NAMES WERE VERY SIGNIFICANT IN BIBLE TIMES. God often used a person’s name to reveal aspects of his background, character, or destiny.
For instance, God changed Abram’s name from Abram (Heb., “exalted father”) to Abraham (“father of a multitude”), pointing to the divine prophecy that he would become “the father of many nations” (Gen. 17:4-5). Also, Abraham and Sarah’s first son was named Isaac, meaning “he laughs,” because Abraham and Sarah both laughed at the suggestion that she would bear a son (Gen. 17:17; 18:11-15).
Who has more names than anyone else in the entire Bible? Not surprisingly, it is Jesus of Nazareth. In describing the background, character, and destiny of the Son of God, the Bible lavishes no fewer than 103 different names on Him. He is our Advocate (1 John 2:1), the Almighty (Rev. 1:8), Alpha and Omega (Rev. 22:13), Amen (Rev. 3:14), Apostle and High Priest of our Profession (Heb. 3:1), Arm of the Lord (Isa. 51:9), Author and Finisher of our Faith (Heb. 12:2), and Author of Eternal Salvation (Heb. 5:9). And those are just the ones that start with “A”!
His full Hebrew name is Adonai Yeshua Hamashiach, or the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31). When Paul declared that this is the “Name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9), he was equating Jesus with Hashem (lit., “the Name”), a Jewish designation for God Himself.
The Generations of Adam
Genesis, Chapter 5, is “the book of the generations of Adam” (Verse 1). The genealogy covers a total of nine generations, extending from Adam to Noah. When we examine the ten men who represent these nine pre-Flood generations, we find that their names are very significant. This sequence of names forms a remarkable, ancient statement of God’s wondrous plan of redemption.
1. ADAM. We begin with the first man. In Hebrew, God called him Haadam, or “the man” (Gen. 2:19 in the Hebrew Bible). It comes from a root word meaning “to show blood (in the face),” suggesting that Adam had a ruddy (red) complexion. The ancient rabbis did not count Adam as a generation because he was created, not born. His sons, then, were the first generation.
2. SETH. The next name is that of Adam’s third son, Seth, whose Hebrew name means “set up,” or “appointed.” After Cain murdered Abel (Gen. 4:8), God provided another son, Seth, to carry on the Messianic line. Mother Eve declared that God had “. . . appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (Gen. 4:25). Seth represented the first generation.
3. ENOS. Seth had a son named Enos. The Hebrew word enosh comes from a root meaning “frail, feeble, or melancholy.” Therefore, this name emphasizes the frailty and mortality of fallen humanity.
Before the Fall, God warned Adam that the consequences of sin would include physical and spiritual death (Gen. 2:17). However, there is a hint that the full impact of the Fall wasn’t felt until the third generation. Genesis 4:26 tells us that “. . . then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.” As they began to feel the brunt of mortality, Adam and his descendants recognized their need for God’s help.
4. CAINAN. The third generation after Adam is represented by Cainan, whose Hebrew name Kenan means “habitation” or “dwelling place.” Its roots include the meanings “fixed,” “a nest,” and “to erect.”
5. MAHALALEEL. The fourth generation is represented by Mahalaleel, whose name comes from several Hebrew roots (see chart) and designates “the blessed God.” Notice its similarity to the word hallelujah (“bless God”).
6. JARED. Adam’s great-great-great-grandson was Jared, whose name in Hebrew (Yered) means “descend,” or “(he) shall come down.”
7. ENOCH. Enoch represented generation number six. His Hebrew name Chanok means “initiated,” or “trained.” It derives from the root chanok, meaning “to initiate, narrow, dedicate, or consecrate.” This is the word translated “train up” in Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Enoch was both a teacher and a prophet. He uttered the first explicit prophecy of the Messiah’s Second Coming (Jude 14-15).
8. METHUSELAH. Arthur W. Pink, in his book Gleanings in Genesis, best explains the meaning of this name. He writes, “The name Methuselah strongly implies that Enoch had received a revelation from God. The name Methuselah signifies, ‘When he is dead it shall be sent; i.e., the deluge’ (Newberry). In all probability, then, a divine revelation is memorialized in this name” (p. 23). Methuselah’s death marked the end of mankind’s 120-year grace period and the coming of the Great Flood. (Genesis 6:3 makes reference to the 120-year grace period.)
9. LAMECH. This name appears in Hebrew as Lemek. Jewish sources say that Lamech’s name conveys the idea of “a captive,” or “someone who is ruled.” Their reasoning was that the Hebrew spelling of Lemek is the opposite of Melech, which means “king.” Melech consists of three Hebrew letters: Mem (which, in rabbinic thought, represented the brain), Lamed (the heart), and Kaph (the kidneys). Ancient rabbis took this to mean that true rulership resulted from the brain (thinking) ruling the heart (feeling). The name Lamech reverses the first two letters and, therefore, has the opposite meaning.
On the occasion of Noah’s birth, Lamech spoke of his hope that his son would be the Messiah, the One through whom the Adamic curse would be broken: “. . . This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed” (Gen. 5:29). Although his son was not the Messiah, Lamech’s name does appear in the genealogy of the true Messiah, Jesus Christ (Luke 3:36).
10. NOAH. The final generation before the Flood was that of Noah whose Hebrew name Noach means “comfort.” Noah and his family-a total of eight people-were the only ones to survive the worldwide deluge. The world was repopulated by the descendants of his three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
The Message of Redemption
When we link the names of these ten pre-Flood patriarchs together, they form the following sentence: “Man (is) appointed (a) mortal habitation, (but) the blessed God shall come down teaching (that) His death shall bring the captives comfort.” It’s the Gospel in a nutshell!
“MAN . . .” This includes not just one class or race of humanity, but everyone-all the descendants of Adam. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
“. . . (IS) APPOINTED (A) MORTAL HABITATION, . . .” In 2 Corinthians 5:1, Paul refers to our mortal bodies as an “earthly house,” or dwelling place. Death (mortality) entered the world through Adam’s sin (Rom. 5:17). “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
“. . . (BUT) THE BLESSED GOD SHALL COME DOWN . . .” Because of His sinlessness, God was the only Being in the universe qualified to serve as our Redeemer. He condescended to take upon Himself a human body and die for our sins. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
“. . . TEACHING (THAT) HIS DEATH . . .” The death of Christ was the main stumbling block for the Jews in the first century, and it remains so today. To the ancient rabbis, it was unthinkable that God would become a man and die. What a repulsive idea! To them, the Messiah was supposed to be a conquering King (Heb., Melech) not a dying Saviour. That’s why Paul said, “But we preach Christ [the Messiah] crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Cor. 1:23). Though it does not conform to Jewish tradition, the atoning death of the blessed Son of God is the very heart of the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:3; cp. Isa. 53:4-12).
“. . . SHALL BRING THE CAPTIVES COMFORT.” The New Testament portrays unregenerate humanity as having been enslaved by sin (Rom. 6:6, 17, 19) and Satan (Matt. 13:38; 2 Tim. 2:26). Jesus the Messiah came to fulfill the Prophet Isaiah’s “Emancipation Proclamation”: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19; see also Isa. 61:1-2; cp. Lev. 25:10).
What a wonderful message! And how remarkable that God provided an outline of His redemptive plan-some 4,000 years before the Messiah’s birth-through the names of His patriarchs!
Copyright © 2001 Messianic Perspectives, San Antonio, Texas
Visit the Messianic Perspectives website