So Seth, Eve’s son who essentially replaced Abel, seems to be the true inheritor of Adam’s legacy. Seth is first described as “in his [Adam’s] own likeness, in his image.” This, of course, parallels Adam’s relationship to God, making Seth the most God-like of Adam’s sons. This cyclical relationship—and the whole chapter—reinforces the theme of lineage and paternalism, and that passing on one’s likeness is of critical importance. Otherwise, you break the seemingly-infinite chain that eventually leads back to God. So yeah, it’s not just a cliché: according to the Bible, we are all literally children of God (if you go back far enough).
Of course, what stands out most in this chapter is that these descendants of Adam live for 800+ years, making them demigods compared to the average modern human. But what causes this? There’s no explicit explanation in the text, but maybe the word “demigod” fits better than I thought…
I know I’m an English teacher, but let’s do some math.
My hypothesis: the further you are from Adam (in terms of lineage), the shorter your natural life. Makes sense, right?
Since (by my own rules) I can’t look it up, I made my own chart after parsing the text.
So, as we can see, the ratio between childbearing age and age of death are pretty consistent. From Adam, there’s a slow trend downward in lifespan, until we get to Jared. (962 years for you, Jared. You go, Jared. Maybe that’s why it’s still a popular name today.)
Interestingly enough, though, there’s nothing to suggest Jared is any different from his predecessors—it’s his son Enoch who gets a special mention:
And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. (5:23-24)
I’d have to say that’s my favorite line, since it’s actually ambiguous and not just who begat who. This seems to indicate that Enoch was so friggin’ holy and God liked him so much that God brought him to heaven. If you’re THAT GREAT, God will sweep you off to early-bird eternal salvation. That’s certainly a nice incentive.
But here’s the kicker: somehow, Enoch must have known his fate, because he also had children way before his father did. Hmm. Maybe God gave him some help on that front.
Our ‘friend’ Lamech from Chapter 4 has the shortest natural lifespan so far, of course. Looks like his death is when the lineage really starts to go stale.
So, in conclusion, the ever-declining lifespan of his progeny is more evidence that things aren’t looking good for the descendants of Adam. But wait, we get to Noah! Woah, he waits until age 500 to have children? That dude must be SUPER special.