A. THE BOOK OF THE FIRST GENERATIONS OF MAN.
1. The reasons why Moses records the generations of Adam 1.
2. Why he so particularly gives the years, and in the case of each patriarch adds "and he died" 1-2.
3. Why Enoch is placed in the records of the dead 3-4.
* Was Enoch a sinner, and do sinners have hope of eternal life 4.
* Of death.
a. How we are to comfort ourselves against death 5.
b. How reason views death, and how the best heathen philosophers viewed it 6.
c. The knowledge the Scriptures give us of death 6.
4. How we may be greatly profited by the book of the generations of the ancient world 7.
5. Why the book of the generations of Cain is larger than that of Seth's 7.
* How terrible that both lines were totally destroyed, except eight persons 8.
6. The aim of Moses in writing this book of the generations of Adam 9.
* The glory of the first world 10.
a. What was this glory 9-10.
b. Why this glory was revealed 10.
c. Profitable and interesting to meditate upon it 11.
d. The patriarchs of the first world the most holy of all martyrs 12.
B. THE GLORY OF THE CAINITES.
1. The Cainites greatly tormented God's Church, especially after Adam's death 12.
2. To what end their hatred and persecution served the holy patriarchs 13.
* Why Moses did not record the zeal of the holy fathers against the Cainites 14.
* Why Moses gives such a short description of the deluge 15.
* The character of the first world 16.
* Luther's lamentation over the character of the last world; its approaching destruction, and an earnest prayer to God 16-18.
I. THE RECORDS OF THE GENERATIONS OF MAN AND THE GLORY OF THE CAINITES.
A. The Records of the Generations of Man.
V.1. This is the book of the generations of Adam.
1. This chronicle has been arranged by Moses for two reasons. First, on account of the promise of the seed made to Adam; and second, on account of Enoch. Moses writes still another genealogy in the tenth chapter, after the flood, from a far different motive than the present. In the present chapter, he gives the number of the years of the righteous and adds with a special purpose in the case of each one, the words, "and he died."
2. This little phrase may at first thought appear superfluous. After the historian has said, "All the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years," what seems to be the use of his adding the few words, "and he died"? The statement as to the number of his years connotes also the time of his death; for had he lived longer, the additional years would have been contained in the enumeration.
Moses, however, does this with the definite purpose of pointing out the unspeakable wrath of God against sin, and the inevitable punishment of it, inflicted by him on the whole human race, on the righteous as well as on the wicked. So does the Apostle Paul pursue his argument, drawn from this very portion of the Holy Scripture: "As through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all sinned," Rom 5, 12. This is a consequence perpetuated through all generations. Adam died, therefore Adam was a sinner. Seth died, therefore Seth was a sinner. Infants die, therefore infants partake of sin and so are sinners. This is what Moses intends to set forth when he says, concerning the whole line of patriarchs, that, though they were all sanctified and renewed by faith, yet, "they died!"
3. Nevertheless, from this line of the dying there flames starlike a most lovely light of immortality when Moses here records concerning Enoch that "he was not;" that is, he no longer appeared among men, and yet he did not die but was taken up into heaven by the Lord himself. By this glorious fact is signified that the human race is indeed condemned to death on account of sin, and yet the hope of life and immortality is left us, that we need not abide in death forever.
4. For this cause God thought it needful, not only that the promise of life should be given to the original world, but that immortality should be demonstrated by an object lesson. Accordingly Moses said of each patriarch that he fulfilled so many years of life and "died": that is, suffered the punishment of sin, or, was a sinner. But the divine historian does not use these expressions concerning Enoch. Not because that patriarch was not a sinner, but because, even unto such sinners as he, there was left a hope of eternal life through the blessed seed. Therefore all the patriarchs, who died in the faith of this seed, held fast the hope of eternal life.
Enoch, therefore, is the second object lesson by which God makes it manifest that it is his will to give unto us life eternal after this life. The Lord says that Abel, who was killed by his brother, still lived, and that his voice cried from the ground. In the present instance, Enoch is taken up by the Lord himself into heaven.
5. We will not despair, therefore, though we see death, derived from Adam, extend to every one of the whole human race. We must, indeed, suffer death because we are sinners. But we shall not abide in death. We rather have a hope in a divine purpose and providence whereby God designs our deliverance from death. This deliverance has begun with the promise of the blessed seed, and has been demonstrated by Abel and Enoch as object lessons. Wherefore we possess the first fruits of immortality. The Apostle Paul says, "For in hope were we saved," Rom 8, 24. Hope saves us until the fullness of immortality shall be brought unto us at the last day, when we shall see and feel that eternal life which we possessed here in faith and hope.
6. Now, the flesh does not understand this. The flesh judges that man dies like a beast. Men, occupying the front rank of philosophers have felt accordingly that by death the soul is separated and delivered from the prison of the body, to mingle, free from all bodily infirmities, in the assembly of the gods. Such was the immortality dreamed of by the philosophers, though steadfastness of grasp and of vision was out of the question. The Holy Scriptures, however, teach differently concerning the resurrection and eternal life; they place this hope so plainly before our eyes as to leave no room for doubt.
7. Next in order, we find in this chapter a reflection of the condition of the primitive world. The ten antediluvian patriarchs belonging to the lineage of Christ, with their descendants, are enumerated. Nor is it a useless study to put these data before one's eyes on paper, according to the directions given by Moses, to see who the patriarchs were, who were their contemporaries, and how old they became, as I have taken the time to do. Cain also has his line, as Moses has shown in the preceding chapter, and I have no doubt that the posterity of Cain was far more numerous than that of righteous Seth.
8. From these two families, as from roots, was the world peopled, down to the deluge, in which both branches, with their two classes of descendants (that is, the posterity of the wicked and that of the righteous) were rooted out of the earth, eight souls only being left, and even among them one was wicked. Accordingly, as in this chapter a magnificent picture of the primeval world is presented to our view, so we behold also the incalculable wrath of God, and the horrible event of the reduction of the total offspring of these patriarchs to eight souls.
9. We will reserve this awful record for its proper time and place. Let us now do that which Moses does in the present chapter, who wants us to consider the exceeding splendor of this primeval age of the world. Adam lived beyond the age of his grandson Enoch, and died but a short time before Noah was born. A hundred and twenty years only intervened between the death of Adam and the birth of Noah. Seth died only fourteen years before Noah's birth. Enosh and the rest of the patriarchs, except Enoch, lived at the same time with Noah. Thus by a comparison of the figures, we shall ascertain that quite a number of gray-headed patriarchs, of whom one lived seven hundred, and another nine hundred years, were contemporaries, and teaching and governing the Church of the godly.
10. The exceeding glory of the primitive world consists in this, that it contained so many good and wise and holy men. We are by no means to think that all these are merely common names of plain and simple men. They were the greatest heroes and men of renown that the world ever witnessed, next to Christ and John the Baptist. In the last day we shall behold and admire the real majesty of all these worthies, and then we shall truly behold the mighty deeds which these mighty men wrought. Yes, it will then be made manifest what Adam did, what Seth did, what Methuselah did, and the others; what they suffered from the old serpent; how they comforted and fortified themselves, by their hope in the promised seed, against all the harm and violence of the world, that is, of the Cainites; what craft they experienced; what injuries and hatred and contempt they bore for the glory of the blessed seed to be born from their lineage. We are assuredly not to imagine that these great and holy men lived without severe afflictions and innumerable crosses. All these things, I say, shall be revealed at the last day.
11. And it is an undertaking, as I said, full of profit and pleasure now to contemplate with our minds, as with open eyes, that happy age, in which so many patriarchs lived contemporaneously, nearly all of whom, except Noah, had seen and known their first father, Adam.
B. The Glory of the Cainites.
12. Also the Cainites had their glory. Among them were men most eminent in the liberal arts, and the most consummate hypocrites, who gave the true Church a world of trouble, and harassed the holy patriarchs in every possible way. We may justly call all those who were thus oppressed by them most holy martyrs and confessors. The Cainites, as Moses before intimated, very soon surpassed the other descendants of Adam in numbers and activity. Although they were compelled to revere their father Adam, yet they adopted all possible means of oppressing the Church of the godly, and especially so after the death of the first patriarch, Adam. By such wickedness, these Cainites helped to bring on the flood as retribution.
13. This power and malice of the Cainites caused the holy patriarchs to teach and instruct their Church with increased zeal and industry. What numerous and powerful sermons may we suppose were preached by them in the course of these most eventful years! There is no doubt that both Adam and Eve testified of their original state of innocence, described the glory of paradise and warned their posterity to beware of the serpent, who, by tempting them to sin, had caused all these great evils. How constant may we suppose them to have been in explaining the promise of the blessed seed! How earnestly must they have exhorted the hearts of their followers to be moved neither by the splendor of the Cainites nor by their own afflictions.
14. All these particulars Moses omits to record, both because they could not be described on account of their infinite variety of detail and because the revelation of them is reserved for that great day of deliverance and glory!
15. Likewise the flood, in spite of its horror, is described with the greatest brevity because he wished to leave such things to the meditation of men.
16. For the same reasons Moses has purposely given us, in these first five chapters, as briefly as possible, a picture of the original and primeval world. It was an admirable condition of life, and yet that primeval age contained a multitude of the worst of men, in consequence not more than "eight souls" were saved from the destroying flood! What then, may we conclude, will be the state of things before the last day shall come, seeing that even now, under the revealed light of the Gospel, there is found so great a host of despisers of it that there is cause to fear that they will fill the world ere long with errors and prevail to the extinction of the Word altogether.
17. Awful is the voice of Christ when it utters the words, "Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Lk 18, 8. And in Matthew 24, 37-38, our Lord compares the last days with the days of Noah. These utterances of our Lord are indeed most awful. But the world, in its security and ingratitude, is a despiser of all the threats as well as all the promises of God. It abounds in iniquities of every kind and becomes daily more corrupt. From the time that the popes ceased to rule among us, who had ruled the whole world by means of the mere dread of their vengeance, sound doctrine has been despised, and men have degenerated into all but brutes and beasts. The number of holy and godly preachers of the Word is becoming less and all men are indulging their desires. The last day, however, shall assuredly come upon the world as a thief, and will overtake these men in all their security, and in the indulgence of their ambition, tyranny, lust, avarice, and vices of every kind.
18. And let it be remembered that it is Christ himself who has foretold these things, and we can not possibly imagine that he would lie. If the primitive world, which contained so mighty a multitude of the greatest patriarchs, was so wholly corrupted, what may we not have cause to dread in the weakness of our nature? May the Lord our God grant that we may be gathered, as soon as possible, in the faith and confession of his Son Jesus Christ, unto these our fathers; yea, if it please him, that we may die within the next twenty years, and not live to see the miseries and calamities, both temporal and spiritual, of the last time! Amen!
II. ADAM AND HIS SON SETH.
1. The name Adam, and why given to the first man 19.
2. The Jews' fables of Adam's cohabitation with Eve 20.
* Purity of doctrine cannot be expected from the Jews 20.
3. Why Moses so carefully describes the times of Adam 21.
4. Why it is said of Adam that he was created in the likeness of God 21-23.
* The likeness of God.
a. The difference between "Zelem" and "Demuth" 22-23.
b. How the likeness of God was lost and how it is restored 24.
c. Whether it can be fully restored in this life 25.
5. The prating of the rabbins about the name Adam 26.
* Why Moses here mentions the blessing 27.
* Why he did not refer to the blessing in the descriptions of Cain and Abel 28.
6. How long it was before Adam begat Seth 29.
* Abel's age when murdered 29.
7. How and why Adam mourned so long for his son Abel, and therefore refrained from bearing children 29-30.
8. The Jews' fable of Adam's vow of chastity refuted 30.
9. How we are to understand that Adam begat a son in his own likeness 31.
10. Whether Adam's son Seth had God's likeness 31.
11. How Adam acquired again the lost image 32.
12. How Seth secured the likeness of God 32.
13. Why Adam gave his son the name Seth; its meaning 33.
* The long lives of the first men.
a. Longevity a part of the happy state of the first world 34.
b. The causes of such long lives 34-35.
* Men's bodies were much stronger and healthier than ours 35.
c. Whether the climate, food and holy living contributed to this end 36-37.
* The creatures given to man for food after the flood were inferior to those before, and they injured the body more than nourished it 37.
d. Luther's thoughts on this theme 38.
14. Which is the first or chief branch born from Adam and Eve 39.
15. How long Adam lived after Seth's birth 39.
* The glory of the first world 40.
* The histories of the first world were most excellent, but they were destroyed in the flood 41.
* Eve's age and experiences 42.
* The age of the first world is called the golden age 43.
II. ADAM AND HIS SON SETH.
V.1a. This is the book of the generations of Adam.
19. "Adam," as will be stated further on, is the common name of the whole human race, but it is applied to the first man more expressly as an appellation of dignity, because he was the source, as it were, of the whole human family. The Hebrew word sepher, "a book," is derived from saphar, which signifies "to narrate" or "to enumerate." Wherefore this narration or enumeration of the posterity of Adam is called "the book of the generations of Adam."
V.1b. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him.
20. This clause of the sacred text has induced the blind Jews to fable that Adam slept with Eve as his wife in paradise on the same day in which he was created, and that she conceived in that same day. Fables of this kind are numerous among them, nor may anything sound or pure in the matter of scriptural interpretation be expected of them.
21. The intent of Moses, in this clause, is to record the complete age of Adam, and to number the days of his life from the day of his creation, and, at the same time, to show that before Adam there was no generation. Generation is to be clearly distinguished from creation. There was no generation before Adam, but creation only. Adam and Eve were not born but created, and that directly by God himself. Moses adds, "In the likeness of God made he him." We are to understand, then, that when he afterwards mentions that Adam begat Seth, he numbers his years from the very day of his creation.
22. In respect to Adam's having been made in the likeness of God, we have shown above in its place what that "likeness" of God was. Although almost all commentators understand the expressions, "the likeness of God," and "the image of God," to mean one and the same thing, yet so far as I have been able from careful investigation to reach a conclusion, there is a difference between the two terms. Zelem properly signifies "an image," or "figure," as when the Scripture says, Ye shall break down their images, Ex.23, 24, in which passage the original term signifies nothing more than the figures, or statues, or images erected by men. But demuth signifies "a likeness," or "the perfectness of an image." For instance, when we speak of a lifeless image, such as that which is impressed on coins, we say, This is the image of Brutus or of Caesar. That image, however, does not reproduce the likeness, nor exhibit every single feature.
23. Accordingly, when Moses says that man was created also in the likeness of God, he points out that man resembles God not only in the possession of reason, or of intellect and will, but that he has also the likeness of God, that is, a will and an intellect, with which he knows God and wills what he wills.
24. If man, having been created both "in the image" and "in the likeness" of God, had not fallen, he would have lived forever, full of joy and gladness, and would have possessed a will joyfully eager to obey the will of God. But by sin both this "likeness" and this "image" were lost. They are, however, in a measure, restored by faith, as we are told by the apostle, Col 3, 10; Eph 4, 24. For we begin to know God, and the spirit of Christ helps us, so that we desire to obey the commandments of God.
25. Of these blessed gifts we possess only the first-fruits. This new creation within us is only as yet begun; it is not perfected here in the flesh. The will is in some measure stirred to praise God, to give him thanks, to confess sin, and to exercise patience, but all this is only the first-fruits. The flesh, obeying the law of its nature, still follows the things of the flesh, while it opposes the things of God. The result is that the restoration of such gifts in us is only in the initial stage; but the full tithe of this likeness in all its perfection shall be rendered in the future life, when the sinful flesh shall have been destroyed by death.
V.2. Male and female created he them, and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.
26. I have above observed that the general name "Adam" was applied to Adam alone, by reason of his superiority. I omit to mention those vagaries of the rabbins, who say that no man can be called "Adam" unless he has a wife. Likewise, no woman can be called "Adam" unless married. The thought may have been drawn from the teachings of the fathers, but the Jews have corrupted it by their foolish fancies and opinions.
27. Moses aims to show this blessing was not taken from man because of his sin, since the blessing of bearing children and ruling them continued with Cain though he had murdered his brother.
28. Moses mentions not Abel, for he had died without an heir and is presented to us as an example of the resurrection of the dead. Neither is Cain mentioned, who because of his sin was cut off from the true Church.
29. Scripture says nothing of what Adam and Eve did during the one hundred years. Some of our writers add a hundred years longer Adam should have lived with Eve before Cain slew his brother Abel, which makes Adam two hundred and thirty years of age when Seth was born. It seems to me plausible that the godly parents passed one hundred years in sorrow and mourned the great dishonor that befell their family. After Adam was expelled from paradise did he first beget children, sons and daughters, who were like him, and Abel was perhaps thirty years of age when he was slain. It appears the children were not much younger than their parents, who were not born, but created.
30. I believe, accordingly, that the godly parents indulged their grief, and abstained from connubial intercourse. This abstinence, however, was not maintained with the intent which the Jews fable, who absurdly affirm that Adam vowed perpetual chastity, like our monks, and that he would still have kept his vow had he not been commanded by an angel from heaven to live together with his wife. Such a story as this is only fit to be told to a Roman pontiff of the age of forty, who alone is worthy of listening to such fables. No, Adam was not so wicked as thus to refuse the gift and command of God! Such abstinence would have been taking vengeance on himself for the grief he had endured, and it would have meant to reject the gift of that blessing which God had been pleased to leave to nature even in its fallen state.
Moreover, this was a matter not left in the power of Adam. As Moses has clearly shown, God had created him a male. He had, therefore, need of a female, or wife, because the instinct of procreation was implanted in his nature by God the Creator, himself. If therefore Adam abstained, he did so for a reason only, intending to return to his Eve after giving vent to his grief for a time.
31. Moses here expressly adds, concerning Adam, that he "begat a son in his own likeness, after his image." Theologians entertain various opinions as to the real meaning of those expressions. The simple meaning is, that Adam was created "in the image" and "after the likeness" of God, or that he was the image of God, created, not begotten; for Adam had no parents. But in this "image of God" Adam continued not; he fell from it by sin. Seth, therefore, who was afterwards born, was begotten, not after the image of God, but after the image of his father Adam. That is, he was altogether like Adam; he resembled his father Adam, not only in his features, but he was like him in every way. He not only had fingers, nose, eyes, carriage, voice, and speech, like his father, but he was like him in everything else pertaining to body and soul, in manners, disposition, will and other points. In these respects Seth did not bear the image of God which Adam possessed originally, and which he lost; but he bore the likeness of Adam, his father. But this likeness and image were not of God by creation, but of Adam by generation.
32. Now, this image included original sin, and the punishment of eternal death on account of sin, which God inflicted on Adam. But as Adam, by faith in the seed that was to come, recovered the image of God, which he had lost, so Seth also recovered the same after he grew up to man's estate; for God impressed again his own "likeness" upon him through the Word. Paul refers to this when he says to the Galatians, "My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you," Gal 4, 19.
33. Of the name Seth I have spoken above. It denotes command, and voices the sentiments of one praying and prophesying good news, as if Adam had said: "Cain has not only himself fallen, but also caused his brother to fall. May God, therefore, grant that this my son Seth shall stand as a firm foundation which Satan shall not overthrow." Such blessing or prayer is implied in the name.
Vs.4-5. And the days of Adam after he begat Seth were eight hundred years and he begat sons and daughters. And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years and he died.
34. This is another part of the happiness of that age, that men attained to so long life. Such longevity, when compared with the length of our lives, seems quite incredible. A question naturally arises as to the cause and theory of such old age. I am not at all displeased with the reasons assigned by some, that the constitutions of men were then far better than ours are now, and also that all things then used for food were more healthful than those now used. To these particulars we must add that important requisite for a long life, the greatest moderation in the use and enjoyment of food. To what extent the latter conduces to health, is needless to explain.
35. Though the body was sounder than at present, yet the general vigor and strength of limb which men had in paradise before the advent of sin, had passed away. It is true, however, that their bodily well-being was enhanced when, after the fall, they were renewed and regenerated through faith in the promised seed. For the same reason, also, sin was weakened through faith in the seed. As for us, we have lost their strength and vigor just in proportion as we have departed from their righteousness.
36. With reference to food, who cannot easily believe that one apple, in that primeval age, was more excellent and afforded a greater degree of nourishment than a thousand in our time? The roots, also, on which they fed, contained infinitely more fragrance, virtue and savor, than they possess now. All these conditions, but notably holiness and righteousness, the exercise of moderation, then the excellence of the fruit and the salubrity of the atmosphere -- all these tended to produce longevity till the time came for the establishment of a new order by God which resulted in a decided reduction of the length of man's life.
37. Now, if we turn to consider thoughtfully our present mode of life, we find that we are much more corrupted than nourished by the meat and drink we consume. In addition to the immoderation characterizing our life, how much have the fruits themselves lost in excellence? Our first parents lived moderately, and chose only those things for their meat and drink calculated to nourish and refresh their bodies. There can be no doubt that after the deluge all the fruits of the earth deteriorated greatly. Even so, in our own age, we find all things deteriorate. The Italian wines and fruits differ no more from our own at the present day than the fruits before the deluge differed from those produced amid that brackishness and foulness made by the sea.
38. These causes, with others which many assign for the great longevity of the primeval patriarchs, I by no means disapprove. But this one reason is quite sufficient, in my opinion, that it pleased God to give them such length of life in the best part of the world. Yet we see, as Peter strikingly says, that God willed not to spare the old world, no, not even the angels in heaven that sinned; so horrible a thing is sin. Sodom and Gomorrah were the choicest portion of the earth, and yet, on account of sin, they were utterly destroyed. In the same manner the Holy Scriptures everywhere set forth the greatness of sin, and exhort to the fear of God.
39. We have now the root, or rather the source, of the human race, namely Adam and his Eve. From these Seth is born, the first branch of this tree. But as Adam lived eight hundred years after the birth of Seth, Adam saw himself in possession of numerous progeny. This was the period of the restoration of righteousness through the promise of the seed to come. Afterwards, however, when men increased, and the sons of God mingled with the daughters of men, the world gradually became corrupt, and the majesty of the holy patriarchs became an object of contempt.
40. It is an attractive sight, to view the number of gray-headed patriarchs living at the same time. Only a little ciphering is required to do it. If you compute carefully the years of our first parent, Adam, you will see that he lived over fifty years with Lamech, Noah's father. Accordingly, Adam saw all his descendants down to the ninth generation, having an almost infinite number of sons and daughters. These, however, Moses does not enumerate, being satisfied to number the trunk and the immediate branches down to Noah.
41. There were, without doubt, in this mighty multitude, many very distinguished saints, whose history, if we possessed it, would exceed in marvelousness all the histories of the world. Compared with it, the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt, their passage through the Red Sea and through Jordan, their captivities and returns, would be as nothing. But as the primeval world itself perished, so did its history. In consequence, the first place in the annals of history belongs to the account of the flood, in comparison with which the others are only as sparks to the fire. Of the former world we have nothing but names, but these are, so to speak, great histories in miniature.
42. It is probable that also Eve lived to the age of 800 years and saw this great posterity. What must have been her concern, how great her labors, how devoted her toils, in visiting, in teaching, and in training her children and grandchildren. And what must have been her crosses and sighs, when the generation of the Cainites opposed with so much determination the true Church, although some of them were even converted by the uncovenanted mercy of God.
43. Truly that primeval time was a "golden age," in comparison with which our present age is scarcely worthy of being called the age of mud. During those primeval centuries, there lived at the same time nine patriarchs, together with their posterities, and all of them in harmony concerning the faith in the blessed seed! All these glorious things Moses just mentions, but does not explain; otherwise this would be the history of histories.
1. Why Moses writes the history of Enoch and not that of the other patriarchs before the flood 43-45.
2. How it is to be understood that Enoch led a godly life and how the monks interpret this falsely 46.
3. Enoch's prophecy cited by Jude and where Jude received it 47.
4. Enoch's exceptional courage and how he opposed Satan and the world 48.
5. The length of time he led a godly life; and Moses justly praises him 49.
6. Why Enoch is so greatly praised 50.
7. The tenor of his preaching 51.
8. He by no means led the life of a monk 51.
9. How he was missed. "He was not" 52.
* Enoch's ascension a proof of the resurrection of the dead 52.
10. The effect of his ascension upon his father and grandfather 53-55.
11. Whether the other patriarchs living then at once knew that he ascended; and how such news affected them 54-56.
* The cross must always precede consolation 54.
12. Why God took Enoch 55.
* The news of Enoch's ascension must have quickened the holy patriarchs 56.
13. Enoch's ascension a sign that a better life is offered to man 57.
14. How Enoch walked and lived before God 58.
15. Enoch a man as we are and yet God took him 58.
* The great sorrow of the patriarchs at Enoch's disappearance and their great joy over such an experience 59.
* Seth at the time was high priest, old and tired of life, and died soon after Enoch was taken 60-63.
* What Luther would do if he knew in advance the day of his death 61.
* This temporal life full of want and misery 62.
* The results of Seth's preaching after Enoch's ascension 63.
* The longing of the holy fathers for eternal life, and how it should serve us 64.
* Lamentation over the great corruption inherent in our flesh 65.
16. Enoch's ascension was great comfort to the holy patriarchs in meeting death 66.
* Of death.
a. It is not death to believers, but a sleep 66.
b. In what way death is a punishment of sin, and how it is sweetened 67.
* Luther's thoughts of Enoch's ascension 67.
17. Enoch's ascension extraordinary, and well worthy of consideration by all 68.
18. The rabbins' foolish thoughts of Enoch's ascension refuted 69.
19. Enoch doubtless had many temptations 69.
20. Enoch ascended even bodily, and not with that life which he now lives 70.
* How and why God willed that the world should have in all times a sign of the resurrection, and hence in the first world Enoch ascended, in the second Elijah, and in the third Christ 71.
* Lamentation over the unbelief of the world 72.
* Christ's ascension more significant than Enoch's or Elijah's 73.
* The chief doctrine of the first five chapters of Genesis 74.
* How and why death and the resurrection of the dead are set forth 74.
44. There is one history, however, that of Enoch, the seventh from Adam, which Moses was not willing to pass over for the reason of its being extraordinarily remarkable. Still, even in this case he is extremely brief.
In the case of all the other patriarchs he mentions only the names and the number of their years. Enoch, however, he delineates in such a manner that he seems, in comparison, to slight the other patriarchs and, as it were, to disparage them as if they were evil men, or at least slighted of God. Did not Adam also, and Seth, and Cainan, together with their descendants -- did not all these, also, walk with God? Why, then, does Moses ascribe this great honor to Enoch only? And is the fact that God took Enoch to be understood as if the other patriarchs are neither with God nor living? Yes, they all, like Enoch, now live with God, and we shall behold them all, at the last day, shining equally with Enoch, in the brightest glory!
45. Why, then, does Moses discriminate in favor of Enoch? Why does he not bestow the same praise upon the other patriarchs? Although they died a natural death, and were not taken by God, yet, also they "walked with God." We have heard above concerning Enosh that in his times, likewise, mighty things were done. It was in his days that "men began to call upon the name of Jehovah," that is, that the Word and worship of God began to flourish; and as a result holy men once more "walked with God." Why is it then, we repeat, that Moses does not laud Enosh equally with Enoch? Why does he bestow such high praise on the latter only? For his words are these:
Vs.21-24. And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah. And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters. And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years. And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.
46. When Moses says that Enoch "walked with God," we must beware of taking the monastic view in the premises, as if he had kept himself secluded in some private corner, and there lived a monastic life. No, so eminent a patriarch must be placed on a candlestick, or, as our Saviour Christ expresses it, set as a city on a hill, that he may shine forth in the public ministry.
47. It is as a bearer of such public office the Apostle Jude extols him in his epistle, when he says: "To these also Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of holy ones, to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their works of ungodliness, which they have ungodly wrought, and of all the hard things which ungodly sinners have spoken against him," Jude vs.14, 15. From what source Jude obtained these facts I know not. Probably they remained in the memory of man from the primitive age of the world; or it may be that holy men committed to writing many of the sacred words and works of the patriarchs as they were handed down from age to age by tradition.
48. It is this public ministry that Moses lauds, exalting the pious Enoch as a sun above all the other patriarchs and teachers of the primeval world. Wherefore, we may gather from all these circumstances that Enoch possessed a particular fullness of the Holy Spirit, and a preeminent greatness of mind, seeing that he opposed with a strength of faith excelling that of all the other patriarchs, Satan and the church of the Cainites. To walk with God, is not, as we have before observed, for a man to flee into a desert, or to conceal himself in some corner, but to go forth in his vocation, and to set himself against the iniquity and malice of Satan and the world, and to confess the seed of the woman; to condemn the religion and the pursuits of the world, and to preach, through Christ, another life after this.
49. This is the manner of life led for three hundred years by the greatest prophet and high priest of his generation, Enoch, the man who had six patriarchs for his teachers. Most deservedly, therefore, does Moses extol him as a disciple of greatest eminence, taught and trained by many patriarchal masters, and those the greatest and most illustrious; and, moreover, so equipped with the Holy Spirit that he was the prophet of prophets and the saint of saints in that primeval world. The greatness of Enoch, then, consisted in the first place in his office and ministry.
50. In the second place, he receives preeminent praise because it was the will of God that he should be an example to the whole world in verifying, and showing the comfort of, the faith in the future life. This text, therefore, is worthy of being written in letters of gold and of being deeply engraven in the inmost heart.
51. Here we have another view of what it means to walk with God. It is to preach the life beyond this present life; to teach concerning the seed to come, concerning the serpent's head that is to be bruised and the kingdom of Satan that is to be destroyed. Such was the preaching of Enoch, who nevertheless was a husband, and the father of a family; who had a wife and children, who governed his household, and procured his subsistence by the labor of his own hands. Wherefore say or think no more about living in a monastery, which has merely the outward show of walking with God. When this godly man had lived, after the birth of Methuselah, 300 years in the truest religion, in faith, in patience and in the midst of a thousand crosses, all of which he endured and overcame by faith in the blessed seed to come, he appeared no more.
52. Mark how pregnant these words are with power! He does not say, as he expresses himself concerning the other patriarchs, "and he died," but "he was not," an expression that all scholars have come to regard as a pure proof of the resurrection of the dead. In the Hebrew this meaning is most strikingly brought out. And Enoch walked with God, and veenenu, "he was not." The original signifies that Enoch was lost or disappeared, contrary to the thought or expectation of all the other patriarchs, and at once ceased to be among men.
53. Without doubt, at the severe loss of so great a man, both his father and his grandfather were filled with grief and consternation; for they well knew with what devotion he had taught the true religion, and how many things he had suffered. When they had thus suddenly lost such a man as Enoch, who had strong testimony of his godliness both from men and from God himself, what do you think must have been their feelings?
54. Find me, if you can, a poet or a fluent orator to do justice to this text and to treat it with power! Enosh, Seth, and all the other patriarchs knew not by whom or whither Enoch was taken away; they sought him, but found him not. His son Methuselah sought him, and his other children and his grandchildren sought him, but they found him not. They suspected, no doubt, the malice of the Cainites, and they probably thought that he was killed, as Abel was, and secretly buried.
At length, however, they learned, through a revelation made to them of God by an angel, that Enoch was taken away by God himself, into paradise. This fact they probably did not know the first or the second day after the translation, and perhaps not till many months, or it may be many years, afterwards. In the meantime the holy men bewailed his wretched lot, as if he had been slain by the Cainite hypocrites. It is always the divine rule that the cross and affliction should precede consolation. God never comforts any but the afflicted, just as he never quickens unto life any but the dead, nor ever justifies any but sinners! He always creates all things out of nothing.
55. It was a severe cross and affliction to the patriarchs when they saw taken away from them, to appear nowhere among them, him who had governed the whole world by his doctrine, and who had done so many illustrious deeds in the course of his life. While these patriarchs were mourning and bewailing the misfortune of the holy man, behold! consolation was at hand, and it was revealed to them that the Lord had "translated" Enoch! Such an expression we have not concerning any other man than Enoch, except Elijah. God willed, therefore, to testify by an object lesson, that he has prepared for his saints another life after this life, in which they shall live forever with God.
56. The Hebrew verb lakak does not signify "translated" according to the impression conveyed by our use of the word, but "received to himself." These words are, accordingly, words of life, revealed by God through some angel to the patriarch Enoch, and to the whole of that generation of saints, that they might have the consolation and promise of eternal life, not only through a word, but also through an act, as before in the case of Abel. How delightful must have been to them this proclamation, when they heard that Enoch was not dead, nor slain by wicked men, nor taken away from them by the fraud or snares of Satan, but translated; that is, "received to himself" by the living and omnipotent God.
57. This is that bright gem which Moses sought to display in the present chapter -- that the omnipotent God did not take unto himself geese, or cows, or blocks of wood, or stones, but a man, even Enoch, to teach there was reserved for men another and better life than this present one, so filled with evils and calamities of every kind. Although Enoch was a sinner, yet the manner of his departure from this life proved that God had prepared for him and brought him to another and eternal life; for he entered upon the life with God, and God took him to himself.
58. Accordingly, Enoch's walking with God signifies that he was in this life a faithful witness of eternal life to be gained after this life through the promised seed. This is what living with God means, not the mere animal life subject to corruption. Inasmuch as Enoch constantly preached this doctrine, God verified and fulfilled this preaching in the patriarch himself, that we might fully and surely believe it; in that Enoch, a man like unto ourselves, born of flesh and blood, as we also are, of the seed of Adam, was taken up into heaven by God, and now lives the life of God, that is, an eternal life.
59. Before the generation of patriarchs knew the facts in the case, it was appalling to them to hear that so holy a man as Enoch had disappeared so completely that his whereabouts or manner of death was beyond everybody's ken. Great, therefore, was the grief of the pious parents and elders. But afterwards incredible joy and consolation were theirs when they heard that their son lived with God himself and had been translated by God to an angelic and eternal life.
60. This consolation God made known to Seth, who was the greatest prophet and high priest after his father Adam had fallen asleep in the faith of the blessed seed fifty-seven years before, Seth having then arrived at about his eight hundred and sixtieth year. Seth, being now an old man and full of days and without doubt fully confirmed in the faith of the blessed seed to come, and anxiously awaiting deliverance from the body and earnestly desiring to be gathered to his people, died with greater joy about fifty-two years afterward, because of the translation of his son Enoch. Fifty-two years were indeed but a short time for an old man wherein to make his will and visit all his grandchildren, and preach to them and exhort them to persevere in the faith of the promised seed and to hope in that eternal life unto which his son and their father Enoch had been translated to live with God. In this manner, doubtless, the aged saint employed his time among his descendants, bidding farewell to and blessing each one. Full of years and full of joy, he no doubt thus taught and comforted both himself and them.
61. If I knew that I were appointed to die in six months' time, I should scarcely find time enough wherein to make my will. I would remind men of what had been the testimony of my preaching, exhort and entreat them to continue and persevere therein, and warn and guard them as far as my powers of mind could do so, against the offense of false doctrine. All these things could not be done in one day, nor in one month. Those fifty years during which Seth lived after the translation of Enoch, formed but a very short period for him (for spiritual men have an altogether different method of calculating time than the children of this world) in which to instruct all his family in the nature of this glorious consolation -- that another and eternal life is to be hoped for after this life, a hope which God revealed to his saints by the marvelous fact of his having taken to himself Enoch, who was of the same flesh and blood with ourselves.
62. "Follow not," said he, "the evil inclinations of your nature, but despise this present life and look forward to a better. For what evil exists that is not found in this present life? To how many diseases, to what great dangers, to what dreadful calamities, is it not subject? to say nothing now of those evils which are the greatest of all afflictions, those spiritual distresses which burden with anguish the mind and conscience, such as the Law, sin, and death itself.
63. "Why is it then, that ye so anxiously expect such great consolations from this present life as to seem incapable of ever being completely satisfied? Were it not for the fact that God wants us to live to proclaim him, to thank him, and to serve the brethren, life is such as to suggest its voluntary termination. This service, therefore, let us render unto God, with all diligence. Let us look forward with continual sighs to that true life to which, my children, your brother Enoch has been translated by the glorious God."
These and like things the aged saint taught his people after his great consolation had been revealed. There is no doubt that after it was understood that Enoch was translated alive into immortality, they longed for the time when they also might be delivered out of this afflicted life, in the same manner, or at least by death.
64. If, then, those godly patriarchs of old so anxiously looked forward to the eternal life and desired it to come, on account of Abel and Enoch, whom they knew to be living with God, how much greater ought to be our expectation and desire, who have Christ for our leader unto eternal life, who is gone before, as Peter says in Acts 3, 20-26. They believed in him as one to come; we know that he has become manifest, and has gone to the Father to prepare for us a home, and to sit at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us. Ought we not, therefore, to sigh for those future things, and to hate those of the present? It is not an Enoch or an Abel who sets before us, as those patriarchs did before their people, the hope of a better life to come; but Christ, the leader and author of life himself. It becomes us, therefore, firmly to despise this life and world, and with swelling breast to pant after the coming glory of eternal life.
65. Herein we feel how great is the infirmity of our flesh which lusts after these present things with eager desire but fails to rejoice in the certainties of the life to come. How is it possible that a fact should not be most certain which has for witnesses not only Abel and Enoch and Elijah, but also Christ himself, the head and the first fruits of those that rise? Most worthy, therefore, the hatred of both God and men are the wicked Epicureans; and most worthy our hatred also is our own flesh, when we wholly plunge into temporal cares and securely disregard the eternal blessings.
66. Worthy of note and carefully to be remembered is the statement that Enoch was taken up and received, not by some patriarch or angel, but by God himself. This was the very consolation which rendered the deaths of the patriarchs endurable; yea, which enabled them to depart from this life with joy. They saw that the seed which had been promised them warred, even before he was revealed, with Satan, and bruised, through Enoch, his head. Such was the hope entertained by them concerning themselves and all their believing descendants, and, in perfect security, they despised death as having ceased to be death, as having become a sleep from which they were to awaken into life eternal. "To them that believe," death is not really death, but a sleep. When the terror, the power, and the sting of death are taken away, it can no longer be considered death. The greater the faith of the dying man, the weaker is death. On the other hand, the weaker the faith of the dying man, the more bitter is death.
67. In this text we are also reminded of the nature of sin. If Adam had not sinned, we should not have been dying men, but, like Enoch of old, we should have been translated, without fear or pain, from this animal life to that better and spiritual life. But although we have forfeited that life, the present history of the patriarch Enoch assures us that the restitution of paradise and of eternal life is not to be despaired of. Our flesh cannot be free from pain, but where conscience has obtained peace, death is no more than a swoon, by means of which we pass out of this life into eternal rest. Had our nature remained innocent, it would not have known such pain of the flesh. We should have been taken up as if asleep, presently to awaken in heaven, and to lead the life of the angels. Now, however, that the flesh is defiled by sin, it must first be destroyed by death. As to Enoch, perhaps he lay down in some grassy spot and fell asleep praying; and sleeping he was taken up by God, without pain; without death.
68. Let us give proper attention to this text to which Moses attaches special importance as embodying an account of the most noteworthy event of the primitive world. What fact could possibly inspire more wonder and admiration than that a man, a corrupt sinner, born of flesh and blood, as we are, and defiled as we are by that sin and corruption, so obtained the victory over death as not to die at all! Christ himself is man, and righteous, yet our sins caused him to suffer the bitterest of all deaths; but he is delivered on the third day, and lifts himself up unto life eternal. In Enoch there was the singular fact that he died not at all, but was caught up, without death intervening, to the life spiritual and eternal.
69. Emphatically deserving of aversion are the rabbins. The sublimest passages of the Scriptures they shamefully corrupt. As a case in point, they prate concerning Enoch that, while he was good and righteous, he very much inclined toward carnal desires. God, therefore, out of pity, prevented his sinning and perishing through death. Is not this, I pray you, a shocking corruption of the text before us? Why should they say concerning Enoch in particular, that he was subject to the evil desires of the flesh? As if all the other patriarchs did not experience the same. Why do they not notice the repeated testimony of Moses, that Enoch "walked with God"? That is certainly evidence that Enoch did not indulge those evil inclinations of his flesh, but bravely overcame them by faith. The Jews when speaking of the corrupt desires of the flesh have reference to lust, avarice, pride, and similar promptings. Enoch, however, without doubt, lived amid mightier temptations than these; like Paul, he felt that "thorn in the flesh"; day by day he wrestled with Satan; and when, at length, he was completely bruised and worn out with every kind of temptation, God commanded him to depart from this life to the blessed life to come.
70. What that life is which Enoch now lives, we who still continue to be flesh and blood cannot possibly know. It is enough for us to know that Enoch was translated in his body. This the patriarchs must have clearly understood by revelation, and about to die, they needed this comfort. This much we know also. But what that holy patriarch is now doing, where he is, and how he lives, we know not. We know that he lives; and we also know that the life he lives is not like unto this animal life, but that he is with God. This the text before us distinctly declares.
71. This fact, then, makes the narrative under consideration so memorable that God intended to use it for the purpose of setting before the old, primeval world the hope of a better life. Likewise, to the second world, which had the Law, God gave the example of Elijah, who also was taken up into heaven and translated by the Lord before the very eyes of his own servant Elisha. We are now in the New Covenant, in a third world, as it were. We have Christ himself, our great deliverer, as our glorious example, who ascended into the heavens, taking with him many of his saints.
It was God's will to establish for every age a testimonial of the resurrection of the dead, that he might thereby allure our minds by all possible attractions from this corrupt and in many ways wretched life, in which, however, we will gladly serve God as long as it shall please him, by the faithful performance of all public and private duties, and especially by instructing others in holiness and in the knowledge of God. But, as the apostle says, we have here "no certain dwelling-place," 1 Cor 4, 11. Christ, our forerunner, is gone before us, that he might prepare for us, the eternal mansions, Jn 14, 2-3.
72. Just as we find many among us by whom such things are considered absurd, and not sufficiently worthy of faith, so there is no doubt that this account was deemed ridiculous by most people. The world is ever the same. For that reason these things have by divine authority been committed to writing and recorded for the saints and the faithful, that these might read, understand, believe and heed them. They present to our sight a manifest triumph over death and sin, and afford us a sure comfort in Enoch's victory over the Law, and the wrath and judgment of God. To the godly nothing can yield more grace and joy than these antediluvian records.
73. But the New Testament truly overflows with the mercy of God. While we do not discard records like these, we have others far superior. We have the Son of God himself ascending to the skies, and sitting at the right hand of God. In him we see the serpent's head completely bruised, and the life lost in paradise restored. This is more than the translation of Enoch and of Elijah; still, it was God's will in this manner to administer comfort to the original world and also to the succeeding one, which had the Law.
74. The paramount doctrine contained in these five chapters is, accordingly, this: that men died and lived again. In Adam all men died. But believers lived again through the promised seed, as the history of Abel and Enoch testifies. In Adam, death was appointed for Seth and all others; hence it is written of every one: "And he died." But Abel and Enoch illustrate the resurrection from the dead and the life immortal. The purpose intended is that we should not despair in death but entertain the unwavering assurance that the believers in the promised seed shall live, and be taken by God, whether from the water or the fire or the gibbet, or the tomb. We desire to live, and we shall live, namely the eternal life through the promised seed, which remains when this is past.
IV. LAMECH AND HIS SON NOAH.
1. He lived at the time Enoch was taken to heaven 75.
* To what end Enoch's ascension served the holy patriarchs 75.
2. Why Lamech called his son Noah 76-77.
* The erroneous comments of the rabbins taken by Lyra without any good reason 78-79.
3. On what Lamech's heart was centered at Noah's birth 79-81.
4. How and why Lamech erred in the case of his son as Eve did at Cain's birth 80.
* The longing of the patriarchs for the Messiah was of the Holy Spirit 81.
* Complaint of the world's ingratitude 82.
* The patriarchs' greatest treasure and desire 82.
* Comparison of the three worlds 83-85.
* Why the present world so lightly esteems Christ, whom the patriarchs so highly revered 84.
* The first world was the best, the last the worst 85.
IV. LAMECH AND HIS SON NOAH.
Vs.28-29. And Lamech lived a hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son: and he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, which cometh because of the ground which Jehovah hath cursed.
75. Only incidentally Moses adverts in this account to the name of Noah, which certainly deserves a somewhat careful examination. Lamech was living when Enoch was taken away by God out of this life into the other immortal life. When the great glory of God had become manifest in the extraordinary miracle of the rapture from a lowly estate into life eternal of Enoch who was a man like us, a husband, a man with family, having sons, daughters, household, fields and cattle, the holy fathers were filled and fired with such joy as to conclude that the glad day was near which should witness the fulfilment of the promise. That Enoch was taken up living, to be with the Lord, appeared as a salient display of divine mercy.
76. As Adam and Eve, after the reception of the promise, were so absorbed in their hope that, in their joy to see a man like themselves, they identified Cain with the promised seed, so in my judgment Lamech committed a similar pious error when he gave his son the name Noah, and said: This same shall comfort us, and shall deliver us from the labors and sorrows of this life. Original sin, and the punishment thereof, shall now cease. We shall now be restored to our former innocent state. The curse shall now cease which rests on the earth on account of the sin of Adam; and all the other miseries inflicted on the human race on account of sin, shall also cease.
77. Such considerations as these prompted Lamech to base upon the fact of his grandfather's rapture into paradise unaccompanied by pain, sickness and death, the hope that presently the whole of paradise was to be ushered in. He concludes that Noah was the promised seed by whom the earth was to be restored. This notion that the curse is about to be lifted is expressed in unmistakable terms. Not so; neither the curse of sin nor its penalty can be removed unless original sin itself shall have been removed first.
78. The rabbins, those pestilent corrupters of the Scriptures, surely deserve aversion. This is their interpretation of the passage in question: He shall bring us rest from the toil and labor of our hands by showing us an easier way of cultivating the earth. With a plowshare, by a yoke of oxen, the earth shall be broken up; the present mode of digging it with man's hand shall cease.
I wonder that Lyra is satisfied with this interpretation, and follows it. He ought to have been familiar with the unchanging practice of the Jews to pervert Scripture by substituting a material meaning for a spiritual one, in order to gain glory among men. Could anything more derogatory to the holy patriarch be said than that he gave such expression to his joy over the birth of his son Noah on account of an advantage pertaining to the belly?
79. No; it was a much greater concern than this which filled his mind with anxiety. It was the wrath of God, and death, with all the other calamities of this life. His hope was that Noah, as the promised seed, would put an end to these evils. And therefore it was that he thus exulted with joy at the birth of this his son, predicted good things, and called upon others to join him in the same hope. His thoughts did not dwell upon the plow, nor upon oxen, nor upon other trivial things of the kind pertaining to this present life, as the blind Jews rave. He was really filled with the hope that this his son Noah was that seed to come which should restore the former blessed state of paradise, in which there was no curse. As if he had said: Now we feel the curse in the very labors of our hands. We toil and sweat in cultivating the earth, yet it yields us in return nothing but briers and thorns. But there shall arise a new and happy age. The curse on the earth which was inflicted on account of sin shall cease, because sin shall cease. This is the true meaning of the text before us.
80. But the holy father was deceived. The glory of bringing about that renewal belonged, not to the son of a man but to the Son of God. The rabbins are silly. Although the earth is not dug by the hands of men, but by the use of oxen, yet the labor of man's hand has not ceased. Enoch, by his translation, does not disclose the solace of bodily easement, agreeable to the belly, but deliverance from sin and death. Lamech hoped, in addition, for the restoration of the former state. He believed to see the inauguration of this change in his grandfather Enoch, and felt assured that the deliverance, or the renewal of all things, was close at hand. Just so Eve, as we have already observed, when she brought forth her first-born son Cain, said, I have gotten a man with the help of Jehovah, one who shall take away all these punishments inflicted on sin, and bring about our restoration. But, like Eve, the good and holy Lamech was deceived in his ardent longing for the restoration of the world.
81. All these anxieties plainly show how those holy patriarchs longed for, hoped for, and sighed for, that great "restitution of all things," Acts 3, 21. Although they herein erred, even as Eve erred and was deceived with respect to Cain, this desire for deliverance in itself, was of the Holy Spirit, and proved the truth and constancy of their faith in the promised seed. When Eve named her son Cain, and when Lamech called his son Noah, these names were but birth cries, as the apostle represents them, of the whole creation, groaning and travailing in pain together, and earnestly expecting the resurrection of the dead, deliverance from sin, the restoration of all things, and the manifestation of the sons of God, Rom 8, 19-23. The simplest and true meaning, accordingly, is that Lamech, after seeing the reality of the future life demonstrated by the translation of Enoch from the afflictions and toils caused by sin, has a son born to him, whom he calls Noah, which means rest, an expression of the hope that deliverance from the curse of sin and sin itself shall take place through him. This interpretation accords with the analogy of faith, and confirms the hope for a resurrection and a life eternal.
82. Such longing for the future life on the part of the holy men whose shoes we are unworthy to clean, contrasts strangely with the horrible ingratitude of our time. How great the difference between having and wishing! Those patriarchs were men of transcendent holiness, equipped with the highest endowments, the heroes of the world! In them we behold the strongest desire for the seed which is to come; that is their greatest treasure; they thirst, they hunger, they yearn, they pant for Christ! And we, who have Christ among us, who know him as one revealed, offered, glorified, sitting at the right hand of God and making intercession for us -- we despise him and hold him in greater contempt than any other creature! O, the wretchedness of it! O, the sin of it!
83. Note the difference between the several ages of the world! The primeval age was the most excellent and holy. It contained the noblest jewels of the whole human race. After the flood there still existed many great and eminent men -- patriarchs, and kings, and prophets; and although they were not the equals of the patriarchs before the flood, yet in them also there appeared a bright longing for Christ, as Christ says: "For I say unto you, that many prophets and kings desired to see the things which ye see, and saw them not; and to hear the things which ye hear, and heard them not," Lk 10, 24. And then there is our own age, the age of the New Testament; to this Christ has been revealed. This age is, as it were, the waste and dregs of the whole world. It holds nothing in greater contempt than Christ, than whom a previous age knew nothing more precious.
84. What is the cause of this grave state of affairs? To be sure, our flesh, the world, and the devil. We altogether loathe what we have, according to the proverb:
Omne rarum carum; vilescit quotidianum.
And apt is the poetic truism:
Minuit praesentia famam.
As far as the revelation is concerned, we are far richer than the patriarchs. But their devotion to a comparatively inferior revelation was greater; they were lovers of the bridegroom. We, on the other hand, are that fat, bloated, wanton servant, Deut 32, 15; for we have the Word and are overwhelmed by the abundance of it.
85. In the same degree as the first world was excellent and holy, the latter-day world is evil and wicked. In view of the fact, then, that God did not spare the first, primitive world, and destroyed the second world by overturning kingdom after kingdom, and government after government, what shall we expect to be the end of this latter-day world which in security despises the Christ, the desire of nations, as he is called by Haggai, in spite of the fact that he urges himself upon us to the point of weariness!
1. Remarkableness of the fact that Noah refrained so long from wedlock 86.
2. He was fit to marry, but had reasons for abstaining 87.
3. What his reasons were 88.
4. His chastity is highly praised by Moses in few words 89.
5. The Jews' lies about the reasons for his chastity refuted 90-91.
* The Jews' lies as to why Shem was called the first-born 91.
* Papists without reason take offense at Moses relating so much about the birth of the children of the patriarchs 92-93.
6. Noah shines like a bright star as an example of chastity among all the patriarchs 93.
7. Noah remained single, not because he despised marriage; and why he finally married 94.
8. How his sons were born one after the other 95-97.
* Why Shem was preferred to Japheth 96.
* How to meet the objections to the birth of Noah's sons 97.
9. Noah an excellent example of chastity 98.
* The threefold world.
a. The first world a truly golden age and the most holy. How and why it was punished by God 99-100.
b. The second world is full of idolatry, and will be severely punished by God 100.
c. The third world is the worst, and hence can expect the hardest punishment 101.
d. The punishment of these three worlds portrayed in the colors of the rainbow 101.
e. How believing hearts act upon considering sin and the world's punishment 102.
V.32. And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
86. Here again we meet with surprising brevity. As is his custom, Moses expresses in the fewest possible words the greatest and most important things, which the ignorant reader passes by unobserved. But you will say, perhaps, Of what import is it that Noah first begat sons when he was five hundred years old? Why, if Noah had no children all those 500 years, he either endured that length of time the severe trial of unfruitfulness or, as appears to me more likely, he abstained from marriage all those years, setting an example of most marvelous chastity. I do not speak here of the abominable chastity of the Papists; nor of our own. Look at the prophets and the apostles, and even at some of the other patriarchs, who doubtless were chaste and holy. But what are they in comparison with this man Noah, who, possessed of masculine vigor, managed to live a chaste life without marriage for five hundred years?
87. Now you will scarcely find one in a thousand among the men of our age who, at the age of thirty, has not known woman. Moreover, Noah, after he had lived a single life for so many centuries, at length took to himself a wife, and begat children; which latter fact carries its own proof that he was in a state appropriate for marriage prior to this, and had a definite reason for practicing continence.
88. In the first place, it is evident that such unequaled chastity must necessarily have been a peculiar gift of God. It evinced a nature almost angelic. It does not seem a thing possible in the nature of man to live 500 years without knowing a wife. In the next place these five centuries of chastity in Noah manifest some signal displeasure with the world. For what other reason are we to conclude that he abstained from marriage than because he had seen the descendants of his uncle and aunt degenerate into giants and tyrants, filling the world with violence? He thought in consequence, that he would rather have no children at all than such as those. And my belief is that he would never have taken to himself a wife at all if he had not been admonished and commanded so to do either by the patriarchs or by some angel. He who had refrained from marriage for 500 years might have refrained during all the rest of his life.
89. In this manner Moses explains in brief words exceedingly weighty facts, and, what the ignorant reader would never observe owing to the failure of chastity being mentioned in express words, he commends the chastity of Noah above that of all the other inhabitants of the primeval world, setting him up as an example of all but angelic chastity.
90. The Jews, according to their custom, play the fool, and fable that Noah for centuries denied himself a wife because he knew that God would destroy the world by the flood. If, therefore, Noah had married, like all the other patriarchs, in the earlier part of his life -- that is, when he was about a hundred years old or less -- he himself would have peopled the world in the space of 400 years; and then God would have been compelled to destroy both the father himself and the whole of his progeny. To this fable they add the other, that Shem was called the first-born for the reason that he was the first to receive circumcision.
91. In a word, these Jews corrupt everything and twist it to suit their own carnal bent and ambition. If Noah abstained from marriage for the reason which they assign, why did not all the other patriarchs, for the same reason, abstain from marriage and fatherhood? These comments of the rabbins are accordingly frivolous and nonsensical. Why do they not rather urge the real cause, that it was a special gift that Noah, a vigorous man, abstained from marriage for five hundred years? Throughout the course of time no instance of such continence is found.
92. The book of Genesis highly offends the Papists because it mentions so often that the fathers begat sons and daughters. They say of this book that it is a book in which little more is contained than the record that the patriarchs were men of extravagant love for their wives; and they consider it obscene that Moses should make mention of such things with such attention to detail. But, in the impurity of their hearts, they can not refrain from befouling the most exalted chastity.
93. If you would really behold the brightest examples of chastity the whole world contains, read Moses as he relates that the patriarchs did not marry until they were of advanced age. Among them Noah shines forth a star of first magnitude, inasmuch as he did not marry until he had reached the five hundredth year of his life. Where will you find such eminent examples of chastity in the papacy? Although there are some among the Papists who do not actually sin with their bodies, yet how foul and filthy are their minds! And all this is judgment upon their contempt for marriage, which God himself has designed to be a remedy for the corruption of nature.
94. Another reason why Noah refrained from marriage has been mentioned. He did not condemn marriage, nor did he consider it to be a profane or impure manner of life; but he saw that the descendants of the elder patriarchs had degenerated to the level of the ungodly generation of the Cainites. Such children as these he felt he could not endure; he rather waited, in the fear of God, the end of the world. When afterwards he did enter into marriage, and begat children, he no doubt did it by reason of some particular admonition and command of God.
95. Here a question naturally arises concerning the order in which Noah's sons were born. It will be worth our while to inquire into this matter, so that our computation of the years of the world may have a reliable basis. The common opinion is that Shem was the first-born of Noah, because his name is mentioned first in order. The testimony of Scripture, however, compels us to conclude that Japheth was the first-born, Shem the second, and Ham the last. The truth of this is proved in the following manner: Shem begat his son Arpachshad two years after the flood, when he was 100 years old, Gen 11, 10. Hence Shem was 98 years old when the flood came, and Noah, when Shem was born, was 498 years old. But Japheth was evidently born before Shem, for he was the elder brother, Gen 10, 21. It plainly follows, therefore, that only Ham, the youngest brother, was born when Noah was 500 years old.
96. The reason why Shem is mentioned before Japheth is not because he was first circumcised, as the Jews, who always are hunting carnal glory, falsely claim, but because it was through him that Christ, the promised seed, was to come. For the same reason, Abraham, the youngest, is given precedence to his brothers, Haran and Nahor.
97. But you will perhaps say, How does this agree with the text which positively says, "Noah was five hundred years old; and Noah begat Shem, Ham and Japheth"? Harmony is restored if you make out of the preterit a pluperfect, and read the passage thus: -- When Noah was five hundred years old he had begotten Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Moses does not record the particular year in which each son was born, but merely mentions the year in which the number of sons born to Noah reached three. Thus the biblical record is reduced to harmony.
98. As conclusion to the fifth chapter Moses presents the finest and most noteworthy example of chastity. Saintly and continent throughout his career, Noah had just rounded out his fifth century when he began married life. Thus far, he had renounced matrimony, repelled by the licentiousness of the young, who were drifting into the depravity of the Cainites. Notwithstanding, at the call of God, he obediently entered upon marriage, although it was quite possible for him to remain chaste, as a celibate.
99. Such is the description given by Moses of the first, the original world, in five brief chapters. But it is readily seen that in the beginning was the real golden age of which poets have made mention, their information being doubtless the traditions and the utterances of the fathers.
100. But as the sins of men increased, God spared not the old world, but destroyed it by a flood utterly, even as he did not spare it when under the dispensation of the Law. Because of its idolatry and the impiousness of its worship, he not only overturned one kingdom after another, but even his own people, the Jews, having been severely punished at his hands by various afflictions and captivities, were at length utterly destroyed by the Roman armies.
101. Our age, which is the third age of the world, although it is the age of grace, is so filled with blasphemies and abominations that it is not possible either to express them in language or to form a mental image of them. This age therefore shall not be punished by temporal punishment, but by eternal death and eternal fire, or, if I may so express it, by a flood of fire. The very rainbow even, with its colors, contains a prophetic intimation of these things. The first color is sea-green, representing the destruction of the first world by the waters of the flood, because of violence and lust; the middle color of the bow is yellow, prefiguring the various calamities by which God avenged the idolatry and wickedness of the second age; the third and last color of the bow is fiery red, for fire shall at length consume the world, with all its iniquities and sins.
102. Wherefore, let us constantly pray that God may so rule our hearts by his fear and may so fill us with confidence in his mercy, that we are able with joy to await our deliverance and the righteous punishment of this ungodly world. Amen. Amen.