Long Years in Genesis?
How were years determined in Noah’s days?
Sincerely, Member of Casas’ Discovering Christianity Class
You are obviously referring to the genealogies in the early part of Genesis which list the ages of death of many men during the Patriarchal Age. Let me remind you of a few passages from Genesis 5:
“Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.”
“Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.”
“Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.”
“Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died.”
“Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died.”
“Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.”
Of course, the list goes on and on.
Now, in answer to your question, I have absolutely no idea why they lived so long! As far as I can tell from reading and hearing possible alternatives, I don’t’ think anyone else has a satisfactory answer either.
Some people say that these are not really years but months. If that is true it means that when Enosh became the father of Kenan at the age of 90 years (months?), then he fathered his first child at the ripe old age of 7 years and 6 months. If years are months then Kenan became a dad at about 6 years of age and Mahalalel fathered his first son at age 5.
Others have postulated that the almost perfect atmospheric conditions soon after the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin were especially conducive to long life. For example, the early chapters of Genesis describe a thin cloud cover surrounding the earth and a mist rising up from the ground to water the earth. These folks postulate that the perfect environment kept bodies from wearing out quickly.
Others have concluded that the freshly-made, early bodies soon after Adam and Eve had few of the elements that contribute to death in those early years. For example, cells are only able to replicate up to 50 times during our life times. Each time a cell divides crucial DNA is lost until the cell can no longer make an exact, fresh copy of itself. The body now begins to age rapidly and soon wears out. Again, perhaps they had far fewer genetic “T” cells and were less likely to get debilitating cancer. So they lived longer.
While other theories exist, none seems satisfactory to explain the long lives of the early Patriarchs.
Of course, some say that allowing long lives is just the way God wanted to do it, so He did. After all, He can do anything He wants to!!
God did not let long-life spans go on forever. God said in Genesis 6:3: “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” As time passed, so did the era of long lives. Abraham died an old man at the age of 120.
By David’s day, 70 to 80 was enough: The length of our days is seventy years — or eighty, if we have the strength” (Psalm 90:10).
Despite what seems obvious, we might do well not to skip too quickly over the genealogies. They are filled with great spiritual truths. For example, think of the spiritual lessons behind the life and intimacy that Enoch had with God as revealed in the genealogy: “When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away (Genesis 5:21-24). Think of the implications of having a close walk with Jesus in our generation.
By the way, Methuselah, one of Enoch’s sons lived to be the oldest man who ever lived. He died at the age of 969 years (Genesis 5:27). Did you know that the name “Methuselah” means, “When he is gone, it will come”? Did you know that in the same year Methuselah died that the Flood came? Consider the patience and compassion of God in holding off the Flood until the longest living man in history finally died.
See, there is much to learn in the genealogies. Women were considered to be so insignificant in both the Old and New Testaments that no one even bothered to keep their genealogies. So, why then would Matthew include five women when relating the genealogy of Christ (Matthew 1)? Well the answer to that is for another time. Ask me that question some day and I will be delighted to answer it!
Well, my friend, I hope my thoughts are helpful.