Genesis 5:1-6:8 is seen as a literary unit because of the phrase “this is the account of …” at 5:1 and 6:9. Because of this the whole unit needs to be read together in an attempt to see what it is trying to say about God and humanity.
The use of genealogies to move narratives along is not considered high adventure for those of us living in the 21st century westernized cultures. But for an ancient, it was a vital and important way to show their history and honor. A family bore the honor, or shame, of the generations before it. So, to have the lineage of Seth recorded here, it stands in contrast to the family tree of Cain, where his great grandson celebrates vengeful murder.
Seth’s line is full of people who lived long, highlighted by Enoch and Noah, men who walked faithfully with God (5:22,24; 6:9). The account of Seth shows that humanity does follow the command of God to “be fruitful and multiply” (1:28), and that they were blessed.
But, as I said earlier, all of this unit must be read together.
6:1-8 is not a favorable description of humanity.
These verses churn the readers’ hearts. 4:25-26 set a context of life and people calling on the name of the Lord. 5:1-2 affirm the beauty of humanity and its value. Mankind is made in the likeness of God (5:1; a reaffirmation of 1:26-27)! Humanity has experienced the goodness of God’s blessing, since life is lasting century upon century, but brokenness abounds.
At the birth of Noah, the only recorded human speech from 4:26-9:24, the curse upon the land is recalled. There is a twinge of hope, but that hope is quickly dashed by the reality that only 2 men are walking with God. Instead of the hearts of mankind calling upon the name of the Lord (4:26) they were evil, with thoughts only inclined towards evil (6:5).
There are only 3 speeches given by a human in Genesis 4:26-12:10. The narrative is about God. We have a hard time with this as modern, independent, selfish people. Yet this is the reality, the Bible is about God first. When we see what it says about Him, then we look to see what is says about humanity.
The world quickly turns from Genesis 3:1-6:8. Generations have past, yet sinfulness remains evident. But do not lose sight of God’s hand being there. God calls out to sinners, and there are always those who respond.
Genesis 6:9-11:9 will be the next post.
If you want to know more about the purpose and functions of a biblical genealogy then follow these links, or purchase a book on Ancient Near Eastern backgrounds to Scripture: Holman Bible Dictionary, 12 page paper about OT genealogy