Not long after Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden of Eden did sin begin wreaking havoc on the world. Genesis 5 recounts Adam’s genealogy and not two generations pass before a pattern begins to develop: “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son, in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died” (vv. 3–5). As for Seth, he “lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died” (vv. 7–8). “All the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died” (v. 11). “All the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died” (v. 14). And so on.
But something happens as we continue reading. The pattern is interrupted when we come to the son of a man named Lamech. “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands’” (Genesis 5:28–29). Rather than simply giving the name of Lamech’s son and an account of the years he lived, nestled between one death and another, we find an explanation. And just as quickly as the pattern is broken, it’s picked up again as we read that “Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died” (v. 31).
When we find these kinds of abnormalities in Scripture, we have to ask, what’s going on here? The name Noah literally means “rest.” So why the added explanation?
What we’ll find, as we delve into our study of the Noahic covenant, is that this “explanation” is not really an explanation at all. What reads like an explanation is actually a declaration of hope, a look forward to a promise of rest and relief in the midst of a world full of toil and struggle.
This is how we’re first introduced to Noah, and what a way to make an entrance! In a world surrounded by death, Noah’s birth breaks through with a promise of something better, a promise that there will come an end to the struggle and the toil. Pain and death will not rule forever. Something’s coming, and it will bring us rest.
This is what the Noahic covenant invites us into: hope. And isn’t that exactly what we’re all looking for? No matter our circumstances, we could all use hope, because we, like Lamech—and Enosh and Seth and Adam— know what it’s like to live in a world ravaged by sin. Sin has separated us from God, too, and we feel it. Death is in our world, too, and it robs us of the ones we love. But there’s good news. Hope has broken through to remind us that there is one who is coming to bring us relief, and in him we will find our rest.