Before the flood, according to the Bible, many people lived longer than 120 years. In Genesis 6:3 God declares an end to these long life spans.
And the Lord said, "My Spirit will not strive (abide) with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." (Genesis 6:3)NKJV
Some scholars suggest that this 120 years was a prophetic time line until the flood took place. However, we see God's decision was made in Genesis 6:3 after Noah turned 500 in Genesis 5:32.
Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters were on the earth. (Genesis 7:6)NKJV
Taking these passages we can determine that the flood took place within 100 years after God's decision.
So the prophetic interpretation of the Genesis 6:3 is a wrong one. For additional information on this 100 years see: #X112
Below is a translation of the Oldest Hebrew on Genesis 6:3, I have included it to clear up these different views.
And God said, "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is indeed mortal and their days of life will be 120 years." (Genesis 6:3)
So if the prophetic view is wrong, then why were their people who lived longer than 120 years after the flood?
The Bible is full of contradictions, but only on the surface. God does not say that the shortening life span will be immediate. Despite this, many have read Genesis 6:3 and expect that God would have implemented that decision at that time. We read further on into Genesis and notice that people continued to live much longer than 120 years after the flood. Some would see this obvious contradiction in the Bible as a rational to deny that God exists, but our God does not lie.
I have compiled a chronological list of Biblical people who lived longer than 120 years. As you scroll down the list to the point where God states the "120 year rule" notice the gradual decline to the 120 years of Moses. It is interesting to see that the last recorded person to live beyond 120 years was Jacob (otherwise known as Israel). Jacob was the father of Israel.
|Adam||= 930 years|
|Seth||= 912 years|
|Enosh||= 905 years|
|Cainan||= 910 years|
|Mahalalel||= 895 years|
|Jared||= 962 years|
|Methuselah||= 969 years|
|Lamech||= 777 years|
|Noah||= 950 years|
|Shem||= 600 years|
|Arphaxad||= 438 years|
|Salah||= 433 years|
|Eber||= 464 years|
|Peleg||= 239 years|
|Reu||= 239 years|
|Serug||= 230 years|
|Nahor||= 148 years|
|Terah||= 205 years|
|Abraham||= 175 years|
|Ishmael||= 137 years|
|Isaac||= 180 years|
|Jacob (Israel)||= 147 years|
|Joseph||= 110 years|
|Moses||= 120 years|
|Joshua||= 110 years|
You will not find another person in the Bible from this point on that exceeds 120 years.
What God is saying is that the long life span He allowed us to have, created too much evil and wickedness. By shortening the span to 120 years He was also helping man to reduce the evil we individuals are capable of over long periods of time.
Something to think about:
Tim James was the person who initially emailed me the question above. After I emailed him the above answer he sent back the following:
Scientists are now beginning to think that genetics might have a greater part to do with how long we live more than anything else. If this is true couldn't the result in the decline of humans life span have more to do with the weakening of the gene pool? Or maybe God, in His infinite wisdom, already had it covered and not only was Noah righteous but he also had a defective / altered gene which was passed onto his sons and the effect just accumulated with time. I don't want to get into the debate about predestination etc, but God could have made Noah that way for this reason.
This paper is Part 1 of 2
To goto Part 2 click here: An Exception To The Rule
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