Why Should We Know Who Kenan Is in the Bible?

Contributing Writer
Why Should We Know Who Kenan Is in the Bible?

If you're like me, you skim or skip the long lists of names in the Bible. Since we have little information on these individuals, we gloss over people like Kanan in genealogies.

We may not know much, if anything, about many of these men and women, but the Bible includes them for a reason. Furthermore, they were human beings with their own stories and lives, even if they were unknown to us.

Kenan shows up within one of these Old Testament lists. Who was he, and why should we know about him?

What Does the Name Kenan Mean?

The name of Kenan holds significance as it appears in Adam’s genealogy, listed in Genesis’ early chapters. Kenan is mentioned in the lineage of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, listed in Genesis 5.

The name Kenan has Hebrew origins, and its meaning can be interpreted in several ways. In Hebrew, Kenan is thought to derive from the root word qanan, which can be translated to mean “to acquire,” a more active possessing, as in “to come to possess.” Another possible meaning of qanan is as a weaver or composer. If the name is construed from the Hebrew verb qonen, it designates a type of dirge, which can also imply sorrow. In this sense, the name Kenan would mean “lamenter”—not the song itself but its composition.

Since the Bible doesn’t give any information about Kenan, we don’t know if any of these meanings, or a combination, fit his character or life. Maybe Kenan composed dirges, or perhaps he acquired great wealth or land.

Genesis 5 outlines the genealogy of Adam’s descendants, focusing on the righteous line of Seth. Cain had murdered his brother, Abel, and while Cain was cursed, Adam and Eve had a third son, Seth. Kenan is mentioned as the son of Enosh and the father of Mahalalel. The passage provides a formulaic structure, detailing the age of each patriarch at the birth of their son, along with their subsequent lifespan. Kenan is noted to have fathered Mahalalel at 70 and lived for 910 years.

Despite the interpretative nuances surrounding Kenan’s name, the narrative in Genesis primarily serves to establish the continuity of the righteous line leading to Noah and, eventually, to Abraham. The genealogy acts as a bridge between the creation account and the unfolding events that shape biblical history.

Who Was Kenan’s Father in the Bible?

According to the biblical account in Genesis 5:6-11, Kenan’s father is Enosh. Enosh holds a significant place as the grandson of the first human couple, Adam and Eve.

Enosh’s name is derived from a Hebrew root meaning “mortal” or “frail,” reflecting a theme of human weakness and the passing on of death from Adam’s line. Possibly, Enosh suffered some fragility or sickness—although he lived 905 years. While the Bible counts this as a righteous line, it’s interesting to note these names, Kanan and Enosh, have more sorrowful meanings. This reveals God’s power to maintain the lineage and tell his redemptive story despite humanity’s brokenness.

The biblical narrative often focuses on key figures and their descendants to convey broader themes. The genealogy in Genesis 5 traces the lineage from Adam to Noah, highlighting these early patriarchs’ longevity and underscoring their role in the unfolding narrative of God’s plan for humanity.

While details about Enosh’s life and deeds may be scant, the genealogy in which he is embedded serves as a testament to the enduring nature of God’s covenant with humanity. Enosh, a link in this righteous lineage, becomes part of the larger tapestry of biblical history. He illustrates the importance of familial ties, faithfulness, and the continuity of God’s plan through generations.

Who Were Some of Kenan’s Notable Descendants?

While Kenan himself doesn’t emerge in biblical stories, his descendants play crucial roles in shaping the unfolding narrative of God’s plan for humanity.

Kenan’s son, Mahalalel, is the next in line according to the genealogy in Genesis 5:12-17. Mahalalel, whose name can be translated to mean “the Blessed God” or “praise of God,” became Jared's father at age 65. Mahalalel lived for 895 years. Mahalalel’s name marks a change from the sorrowful names of Kenan and Enosh to a more joyful meaning.

Jared, the son of Mahalalel, is another notable descendant of Kenan. Jared is recognized for fathering Enoch, who stands out for his exceptional closeness to God. Genesis 5:18-24 describes Enoch’s unique relationship with the divine. Enoch walked with God for 300 years after Methuselah’s birth and had other sons and daughters. Enoch’s extraordinary closeness to God led to a remarkable event: he did not experience death but was “taken away” by God. Only a few people in the Bible never experienced death, and this unique fate sets Enoch apart as a significant figure among Kenan’s descendants.

Methuselah, the son of Enoch, is one of the most well-known descendants in Kenan’s lineage due to his exceptional lifespan. According to Genesis 5:25-27, Methuselah lived to be 969 years old, making him the longest-lived human recorded in the Bible. While the text does not provide extensive details about Methuselah’s life or deeds, his remarkable longevity has captured the imagination of readers and scholars alike.

Methuselah’s son, Lamech, also plays a role in the genealogy. Lamech fathered Noah, the central figure in the great flood story. In Genesis 5:28-32, Lamech expresses his hope concerning his son Noah, saying that Noah would bring comfort to humanity in the toil and labor that resulted from the curse on the ground. This anticipation foreshadows the pivotal role Noah would later play: he becomes the chosen vessel through which God preserves humanity and creation during the flood.

Noah, the grandson of Kenan, is undoubtedly one of Kenan’s most significant descendants. In Genesis 6-9, God instructs Noah to build an ark to save himself, his family, and representatives of every kind of animal from the impending flood. Noah’s obedience and righteousness in following God’s instructions showcase the continuation of the godly lineage initiated through Kenan.

Since Kenan lived for 910 years and knew Adam and Eve, he heard the stories of creation and the Fall firsthand (according to the biblical numbers, Adam was 325 years old when Kanan was born, and Adam lived 807 years total). For later generations to know the early Genesis accounts, Kanan would have passed these stories down to people like his grandson Enoch, strengthening the faith of the man so close to God. Every patriarch and other family members would have participated in this oral transmission of faith.

What Can We Learn from Kenan's Place in the Bible?

Kenan’s place in the Bible offers valuable insights into the broader themes of the biblical narrative and the unfolding plan of God for humanity. While Kenan may not emerge prominently in specific stories or events, his position in the righteous lineage provides meaningful lessons for us.

Firstly, Kenan’s role as a descendant of Seth underscores the importance of generational continuity. The genealogy connects the creation account with subsequent events, highlighting the lineage God chose to carry forward His covenant and plan for humanity. God maintained covenants and promises through blood lineages in the Old Testament, culminating in the birth of the Son of God, promised to happen through a woman after the Fall. As part of this lineage, Kenan symbolizes the ongoing commitment to righteousness and faithfulness from one generation to the next, all in the hope of a future promise.

Today, the lineage of faith in the New Covenant is spiritual, not physical. From Jesus came the 12 disciples, then Barnabas, and so on, as detailed in Acts and in Paul’s writings. We are connected to a larger family of faith across all peoples, lands, and generations.

The etymology of Kenan’s name raises thought-provoking considerations. While the biblical text does not explicitly explain the reasoning behind his name, the association with sorrow prompts reflection on the challenges and hardships inherent in the human experience. Adam and Eve experienced grief when one of their sons killed another, effectively losing both in the process. Kenan was born into a grieving family, although a righteous line.

Kenan’s name reminds us of God’s promise among the complexities and struggles that accompany life on earth. While these hardships and sorrows occur, God ultimately plans for good and blessing, and we should have this hope in mind when we face daily challenges.

Moreover, Kenan’s place in the genealogy highlights the importance of familial ties and individuals’ roles within the broader context of their lineage. In biblical history, family structures carry significant weight, and individuals’ choices impact not only their immediate circumstances but also future generations’ trajectories. Kenan’s position as a father and part of a larger lineage emphasizes how the divine plan interconnects everyone. His role would have included passing on faith and truth to the next generations.

Through the Great Commission and the spiritual gifts given to us, we should participate in discipleship and spiritual growth. Kanan’s father and ancestors passed on truth to him, and he passed it on, even unto deliverance through Noah. We all need mentors of faith and also people we influence.

The genealogy, including Kenan’s descendants such as Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah, showcases the diversity of roles and experiences within a single family line. From the remarkable longevity of Methuselah to the unique closeness to God exhibited by Enoch, each figure contributes to the multifaceted tapestry of biblical history.

This diversity reinforces that God works through individuals with distinct qualities, callings, and destinies even today.

As little as we know about Kanan, he was responsible for transmitting the stories and importance of faith beyond himself. May we remember to do the same.


Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Kesu01

Britt MooneyBritt Mooney lives and tells great stories. As an author of fiction and non -iction, he is passionate about teaching ministries and nonprofits the power of storytelling to inspire and spread truth. Mooney has a podcast called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author of We Were Reborn for This: The Jesus Model for Living Heaven on Earth as well as Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.

This article is part of our People of Christianity catalog that features the stories, meaning, and significance of well-known people from the Bible and history. Here are some of the most popular articles for knowing important figures in Christianity:

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