Walking with God

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Genesis 5 opens with the second occurrence of the statement “These are the generations…”  We are now opening up a new section, act 2 if you like, in Genesis.  We begin to trace “what became of Adam and his family?” Notice that, Cain’s line has been dealt with separately in the previous chapter. So, Adam’s heir is Seth, despite him being the younger son and so his line is marked out as the sons of God, through Adam. This will of course be the surviving line through The Flood.  We are all descended from Adam, through Seth (v1).

There are some impressive ages throughout.  It is possible that each person themselves represents a dynasty but equally possible that pre the flood and before the affects of the Fall had worked through that people did live for much longer periods.  The longest life on record was Methuselah at 969 years (v27).

However, despite the great ages recorded, there is a phrase repeated throughout, common to all men with one exception, “and he died.”  As long as any of them might have lived, they could not prevent the inevitable.  Death had come into the world as a result of sin.  Even, Seth’s line could not escape this. The exception is Enoch of whom it is said

 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not,[c] for God took him.”

Enoch interrupts the flow of things in two ways. First, Enoch’s life itself appears to have been interrupted, cut short, it is much less than the others in the list.  Could this be an indication either of violence against him or that God had judged him for particular sin?  Well no, because “God took him” and so we have  the second interruption is that change of vocabulary from the litany of “and he died” to “he was not.” 

What is meant by verse 24.  The language of being taken by God can refer euphemistically to death and it is possible if reading the passage stand alone to read it assuming that in physical, biological terms a physical, biological death is not intended here.  However, we also have Hebrews 11:5 which tells us that:

By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: 

Though John 11:25 may cause some caution in our interpretation even of Hebrews 11:5. Jesus says that believers will live even though they die and even more strongly that they will “never die.”  So, just as the lack of immediate death in Genesis 3 prompts us to note that there are different ways of dying, so too does John 11.  For the believer, death is not the death of punishment, death does not mean going to Hell, to experience eternal separation from God’s loving presence.  So, we prefer not to talk about those who know the Lord as dying.  Rather, we talk about them “going home.”  I don’t think that this is a euphemism to avoid the word “died”, I think it is intended to indicate that something greater has happened.  And so, it is possible that both Genesis 5 and Hebrews 11 want to similarly indicate that Enoch’s departure is not the same as the others because his destination is a different place.[1]

Personally though, I would also note the similarities between what is said about Enoch and what happened to Elijah who was very definitely taken up, bodily into heaven bypassing physical death.  Furthermore, the implication seems to be that no body was found/left behind which again points us towards more than a spiritual departure from the body. So, I read this as meaning that like Elijah, Enoch did not experience a physical death but was taken bodily into heaven.[2]

However, of his departure from earthly life but the manner of his life.  I remember my mum often talking about it this way to us when we were children.  “Enoch used to go on long walks with God where they’d talk together.  One day, they walked further than normal and so God said to him, ‘we’ve come a long way today Enoch, it’s a bit far to go back to yours but if we walk on a little bit further we’ll come to my home.”[3]

Walking with God is imagery used to show a life that is close to God, a life characterised by holiness or godliness.  For believers it is about keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, listening to God’s voice and being obedient to his call.

I believe that when a believer lives their life that way, then they do not need to fear the end of physical life here because they have a clear view of the journey ahead.  They know that Jesus will stick close with them and take them through to the other side.

Whatever exactly happened to Enoch in biological terms, we do know that we will physically die unless Jesus returns first. However, if we stick close to Jesus and walk with him then we can look forward to the day when he takes us.  We will no longer be here but we will be very much alive in Christ.

[1] Certainly, some Jewish commentators did assume that he died physically. C.f. J.W Bowker, The Targums and Rabbinic Literature, 143-50, cited in Wenham, Genesis 1-15, 128.

[2] On a side note, it is usually assumed that Lazarus died again, a second time. But isn’t it possible that when Jesus brought him out of the tomb that this was his resurrection?  If so, it is possible that at some point “God took him.” 

[3] I think Enoch was one of my mum’s favourite Bible characters

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