And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: and Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: and all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him (Genesis 5:21-24).
It is not long after the events surrounding Adam and Eve that we start to get the beginning of the genealogies of the Bible. While some of Cain’s descendants are listed in Genesis 4:17-24, the real focus begins in Genesis 5 with the descendants of Adam through Seth.
We are first struck by the ages of the people involved– they start having children when most people today are dead or dying (cf. Genesis 5:3-9)! They themselves live for hundreds of years (cf. Genesis 5:1-20).
But we are supposed to be noticing a depressing monotony at work: X lives y years, begets z child, also other children, lives a years afterward, and dies. People live, they beget children, they die. Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, and Jared.
And then there is Enoch. And we notice quickly that something is different with Enoch.
Enoch lives, begets Methuselah, but then it is said that he “walked with God” for three hundred years after begetting Methuselah (Genesis 5:22). The text says he has other children, and then reiterates that he walked with God (Genesis 5:23-24). Where we would expect to hear, “and he died,” we see no such thing; instead, we are told that “and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).
That is all. The text moves on to Methuselah down to Noah. In the Old Testament, his name is mentioned again only in 1 Chronicles 1:3, in another genealogical passage.
The Hebrew author provides a bit more information about what happened in Hebrews 11:5:
By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God translated him: for he hath had witness borne to him that before his translation he had been well-pleasing unto God.
This is a sensible explanation of what Genesis 5:21-24 means. Enoch “walked with God”; he was found well-pleasing before God. He lived his life by faith, and on account of that faith, he never needed to taste death. Jude indicates that Enoch prophesied to some extent as well (Jude 1:14-15). He spoke for God; he lived for God; he received a great reward.
People have been speculating in all sorts of ways about Enoch based on these few verses. What was so special about him? Why did he get translated, and why is it that he and Elijah are the only ones who have received the honor of being translated without having to experience death?
We cannot know for certain. But we can know that Enoch was distinctive for his day. Others before him lived, had children, and died. Others after him would live, have children, and die. But he lived, had children, walked with God, and after 365 years, was not, for God took him.
Odds are that we will not be translated; unless the Lord returns first, we will most likely experience physical death like everyone else. But the promise of Enoch still holds true: if we walk with God, we have the opportunity to obtain eternal life and glory (John 3:16, Romans 8:17-18, Revelation 21:1-22:6). We have the opportunity to be distinctive people in our own day and age. Let us be encouraged by the example of Enoch and walk with God in faith!
Ethan R. Longhenry