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I read in The Collegeville Bible Commentary: Old Testament "Genesis" by Diane Bergant that the similar names in both Cainite and Sethite genealogies found in Genesis 4 and 5 such as Lamech, Enoch, Methushael/Methuselah, and Mehuyael/Mahalael are a result of a single account being edited by both "Yahwist" and "Priestly" sources of the Documentary Hypothesis. (The DH postulates multiple editors of the text that became the torah.) The names Irad and Jared are also very similar.

Bergant writes (page 46):

There are points of conflict between this genealogy (Genesis 4) and the Priestly genealogy in Genesis 5. Some of the Names are repeated (Enoch,Lamech), and some the names are simply variations of names in the Yahwist genealogy (Mehujael/Mahalalel) and (Methusael/Methuselah). It appears that both genealogies come from a common source that has undergone a long period of transmission.

How does the Jewish tradition understand the strong parallels between these genealogies?

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    Why do you think names had to be unique even back then? There are various occasions in Tanach of two different people having the same name. – CashCow Jul 19 '16 at 9:48
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    Um... instead of asking "Here's an explanation, completely counter to Judaism, of a Jewish text. Is there any other way of understanding that text?" to which the answer will presumably be "yes", how about "Here is the difficulty I have with this Jewish text. How is this issue resolved?"? That would (a) not insult Judaism by implying there may be no way of understanding the text; (b) ask your question based on the question you have on the verses rather than based on an answer you read somewhere, which just makes more sense; and [continued] – msh210 Jul 19 '16 at 14:39
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    [continued] (c) not bring in a contrary-to-Jewish source, which (i) is distasteful and, because that source is irrelevant to your question, (ii) makes me think you're doing it solely as a form of proselytizing (trying to convince people of the DH). – msh210 Jul 19 '16 at 14:41
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    Adding in verse citations to the various paralleled names would further improve this question. – Double AA Jul 19 '16 at 15:13
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    Off-topic per the reasons given by @msh210. (I think this question fits into MY's definition of the "comparative religion" off-topic category for those reasons). Edits so far have helped slightly, but the DH explanation of multiple authors is still inexplicably a main feature in the body of the OP. This should be closed until the question is edited accordingly. – Fred Jul 19 '16 at 19:22
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Rav Hirsch goes over the names and discusses the meaning of the names and the significance for the basic traits of the generation that name is used for. He points out (4:18-22 and 5:11-27). For example, Lemech ends the progress of the generations with a statement that sums up the state of the descent, though from different sides. The Cainite line is constant downward "progress" ending in the children of Lemech whose grandfather מחוי אל - in which G0dliness was extinguished while מחי אל - who extinguished G0dliness. Lemech summarizes the descent by his statement that his children end with the invention of warfare and killing. (ends in utter despair)

When the generation that freed itself from culture was young, it was מחויאל passive, g0dliness was extinguished in it, but when it was older it was מחייאל active, tried to do away with g0dliness in general. It was followed by a generation of מתושאל seeking masses of people from the root of םתים

Rav Hirsch does a similar analysis of the line of Seth and ends with Lemech summarizing the meaning of the line ending with Noach who leads to hope and the possible redemption of makind. The names show both upward and downward trends.

The father of Lemech in the Seth line is מתושלח which means give up the masses whose father is חנך

חנך to educate itself to nurturing and cultivating the seeds of something nobler. But in times of general debasement such efforts remain the work of only individual nobler natures and these feel themselves in such contrast to the masses that they

מתושלח give up the masses. They believe that they have achieved their goal if they have saved themselves and elevated themselves only. To them the masses where מתים whom they שלח, give up, abandon.

  • I love this Hirshian answer!!! – Joshua Pearl Nov 13 '16 at 21:17

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