Genesis 5:1 reminds us that human life is sacred to God. We are all created in the image and likeness of God, and the miracle is naturally transmitted to all humans at conception. Every human being is a miracle. In the next verse, God reminds his readers that at creation, “Male and female, he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.” The blessing refers back to Genesis 1:28, which recorded the details of God’s blessing on the man and the woman. It says, “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’” The blessing also looks forward to the rest of chapter five, which records the children in the line of Adam and Eve from their son Seth. The Bible is full of pronouncements of the blessing of God involving children. In Psalm 127:3-5, the Psalmist sings, “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!”

That children are a blessing is a specific theme in the Bible. An article in the Ashland Theological Journal explains, “The Old Testament affirms the biological family, which is assumed to be the basic unit of society. Israelite society was structured along kinship lines. Much of Old Testament law regulates and protects family life. But more than this basic affirmation and pragmatic regulation, the family is regarded as a source of divine blessing. This perspective begins in Genesis when God creates and blesses the first family and gives them the command to be fruitful and multiply. Children are a blessing from the Lord.”[1] But God doesn’t always bless couples with children. Does that mean they are cursed? Not at all! The Feinberg brothers correctly argue, “While children are a blessing from the Lord, it may be his will for some not to have them. It is no embarrassment or disgrace for a couple to remain childless.”[2]

Chapter five continues to recount the blessing that came to Adam and Eve through Seth, Abel’s replacement. Chapter four of Genesis gave us the line from Cain, which was anything but a blessing to Adam and Eve and served to be the source of God’s destruction of all humanity through the flood. Whereas a godly offspring is indeed a wonderful blessing, an ungodly offspring brings much sorrow. Van Gemeren observed this truth and the ancient Jewish teachings regarding it. He writes, “Sirach holds that a single child who performs the Lord’s will is better than a thousand who do not (v. 3). An analogy follows: ‘For through one intelligent person a city can be filled with people, but through a clan of outlaws it becomes desolate.’ Character comes before quantity; better to die childless than have wicked children—regardless of how many.”[3]

[1] Colijn, Brenda B. 2004. “Family in the Bible: A Brief Survey.” Ashland Theological Journal Volume 36 36: 73–74.

[2] Feinberg, John S., and Paul D. Feinberg. 1993. Ethics for a Brave New World. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[3] VanGemeren, Willem, ed. 1997. In New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 3:677. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.