“When Arpakshad lived thirty-five years he begat Shalach. Arpakshad, after he begat Shelach, lived four hundred and three years and he begat sons and daughters.”
When reading these genealogies, I often get asked why some of these Old Testament saints waited so long to have children. Thirty-five perhaps is not terribly old, but read this way, Shem was 100 before he had Arpakshad. Yet, to read the text in this way misses the thrust of what is being communicated. It is not that Arpakshad waited until he was thirty-five to have children, it is that Arpakshad was thirty-five when his wife gave birth to Shelach. Shelach stands out from his other brothers and sisters because Shelach is in the line of Abraham who is in the line of David who is in the line of Jesus. This genealogy is not seeking to be exhaustive, simply to trace the covenantal line from Noah to Abraham.
In these two verses, you will note that I spelled Shelach’s name differently. This is not a typo, but a reflection of the Hebrew vowel markers changing shifting from one use to the next. Remember, that Hebrew is a consonantal language, and in most cases, vowel pointing is not written, just simply pronounced. Thus, the change from an “a” to an “e” should not throw us off very much as we understand his name. Shelach means “to stretch out” or “to send.” Again, we do not know much about the context of his naming or character, but his purpose is that of being a pointer to the covenant mediator to come. Beyond that, all other things are secondary.
Once again, scripture reminds us repeatedly that human life is passing like the flowers of the field in the scope of eternity. What is more important is not so much all of the accomplishments we think are important, but whether we have faithfully pointed others to Jesus, using all of our gifts to do that task. May we commit ourselves to being pointers to one greater than we are and not to ourselves.