Here we have another toledot: “This is the book of the generations of Adam.” (Genesis 5:1, emphasis mine). A toledot marks the end of a section, and the beginning of a new section. This one ends the records of Adam (Genesis 2-4), and the beginning of that which proceeded from Adam (i.e. his descendants).
It’s fairly straightforward to read and understand. But, controversy has arisen because “science says the world is older” than what this passage states. Let’s examine what it says first, then we’ll tackle the apparent contradiction with what we “know” from science.
There’s a recurring pattern here. “When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth. Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters. So all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years, and he died.” (Genesis 5:3-5)
The paragraph pattern is pretty straightforward:
- A man is named (Adam).
- His age at the time of the birth of his named son is given (one hundred and thirty years).
- The name of his son is given (Seth).
- The number of years after the birth of the named son that the father lives is given (eight hundred years).
- There’s a note whether the father had other sons and/or daughters (yes).
- The total number of years the father lived is given (930).
- There is a note that the father died (except in two places, for Enoch and Noah).
Age at Birth of Named Son
In the same sentence as the name of the father is given, his age at the birth of the named son. This age could be off by up to a year, since we don’t know if the days are counted from the beginning of the father’s life, or at the beginning of the year in which the father was born, or even the following year. (Except for Adam, of course: he was “born” on the Friday of Creation Week.)
Now, there could be other people born before and/or after the named son. However, the year in which this son was born can’t be adjusted more than a year (due to the “rounding” errors listed above). So, Seth was born 129-131 years after Adam was created. We don’t know his birthDAY, but we do know his birth YEAR: 130.
There’s one other special note in the case of Adam: the text points out that the son was born in Adam’s image (to contrast with Adam himself, who was created, and created in the image of God.
The pattern notes are continued here.