Juliet cries out in anguish from her balcony, “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” A high-schooler hearing these words for the first time in English class would undoubtedly interpret them as, “Hey Romeo, where are you?”
I know I did.
But we know Juliet isn’t asking his location (though she should be since he’s hiding behind a bush, stalking her at that very moment). Juliet’s next words explain the old English for the new students.
“Deny thy father and refuse thy name. Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”
Juliet is lamenting the fact that her one true love has the name of Romeo Montague. “What does that have to do with anything?” the naïve high-schooler asks as the pubescent hormones rage against his thinking machine.
The Montagues and the Capulets are sworn enemies; two families locked in a bitter war against each other. Like the Hatfields and McCoys; the Corleones and Barzinis; Jimmy Kimmel and Matt Damon – they were sworn enemies.
If only Romeo or Juliet could have gone by any other name, the fate of their love may not have been sealed with such tragedy.
So, what’s in a name?
Call me crazy, but I like genealogies in the Bible.
I listened to a podcast from Pastor Brett Meador at Athey Creek Christian Fellowship in Wilsonville, Oregon sharing about the genealogy in Genesis 5 and I found it so interesting I had to write about it.
This may be considered as the first “official” genealogy in Scripture because of its structure, but it’s actually the second of back to back genealogies. The first is in Genesis 4:17-18. It’s the line of Adam through Cain. The second in Genesis 5 is the line of Adam through Seth. We’re focusing on Genesis 5, but we will come back to Genesis 4:17-18.
In the beginning, there was God.
GOD started the whole thing! Genesis 5:1 reiterates Genesis 1:27, that God created man (male and female) in His image. But notice that Genesis 5:3 makes the point to say that Adam “had a son in his own likeness, in his own image.” There’s a clear distinction between the holiness and purity Adam was born into and the sinful depravity into which his children were (are) born.
ADAM was the first man on earth, so he’s kind of a big deal.
SETH, not Cain or Abel, was Adam’s son through whom God’s promises are carried on today. Eve explains she names him Seth because God has “appointed” her a new son as a result of the death of Abel at the hands of Cain.
ENOSH’s name is similar to Adam in that it means man. However, where Adam’s name carries the connotation of God breathing life into dirt, earth and mud, Enosh’s name moves in the opposite direction. The name Enosh brings the idea of frailty, fragility and mortality; life departing and the body returning to dirt, earth and mud. It comes from the root word “anash” meaning incurable, despairing, grievous or fatally wounded.
Notice back in Genesis 4:26 where Enosh is first mentioned. The text says “at (the time of Enosh) men began to call on the name of the LORD.” Without getting too deep into it, there is a camp of scholars who believe this verse has been mistranslated and should say the opposite: “At this time men began to name their idols after Yahweh” or “At this time men began to defile the name of the LORD.”
Whether this interpretation is accurate or not, I can’t be sure. However, it certainly makes sense given the meaning of Enosh’s name. The way I see it, it makes more sense that people were honoring and worship God at the beginning when they enjoyed close fellowship with Him and began to drift away as time passed.
KENAN is a difficult name to translate. Some possible renderings I’ve found are ancient, sorrowful, dirge, possession and (metal) smith. We’ll leave it at that for now.
MAHALALEL isn’t really a name you hear very often in our culture. His name means Blessed God or Praise of God, which, coincidentally doesn’t happen much in our culture either.
JARED, on the other hand, is still a popular name today. There’s two interpretations of his name. Here’s a hint on the first (more contemporary) meaning: Juliet could have said, “That which we call a ‘Jared’, by any other word would smell as sweet.” The better translation of Jared in Genesis is descendent or more literally, come down from. (In case you didn’t get the first meaning, it’s “rose.”)
ENOCH is very interesting. He lived the shortest life of anyone in this genealogy; only 365 years. The text says of every other person in the genealogy, “and then he died.” However, the text says of Enoch, “and then he was no more, because God took him away.” In the same way Elijah was taken by God, Enoch too was taken. (Insert mildly amusing Liam Neeson joke here.)
Something else I find interesting is that Genesis 5:24 says, “Enoch walked with God.” Jude 14 says, “Enoch, the seventh from Adam prophesied (against the ungodly).” We will unpack this prophesy a bit with Methusaleh’s name below. Hebrews 11:5 says, “By faith, Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death…he was commended as one who pleased God.”
Conversely, while Enoch was the 7th (an important number) in the line of Adam through Seth, Lamech (not to be confused with the father of Noah) was the 7th in the line of Adam through Cain. Lamech’s exploits are expounded upon in Genesis 5:17-26. He followed in the murderous footsteps of Cain, and, as a bonus, perverted marriage by introducing polygamy.
On the one hand we have, for lack of a better way to put it, evil personified in Lamech, while on the other we have the personification of good in Enoch. The phrase, “and then he died,” reminds us of the consequences of living our way. Proverbs 26:12 says, “There’s more hope for a fool then someone who is right in their own eyes.” The fact that Enoch was taken and spared from death illustrates the results of living a righteous life in the eyes of God.
If Enoch was so great in God’s eyes, why did God not bless him with long life? Undoubtedly you have recognized the correlation between the number of his years on earth and the number of days in a year. Perhaps 365 years was God’s way of telling us Enoch lived a complete life, fulfilling his purpose of serving and honoring God.
METHUSELAH is just as interesting to me as his father Enoch. Most people know that Methuselah is the longest living human in recorded history.
Ironically, the name of the longest living man in history has “death” in its meaning. His name comes from two different root words: “muth” meaning death, and “shalach” meaning to bring or to send forth. Put together it means his death shall bring. That begs the question: what did the death of Enoch’s prophetically named son bring?
Methuselah lived 969 years and died on what was probably the last beautiful day for quite some time. Let’s do the math. He had Lamech (not to be confused with the man with two wives) when he was 187. Lamech then had Noah when he was 182.
969 – 187 – 182 = 600. If you’re not sure where I’m going with this, read Genesis 7:6.
LAMECH lived a total of 777 years. The numbers three and seven are often used regarding God. This could signify that Lamech lived a “complete” life like his grandfather, Enoch. (Or it could just be a coincidence…)
According to the math, Lamech was alive and witnessed the first 95 of the 100 years it took Noah to build the ark, dying shortly before it’s completion. But if he held true to the prophetic words he spoke over his son when he named him, I’m sure Lamech was a support and advocate for Noah while the rest of the world ridiculed him for building a massive ark in a place where there was no water. I’ll go out on the limb of an olive tree and say Lamech was probably a good father.
Though Lamech prophesied good news in his son, his own name comes from the same root from where we get the word “lament,” something Juliet was all too familiar with. Lamech’s name means the lowly or the despairing or those lost without hope.
NOAH, if you didn’t already know, built a huge ark that saved humanity and animals from the world’s worst flood in history. His name (as his father, Lamech, explains in Genesis 5:29) means rest or comfort.
Let’s recap the meanings of the names of the ten men we just discussed:
ADAM – Man
SETH – Appointed One
ENOSH – Humanity Subject Unto Death
KENAN – Sorrow, Despair
MAHALALEL – Blessed God
JARED – Come Down From
ENOCH – Consecrated, Teacher
METHUSALEH – His Death Shall Bring
LAMECH – Those Lost Without Hope
NOAH – Rest, Comfort
Allow me artistic license to expound on these names.
GOD breathed life into MAN. Everything was very good. Then sin and death entered the world. God APPOINTED ONE because HUMANITY was now SUBJECT UNTO DEATH, mired in SORROW and DESPAIR. The BLESSED GOD CAME DOWN FROM His presence in the form of a TEACHER, CONSECRATED to God’s purpose. HIS DEATH SHALL BRING to THOSE LOST WITHOUT HOPE both REST and COMFORT.
There you have it; the full Gospel message in the names of the ten generations from Adam to Noah.
And you thought genealogies were boring!
God knew, from the very beginning, exactly what He was doing. Nothing surprised Him. He wasn’t taken off guard. He knew precisely what needed to be done in order to make right what sin had made wrong. And for anyone who understood the meanings of these 10 names, God revealed His plan quite clearly.
So, I ask you again, what’s in a name? Juliet understood to the point of death the gravity and weight a name can carry. Perhaps if she’d read her Bible, she would have understood the abundance of life to be found in a name as well.