If you are likely to be offended by non-traditional looks at the Old Testament’s patriarchs, please, do not read this post. It is not meant to be offensive or insulting, not even a little bit. Yet, it does contain a non-Christian’s look at the unusual longevity of the early biblical patriarchs and a somewhat clumsy – though sincere – attempt to make ‘sense’ of it in today’s terms.
It is really Sister Carlotta‘s fault. She’s the one who got me hooked on this.
In Orson Scott Card‘s ‘Ender’s Game’ series (don’t read them out of order or you’ll spoil it for yourself!!!), she raises the topic of Old Testament patriarchs during a conversation with another character. Together, they discuss why these men might have lived for such a long time. Until she planted the idea in my head, it never occurred to me that there might be a ‘reasonable’ (as in, non-miraculous) explanation of their longevity, and that it could be a puzzle to be solved!
I love puzzles, especially logic puzzles, and this one was most tantalizing. Many Christian websites insist these high ages given for the early patriarchs are symbolic only (as there were kings from that era who claim to have reigned for a comparable time period), and have no historical value. But, what if…?
That was years ago… but being obsessive-compulsive (and a slow thinker), I never quite let go of it. What if the ages recorded in the Bible say exactly what they are meant to say, and we just don’t understand what they mean? Given the zeitgeist of the era, I even had some suspicions… but could never quite make it all fit. Then, as luck would have it, the very spiritual G’Kar handed me the key!
Yes, I know, I have a problem ‘letting go’… but I could not help myself! This is sort of ‘the look’ of the list in the Old Testament (paraphrased):
Adam was 130 years when be ‘begot’ (I take this to mean his son was born, not conceived, or 9 more months would need to be added) Seth. Then he lived for another 800 years and died at the age of 930 years.
Once the ages and years were ‘run’ through my ‘nifty little function’, this would become:
Adam was 23 years old when Seth was born, then lived for another 65 years and died at the age of 88.
The list is sequential – i.e. the son is listed immediately under his father. For brevity, I will use this format:
- Adam was
13023 at his son’s birth, lived for 80065 more years and died at the age of 93088.
Here, the age given in Genesis is ‘crossed out’ and replaced by my guess. The ages are ’rounded off’, so addition may at times appear off by a bit… Without further ado, here is the list:
From Genesis 5:3 – 32
Name Age at son’s birth Lived on for Died aged
13023.5 80064.7 93088.2
10521 .5 80765.2 91286.7
9020.3 81565.9 90586.2
7018.7 84067.9 91086.6
6518.3 83067.1 89585.4
16226.1 80064.7 96290.8
6518.3 30024.2 36542.5
18728.1 78263.2 96991.3
18227.7 59548.1 77775.8
50053.4 13911.2 63964.6
From Genesis 11:10 – 32
10021.1 50040.4 60061.5
53055.8 40332.5 93388.3
3015.5 40332.5 43348.0
43o47.8 43034.8 86082.6
3015.5 20916.9 23932.4
23031.6 20716.7 43748.3
3015.5 20016.1 23031.6
92087.4 1199.6 103997.0
7018.7 13911.2 20929.9
- Abram (Abraham)…
Perhaps this has already been done and rejected by people who are scholars in this field. Or, there are better ‘versions’ of this solution, and I’m just not educated enough to know about them.
Yet, I feel strangely happy that I solved ‘the puzzle’ to my satisfaction: even the proverbial Methuselah is brought into the realm of what ‘my brain’ considers ‘reasonable’: he would have fathered La-mech when he was 27 and lived until he was 87 years old. Certainly, this is a remarkably high age for his time period, but not outside ‘potential human experience’.
These answers are not likely to be ‘accurate’, but…
What do you think?