In many ways, the times before the Great Flood are a mystery to history. What kind of culture was it? How did God interact with mankind prior to the Law but following Eden? Honestly, did it not rain?
How humanity managed to live such long lives is arguably one of the biggest mysteries. Genesis 5 covers about a thousand years of history, with one of the more intriguing features being the lengthy lifespan of the men listed. Methuselah, the son of Enoch, had the longest life, lasting 969 years.
Even among other individuals who have lived for close to a millennium, he is the longest living. The life of Methuselah, the person who lived the longest of anybody, was marked by adversity, prophesy, and bearing witness to God’s plan.
Who Was Methuselah?
I’m sure you’ve heard of Noah and his ark. Tradition has it that Noah built the ark to exacting specifications. His god had foretold a Great Flood that would blanket the planet and wipe out all life.
He was the grandson of Methuselah. Lamech was Methuselah’s son, according to the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Genesis, and he passed away at the ripe old age of 777. Noah’s father was Lamech.
Despite his descendants, Methuselah is considered by those who believe in the Hebrew scripture to be the oldest person to have ever lived. However, Methuselah is also addressed in other religious writings.
Jewish religious text known as the Book of Enoch describes Methuselah as the carrier of a sword that will vanquish evil and ghosts. Methuselah’s father, Enoch, forewarns him of a Great Deluge.
Methuselah is also mentioned in the Book of Jasher, an ancient collection of poetry and hymns. According to this book, Methuselah was one of the righteous; the Hebrew deity had vowed not to murder the righteous, therefore Methuselah passed away shortly before the rains started.
In the Sumerian King List, Methuselah is probably mentioned. While Methuselah is known as Ubara-Tutu in this book, he was actually the son of the Sumerian Enoch and is believed to have passed away in the same year as the biblical Methuselah.
The argument is that Methuselah is a relatively well-known figure in various mythologies and religions. And every source agrees that he passed away at a ripe old age.
How Did Methuselah Die?
So, how did Methuselah pass away? Most historians agree that Methuselah passed away in the same year as the great flood. It’s difficult to determine Methuselah’s specific cause of death because none of us were alive during that year, but we can make three very educated suggestions.
Methuselah might have simply passed away from old age as the first possibility. This seems like a pretty plausible assumption considering that he was almost a millennium old. The Hebrew Bible mentions lives lasting hundreds of years, yet Psalms expressly specifies that the human lifespan is 70 years old, thus it’s unknown exactly what the life expectancy of humans in prehistoric times was. However, it is evident that Methuselah was extremely ancient.
The second idea is that Methuselah was a good man and was exempt from the flood because of this. In this case, he passed quite suddenly from an undisclosed illness right before the Noah story.
The third hypothesis is that Methuselah perished in the flood, just like the other unrighteous people in the Hebrew Bible. Like the others, he simply drowned after being submerged in water for almost a year.
How Old Was Methuselah When He Died: What the Bible Says
Methuselah lived to be 969 years old, according to the Old Testament of the Christian Bible, as was previously mentioned. There is unanimity in the Masoretic text, which serves as the foundation for Rabbinic Judaism. Of course, there are also translations into Greek and Aramaic. The Samaritan text dates Methuselah’s demise to 720 years of age.
The majority of Book of Genesis adherents think that their creator intended for them to have eternal life. The first man and woman committed a sin against that god, which caused them to become mortal.
It is understandable why textual apologists believed that roughly a thousand years was possible. Except for a small number of people, it is believed that the human species was wiped off by the Great Flood shortly after Methuselah’s passing in 969.
For believers, it makes sense to compare those lengthy lives with the 70-year lifespan mentioned in the Book of Psalms. In other words, the Christian god sees reducing the human lifespan to a small portion of Methuselah’s as a form of retribution.
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What the Evidence Says
The biblical claim that Methuselah lived to approximately 1,000 years old has not yet been proven by science or archaeology. In fact, the opposite is true. The ages at the time of death have been estimated to be between 10 and 35 years old by researching the bones of ancient civilizations.
How the Hebrew bible and other books should be translated has been a topic of intense discussion for centuries. The scripture should not be interpreted literally, it has been agreed by scientists and even many religious leaders.
There are a number of explanations for why these men’s ages are given in this manner. First off, the ages are given in multiples of five or ten. But sometimes the numbers don’t add up, so to speak. Another hypothesis is that ages were measured in months or that each man’s age should include a decimal point at the tenth position.
However, the argument that makes the most sense is that the accounts of Methuselah, Enoch, and Noah are “slight” embellishments of the reality. The Hebrew text’s ages were picked out expressly to convey the idea that a very, very long period had gone.
What Does “Methuselah” Mean?
Most theologians concur that his name portends the flood and the annihilation of the pre-diluvian population and society. Although there is some disagreement about the precise translation, all convey a sense of dread and a sinister threat of doom and judgement. “Death of the Sword,” “When He Dies – Judgement,” or “When He Is Dead, It Shall Be Sent” are a few variations on the translation. Methuselah lived a long life, according to some, because God gave Noah time to build the ark and a chance to repent.
There are ideas that Methuselah was a priest or prophet of some kind, as prophets of God occasionally adopted names that were prophetic, symbolic, or significant at birth.
In Genesis, he only makes a brief cameo appearance: “When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. Methuselah continued to live after having Lamech for 782 years and had further sons and daughters. As a result, Methuselah lived for 969 years before passing away (Genesis 5:25-27). His prolonged life span distinguishes him from the other patriarchs.