Walking with God: Genesis 5:21–24

walking with God (2)

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3) Gen 5:21–24: Scholars know virtually nothing about the men listed in Gen 5:6–20 aside from the meaning of a few of their names.[1] They function simply as links in the chain between Seth and Noah.[2] Therefore, we will skip to Gen 5:21–24.

Enoch’s biography begins by saying, “And Enoch lived sixty-five years, and he fathered Methuselah. And Enoch walked with God after fathering Methuselah for three hundred years. And he fathered [other] sons and daughters.”

Biblical genealogies tend to emphasize the people who occupy the seventh generations.[3]

As the seventh in line from Adam, Enoch’s life of reverent devotion contrasts with that of Lamech, the seventh in line from Cain (Gen 4:18–19, 23–24).[4]

Although Enoch shares a name with the first son of Cain (Gen 4:17), the text portrays the son of Jared very differently (Gen 5:18).[5]



Moses informed us that “Enoch walked (hithhalak) with (eth) God.” This same phrase appears in the account of Noah (Gen 6:9).[6]

God expected Israel’s priests and the lay people of Israel to “walk (halak) with” him (Mal 2:1–7; Mic 6:8).[7]

Shortly before his death, David charged Solomon and his descendants to “walk (halak) before” the Lord as he had (1 Ki 2:1–4).

These texts imply that to “walk before God” means living a life of obedience.[8]

The sense of the phrase connotes worship and loyal service.[9]



However, the Hebrew verb slightly differs in meaning from what we see in Enoch’s situation.[10]

Regarding Enoch, Moses used a rare verb form (hithpael) which adds the prefix “hith” to the verb stem. This alters the meaning of the verb to depict an intense action performed in relationship with someone else.[11]

In other words, Enoch walked in fellowship with God and God walked in close communion with Enoch.[12]

More than living in a way which pleased the Lord, both parties experienced mutually-satisfying intimate communion (Lev 26:11–13).[13]

This indicates that Enoch experienced a deeper relationship with the Lord than most other members of Seth’s chosen line.[14]

Several patriarchs in Genesis “walked (hithhalak) before” (panah) God in an intimate covenant relationship (Gen 17:1–5; Gen 24:40; Gen 48:15–16).[15]

In the historical books, King Hezekiah entreated the Lord to remember how he had “walked (hithhalak) before” him when it appeared that he was about to die (2 Ki 20:1–7).



Moses continued, “And all of the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.”

Enoch’s years correspond to the number of days it takes for the earth to orbit the sun.[16]

To the original audience, this conveyed that Enoch enjoyed great privilege,[17] even though his life was the shortest of those recorded in this genealogy.

His relatively brief life occurred because “Enoch walked with God, and he [was] not, because God took him.”

By repeating the description of Enoch, Moses emphasized the outstanding nature of his piety.

Here we see the only deviation from the formula of this record. “And he died” appears nowhere.

However, “and was not” does occasionally serve as a euphemism for death (Ps 39:13; Ps 103:15–16; Job 7:21).[18]

Enoch did not suffer the fate of Adam and his other descendants.[19] He found true life in the midst of the penalty of death.[20]

Thus, the greatest honor consists not of a long life but of God lifting a person into his presence without dying.[21]

Only Elijah experienced something similar among Old Testament figures (2 Kings 2:1–12).[22]



Surprisingly, the text does not say where God took Enoch. People in the Ancient Near East (ANE) would never have regarded an early trip to the underworld of Sheol as a reward.[23]

This leaves us to assume that Enoch now resides with the Lord in heaven.

Other ANE texts report similar depictions of devout men going directly to heaven without dying.[24]

For example, the Sumerian King List records that, “Etana, a shepherd, the one who to heaven ascended, the one who consolidated all lands, became king and reigned 1,560 years.”[25]Just like Enoch, Etana came seventh in his line.[26]

Another important parallel occurs in an ANE text published by R. Borger. It describes the seventh sage of antiquity who advised the seventh king as one “who ascended to heaven.”[27]



Intertestamental authors elaborated upon Enoch’s significance by portraying him as a man who revealed prophecies concerning the end of this age (1, 2, and 3 Enoch).[28]

In the first two of these books, Enoch traveled through time and the universe to witness creation, judgment, and the cosmos.[29]

Although the New Testament author Jude regarded the prophecies in 1 Enoch as inspired by God (Jude 14–15), this does not imply that he held that text as equivalent to Scripture.

Similarly, the Essene community valued 1 Enoch but did not list it among their Scriptures.[30]

Jewish leaders from other sects also did not accept any of the books of Enoch into the Old Testament canon.[31]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


Read Gen 5:21–24. How does the hithpael form of the Hebrew verb “walked” affect our understanding of Enoch’s relationship with God? Why do you think the Lord took Enoch? Where do you think God took him? How can you walk with God?





Go to Pleasing to God (Heb 11:5–6)

[Related posts include ANE Genealogies (Gen 5:1); Cain Dedicated a City (Gen 4:17); Two Wives (Gen 4:1819); Lamech’s Ode to Himself (Gen 4:2324); Author and Date of Genesis; Ancient Literature; and Intertestamental History]

[Click here to go to Chapter 4: The Generations of Adam (Genesis 5:1–27)]


[1] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 127.

[2]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 256.

[3]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 257.

[4]Richard S. Hess, “Enoch (Person),” ABD 2:508.

[5]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 112.

[6]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 258.

[7] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 127.

[8] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 258.

[9] Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 258.

[10] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 127.

[11] Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. van Pelt, Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 385.

[12] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 114–5.

[13] F. J. Helfmeyer, “הָלַכְ and הֲלִיכָה” (halakh and halikhah) TDOT 3:388–403, 394.

[14] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 127.

[15] Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 205.

[16]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 257.

[17]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 115.

[18]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 127–8.

[19]Walton, Genesis, 279.

[20]Sailhamer, The Pentateuch as Narrative: A Biblical-Theological Commentary, 118.

[21]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 257.

[22]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 115.

[23]Walton, Genesis, 279.

[24]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 128.

[25]Thorkild Jacobsen, The Sumerian King List (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1939), obv.ii16–19, 81, Https://oi.uchicago.edu/sites/oi.uchicago.edu/files/uploads/shared/docs/as11.pdf.

[26]Walton, Genesis, 283.

[27]J. Paul Maarten, “Enoch,” NIDOTTE 4:579–80, 579.

[28]Walton, Genesis, 280.

[29]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 257–8.

[30]Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1983), 97.

[31]Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews: A Commentary on the Greek Text, 574.