Antediluvian Names Genesis 4:17-18; 5:5-32

Antediluvian Names—Gen_4:17-18; Gen_5:5-32

It is observed by Dr. Chalmers that he had “met with no remarks upon the similarity of names between the two families of Cain and Seth. Enos, Enoch; Irad, Jared; Mehujael, Mahalaleel; Methusael, Methuselah; and at length both pedigrees terminate in Lamech.”

The real reason that no one has made remarks upon this similarity is, that it does not exist. The apparent resemblance is merely an incident of transcription. In the original they are, with one or two exceptions, wholly different in signification, and considerably more different in form, than as they now appear in our English Bibles.

The subject however is curious and important, and well deserves attention.

It is quite clear, from the reasons assigned for the names which Eve gave to her sons, and from that which the Sethite Lamech gave to his son Noah, that the names are all significant, and expressed the views and hopes with respect to their children, of those by whom these names were imposed. Many of them are holy and good names, and some of them contain the sacred name of God; and seeing that such names occur in the line of Cain as well as in that of Seth, it may be questioned whether the opinion (founded chiefly on a doubtful interpretation respecting the “sons of God,” and “daughters of men”), that Cain’s race were all unholy and evil-minded people, is founded in truth. It may indeed be urged, that for some unknown reason, the Cainites borrowed such names from the race of Seth. But, in the first place, only two of the names are at all identical, and these occur much earlier in the line of Cain than that of Seth; for it is to be remembered that the line of Cain is carried down not more than seven generations, for the apparent purpose of introducing Lamech and his famous sons. But the line of Seth is  carried down ten generations—connecting the generations before and after the flood.

Although, therefore, Lamech is the penultimate name in both series, the Cainite Lamech must have been born two or three hundred years before the Lamech of Seth’s line.

The first of the analogies indicated by Dr. Chalmers does not exist. The names Enoch and Enos are altogether different, both in orthography and in the meaning of the four Hebrew letters composing each of these names. This would have been apparent even in English transcription, had the former been given more exactly, as Chanoch, the difference between which and Enos is at once apparent. There is no resemblance but in the two middle letters no. But although Seth does not give to his son the same name nor even a similar one, to that which Cain’s son had before received—that name does yet appear in Seth’s line as possessed by the man who “walked with God.”

The farther consideration of these names is of some interest—especially if they help us to some information respecting the hopes or fears of the race of Cain. Respecting the race of Seth, we have such distinct information of another kind, as renders any that may be derived from this source of less importance.

Cain, then, called the son, first born to him after his expulsion, by the name of Enoch, which means dedicated. The value of this name depends upon the nature of the dedication. When we meet with the same name in a later age, as that of a man whom God permitted to escape the world without tasting of death, we readily understand that his pious parents dedicated him to God, when they set that name upon him. Have we a right to give it a different meaning in the case of the son of Cain? May we not rather be permitted to regard it as the expression of his wish or hope that his son might be a wiser and a holier man than the father had been?

The next name in the Cainite line is Irad—similar to, but not the same as that of Jared in the line of Seth. The latter  name means simply a descent; but the former combines therewith the word for a town, and seems to be rightly explained by Jerome (who undertook to interpret, but not always correctly, the names of Scripture) to mean a low-lying or descending city. It may suggest, that even as Cain built a city, and called it after the name of his son Enoch; so Enoch built a town in a lower site, or on the declivity of a hill, and gave to his son a name descriptive of its situation.

In the next generation, the Cainite name is Mehujael. This is a touching and sorrowful name. It sounds like the groan of a broken spirit. It means smitten of God. Whatever gave occasion to it, whatever calamity, whatever grief, it acknowledges the hand of God, and expresses none of that obduracy and hardihood in evil which we are apt to ascribe to all the sons of Cain. The Sethite name of Mahalaleel, which Dr. Chalmers couples with it, is altogether different. Leaving out the final syllable (el) which expresses God—there is (in the original) but one letter alike in the two, and the meaning (Praise of God) is also wholly different.

The next name in the Cainite line, Methusael, has a deeper significance than any we have yet reached. It means, a man of God. Such a name in the leading line of Cain—even more directly religious than any name to be found in the line of Seth—is deeply suggestive of better things in that line, than we have been accustomed to seek therein. We have no right to assign any other interpretation to it, than we should give if it were found in the line of Seth; and we think those critics are greatly to be blamed for unfairness, who, in their determination to find nothing good among the Cainites, suggest that the name of God in this and the last name bears some reference to a profane use of that name in magical superstitions. We may add that this name has no analogy or resemblance to that of Methuselah, which Dr. Chalmers couples with it. That name has not even the name of God in it. The signification of it is, a man of the dark—a name of entirely secular meaning, in whatever circumstances it may have originated.

The next name among the Cainites is that of Lamech, to  whom already one of our Days has been appropriated. Note: Fourth Week—Wednesday.] It means humbled, and is a good name for any man to bear, though we cannot even guess at the precise circumstances in which that name originated. It is the same as that borne in the Sethite line by the father of Noah, being the only real analogy of the several supposed by Dr. Chalmers, and one of the only two that actually exist. Note: The other is that of the two Enochs, which escapes Dr. C., who rather dwells upon the similarity (which does not exist) between the Enos of the one line and the Enoch of the other. We cannot comprehend how these remarkable oversights arose.]

Among the names at which we have glanced, all seem to be proper and becoming. Among these names, all that are not humble are holy, with the exception of one (Irad) which bears an indifferent local sense. Out of five names two contain the name of God—whereas, out of eight names in the longer line of Seth, only one contains that name. We find not among these names one that is arrogant, boastful, or defiant—such as our notions respecting this family might lead us to expect. All are just the reverse, and are such as would not have disgraced the line of Seth. This is assuredly a point worthy of notice, with respect to an age in which names expressed sentiments.

This is touchingly shown in the case of the name which the Sethite Lamech imposed upon his son. “And he called his name Noah (comfort, rest), saying, This shall comfort us concerning our work, and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.”—Gen_5:29. By which it would appear, that men still retained a lively recollection of what they had heard from Adam and Eve respecting the blessedness of Eden, and were conscious of the contrast which the outer earth presented. If men lived entirely on vegetable produce at this time, they must have consumed the more of it, and the labor exacted in the culture of the soil must have been the greater in proportion; and now, when the population had so largely increased, must have  become the more onerous. Therefore Lamech, exhausted and fatigued by the labor he is forced to bestow upon the soil which the Lord has cursed, rejoices that a son is born to him who may share his labors, comfort him when be is worn out, and provide for him when he is old and feeble.