Genealogies Teach Humility

3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.
6 When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. 7Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. 8Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.
9 When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.
12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.
15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.
18 When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch. 19Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.
21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.
25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.
28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died. (Genesis 5:3-31)

The above is the first of many genealogies found in the Bible. Some of the names, like Adam, jump out as well-known and we have some stories associated with them. For most we have much less information. Based on the fact that all names following Seth are introduced the same way, and we know that Seth was not the firstborn, we have no reason to believe these individuals are firstborn sons. This would then be true of all genealogies in the Bible. Unless we are told “so-and-so” was firstborn, we really do not have any reason to simply assume they are. They could have just as easily been included because of the meaning of their names. One of the purposes of this genealogy, apparently, is to assure us that Noah is a descendant of Adam and Eve. Unlike many genealogies, in the one above we have recorded how long these individuals lived and how old they were when the child of interest was born. We also learn that Enoch “walked with God,” which apparently means something like he had a very strong faith in the promise issued to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:15). Based on Genesis 4:26, it seems that corporate worship of God began during the lifetime of Enosh. However, we are not told that he was responsible for that development. In fact, the most likely candidate for the first ever pastor would be Adam. He would be the natural leader. He could remember the Garden of Eden and the first promise made by God in Genesis 3:15.

There are genealogies in the Old Testament with name after name referring to people we know nothing about, except their names. No doubt some were well-known in their day, leaders in their communities. Some would have been great parents. Some would have been innovators. Some would have been skilled carpenters. Some would have been wealthy. Now they are just names on a genealogy list. All is vanity. Whatever they may have accomplished in the eyes of their communities has been forgotten. Time is a great leveler. In the grave, all are equal. The above genealogy is unique in emphasizing this, with its repeated phrase, “and he died.”

One of the lessons these Biblical genealogies teach is humility. While these individuals have been forgotten by humanity, they are remembered by God. So, their names are recorded. In the end, it matters not if you are remembered by humanity. What matters is if you are remembered by God. He will not forget his children, as he told Isaiah, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). So, the wise person does not seek renown (though they may receive it), but walks humbly before the Lord (Isaiah 58:5). “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8).

It certainly goes against fallen human pride to confess that we are “unworthy servants” (Luke 17:10). James tells us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17). We, on the other hand, like to imagine we have merited all the good things we have. We want to take pride in our accomplishments. But the only accomplishments that truly last are those accomplished by and in the Spirit of God and remembered by God himself.

One final thought about the humility taught by the Biblical genealogies deals with being Christ-like. As we walk humbly with God, we walk in the steps of Jesus. He humbled himself and became incarnate. Though he was God, he set aside all that glory to become a man and merit for us salvation (Philippians 2:8). To be humble is to reflect Christ in our lives. Teach us humility, O Lord.

Blessings in Christ