Genesis 11:10 These are the descendants of Shem. When Shem was a hundred years old, he became the father of Arpach’shad two years after the flood; 11 and Shem lived after the birth of Arpach’shad five hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 12 When Arpach’shad had lived thirty-five years, he became the father of Shelah; 13 and Arpach’shad lived after the birth of Shelah four hundred and three years, and had other sons and daughters. 14 When Shelah had lived thirty years, he became the father of Eber; 15 and Shelah lived after the birth of Eber four hundred and three years, and had other sons and daughters. 16 When Eber had lived thirty-four years, he became the father of Peleg; 17 and Eber lived after the birth of Peleg four hundred and thirty years, and had other sons and daughters. 18 When Peleg had lived thirty years, he became the father of Re’u; 19 and Peleg lived after the birth of Re’u two hundred and nine years, and had other sons and daughters. 20 When Re’u had lived thirty-two years, he became the father of Serug; 21 and Re’u lived after the birth of Serug two hundred and seven years, and had other sons and daughters. 22 When Serug had lived thirty years, he became the father of Nahor; 23 and Serug lived after the birth of Nahor two hundred years, and had other sons and daughters. 24 When Nahor had lived twenty-nine years, he became the father of Terah; 25 and Nahor lived after the birth of Terah a hundred and nineteen years, and had other sons and daughters. 26 When Terah had lived seventy years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran. 27 Now these are the descendants of Terah. Terah was the father of Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran was the father of Lot. 28 Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chalde’ans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives; the name of Abram’s wife was Sar’ai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sar’ai was barren; she had no child. 31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sar’ai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chalde’ans to go into the land of Canaan; but when they came to Haran, they settled there. 32 The days of Terah were two hundred and five years; and Terah died in Haran.
“…became the father… two years after the flood…” The timing of the birth suggests no children were conceived or born during the year in which the flood gripped the earth. Is it possible that the sons of Noah and their wives remained chaste during the duration of the flood? Most of the Patristic writers who also happened to embrace monasticism believed Noah and his children all practiced abstinence from sex while in the ark during the nearly year long time of the flood.
Eber lives to be about half as old as Adam was when he died. Serug lives to be about one quarter as old as Adam was when he died. The longevity of the humans is in a pattern of decline. In verse :28 Haran dies before his father dies, one of the great traumas for any parent. It introduces into the story of the fallen world a new sorrow that mortality causes – the natural (non-violent) death of beloved children. Genesis 25:8 tells us that Abraham led a long and full life and dies at the ripe old age of 175. By the standards of his ancestors his life would have been measured as short, but by his generation that indeed was a considerable age to have reached. When Abraham was born there were 11 generations in his family tree alive – everyone from Noah to himself. When Abraham dies there are 7 generations alive including Abraham’s children and grandchildren. Shem, Noah’s son according to the genealogy outlived Abraham by 30 years, though after fathering Arpachshad two years after the flood, Shem plays no further role in the biblical history.
A genealogy is just a list of names. That would probably be a common summation of what many modern readers get out of the various family trees listed in Genesis. But in the ancient world, a name is not just a word. The name of any being reveals the very nature of the being. Every name is thus a revelation; every name is a thing, not merely pointing out the object to which it refers. The name reveals the meaning; it is the meaning itself, not just that which gets us to the meaning. Each name thus reveals and represents its reality. This is why the naming of the animals in Genesis 2 was such a significant story. It is why the genealogies are so important thousands of years after they were originally remembered; it also explains why the naming of the children in Genesis is of such importance. We, who are shaped by the mass industry of interchangeable parts, read the list of names and think anyone of those people could have been replaced by someone else. In the Scriptures however each name is a reality which had to have been present for the coming of the Messiah. This also explains why the Name of Jesus is so significant to the authors of the New Testament. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). In the Gospel, it is not merely His being the Messiah, which makes Him so important, but it is also his very Name which makes Jesus essential to us, to our relationship with God, and thus to our salvation. As Matthew reports the Gospel, the angel reveals of Mary that “…she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).