God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:21-27 (a)

See:  God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:6-20 (b)

Genesis 5:21 When Enoch had lived sixty-five years, he became the father of Methu’selah. 22 Enoch walked with God after the birth of Methu’selah three hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years. 24 Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.

25 When Methu’selah had lived a hundred and eighty-seven years, he became the father of Lamech. 26 Methu’selah lived after the birth of Lamech seven hundred and eighty-two years, and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methu’selah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died.

Righteous Melchizedek

Enoch is a mysterious figure in the text.  He lives 365 years, a number which corresponds to how many days there are in a year, though if the connection is intentional, its meaning still remains obscure.  Enoch’s description interrupts the formulaic description of each of the other personage’s in the lineage who die after having children.   Enoch however walks with God and his death is not recorded.  The Prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 2 is the only other man in the Old Testament who is taken by God rather than dying.  In the book of Hebrews much is made of Melchiz’edek, another man whose death is not recorded (nor is his birth) and so Melchiz’edek becomes a prototype of the Eternal Word of God who became man.  “For this Melchiz’edek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God… is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever” (Hebrews 7:1-3).   As with Melchiz’edek, Enoch too is a prototype of the person who has a genealogy (as does Jesus) but for whom death has no permanent meaning because he is taken by God.

In the Septuagint we find this about Enoch:  “Enoch pleased the Lord, and was taken up; he was an example of repentance to all generations” (Sirach 44:16).   The biblical text does not give us a clue about Sirach’s notion that Enoch is a model of repentance.  That story comes from the non-biblical Jewish apocryphal literature.  The mysterious Enoch’s disappearance made him a very popular figure in the Septuagint and in both Jewish and early Christian apocryphal and apocalyptical literature .   “No one like Enoch has been created on earth, for he was taken up from the earth” (Sirach 49:14).

“Enoch walked with God”   The same verb for “walked” is used of God who walked in the Garden of Paradise in Genesis 3:8.   Walking with God no doubt signifies being in God’s presence and enjoying fellowship with Him.

Why did God “take” Enoch?    The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon in the Septuagint suggests that God took Enoch to protect and preserve him from the wickedness that was all around him.   By Wisdom’s understanding God recognizes the effects of nurture and social environment on a person and found Enoch so rare and precious that He decided to preserve him in holiness by plucking him out of the earth.    “But the righteous man, though he die early, will be at rest. For old age is not honored for length of time, nor measured by number of years; but understanding is gray hair for men, and a blameless life is ripe old age. There was one who pleased God and was loved by him, and while living among sinners he was taken up. He was caught up lest evil change his understanding or guile deceive his soul. For the fascination of wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind. Being perfected in a short time, he fulfilled long years; for his soul was pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took him quickly from the midst of wickedness. Yet the peoples saw and did not understand, nor take such a thing to heart, that God’s grace and mercy are with his elect, and he watches over his holy ones” (Wisdom 4:7-15,  which is a common Old Testament reading on the eve of certain saints in the Orthodox Church).   In the New Testament the Book of Hebrews offers a slightly different explanation for why God took Enoch.    “By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was attested as having pleased God.”  (Hebrews 11:5)   In Hebrews God is protecting Enoch from death not from the wickedness of his fellow humans.

“It was of these also that Enoch in the seventh generation from Adam prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with his holy myriads, to execute judgment on all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness which they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him” (Jude 1:14-15) {The quote attributed to Enoch is taken from the apocryphal book of Enoch, which is not part of Jewish scriptures, but which Jude obviously had read and valued}.   It is one of the hints we have that early Christians read the non-canonical apocryphal literature – suggesting that the notion of a “fixed” canon was not held by all early Christians.

Next: God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:21-27 (b)

2 thoughts on “God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:21-27 (a)

  1. Pingback: God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:6-20 (b) « Fr. Ted’s Blog

  2. Pingback: God Questions His Creation: Genesis 5:21-27 (b) « Fr. Ted’s Blog

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