A Righteous Heritage (Genesis 5)

Men began to call on the name of the LORD

Have any of you done a family tree?  What is the farthest back you’ve been able to go?  

According to the Guinness Book of World Records as of 2005, the longest family tree in history belongs to Confucious.  The Chinese philosopher lived 2500 years ago, roughly around the time of Nehemiah and Ezra in the Bible, the time when the Israelites were going back to Jerusalem after the Exile.  Confucious has a recorded lineage down to today that spans 80 generations and includes about 3M people all over the world.

Family trees are fascinating.  The kids and I started a rough draft of our family tree this week, inspired by this text.  It’s neat learning about where you came from and who you came from.  You feel a certain “connectedness.  You feel like who they were somehow is who you are; or things about them in a way are also things about you.  If there is someone great in your history it feels like the “light” of that honor shines on you too.

The Bible is big on family trees.  Our focus today is the one found in Genesis 5.  It is the line from Adam to Noah.  Including Adam and Noah there are 10 names.

Genealogies tend to get a lot of yawns in the Bible.  But genealogies are important because they show that Biblical history happens in real human history.  And you can tell because they show up everywhere in the Scriptures.  The NT begins with the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the first 9 chapters of 1 Chronicles is the most extensive genealogical record in the whole Bible, going from Adam all the way to David, and then in Ezra there is the list of those who came back to Jerusalem from Babylonian captivity.

Genesis 5 has a genealogy that is 10 generations long.  It gets us from Adam to Noah – from Creation to the Flood.  Later, in chapter 10 and 11 we get a genealogy from Noah to Abram, from the man of the flood to the man of faith.   These genealogies are meant to connect one major Biblical historical event to another:  Adam and Creation to Noah and the Flood; then from Noah and the Flood to Abraham and God’s great covenant.

An interesting thought:  All three of these men:  Adam, Noah and Abraham all have something in common:  all three of them can claim that all human beings in history today are their descendents.  Adam, obviously is the father to all human beings ever on earth; Noah is father to every human being since the Flood; and Abraham is the father of everyone who “has faith.”  So in a way, genealogies connect us from one “father” to another.

Did you know that Adam lived so long that he was alive to meet every person in this genealogy?  Everyone except Noah – Adam died 126 years before Noah was born.  But Adam was alive during the first 56 years of Noah’s father’s life, Lamech.  That means for the first 56 years of his life Lamech, Noah’s father, could go and talk with Adam.  Noah was the first human being on record who was not alive at the same time as Adam.  

The Bible is a historical document.  It’s not a bunch of fairy tales and myths.  These are not non-historical legends that give us good “feels” and teach us helpful moral lessons.  This is real life.  These 10 generations were real people who really lived at a real time and place in real history.  

I want to draw out 3 points from this section.  We’re not going verse by verse through it, but, in reading it these are 3 things to take notice from their lives:  1) Their Religious Life, 2) Their Righteous Legacy, and 3) Their Redemptive Line


The first point to notice is the RELIGIOUS LIFE of these men.  Notice 4:25, the very last words of chapter 4, “At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.”  It can also read “to proclaim”, as in, “men began to proclaim the name of the Lord.”

I am struck at how developed the religious life of man was so early on.  There were both moral and ceremonial requirements:

  • Religious worship included animal sacrifice, which was instituted by God after the Fall (3:21)
  • Right away we see Cain and Abel engaged in sacrificial offerings (4:3-4)
  • Only the best was to be brought to God (4:3-7)
  • Animals were categorized as clean and unclean (7:2) 
  • Only clean animals were to be offered to God (8:20)
  • Altars were built to God (8:10) and they “called on the name of the Lord,” and “proclaimed the name of the Lord.” (Gen 4:26).  

But moral obligations were required too as seen with Enoch.  Notice in 5:24 it says, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”  The phrase “walked with God” indicates his righteous life. 

This same righteousness is seen in his great-grandson, Noah.  In 6:9 it says that Noah “was righteous,” “walked with God,” and “avoided evil.”  So here we are seeing the religious life of the first generations of men was very developed:  involving ritual sacrifices AND righteous living.  

And all of that is what grows out of faith in God:  “By faith,” Hebrews 11 says, “Enoch was taken away…” and “By faith, Noah built an ark….”  Faith is the root of righteous living and right religious practices.  

APPLICATION:  If you have faith then you will take both the moral and the ceremonial commands of God serious.  The Church has ceremonies:  the Lord’s Supper and Baptism.  Do we take these serious?  


The second point I want us to see is the RIGHTEOUS LEGACY found in this genealogy.  Adam had some amazing descendents.  Noah had some amazing ancestors.  Now, I’m not going to re-read the whole chapter 5.  Instead, I’m going to take us to 1 Chronicles 1:1 where an abridged version of this genealogy is found.  It’s like a mini version of Genesis 5.  [Read]:

Let me point out why this genealogy displays a righteous legacy.

First, because of their long lives.  Long life is a symbol of righteousness.  Nearly all of these guys lived past 900 years.  (I wonder if there is something about preventing them from living to 1000 years).  Anyway, from Adam to Noah there are 9 names listed and out of those 9 names 6 of them lived over 900 years.  And in this genealogy we find Methuselah:  this guy holds the Guinness book of world records for longest life at 969 years.  

Why am I saying this?  Because long life is a sign of righteousness.  Age is an honor in the Bible.  

  • “Gray hair is a crown of splendor” Proverbs 16 says, “it is attained by a righteous life.” 
  • Then Proverbs 20:29 says, “The glory of young men may be their strength, but gray hair is the splendor of the old.” 
  • “Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God.” Leviticus 19:32 says. 
  • All of this underlies the command to “honor your father and mother” in the 10 commandments (Ex 20:12).  Remember that there is a promise for that command:  “that you may live long in the land…”
  • It is also the basis for 1 Timothy 5:1 when it says, “Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father.”  You DO NOT treat them harshly and rebuke them sharply.  “Exhort” means “to appeal to” or “urge”, even “to plead with” or “beg”.  But you do not get sharp with them. 
  • Remember when Elisha was getting teased by that mob of “youths” in 2 Kings 2?  Then 2 bears appeared and mauled 42 of them.  Again, “show respect for the elderly and revere your God.”  

The point is that their long lives were blessings from God because of their righteousness.

Secondly, their righteous legacy is seen in their godly lives.  Not only can we tell they were righteous by their long lives, but we can tell by the guys who didn’t live to 900 years.  The three who didn’t make 900 were Enoch, Mahalalel, and Lamech (Noah’s father).  A closer look at these guys shows that they were still standouts in righteousness.  

  • First, there is Mahalalel, read verse 17….. Mahalalele missed 900 by just 5 short years.  You may say that’s only warning track power but 895 is still impressive! 
  • Look at Enoch in verses 22 and 24.  [Read].  He “walked with God” which was pointing out his righteousness.  And, he was raptured at the young age of 365.  It says, “And he was no more, because God took him away.”  Hebrews 11 explains that it was because of his faith and righteousness that God took him away, “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death.”  Enoch didn’t make 900 years, but, this is a guy you want in your family tree.
  • Then look at verse 31 with me and lets see Lamech, Noah’s father.  He only lived 777 years. BUT, he lived 777 years:  that’s THREE SEVENS….how awesome is that?  Three and Seven are the two most biblical numbers there are!  So, if you’re not going to live 900 years like all your family then you want 777 years. 

    But that’s not all I’d say about Lamech.  Look at his reason for naming his son “Noah” in verse 28-29, “….” [READ].  Noah’s name sounds like the Hebrew word for “comfort”.  Why does this indicate Lamech’s righteousness?  Well he correctly understood why working the ground was so painful and tiresome:  God cursed it.  He knew it no doubt because he had heard it told him directly from Adam, who I remind you, was alive for the first 56 years of Lamech’s life.  He heard and he believed.  The God Adam worshiped and served was the God Lamech worshiped and served.  And maybe his hope for Noah was that Noah would be that seed of Eve that would break the curse.  So Lamech had hope in the promise God had given.  All that is seen in why he named Noah, “Noah.”    

APPLICATION:  Who is your Enoch?  Who is your Lamech?  Who came before you that you are looking back on as examples to follow?  If you are the “first” person to come to God in your family then pick your spiritual family.  Who is here in this church that is older than you that you can look up to and learn from?  That you can emulate?  Who is a great man of God from old that you can read about?  Maybe Paul in the Bible.  Maybe Peter in the Bible  Maybe Epaphrus or Barnabus.  Maybe its Ignatius or Polycarp two early church fathers who were martyred.  Read Christian biographies and find your spiritual ancestors – people who left a godly legacy for you.

APPLICATION:  Who will be your Noah?  It’s one thing to receive a righteous legacy, but, who are you passing one on to?  Seth, Enoch, Mahalalel, Methuselah, Lamech all passed on to the next generation a legacy of righteousness.  Who are you leaving a spiritual inheritance for?  Who will be a great man or woman of God because of you?  

If you have kids, leave them a legacy of faith in God.  Remember how Paul reminded Timothy of his own godly heritage?  Turn to 2 Timothy 1:5 and 3:14-15.  [READ].  Lois and Eunice are like Seth, Enoch, Methuselah – they gave their children the gift of a godly heritage. 

You might say, “I don’t have kids,” or “My kids aren’t walking with the Lord.”  If that’s the case then go have some spiritual children:  disciple and mentor someone in the faith and give them a legacy.  A lot of people coming into the faith don’t have godly parents and they need godly parents IN THE CHURCH!  That’s what the Apostles did.  Paul called Timothy and Titus “my sons in the faith” and John called his churches his “children.” 

If no one left you a legacy, don’t be discouraged.  Instead take up the honor of being the first one in your line to hand down a legacy of faith

I came across a poem a couple years ago: 

In youth because I could not be a singer, 

I did not even try to write a song. 

I planted no small trees along the roadside 

because I knew their growth would take too long.

But now, with wisdom that the years have taught me, 

I’ve found that it may be a blessed thing, 

to plant a tree for someone else to water; 

or write a song for someone else to sing.


The last thing to notice about this genealogy is that it is God’s chosen Redemption line.  Remember the promise in Genesis 3 that God would bring a redeemer.  He would be the “seed of the woman” and he would “crush” the serpent’s head (3:15).  

Cain’s short line recorded in Genesis 4 is not the chosen line:  the murderer would not give us the author of life.  Instead, it is through the younger son, the 3rd son, Seth, that God would bring the Redeemer.  

APPLICATION:  God always has His righteous line threading through history.  No matter how evil and corrupt the world is there is a righteous line snaking through each generation.  In the next chapter we are told that the whole world, every man, was wicked and that only Noah was found righteous in God’s sight.  Abraham was a man who believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness (15:6).  Elijah felt all alone in a wicked world but God told him He had a righteous line:  “I have reserved 7,000 for myself who do not bow to Baal.”  When rejecting Saul as king God declared “I have found a man after my own heart, David, son of Jesse.  He will be king and he will serve me wholeheartedly.”  David was a righteous line threading through a generation of wickedness

APPLICATION:  This is why Church is important:  because we are a righteous thread in history.  It is to each other here that we must look to find righteousness when all we see out there is wickedness.  


Now I’d also say here that all these righteous men are not in Cain’s line?  Who do you belong to?  Whose line are you in?  It is in this line that Jesus the Redeemer would come from.  

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