I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What's in a Name? Or, Why the Genesis 5 Genealogy is Important.

By Heidi Larson Geis

I was excited when I found out that my church’s ladies’ Bible study will be working our way through the Old Testament this year. It’s a fairly major undertaking, but one that I think will be worth it, since the Old Testament is such a critical foundation for the New Testament. I think the church should spend a lot more time in the Old Testament; I think a lot of Christians would be surprised to see how often Jesus pops up there.

Like most on a journey through the Old Testament, we began our study in Genesis. Anyone who knows me well knows that Genesis is probably one of my favorite books in the Bible. This is likely true because I’m slightly obsessed with the Genesis Creation account. And dinosaurs. I could probably write a hundred blogs about Creation (and dinosaurs), but I will save those for another day.

Today I want to focus on those parts of the Old Testament that a lot of people tend to skim. You know, like the “Boring Begats.” Too often we get to portions of Scripture like the genealogies and we cannot imagine how they could possibly be important, so we sort of cruise past or even skip them. Take chapter 5 of Genesis; does it really matter who fathered whom?

It really does! Here’s the thing: every verse in the Bible is there for a reason, and this genealogy from Adam to Noah is no different. Get ready to have your mind blown!

When I was pregnant with each of our sons, we took great care in choosing their names. I couldn’t help but remember that Naomi’s sons (in the Book of Ruth) had names that meant “sickness” and “wasting,” and they died very young leaving Naomi with just her daughters-in-law. With that in mind, my husband and I opted to give our boys the strong, healthy, positive names “Provider” and “Heard by God” (aka Spencer and Samuel).

Given how often Scripture lists them—and even tells us their meanings—we can surmise the importance of names in the Bible. So, let’s take a closer look at the ten men in the Genesis 5 genealogy and the meanings of their names.

1.)  Adam.  His name means “man” because, well, he was the first man. That makes perfect sense, right?

2.)  Seth.  He is the son born to Eve after the death of Abel, and she gave him a name that means “appointed” because she believed that God appointed his birth.

3.)  Enosh.  Seth named his son Enosh, which means “mortal” or “miserable.” This may have been a reference to circumstances surrounding his birth or to the fact that it was right around this time that men began to defile the name of God.

4.)  Kenan.  Some believe this name is synonymous with Cainan, but it is more likely tied to the Kenites, in which case his name could mean “sorrow” or “dirge.” Perhaps for some reason, his birth brought sorrow to his father.

5.)  Mahalalel.  Mahalal means “blessed” and El means “God.” Therefore, the name given to Kenan’s son means “blessed God.”

6.)  Jared. This name can mean “he who descends” or “he shall come down.”

7.)  Enoch. Enoch means “training,” “instructing,” or “teaching.” Interestingly enough, Enoch was the first recorded preacher and is quoted in Jude as prophesying the Second Coming of Christ.

8.)  Methuselah.  Most people know this name because he has the longest recorded life span. When we think of old guys, we think of Methuselah. His name means “his death shall bring,” which means when Enoch named his son, he prophesied the flood because   the flood came the same year Methuselah died!

9.)  Lamech.  Given how much the name sounds like the word lament, it shouldn’t be surprising that it means “despairing.”

10.)  Noah.  As Lamech explains in Genesis 5:29, the name he chose for his son means “rest” or “comfort.”

These names are interesting on their own and might even give us some insight into the lives of each of these men or the times in which they lived. But when you string the names together, one after the other, you get something even more interesting:

Man...Appointed...Mortal or Miserable...Sorrow...The Blessed God...He Shall Come Down...Teaching or Training...His Death Shall Bring...Despairing...Rest or Comfort...

Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; the Blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring (the) despairing rest.

In other words, we find the Gospel of Salvation embedded in the very first book of the Bible…laid out in the names of the first ten generations of men! Could this be a coincidence? Or is God just that awesome?! (answer: God is just that awesome!) For me, this confirms that Scripture truly is God-breathed, and that every word between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 has been included for a reason. And the more we study His Word, the more we will understand it!


  1. Heidi, how interesting! I've read through the Old Testament for 10 years now and every year I see something new. Great post!

  2. Love this, Heidi! Truly every word of the Bible is inspired. We'll study it for a lifetime and never finish all the depths.Thanks for sharing.

  3. This is good, thanks. Please catch us up on your personal news, too, and on how to pray.