No one ever says: “Genesis chapter five is my favorite chapter.” In fact, most folks tell me they skim right over it. It’s genealogy after all. How important can it be?
But I wonder: “If it is not important, why is it there?”
Three points stand out:
First, this genealogy is selective. Notice that Seth is the only child of Adam listed. It is not an attempt to list earth’s earliest inhabitants, but only to list the ancestors of Noah. This is his family line, and by the way, ours too.
Second, notice the length of time these people lived. Don’t be seduced into thinking everyone in the ancient world lived a long time. Ancient people attributed greatness to an individual by the length of his life. Thus, in ancient king lists, you will find monarchs living 10,000 or more years. Did they really live that long? No, it was just a way of attributing greatness. The Bible, however, does not attribute thousands of years to these people. Hundreds, yes, and my personal conclusion is that these people (and only these people) lived such long lives. Noah was a great man, a descendant of great men, and a proof of their greatness is in their long lives.
Third, notice that they all died. As great as they may have been, they still died.
Except for Enoch, who “walked with God.” He didn’t die, but he was a stand out among great people for precisely this reason.
And so was Noah.
What is the key to greatness? There is, after all, only one: to walk with God. That key, after all, opens the door to God’s presence, something we all long for. The Psalmist put it this way: “I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.”
It’s not the key to a long life. It’s the key to eternal life. The wise man learns from those who went before him, and that’s the value of genealogy.