How Did Methuselah Die?
We recently went through the so and so begat so and so list in Genesis 5 at one of our fellowship gatherings. It was exciting. I’m not kidding. It was fascinating. By adding the years from the beginning of Adam through Noah and the flood, some interesting facts emerge. The years can be documented through the ages of individuals when their sons were born. Adam was 130 when Seth was born. Seth was 105 when Enos was born. Thus Enos was born in the year 235 A.H. (Anno Homoni, in the year of man).
Adam lived 930 years. [Yes, I believe this is literally true. He wasn’t the product of evolution. God made him. He must have started out as a perfect specimen of what mankind was meant to be. Humans have devolved since then, not gotten better. Starting with perfection leaves no room for improvement.] He knew his son, of course, and more than likely his grandson, and great-grandson, and well actually, could very well have known his great-great-great-great-great-great grandson, Lamech, who was born 56 years before Adam’s death. Noah was the first in the recorded lineage to have been born after Adam’s death.
Lamech, Noah’s father, apparently knew about the beginnings, the Garden of Eden, and what had happened with Adam and Eve. He at least knew some of it if not all. When Noah was born, Lamech called his name Noah, saying, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.” (Genesis 5:29) If Lamech knew that the Lord had cursed the ground (which occurred upon Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden), then he had to have known that there was a time before the ground was cursed. Lamech did not have to get this information by it being passed down by word of mouth through many generations until it got to Lamech from a wildly indirect source. Lamech was born in the year 874 A.H. Adam did not die until the year 930 A.H. Lamech could easily have spoken to Adam about it directly and gotten the full story.
In the recorded lineage, Enoch lived the shortest period of time, just 365 years. I know, most people say that Enoch never died, that God just took him straight to heaven. I don’t know what the record means when it says “he was not for God took him.” Hebrews 11:5 says that God translated him, but Hebrews 11:13 is very clear that Enoch died. After having named Able, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Sarah, the record says, “these all died in faith, not having received the promises.” Whatever Enoch’s “translation” was, it was not a matter of not dieing. The record says he died.
The one who lived the shortest period of time, fathered the one who lived the longest. Methuselah was born to Enoch in the year 687 A.H. He lived 969 years and died in the year 1656 A.H. He was the father of Lamach and thus the grandfather of Noah.
Noah was born in the year 1056 A.H. He was 600 years old when the flood came. Thus, the flood occurred in the year 1656 A.H. Hmm, where did we just read that year? Goodness, that’s the same year Methuselah died. Furthermore, the record states that the flood began in the second month on the 17’Th day of the month. So Methuselah lived 969 years and died just weeks or less before the flood. What are the odds? Or… the flood was what finally got him. The record never accuses Methuselah of being a believer.
I used to believe that Methuselah likely died in the flood. It just seemed too unlikely that he would have lived so long and then died just weeks or days before the big event. Then someone pointed out to me that I was leaving God out of the equation. Noah went into the ark with his family, his wife and sons and his sons’ wives. His father, Lamech, had died a few years before, in 1651 A.H. Methuselah was Noah’s grandfather. I don’t think God would have asked Noah to take his family into the ark, but leave his grandfather outside to drown. The record doesn’t say, but I think it is more likely that God held back the waters until Noah’s grandfather was gone (and given his age, probably from natural causes), and then the flood came.
Moses wrote this record by revelation from God, and he was spot on. Had he written that any one of the men in this lineage had lived a single year longer before the birth of his son, or that Methuselah had lived a year longer, it would have put Methuselah’s death one year after the flood rather than just before. Moses did not have the kind of numbering system we have today. It would not have been easy for him to have added up the years like we did in a few minutes one Sunday morning. I don’t know exactly what kind of system he had, but when Roman numerals were invented later (much later), they were an improvement. In spite of the fact that it would have been a bit of a stretch for Moses to have added up these years, he totally nailed it. He didn’t have to double check the math. The info was from a reliable Source.
Had these numbers come out to be self-contradictory, we would be faced with an instance where the written record of the Scriptures could be documented to be unreliable. If one record is unreliable, then who is to say how many other records are unreliable and which ones? The integrity of the Scriptures having been so clearly refuted, there would be nothing left that we could absolutely trust.
Unfortunately, this is exactly where many Christians are coming from. They don’t understand how Genesis 1 fits with the scientific evidence, or how people before the flood could have lived so long, or how the flood could have happened, so they conclude that the physical facts reported in the Bible are at least sometimes incorrect. They view the Bible as good for extolling moral virtues, but not to be trusted on physical facts. If this is true, then it is not God’s Word, and we might as well just throw it away.
Fortunately, it can be trusted in all matters. There is nothing wrong with the written records (as originally given), only with the scholarship (and sometimes the core beliefs) of many of the people presenting those records. Moses got it right, and I don’t think it was an accident.