Genesis 5:24 #VOTD [Commentary + Memorization Tutorial Video]

Verse of the Day 12.19.17: Genesis 5:24

  1. Text
  2. C4C Translation
  3. Context
  4. Commentary
  5. Memorization

Text

24 וַיִּתְהַלֵּ֥ךְ חֲנ֖וֹךְ אֶת־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וְאֵינֶ֕נּוּ כִּֽי־לָקַ֥ח אֹתוֹ֖ אֱלֹהִֽים׃1

24 Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.2





C4C Translation

Enoch walked with God faithfully. Then he was no more, because God took him away.

Walked with God Faithfully

There are two reasons why I opted to use the language of the NIV (“walked faithfully”) as opposed to many other translations which merely say Enoch “walked with God” (NRSV, ESV, HCSB, NASB, KJV, etc.). The first reason is grammatical. For the verb for walk [הָלַךְ (hālak)] is in the hithpael stem — a Hebrew verbal stem that often connotes an iterative (repeated) action.3 Thus, it seems that the text is saying that Enoch walked with God habitually or continually.

The second reason is theological. In the Old Testament, walking can simply mean placing one foot in front of the other or moving from place to place. For example, God tells Abraham to “go” (hālak) from his country to the land God would show him (Gen 12:1). However, this term is also the most common word used to metaphorically describe “the act or process of living.”4 How one walks, metaphorically, is how one lives and habitually behaves.

“Walking with God,” more specifically, describes how “the truly pious follow God’s leading in all that they do…”5 To walk with God is to live and behave in accordance with the will of God6— a life of faith (active trust) in God. Moreover, “walk with God” (moreso than “walk before God” (1 Ki 2:4, 3:6, etc.), i.e. obey God) “captures an emphasis on communion and fellowship.”7

All in all, though there is no faithfully in the Hebrew text, I believe this better translates the meaning of the figurative language — grammatically and theologically. 

He Was No More

A more literal translation would be, “he (was) not” (cf.  KJV, NASB, ESV). This simply means, “he [was] no longer alive.”8

God Took Him Away

Enoch was no more because God took [לָקַח (lāqaḥ)] him. Just as the English verb “take” has a broad range of possible meanings (“take a test,” “take a break,” “take her on a date,” “take his lunch money”), so does the Hebrew verb lāqaḥ. In this case, the verb means to take away “in the sense of ‘to rapture.'”9 God took Enoch away from the earth before he tasted death.

Context

Genealogy of Adam

After the Fall (Genesis 3), the resultant curse entailing certain death  (Gen 2:17; Gen 3:16-24), and the murder of Abel at the hands of his brother Cain (Genesis 4), Adam made love to his wife Eve and they had another son named Seth (Gen 4:25). Genesis 5 is the written account of Adam’s family line (Gen 5:1) through Seth to Noah. As scholars note, just as the Gospels are prefaced by genealogies (Mt 1:1-18; Lk 3:23-38), so does this list of ancestors set the stage — the historical context — for the account of the Flood (Genesis 6-8).10

The genealogical record mentions ten generations in similar fashion. It lists:

(1) the age of the father at the birth of the firstborn; (2) the name of the firstborn; (3) how many years the father lived after the birth of this son; (4) a reference to the fathering of other children; (5) the father’s total lifespan.11

The ten names recorded are Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah. Enoch, notably, is in the seventh position.

Magnificent Seven(th)

After hearing the same pattern for the first six names, Enoch, in the prominent seventh position, breaks the mold.12 In biblical genealogies, those “placed in the seventh position…[were] uniquely important.”13 While everyone else in the list eventually dies (Gen 5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31). Enoch does not. He just was not; God took him away. He is the only person in the Pentateuch — the first five books of the Bible — to escape death.14

Walked With God

Why? Apparently, because Enoch, as mentioned earlier, walked with God. This walking with God recalls Gen 3:8, in which the LORD was walking in the Garden. Noah (Gen 6:9) and Abraham (Gen 17:1; 24:40 cf. Gen 48:15) were also said to have walked with God due to their devotion.15 As a result of Enoch’s godly, obedient lifestyle, “he probably did not die but was translated to heaven.”16

Taken

In the Old Testament, only one other person is taken like Enoch: Elijah (2 Kgs 2:10-11).17

Ancient Near Eastern Parallels

It is not uncommon to discover parallels between the Old Testament (especially Genesis 1-11) with other ancient Near Eastern accounts. The seventh king listed in an ancient Mesopotamian King List, Enmeduranki, along with his advisor Utuabzu, also did not die but “ascended into heaven.”20 The neighbors of Israel had similar literary themes and motifs.21 But, this should not be surprising — especially since the accounts were probably passed down through the generations throughout the region, and can be seen as rooted in actual history.

Excursus: How Many Years?

One reads several astronomical numbers for human lifespans in this genealogy. They pale in comparison, however, to the reigns of kings in listed in the Sumerian King List (circa 2000 BC). Eight kings, who sat on the throne before the Sumerian account of the Flood, reigned, in total, for 241,200 years. The shortest reign is 18,600 years, while the longest is 43,200 years.22

That being said, many theories about the long lifespans have been proposed. Some feel that the “years” may have been shorter than our “years,” while others postulate that the numbers include the combined lifespans of all members of the ancestor’s clan. Still others see the numbers as symbolic — perhaps based on Mesopotamian numerical system based on the number 60.23 Furthermore, Enoch’s 365 years (Gen 5:23), could be symbolic for the 365 days in a solar year — indicating completeness.24

Commentary

About these staggering numbers, one could not say much for sure; no theory I am familiar with can be maintained without difficulty. What one can plausibly assert is that, although long life was often seen as blessing in the OT, (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:12; 6:2; 22:7; 1 Ki 3:14), “perhaps long life is not the greatest blessing one can experience.”25 An abundance of days is good, but an abundant life with God is better.26 It’s less about quantity of days and more about quality of days. And days spent walking with God are without equal.

Through Enoch, whose name comes from the Hebrew verb meaning “to introduce, initiate”27 we are introduced to the oldest man in the Bible — Methuselah (969 years, Gen 5:27). However, the account of Enoch may also be introducing a principle that is fleshed out by the enfleshment of Christ in the New Testament — walking obediently by faith (cf. Heb 11:5) can lead to one (ultimately) escaping death and having life in communion with God.28 For if we believe/have faith in (i.e. put our obedient trust in) the Son of God we too shall not (ultimately) die, but have everlasting life (Jn 3:16).29

Memorization

Memorize Genesis 5:24 after watching a brief video tutorial demonstrating the How to Memorize Any Bible Verse in Less Than Five Minutes method below:

Sources

  1. Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia: With Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit Morphology; Bible. O.T. Hebrew. Werkgroep Informatica, Vrije Universiteit. (Logos Bible Software, 2006), Ge 5:24.
  2. The New International Version (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), Ge 5:24.
  3. “The Meaning of the Hithpael Stem…3. Iterative. The iterative expresses the notion of repeated action.”Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew: Grammar, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 385-6.
  4. Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 1032.
  5. Leonard J. Coppes, “498 הָלַך,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 216.
  6. “It is that kind of lifestyle that will characterize the walk of all of God’s saints in the eschatological [end times] age (Isa 2:3). Such a walk is commonly expressed in the hitp[ael]. v[er]b. stem (Speiser, 120–21).” Willem VanGemeren, ed., New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997), 1033.
  7. Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 258.
  8. Concerning negative sentences… “(3) When the subject which is to be negatived is a personal pronoun, it is joined as a suffix to אֵין, according to § 100 o, e.g. אֵינֶ֫נִּי I am not, was not, shall not be; אֵֽינְךָ, fem. אֵינֵךְ, thou art not, &c.; אֵינֶ֫נּוּ, fem. אֵינֶ֫נָּה he, she is not, &c.; also absolutely, Gn 42:13 he is (5:24 he was) no longer alive…”
  9. Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 651.
  10. David Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1–11: The Dawn of Creation, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), 122.
  11. Victor P. Hamilton, “Genesis,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 15.
  12. Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967), 86.
  13. Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1990), 257.
  14. P. S. Johnston, “Life, Disease and Death,” ed. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker, Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 535.
  15. K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 314.
  16. Gordon J. Wenham, “Genesis,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 65.
  17. K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 314.
  18. Kenton L. Sparks, Ancient Texts for the Study of the Hebrew Bible: A Guide to the Background Literature (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2005), 2. “In the Mesopotamian lists of preflood sages, the seventh in the list, Utuabzu, is said to have ascended to heaven.” Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), Ge 5:21–24.18 This is an interesting parallel, but “beyond the common background that may explain Enoch’s place in the biblical genealogy there is no obvious Mesopotamian influence.”19Leo Duprée Sandgren, Vines Intertwined: A History of Jews and Christians from the Babylonian Exile to the Advent of Islam (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2010), 88. Also, “before the discovery of the cuneiform texts, one had seen the prototype of Enoch in the seventh king of the list of Berossos, Evedoranchos = Enmeduranki. It was said of him that he was taken up into the company of Shamash and Ramman and was inducted into the secrets of heaven and earth. Since the new discoveries have shown that the parallel between the series often in Berossos and Gen 5 is no longer tenable, one can no longer maintain a dependence of what is said of Enoch in Gen 5 on the seventh king in Berossos…”Claus Westermann, A Continental Commentary: Genesis 1–11 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), 358.
  19. “One can only point in general to a theme that occurs often in the myths of Israel’s neighbors, that a certain person is especially near to God or is taken up to God or the gods.” Claus Westermann, A Continental Commentary: Genesis 1–11 (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994), 358.
  20. Victor P. Hamilton, “Genesis,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 16.
  21. “Babylonian mathematics tables made much of the factors of 60 (30, 20, 15 etc.) and their squares and multiples.” Gordon J. Wenham, “Genesis,” in New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson et al., 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), 64.
  22. K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 315.
  23. Victor P. Hamilton, “Genesis,” in Evangelical Commentary on the Bible, vol. 3, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1995), 16.
  24. “Certainly the length of a person’s life is of negligible value compared to the quality of his relationship with God.” K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 315.
  25. and perhaps, “he is introduced to the truths of God as he walks with him.” R. S. Hess, “Enoch,” ed. T. Desmond Alexander and Brian S. Rosner, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 458.
  26. “And by faith, we learn, Enoch was ‘taken up so that he should not see death’. Here is a vivid portrayal of the power of God over death, and the faith that in God death is ultimately conquered by life.” David Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1–11: The Dawn of Creation, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), 128.
  27. “So even back here in the primeval history, there are glimpses of hope. Fellowship with God means the restoration of life, and life which is no longer bounded by the limits of time.” David Atkinson, The Message of Genesis 1–11: The Dawn of Creation, ed. J. A. Motyer and Derek Tidball, The Bible Speaks Today (England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1990), 128.
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Imperfect servant striving to be an unapologetically apologetic ambassador for Jesus the Christ. Princeton University Alum | Palmer Theological Seminary Student