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generations in the Bible

Hebrew: תּוֹלְדָה —transliteration: toledoth —meaning: generations

This word is derived from יָלַד (yalad), meaning to bear, bring forth, or beget.

The word generation(s) has various uses and meanings in Scripture.

  1. Length

    The Hebrews seem to have reckoned time by the generation. In the time of Abraham a generation was a 100 years, thus: Genesis 15:16, “In the fourth generation” = in 400 years (compare Genesis 15:13 and Exodus 12:40). In Deuteronomy 1:35 and Deuteronomy 2:14 a generation is a period of 38 years.

  2. Historical record/account

    Genesis 2:4 KJV, “These are the generations,” means this is the “history of” or “account of.”

    See: Genesis 2:4 NKJV (“This is the history”) and Genesis 2:4 NASB (“This is the account”)

  3. Book of generations

    Genesis 5:1 KJV, “The book of the generations,” means a family register, or history of Adam.

    “This is the book of the generations of Adam. …” —Genesis 5:1 KJV excerpt

    This is the second of the toledoth statements in Genesis (the first at Genesis 2:4 KJV). Since Adam (and only Adam) could have personal knowledge of all the events in Genesis 2, 3 and 4, it is reasonable to conclude that this section was originally written by him. Genesis 5:1a is thus Adam’s signature at its conclusion. —Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Defender's Study Bible (Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Publishing)

  4. Genesis 37:2, “The generations of Jacob” = the history of Jacob and his descendants.
  5. In this generation

    Genesis 7:1 KJV; Genesis 7:1 NKJV; Genesis 7:1 ESV — “in this generation” = in this age.

    Compare Genesis 7:1 NASB, which drops the word.

  6. Psalm 49:19, “The generation of his fathers” = the dwelling of his fathers, i.e., the grave.
  7. Psalm 73:15 NASB, “The generation of Your children” = the contemporary race.
  8. 14 generations

    In Matthew 1:17, the word generation means a succession or series of persons from the same stock.

    So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations. —Matthew 1:17 NASB

  9. This generation

    In Matthew 24:34, “this generation” refers to the people then living contemporary with Christ.

  10. Chosen generation

    1 Peter 2:9 KJV, 1 Peter 2:9 NKJV, “A chosen generation” = a chosen people or race / “a chosen race” —1 Peter 2:9 NASB; 1 Pet. 2:9 ESV

  11. Isaiah 53:8 KJV, “Who shall declare his generation?” and Isaiah 53:8 NKJV “who will declare His generation?”

    Compare: Isaiah 53:8 ESV; Isaiah 53:8 NASB

  12. Matthew 3:7 KJV, “Generation of vipers” is translated “brood of vipers” in Matthew 3:7 NKJV, Matthew 3:7 NASB, Matthew 3:7 ESV.

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Article Version: July 9, 2021