When we were in the process of choosing names for our daughters, we checked out baby name books, we made a list, and reviewed it, and added some names, and crossed some out. We said them out loud, and we wrote them down. Out of curiosity, we even checked out the meaning of names we liked. We finally decide on a first name and then a second name that my wife and I were both happy with. Likely a similar process as to what many parents to be go through when they are expecting the birth of a child.
Parents have many reasons for choosing the names they do for their children. Sometimes a name runs in family and for reasons of tradition or prestige a name is passed on. Sometimes parents choose a popular name, or the name of a popular person. Other parents pick “different” names so that their child is “one of a kind”. Others yet, choose a name because it has a special meaning or choose a name because they like the way it sounds.
Whatever the reasons behind their choice, the world is filled with an abundance of interesting names. The names found in the Bible are no exception and it is filled with lists of some pretty interesting names, and sometimes some strange meaning names. Genesis 5, has one of those lists where every name has a meaning.
Bible Names have Meaning
Sometimes the Scripture let’s us know why a certain name was given to an individual, but for the most part we are not told why but certainly are left wondering how? How is it, that a name given at the time of birth (or even before), could turn out to have significance in relation to that persons surroundings, or the epoch in which they lived, or the circumstances of their life, or the purpose of their mission?
In the book of Genesis, God changed the names of Abram and Sara to Abraham and Sarai. Paul the Apostle in the book of Acts was first known as Saul, and the name of Onesimus leads to a play on words in the book of Filemon. Some interesting twists and turns can be discovered in the meaning of these names.
The study of names in the Bible is a branch in and of itself, and provides hours of investigation that lead you to some quite remarkable discoveries. Such is the study of the meaning of names in Genesis chapter 5.
Ten Important Names in Genesis 5
Use a Bible dictionary to find the meaning (or definition) of each of these names. Please STOP here.
- I really encourage you to download and print the Genesis chapter 5 reading sheet and the Genesis 5 PDF worksheet. Take a few minutes to read through chapter and try to find the definitions of the names on your own before continuing.
Let’s not Change the Order – The Ten Meanings
Adam = man
- Adam was literally created by the Creator in Genesis 2:7. The passage in Genesis refers to him as “the man” until verse 19 when he is named as Adam. The significance of his name is man or mankind. The “red” that is sometimes associated with him could refer to the dirt from which he was formed or from the “rosiness” of his complexion when God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” Genesis 2:7 (ESV).
Seth = appointed
- Seth was a substitute. After Cain murdered his brother Abel, Seth was born to “replace” Abel. Eve literally gives us the meaning when she says in Genesis 4:25 “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” (ESV)
Enos = mortal
- The name Enos relates to man. But the meaning speaks of the frailty of man, with the sense of something incurable. It is a sad reflection of the mortality of man.
Cainan = habitation
- Cainan who is also known as Kenan, has the meaning of a nest. Properly it is the act of constructing or building the nest with the purpose of using it as a place in which to dwell, or a habitation.
Mahalaleel = blessed Lord
- Names in the Bible with ‘el’ often indicate a reference to the Lord (the Almighty) and the name of Mahalalel is such a case. The part of the name Mahalal means praise or boast. As such, when combining the two parts, we get the idea of the praise of the Lord, or praising the Lord. This can be summarized as, blessed of the Lord or the blessed Lord.
Jared = come down
- The literal meaning of Jared is descendant, as in a genealogy. The significance is that which is descending, or going downward.
Enoch = teaching
- The name of Enoch means dedicated or initiated. It has the sense of discipline, as in that of training within a narrow boundary. To read a more detailed explanation of his name here.
Methuselah = his death shall bring
- The implications of the meaning of Methuselah is very interesting. It holds the significance of a dart (or in modern times a missile). The sense is not so much that of the object itself, but of the effect of the object when it hits its target. In another sense, when it (dart or missile) arrives, it brings destruction. In reference to Methuselah, it has the idea of something coming when he arrived at manhood or when he reached his end. Hence, his death shall bring, or when he dies it will come. You can read a more detailed explanation of his name here.
Lamech = powerful
- The meaning of Lamech is somewhat obscure but the significance can be found to refer to something powerful.
Noah = comfort
- The Scriptures help with the meaning of the name Noah as Lamech describes the significance of his name in Genesis 5:29 “And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.” Noah is associated with comfort or relief.
Adjusting the grammar – Making a Sentence
If you take the list of the ten names in Genesis 5 in the order given and write them as a sentence:
Adam Seth Cainan Enos Mahalaleel Jared Enoch Methuselah Lamech Noah
it doesn’t make much sense. In the translations we read, we often lose the meaning of the names.
If we write in order the underlying significance of those names, an interesting thought is conveyed.
Man appointed mortal habitation blessed God come down teaching his death shall bring powerful comfort.
Now that sentence might be a little hard to read so we’ll introduce a couple of words and some punctuation to obtain a grammatical correct sentence.
Man (is) appointed (a) mortal habitation(,) (but the) blessed God (shall) come down, teaching (that) his death shall bring(,) powerful comfort.
Can you believe it? The Creator left a clue as to the Gospel in the genealogy found in Genesis 5.
Man is appointed a mortal habitation, but the blessed God shall come down, teaching that his death shall bring, powerful comfort. Almost reads like the Old Testament version of Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” The lost condition of man and the coming salvation provided by God himself announced from the very beginning of Scripture.