The Family Tree

August 31, 2010

So Cain and his wife have a son named Enoch. The first and last thing to be described about Enoch is his own son. Nothing about Enoch’s childhood or teenage years; he is just born and then is suddenly a grown man having kids of his own. I guess there wasn’t much to do back in the day that was worth reporting anyway.

The Bible continues by simply listing off the lineage of Cain and his nameless wife. Enoch has a son Irad, Irad has a son Mehu’jael, Mehu’jael has a son Methu’shael, and finally Methu’shael has a son whom he calls Lamech. This was a long way of saying “Lamech is the great-great-great-great-grandson of Adam and Eve”. And if that wasn’t enough, I now learn about all of Adam and Eve’s other kids…because apparently they had more.

Chapter four closes on the birth of Seth; Adam and Eve’s next child. Not much is revealed about Seth other than the idea he is replacing Abel. We learn Seth eventually has a kid with another undisclosed woman and he calls the child Enosh. Real original Seth.

These chapters continue the trend of mysterious women. Not only does Seth hook up with an unknown woman, but the only women given the consideration of a name are involved someway with Lamech (Cain’s side). Lamech takes two wives (a fact that will definitely be addressed) whose names are Adah and Zillah. Both women give birth to children and Zillah bears the only named daughter: Na’amah. Nothing, yet, is mentioned of what happens to Na’amah.

When chapter five opens I am struck with yet another overlap of stories that borders on redundancy:

“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God…When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” (Gen 5:1-3)

At the beginning of Genesis I ran into this problem of repetition. Although some information is new, the manner in which the established information is presented makes things sound like the reader has never heard of God and Adam before. I have hypothesized that the cause of this duality might be due to multiple authors over a span of time and the stories have been simply mashed together. This theory is sounding more and more like a possibility. Maybe our ancestors were just really thick and needed a lot of reminders as they read.

Anyway, let’s get back to what was just said. One hundred and thirty years old! Adam knocks up an equally old Eve at 130 years old! This was a good time for humans (minus the whole damnation and all). On top of this extraordinary age that Adam and Eve apparently reach, the Bible goes on to say that they had “other sons and daughters” until Adam kicked the bucket at the ripe old age of 930. Even without a tree of life Adam lives to be 930 years old. If immortality were given to me I’d probably die of boredom after 930 years, so I guess it doesn’t really matter that Adam and Eve never got a crack at the tree of life. Assuming Eve lived as long as her husband I think it is safe to say they got to see enough of life after exile.

Adam and Eve are not the only ones to achieve impressive life-spans. All of the men in the coming paragraphs live for extraordinary lengths of time, the youngest of them dying at the age of 777. Enoch himself smashes Adam’s record by dying at 969 years old. Why or how these fellas got to be so old I have no idea. I’m guessing all that sex and no alcohol.

What follows after the death of Adam is a long list of the generations following the first man and woman. There is no prose or plot in the page and half after Adam and Eve pass, just a list of the fathers and sons over the next several hundred years. It is an abrupt switch from the story-like mode that has established the text so far and it gives a factual tone to the writing. The text sounds like a history book at this point and I might consider it as such if I wasn’t distracted by the outlandish ages of Earth’s early inhabitants. I wonder if this shift in tone is an attempt from the text to look for credibility in the eyes of the reader. Whatever the cause, it makes for a dull couple of pages. For the sake of space and time I have a flowchart of what we learn of Adam and Eve’s lineage:

Adam > Seth > Enosh > Kenan > Mahal’alel > Jared > Enoch > Methu’selah > Lamech > Noah

The above can be read as Seth is the father of Enosh, Enosh the father of Kenan and so on.

I had to be careful in writing these passages for reasons that may already be apparent. We have already been introduced to an Enoch as the son of Cain, and Enoch’s own great-great grandson was named Lamech. In seeing the lineage of Adam down Seth’s line, there is not only an Enosh, but another Enoch entirely who has a grandson named Lamech. I guess names were scarce at the beginning of mankind. In their defense the Bible does say that each of the men mentioned above had many more sons and daughters (with unique names I would hope), but each had only one son worth textual recognition.

The book goes to great lengths to mention at least one son of each male character. There is no mention of the other brothers and sisters, just one son. I would understand if the mentioned son did something cool that was then written down, but nothing is mentioned for anyone. I am probably getting ahead of myself though. I’ll admit that I know where Genesis will take us in the next few chapters, so I wonder if the only purpose of this segment of the Bible is tell the reader where the character of Noah comes from…

Nowadays, at least in the United States, the family name is passed down through the male side of a family. It has become commonplace for the wife to take the husband’s last name in marriage. Whether or not this is a correct/ethical/moral/whatever practice is reserved for a different blog entirely. What the Bible appears to be doing in the text forming the basis for this post is creating the idea that the males form the family lineage. Although the characters in the Bible do not have any last names, or any unique, filial identifiers as far as we know, by focusing solely on the men, the text creates a family history dependent on them.

In recent years I have heard a great deal of critiques and insults thrown at Islam. The rising tension, whether apparent or not, between the West and Islam is a partial reason for my desire to read holy texts and find the answers myself. One of the critiques that western, often religious, folk have berated Muslims with is Islam’s tolerance of multiple marriages. Whether this is true or not, or to what extent Muslims practice it (I’m guessing few), I feel this is a good time to point out Lamech from a little while ago. At what can still be considered the beginning of the Bible there is a character formally engaged with two women. It is great to see something applicable to the modern argument already coming out of the text.

Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with marrying multiple women…

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I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I re-discovered a quote that pertains to the whole Adam and Eve business. It may come as a surprise, but the Bible isn’t the only thing I read or have read.

Whenever I read something I find interesting for some reason or another I write it down in what has become a book of quotes. What is surprising is that I found the following quote interesting before I even contemplated this Bible reading adventure. The quote below is from Ayn Rand’s epic Atlas Shrugged:

“What is the nature of the guilt that your teachers call his Original Sin? What are the evils man acquired when he fell from a state they considered perfection? Their myth declares that he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge – he acquired a mind and became a rational being. It was the knowledge of good and evil – he became a moral being. He was sentenced to earn his bread by his labor – he became a productive being. He was sentenced to experience desire – he acquired the capacity of sexual enjoyment. The evils for which they damn him are reason, morality, creativeness and joy – all of the cardinal values of his existence. It is not his vices that their myth of man’s fall is designed to explain and condemn, it is not his errors that they hold as his guilt, but his essence of his nature as man. Whatever he was – that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love – he was not man.”

Rand focuses on the way religious circles describe the story of Adam and Eve as a detrimental fall of mankind. She has an ability far superior to my own, and her insight is a welcome change of tone from my own prose. I don’t want to spoil her intriguing analysis with lesser discussion on my part, so I want to just leave this quote for your own reflection.

I know there are many authors with opinions about religion and the Bible, so I’ll keep an eye out and add their ideas when they come up.