are said about Noah: “Noah walked with God.”[6]

What does it mean that they walked with God? In Hebrew, this expression is absolutely amazing (and completely lost in translation). The sentence that is rendered as “Enoch walked with God”, or in some translations, “Enoch walked before God”, literally says: “Enoch walked … God.” What can that possibly mean?

I personally believe that these words are extremely meaningful. Have you ever heard the expression: ‘walk the talk’? One has to live out his faith. This is exactly what scripture tells us about Enoch (and Noah as well): it’s not Enoch who lives, but God in him and through him. The word of God, God’s commandments, did become flesh in the lives of Enoch and Noah – and therefore, they walked G-d!

What’s in a Name?

 

The story of Noah starts with the prophetic words of his father Lamech: “And he named him Noah, saying, “This one will provide us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands, out of the very soil which the LORD placed under a curse.”[7]

While Noah is one of the most significant characters in the Bible, and everyone knows who he was, few remember Lamech, his father. Yet, Lamech is well worth remembering, not only because he fathered the son who would save the dying world through his faith and obedience, but also because he recognized this son’s special calling and mission by giving him this very significant name. Why did Lamech name his son Noah? What did he expect of him?

Noah’s name has a very prophetic meaning indeed. This root in Hebrew means  ‘rest’ – and from Lamech’s prophetic words we understand that he saw in his son one who would be the “rest-giver”— the one who would provide deliverance and comfort from the curse. In Genesis 3, God cursed the land and banished Adam and Eve from the Garden. Evidently Lamech felt the burden of toil upon an earth which God had cursed, and he looked for “relief from our work and from the toil of our hands”.[8] It is clear from Lamech’s words that even these first generations were extremely tired of this curse and waited for fulfillment of the promise. Naming his son Noah, Lamech hoped that he would bring deliverance from the curse and provide comfort and rest.

We find a very different concept in rabbinic tradition: some rabbinic texts suggest that Noah invented a plow. This does mean however, that all commentators agree that somehow, Noah was expected to usher in a new era regarding the relationship between adam and adama – the man and the ground: either Noah would be able to remove the curse, or at least circumvent it. Thus, when we read this text in Hebrew, the allusion to Genesis 3:17 is clear. However, this allusion, as well as the prophetic meaning of the name “Noah”, is completely lost in translation.

[1] Gen. 1:26, adam here is usually translated as Man.

[2] Gen. 1:27

[3] Gen. 5:2, adam here is usually translated as Mankind.

[4] Gen. 2:18

[5] Gen.5:24

[6] Gen.6:9

[7] Gen. 5:29

[8] Gen. 5:29

The insights you read on these pages, are typical of what we share with our students during DHB (Discovering the Hebrew Bible) or WTP (Weekly Torah Portion)  classes. If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, or studying  in depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insightsI would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding  eTeacher courses[1] (juliab@eteachergroup.com) .

If you like the  articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you  can get  them   here

[1] At this point, we offer WTP course only in English, while DHB course is offered also  in Spanish and Portuguese.

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. MCG

    good morning: in my Biblie catolic translation i see 3x “walking with GOD” : Gn 5, 22.24 ; Gn 6,9.

    have a nice life.

    1. Julia Blum

      Your Bible is correct, this expression indeed occurs 3 times in the Torah.

  2. Nick

    Any ideas on the “separations” earlier in Genesis relating to the separation that created male and female from the one human? Thanks,
    Nick

    1. Julia Blum

      Of course, Nick, I mentioned this concept here only because I see in this verse from Genesis 5 a very convincing proof of it; previously I discussed this concept at length in one of my Beginnings articles. Let me know please if you need me to send you the link to it.

  3. Mark Stevens

    Awesome teaching! But could you explain your reasoning that Noah is Adam’s tenth descendant and not his ninth (or that Enoch is his seventh and not sixth)?
    blessings,
    Mark Stevens
    Omaha, NE.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you Mark! I guess, it would be more correct to say that Noah was the tenth of the pre-Flood patriarchs (and Enoch was the seventh one). Obviously, both numbers, 7 and 10, are very significant, and the Torah makes sure that very important biblical figures correspond to these significant numbers.