Reading Genesis 5:9-24 (ESV) may seem boring. It is because there is no plot of a story in it. It is just an account of the lifespans of generations. The content is just about being born and bred, and dying. Despite this, the repetitive clause, ‘and he died’ reflects the reality of human life.
However, in the account of Enoch (v.21), it is as if we had found an oasis in the desert. Why? Verses 22 to 24 give us the answer; ‘Enoch walked with God’. This makes Enoch different from the rest of the people of his time. In Enoch’s case, the statement ‘and he died’ is not made. Instead, it is mentioned ‘and he was not, for God took him’. The book of Hebrews tells us what ‘he was not’ means – ‘By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God’ (Heb. 11:5).
This difference teaches us a few things that are essential in life:
1. Life is not a matter of its length but of its content.
From this genealogy, we can see that Enoch lived a shorter life (365 years) than those of his peers. He lived only about a third of the average lifespan of his peers – Enosh lived 905 years; Kenaan lived 910 years; Mahalaleel lived 895 years; and Jared lived 962 years. This means Enoch ‘died young’, when compared with his peers. He lived, however, a life that was different from theirs. It was different because of his intimate relationship with God. Jesus also had a short life; 33 years. His life, however, is of eternal value because in His entire life on earth, He had an intimate relationship with His Heavenly Father.
2. Life is not a matter of its beginning but of its end.
The entire 365 years of Enoch’s life can be summarised in a few words; Enoch walked with God. Although the Bible does not tell us about the beginning of Enoch’s life, it tells us about the end of his life; ‘he was commended as having pleased God’. To see the end of our life is not merely seeing the end of our life on earth, as it is not the ultimate end. The ultimate end is in eternity. Enoch continues his walk in eternity – to the highest level in which he can see God ‘face-to-face’.
3. Life is a matter of what we leave behind.
When we were born, we could not decide to which family we were to be born into. However, we can decide what we leave behind before we depart from this life. Enoch left behind a legacy, which was his example of his walk with God; his intimate relationship with God. From his lineage came Noah; ‘a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.’ (Gen. 6:9). No wonder the book of Hebrews, in the segment on the heroes of faith, records Noah as one of these heroes (see Heb. 11:7). What about us? What kind of legacy do we want to leave behind?