The gospel before the flood

Part of my responsibility in recent times at work has been to prepare weekly handouts for our Family Bible Hour (FBH) ministry at church. FBH is essentially our adult Sunday school. Every class studies the same portion of Scripture the same week, which is helpful for families framing family devotions. At the time of writing, we are studying the book of Genesis together.

We sometimes cover rather large portions of Scripture during FBH. For instance, as I write this post I have just taken a break from preparing the lesson for 26 June 2011, which will cover Genesis 15:1–18:15. That’s a lot of text, but the stated goal of FBH is to cover the entire Bible in ten years. This requires us to take some books three or four chapters per week.

Whilst preparing the aforementioned lesson sheet, I opened Andy Macintosh’s Genesis for Today. It’s basically a collection of articles on important themes from the book of Genesis. Each chapter covers a particular issue as it is dealt with in Genesis: “Genesis and Fundamentals,” “Genesis and Science,” “Genesis and History,” “Genesis and Marriage,” etc.

In a chapter on “Genesis and the Saviour,” Macintosh has a very interesting note dealing with God’s longsuffering before the Flood.1

It was a blessing to the author to have it pointed out that the names of the patriarchs compose a message which points to the Saviour:2

  • Adam = Man
  • Seth = appointed
  • Enosh3 = mortal
  • Kenan4 = sorrow
  • Mahalaleel5 = the God who is to be praised
  • Jared = shall come down
  • Enoch = teaching
  • Methuselah6 = his death shall bring
  • Lamech7 = despairing
  • Noah = rest

Thus these names put together testify to God’s grace in sending his Son—“Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the God who is to be praised shall come down teaching (that) his death shall bring (the) despairing rest.”

. . . God never leaves the world without a testimony and here in these names is a record of God’s purposes.

This may sound rather like a stretch to many, and indeed the number of footnotes required to “defend” the meaning of the name shows that it is far from clear that that is what God meant, but it is nevertheless interesting. As Macintosh notes in an endnote, “one is not arguing here for a literal Hebrew sentence, but a progression of thought from Man through Sin and the Fall into sorrow, then hope from God Himself in the promised Redeemer to come, and who is typified by Noah.”

  1. Andy Macintosh, Genesis for Today: The Relevance of the Creation/Evolution Debate to Today’s Society (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2006), 152.
  2. For this point I am indebted to Dr David Rosevear of the Creation Science Movement who published this in the March 1995 edition of the monthly CSM journal (CSM Journal 8 (9) p. 1). One is not arguing here for a literal Hebrew sentence, but a progression of thought from Man through Sin and the Fall into sorrow, then hope from God Himself in the promised Redeemer to come, and who is typified by Noah.
  3. Sometimes written as Enos.
  4. Sometimes written as Cainan and thus the meaning has been linked to Cain, “acquired,” but there is some evidence it is linked to the word “qin” meaning “lament, sorrow.”
  5. Mahalalel means “praise of God” or “he who praises God.” R Laird Harris, Gleason L archer, Jr. and Bruce L Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), Vol. 1, pp. 217-218, have the literal translation “the God who is to be praised.”
  6. Methuselah is not regarded by all scholars to mean “his death shall bring” because the Masoretic pointing gives an “e” to the “Meth” part of his name, which does not translate then as “death.” However since the Masoretic pointing is later than the original, thereis a case for “muth” (death), particularly as Methuselah does indeed die just before the Flood.
  7. Lamech is usually translated “overthrower.” As such his name typifies man in his natural rebellious state. The word in its root form is linked to the word “despair.” This Lamech is of course different to the bragging Lamech of Genesis 4:19-24 in Cain’s line considered earlier in chapter 5. We do not know the type of life Lamech, the father of Noah, lived. It may be that like his counterpart in Genesis 4, he rejected God’s way despite, in this case, godly ancestry.

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