As in the Days of Noah (Part 1): The Names in the Antediluvian Record

"Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived.." Gen. 4:1a

In ancient times names were not lightly given. This was especially true in Biblical times. Most, if not all, of the leading persons with origin stories have a definition associated with the name. The first genealogical lists, in the original Hebrew,  present a vivid picture of the world in the early days after creation. The names of Seth and Cain’s descendants depict a timeline of the progression of evil and the worship of God up until the Flood. In this two-part blog series, we are going to explore how the names of people in the Bible tell us about them and the times they were living in. 

The naming of the father of mankind is tied to the term "mankind" - that is, as the first of the species, he was simply "the man" (Hebrew: H'Adam) and the name stuck. The narrator states that "H'adam" was made from "H'adamah" (the ground). When he sinned, his fate was tied to that ground, including burial. His self designation, though, had been "Eysh" when he named his new wife "Ishah". The form "Eysh" is a contraction of "Enosh" and is from the verb "anah' which indicates frailty. The finest creation of God had the "image of God" only in a spiritual sense. In innocence, they were to rely on the Creator to  maintain their existence.

The name of "Adam" practically disappears outside of the record of the fall and its aftermath. It is found in the genealogy at 1 Chronicles 1:1 and as a historical reference to mankind as "the sons of Adam" (Deu. 32:8). Job references the name (Job 31:33) with regards to sin, though many modern translations take this as "a man". The appellation comes from the verb "adam" which means "to be red", presumably a reference to blood. The progenitor of mankind was both frail and mortal.

After the fall, "Ishah" was renamed after hearing a confirmation that "life" would go on ("in pain you shall bring forth children"--Gen. 3:16-17, 20). Her name would be "Eve" (Havvah), from a verb originally meaning "to live". As it would happen, her pivotal part in the Creation story would be an "object lesson" found only in the New Testament (1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13), reflecting the historical meaning of the verb "Havah"--"to show, or declare". In using a homonym, Adam linked the promise to "living" rather than the living death they both faced. Immediately following the account of the fall on man, the narrative flows naturally to the births of the first children

"[Eve] bore Cain, saying, I have gotten a man by the LORD" Gen. 4:1b

The first child mentioned was named by his mother .The record reveals that she had a hope in the promised "seed of the woman" (from 3:17) when she said she had "acquired" a son. This means that the name she had in mind was "Qanan". However, the pronunciation of the name is recorded as "Qeyn", meaning spear (or lament). Either way her predicted pain in childbirth gave way to a cry "Qeyn!" which ironically was a prediction of tragedy to come.

"[Eve] bore his brother Abel" Gen. 4:2a

His brother, born soon afterwards (some say the boys were twins), became the victim of his brother's evil. But before that his name was given as Abel ("Habel") which means "breath". On the surface, this reminds of us of the first name Adam had given himself "Eysh", a form of "enosh" which is the common word for man in his mortality. "Habel" comes to mean "vanity" or "emptiness", analogous to the fleeting existence of one breath, or the fog, in the morning air. Another prophecy comes from the new parents mouths. About 130 years later, the first parents would lament ("Qeyn") the shortened ("Hebel") life of their second son.

“[Cain] settled in the land of Nod . . . his wife . . . bore Enoch.” Gen. 4:16,17

The Bible gives two genealogies branching from two couples. The first recorded list is from Cain and his unnamed wife. It can be logically assumed that the seven or eight generations listed run concurrently those listed in the “Messianic” line (see Gen. 3:17; 5:5ff ). The first of Cain’s line is named Enoch (“Henok”), which literally means “to make, or be, narrow”. By extension, the mouth of a child is narrow, and can be made even more so by a stubborn child who doesn’t like his food. Conversely, a child will open wide for that which he likes. This ancient lesson led to literally and metaphorically “feeding” a child in such a way that he learned to like what was presented. Cain was the first “master” with his child as the first “disciple”. From an early age, the “way of Cain” would lead away from God. The teacher was pleased with his student and, when the “system” was developed, he named the first city after him (Gen. 4:17).

“[Eve] bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, God has appointed for me another offspring” Gen. 4:25a

Meanwhile, back at the homestead, Adam and Eve had another child. In the genealogy itself the reader is told that Adam also had a part in naming the one who became his heir: Seth (“Sheth”). The meaning of the word is “To set, place, put”. By extension, something is “set in place”, or established at “a point”. Yes, every once in a while the Hebrew has some cognates in English! The grieving parents, after seeing Abel grow to be a godly man (from 60-129 years old!), wished to continue to follow their Creator’s ways.

“To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.”  Gen. 4:26

Born in Adam’s 131st year, Seth would live 105 years before his heir would be born. He would name the boy Enosh (“Anosh”) after Adam’s own designation for the male of the species (Gen. 2:23). In the third century since creation, the house of Adam was looking for a “new beginning”.  In the century, the name of the Creator came familiar to everyone in the community. However, as the old saying goes “familiarity breeds contempt”. In other places where the word here translated “began” appears it carries the negative connotation of “profane, common”. It could be that the “true religion” had already become corrupted.

“To Enoch was born Irad [who] fathered Mehujael [who] fathered Methushael [who] fathered Lamech.” Gen. 4:18

At this point, without a defined time frame, it can be assumed some parallel development was intended by the writer. The populated city of Enoch is likely to have grown exponentially in the four generations listed in this verse. It is in the names of the descendants of Cain that we can find evidence of the decline of mankind leading up to definitive “civilization” as seen in sons of Lamech. Enoch fathered a son known as “Irad” (pronounced “Ee-rad”) which means, “a fugitive”. Although Cain had been cursed to roam alone, he had instead founded a city for his growing family. With his grandson being named Irad, it appears that the curse followed in ways we can only guess. Perhaps young Irad was restless, and became “The Fugitive” in defiance of the ways of his father. Conversely, the restlessness may have been the norm in what may have become a “city of refuge” for a growing lawlessness among the “Sethites”.

By the name he gave his son, Irad shows that things in the fourth century weren't getting any better. Seeking an excuse, perhaps, his son was named "Mahajael" or "Smitten by God". In the eyes of a citizen of the region of Nod, their problems came from God! This outlook, though, probably didn't change things in the worldly province. As time went on, though, some semblance of religion began to form. Mahaja-El ended up naming his son Methusael, which means "Man from God"! Yep, this either means the God-smitten generation had repented or, more likely, developed a belief system of false religion. Lest we be confused, this "man of God" fathered possibly the most worldly man of the antediluvian world: Lamech (which means "Powerful". This power, as we will see, would "go to his head". 

"When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan" Gen. 5:10

Kenan ("Qeynan", also spelled Cainan) is oddly similar to the name of the founder of Enoch, the first son of Adam. This time, "acquired" or "possession" doesn't fit the idyllic life among the people of God. It seems to be an homage to Cain himself. This shows that the supposed godliness of the Sethites may have already become corrupted in just 325 years.  after creation. But Apparently, this was not a chronic problem yet.

"When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel." Gen. 5:12

With Adam and Seth still alive, it is likely that Kenan's son's name was a true turn in the right direction for the "nuclear" family. In fathering "Praise to God", Kenan was reflecting the opposite attitude from his cousin Irad. Two deities were "emerging" -- the true Creator God and the imposter "god" fueled by the desires of mankind. Kenan had proven his loyalties to the Messiah of whom he was an ancestor.

"When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared." Gen. 5:15

Perhaps the "worship leader" of the followers of the true God, at a relatively young age (65), Mahalalel named his son "Jared" ("Descent"). It was 450 years since God had walked with Adam and Eve. Adam had lived most of those years in regret as he saw the continuing decline in the morality of his descendants. It appears that Mahalalel may have seen the same thing.

"When Jared had lived 162 years, he fathered Enoch." Gen. 5:18

The descent into the darkness of false belief continued as Jared got older than anyone so far before naming an heir. When the time came, 612 years had passed since the fall. He named his son "Enoch" ("Trained, Dedicated"). With the likely mingling of the two lines of humanity for centuries, it is tempting to submise that this future prophet had been born among the enemies of the true God.

The two men that were "seventh from Adam" (Jude 1:14) were as different as two men could be. The first Lamech and the second Enoch stand as pictures of depravity and faith in opposition to one another. In our next post, we will explore the world to which the prophet Enoch preached--continuing to draw what we can from the names that they gave their children.

Check out Part 2 / / here / /


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