When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.
In the midst of the genealogy of Genesis 5 there is a most interesting man: Enoch. He walked with God in an age when practically no one else did. He is an example of faith when it stands alone.
It is an interesting feature of the biblical references to this person that more is said about Enoch in the New Testament than in the Old. In the whole of the Bible there are only five passages that refer to Enoch. Two of these are genealogies in which only his name is mentioned (1 Chron. 1:3; Luke 3:37), nothing else being said about him. So that leaves only three passages of importance. The first is our text in Genesis. It says, “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen. 5:21–24). The second passage is in Hebrews: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). The third passage is in Jude. “Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men: ‘See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him’ ” (Jude 14–15).
That makes four Old Testament verses as opposed to three New Testament verses. But in terms of the number of words, there are only fifty-one words in the Old Testament as opposed to ninety-four words in the New Testament (based on the niv). More importantly, there are things told us about Enoch in the New Testament that are not even suggested in the Old.
Seventh from Adam
I begin with the last of these references, the reference in Jude. It is because of a phrase that is found there: “seventh from Adam.” That is a curious phrase. Seventh from Adam! Why does God say that Enoch was the seventh descendant in Adam’s line?
At first glance the phrase seems unnecessary, particularly since no similar indication of descent is given for any other biblical character. But it is soon explained when we realize that there were two Enochs in this period, both probably living at the same time, and that one was the seventh descendant from Adam through the line of Seth, while the other was the third descendant from Adam through the line of Cain. The Enoch who descended from Adam through the line of Seth was godly. He is our Enoch. The Enoch who descended from Adam through the line of Cain was godless. He is the devil’s Enoch. So Jude’s identification of Enoch as the seventh from Adam is a way of distinguishing the two. It is as if God is saying, “I want you to follow Enoch. But don’t get confused. I don’t mean the Enoch who is in the fourth chapter of Genesis, the third from Adam. That’s the devil’s Enoch. I mean the Enoch who was the seventh from Adam.”
There is not much told about the Enoch who descended from Cain, but there is enough. First, he was Cain’s son. Presumably he was trained by Cain and participated in the spirit of Cain’s rebellion. Second, his name was given to the first city, which we know was a very wicked city. Third, his descendants were ungodly. In time they produced Lamech, the seventh in Cain’s line. He boasted of a murder and wrote a song about it. This boast—“I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me. If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times”—is the last we hear from this line before the flood swept it away. By contrast, the Enoch who descended from Seth is said to have “walked with God” and to have preached righteousness.
This has practical applications. It suggests that there is a parallel between those who are God’s people and those who are the devil’s, and it encourages us always to imitate God’s people. Let me spell it out. The devil has his men and women, and God has his men and women. The devil has his doctors; God has his doctors. The devil has his convicts; God has his convicts, who by his grace are lifted out of a life of crime. The devil has his lawyers; God has his lawyers. The devil has his housewives, who gossip and flirt and sometimes commit adultery; God has his housewives, who establish godly homes and raise their children in the knowledge and love of Jesus. The devil has his teachers; God has his teachers. The devil even has his preachers, whose sin against knowledge will produce the greater damnation; God has his preachers, who speak the truth. God wants us to see this contrast and pattern our lives after the lives of the godly.
This contrast even suggests the answer to the continuing existence of evil in this world. God is demonstrating the difference between the lives of those who go their own way, sin and bear the consequences, and those who seek to obey God. God is bringing glory and blessing out of the lives of his people; the devil is not able to do that with his children. Enoch was one in whose life God brought blessing.
Preacher of Righteousness
The reference to Enoch in Jude tells something else about this great antediluvian: he was a preacher. And it gives a hint as to the content of his preaching. Enoch’s message had two parts: first, a proclamation of the Lord’s coming in judgment and, second, a denunciation of the ungodliness that was all too visible in the degenerate culture of those days. He said, “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
When we read these words we understand rightly that the coming of the Lord referred to here is the second coming of Christ at which time the world will be judged. I do not know whether Enoch fully understood this in the sense that Jesus would come a first time to die and then a second time in judgment. At this early stage of God’s revelation of himself to men and women, probably no one saw this clearly. But Enoch did see something that perhaps even the other godly descendants of Adam did not see.
We remember that the hope of the people of God in this period was the promise of a deliverer to come, preserved in God’s words of judgment on the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel” (Gen. 3:15). As we studied the verses that follow this promise, we saw how Adam and then also Eve seized on it and lived in hope of that deliverer. Eve named her first child Cain, meaning, “here he is,” because she mistakenly thought that he was the one who would rescue them from their sad state and return them to Paradise. In this period all God’s people presumably lived in hope of this appearance. But now Enoch comes along and preaches that the Lord is indeed coming but that his coming will not be the coming in which Satan is defeated and redemption achieved, but rather a coming in judgment on all the ungodly deeds of men and women. For Enoch’s age, this promise was fulfilled in the deluge. What Enoch saw (and what we need also to see) is that the promises of God to deliver are not blanket promises meant to encompass all, as if all necessarily must be saved, but promises only for those who are God’s people and who show that relationship by obedience.
We know how Amos put it. Though living ungodly lives, the people of his day held a fond hope that whenever the Lord came to earth everything would be set right and they would be restored and vindicated. After all, were they not the people of God? Were they not the descendants of Adam and Abraham and all the other patriarchs? Amos responded:
Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord!
Why do you long for the day of the Lord?
That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
This truth needs to be spoken clearly today. God is a God of mercy, but he is a God of judgment as well. That judgment will surely come on all who walk in the way of Cain, unless they repent and come to God through faith in the sacrifice of Christ, which God has provided.
The second part of Enoch’s preaching concerned the ungodliness of his age. He preached that the Lord was coming “to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” If we look carefully at Jude’s reference to Enoch, we see that it is actually only one sentence and that the words I have just quoted are only a part of that sentence—approximately half. But in that one-half sentence, containing only twenty-nine words, Enoch uses the word “ungodly” four times. That is, one seventh of his recorded words are the single word “ungodly.” What do you think would be the single most spoken word in the sermons of most contemporary preachers? Love? Joy? Peace? Involvement? I assure you that it would not be the word “ungodly.” Yet that was the essential theme of Enoch’s preaching.
We can apply that easily. Enoch lived just before the flood, as we have indicated, and this was a sinful age. There is a brief description of it in Genesis 6:1–7, in which God says that “man’s wickedness on earth” had become great “and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time” (v. 5). The age was marked by sexual promiscuity, materialism, demonism, and other things that undoubtedly accompanied such sin. It was a terrible time. We look at it and are appalled. But that age was not essentially different from our own. We too have sexual promiscuity, materialism, spiritism, the occult. Moreover, we have rape and murder and drug addiction and prostitution. We have wholesale murder of the unborn—even of some who are born but are discovered to have physical defects. How dare we point the finger at the antediluvian culture and say “Ungodly!” when we are so manifestly ungodly ourselves? What would Enoch say if he were here today? Would he not say precisely what he said so many thousand years ago: “Ungodly … ungodly … ungodly … ungodly”? Ungodly is the word most singularly appropriate to our age.
And what is the outcome? In Enoch’s day it was the terrible judgment of God by flood, recorded in the next major section of Genesis. Is a similar judgment not in store for our equally godless culture? God is not mocked! Indeed, our Lord has warned us of this explicitly. He said, “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matt. 24:37–39).
If these are such days and if the future coming of the Lord Jesus Christ will be a judgment comparable even to the flood, should not our preaching and witnessing be as filled with condemnation of sin as was the preaching of Enoch and equally as insistent in warning people to flee from the wrath to come?
He Walked with God
I turn now to the original mention of Enoch in Scripture, which is our text in Genesis. This passage does not record his preaching. On the surface it seems merely to be a record of the years of Enoch’s life and the fact that he was the father of Methuselah. In all, it contains only fifty-one words. But in those fifty-one words, strikingly, much as Jude 14 and 15 repeat the one word “ungodly” four times, we are told twice over that Enoch “walked with God.” We read, “Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen. 5:22–24).
What does it mean “to walk with God”? It means a number of things that various verses in the Bible state quite clearly. First, it means to walk by faith in God, not trusting to our own understanding but believing him when he tells us what we should do and how to do it. Second Corinthians 5:7 states this when it says that we are to “live by faith, not by sight.” Enoch lived by faith, for it is for faith that he is praised in Hebrews: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:5–6).
The second requirement for walking with God is holiness. God is holy, and those who would have fellowship with him must be holy as well. John declares this in his first letter: “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:5–7).
Third, there must be agreement as to the direction we should go, and this means agreeing with God who has planned the way for us. Amos states this by asking, “Do two walk together unless they have agreed to do so?” (Amos 3:3). Obviously not! So if Enoch walked with God, it was clearly because he was not fighting or resisting God but was delighting to walk as God directed him.
Moreover, he was doing this for a long period of time. You will notice, I am sure, that Genesis 5:21–24 applies one use of the phrase “he walked with God” to the time in Enoch’s life immediately after the birth of Methuselah, when Enoch was 65 years old, and the other use of the phrase “he walked with God” to the end of Enoch’s life, when God took him to be with himself. At that time Enoch was 365 years old. The teaching is that Enoch walked with God for 300 years. This was no casual stroll. It was the walk of a lifetime. Moreover, it was a walk and not a sprint or run. Nearly anyone can sprint for a short time or distance, but no one can do it for long. For the long haul you need to walk, and this is what Enoch did. We need people who will walk with God today. Not flashes-in-the-pan. Nor shooting stars who attract you more by their passing brilliance than by their substance. We need steady, faithful people who know God and are coming to know him better day by day.
At this point the texts in Genesis and Jude come together, for why do you suppose Enoch was so conscious of the ungodliness of his generation and so strong in preaching against it? It was because he walked with God. And what do you suppose was the result of his walking with God? Obviously a growth in holiness as a result of which he perceived the true nature of ungodliness. The two always go together. If you walk with God, you will be opposed to sin. But if you do not walk with God, sin will not seem to be so bad to you and you will inevitably accommodate yourself to it.
One way we accommodate ourselves to sin is by calling it by some other name. We call sin “failure,” or we say we’ve made “a mistake.” We call pride “self-esteem,” selfishness “fulfillment,” lust “an instinct.” If we cheat in business, we call it “protecting our own interests.” If we commit adultery, we call it “an attempt to save the marriage.” We call murdering an unborn child “terminating a pregnancy.” What hypocrites we are! How offensive we must be to God, who is obviously not taken in by our reinterpretations but who calls sin, sin and evil, evil. Shakespeare said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Likewise, sin by any other name will smell as putrid. You and I will never grow in holiness unless we see sin for what it is and call it sin, and we will never learn to do that unless we walk closely with God. It is when we walk with God that we learn to call things by God’s vocabulary.
Enoch Pleased God
I turn finally to the third of the three major texts that mention Enoch, Hebrews 11:5, which tells us that “Enoch … pleased God.” This is the obvious culmination of the account of Enoch’s life, for having walked with God and having thereby come to recognize sin as sin and to have turned from it, Enoch inevitably pleased God in what he did. What could be a better testimony for any human life? What could be a better achievement than to have it said that you or I pleased God?
We note that if we please God, we will not be in a position of pleasing most men and women, at least not the ungodly. By the time Enoch died, by the sheer mathematics of birth and reproduction, there were probably several million of Adam’s descendants on earth. These were Enoch’s relatives, mostly cousins. It was these whom Enoch called “ungodly,” and we can be sure that he was not popular with them. But although Enoch may not have pleased his cousins, he has this testimony—that he pleased God. That is what counted. May it also be true of us. If possible, we wish to grow “in favor with God and men” (cf. Luke 2:52). But if the choice is necessary, as it often is, may it never be said that we choose to please men and women rather than God but that we choose to please God regardless of the consequences.
The end of the story is that the day came in Enoch’s life—when he was 365 years old—when God simply took him home to be with himself. They had been out walking, and God simply said, “Let’s not go back to your place tonight. Why don’t you just come home with me?” And so he did.
Martin Luther has fun with this idea in his exposition of Genesis, for he imagines the effect of the translation of Enoch on his godly friends. He notes how Enoch’s father and grandfather would have been disturbed. They would have launched a manhunt. They would have been wondering what could have become of this great preacher of righteousness. No doubt they suspected foul play on the part of Cain’s descendants. Enoch had preached against their wickedness. Perhaps he had been slain, like Abel, and buried secretly. At last, through the revelation of God they learn that Enoch had not been murdered but had simply been taken away by God and given a place in paradise. Why should God have acted this way? Luther asks. It was, he says, to show that death is not the end but rather “that there has been prepared and set aside for men another and also a better life than this present life which is replete with so many misfortunes and evils.” Enoch was God’s testimony to the fact that those who walk with God in this life will also walk with God in a better life hereafter, thanks to the future work “of the promised Seed.”
That was the hope of those who lived before the flood, and it is our hope also. Let us live in that hope and walk with God now so that we may also walk with him in that blessed age to come.
5:21–24 The most fascinating name in this listing is that of Enoch (not the son of Cain of the same name, 4:17). The phrase, Enoch walked with God (vv. 22, 24), expresses a life of fellowship with and obedience to the Lord (as was true of Noah, 6:8). It also recalls the experience of Adam and Eve, who had lived in even closer proximity to the Lord before the Fall (3:8). he was not: This phrase does not mean that Enoch ceased to exist but that he was taken into God’s presence, for God took him. Only Enoch and Elijah (2 Kin. 2:11) ever had this experience. Enoch’s remarkable experience was both a testimony of his deep faith in God (Heb. 11:5, 6) and a strong reminder at the beginning of biblical history that there is life in God’s presence after death for the people of God. What Enoch experienced in a remarkable, dramatic fashion is what each person who “walks with God” will experience—everlasting life with the Savior.