Generations

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Gen 5:1, ESV

Generations – The Hebrew word for generations is tol’dot. This word appears at least 15 times in the book of Genesis alone, and many more throughout the Tanakh (what we know as the “Old Testament”) and shows the lineage of key figures in the Bible narrative.


There is an interesting thing about this word that is only visible in the Hebrew text though; it has two possible spellings – one complete, and one “defective”:

Complete spelling – tav-vav-lamed-dalet-vav-tav

Defective spelling -tav-vav-lamed-dalet-tav

The vav’s in this word have a dot above and to the left; this is known as a “cholam vav” and has the long “O” sound (it masquerades as a a vowel).

Note that in the defective spelling, the second cholam vav is missing from the word.

OK, so what? The first time that this word appears in the Bible is in Genesis 2:4.

“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created…”

Here the complete spelling is used but the next occurrence in Genesis 5:1 uses the defective spelling ;in fact, the only other occurrence of the complete spelling is in Ruth 4:18:

“Now these are the generations of Perez…”

What does this mean?

Let’s briefly remind ourselves of the story of Perez.

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Perez was the son of Judah by Tamar. Tamar’s husband, Er, was Judah’s oldest son, but he sinned so badly that God put him to death. Since he died without an heir, Onan, his younger brother, was required to take Tamar as his wife and provide an heir for Er (this is known as a levirite marriage). With Er having no heir, Onan stood next in line (as the next eldest) as Judah’s heir, with the right to the double portion, however if Tamar became pregnant and gave birth as a result of him performing his duty under the levirite provisions, Tamar’s son would be reckoned as Er’s son, and would thus replace Onan as the one who would inherit the double portion. Greed got the better of Onan and he, too, was put to death by the judgement of God.

Judah’s youngest son, Shelah, was then promised to Tamar but was too young to fulfill his duty, so Tamar was made to wait. When Shelah came of age, Judah forgot his promise to Tamar, so in order to conceive an heir she seduced Judah by disguising herself as a prostitute. Judah, upon being confronted with the reality of the situation, recognised his error and declared that Tamar had acted more righteously than he had.

Tamar was pregnant with twins; during the birth the first twin put out a hand but withdrew it, and the other was born first; he was called Perez (peh-resh-tsade) which means “breach”. Pictographically, Resh is a picture of the head of a man; peh is a mouth and means to speak, vocalise, breath; tzade is a fish hook and is from the root tzod, meaning to hunt, capture or catch but also is associated with tzaddik, the righteous. Perez could therefore be translated as “one who speaks of the righteous head” i.e. one who speaks of Messiah (who is the one who repairs the breach).

Now let’s look at Ruth chapter 4:

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You’ll recall that Naomi had moved with her husband and 2 sons from Israel to Moab due to a famine in Israel. Whilst living in Moab, Naomi’s sons both married Moabite girls, Ruth and Orpah. Noami’s husband and 2 sons died whilst in Moab, leaving Naomi, Ruth and Orpah as widows with no heirs. This would have effectively rendered them peniless in Israel as there was no-one to inherit their family estate.

Orpah returned to her people, but Ruth insisted on moving to Israel with Naomi, and joined herself to the people of Israel and became a follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Eventually Boaz did what Onan did not do in the case of Tamar – he fulfilled his levirite duty as the kinsman redeemer and provided an heir for Naomi and Ruth. That heir became the grandfather of King David.

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How does this tie in with the story of Perez?

The descendants (generations) of Perez are listed in Ruth 4:

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Boaz was a direct descendant of Perez, and through his line came King David, from whose line came Yeshua (Jesus), the promised Messiah.

Remember that we said that in this passage, tol’dot is again spelled complete? The rabbis tell it this way: when God created the heavens and the earth, He created them perfect. After the fall of man, when sin entered the world, that perfection was lost and from that point on all “generations” were “defective”, corrupted by sin. The passage in Ruth, though, indicates that restoration (the return to completion) would come through the family line of Perez – from him would be descended the promised Messiah who would do the work of redemption (at the cross) and restoration (at his return). The letter “vav” is a picture of a tent peg or nail. The addition of the vav, the nail, to the tol’dot (generations) of Perez also indicates how that redemption was to take place – a descendant of Perez was to be pierced with a nail.

There is one more verse that we need to take note of in this story, which spoke directly of Obed but also speaks prophetically of our Messiah:

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Truly, my redeemer lives!

Shalom.

Rodney posted at ל׳ בניסן ה׳תש״ע (April 14, 2010) Category: Messianic Prophecy