The Long Life Spans of the People of the Bible

By Peter Salemi

In the book of Genesis, the Bible routinely records human lifespans which seem outrageously different from our experience today. Adam lived to 930 years; Noah even longer, to 950 years. Many people are quick to scoff at such ages, claiming they are “biologically impossible.” Today, even if we avoid all fatal diseases, humans will generally die of old age before they reach much past 100. Even the very exceptional cases don’t make it much past 120 years. It’s is interesting that these great ages are not presented in the Bible as if they are in any way extraordinary for their times. Are these long life spans that we read in the Bible true? Did man live that long?


Real years


Some have suggested that these “years” are really only months, which would reduce 900 years to the normal life span of 80 years. However, this is implausible for two reasons:


1.     There is no precedent in the Hebrew Old Testament for taking the word “year” to mean “month.”


2.     Since Mahalalel had children when he was only 65 (Gen. 5:15), and Cainan had children when he was 70 (Gen. 5:12), this would mean they were less than six years old-which is not biologically possible.


Others suggest that these names represent family lines or clans that went on for generations before they died out. However, this does not make sense for a number of reasons:


1.     Some of these names (e.g., Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah) are definitely individuals whose lives are narrat­ed in the text (Gen. 1-9).


2.     Family lines do not “beget” family lines by different names.


3.     Neither do family lines “die,” as each of these individuals did (cf. 5:5, 8, 11, etc.).


4.     The reference to having “sons and daughters” (5:4) does not fit the clan theory.


5.     In the New Testament, Luke treats the line of people from Adam to Noah in the same manner-as literal individual people. There is no convincing evidence that this genealogy, or any other genealogy recorded in Scripture, is doing anything but recording historical facts where the age of an individual is recorded as history.


Days, Weeks, Months and Years


Consequently, it seems best to take these as years (though they were lunar years of 12x30 = 360 days).


We see that a day (Hebrew word is “Yom” [Strong’s #3117]) is a 24 hour period in the Bible. (Genesis 1:5; Lev 23:32; John 11:9).


Of course the week consisted of 7 days (Gen 1-2:3; 7:4, 10; 8:10). “God spoke these words probably on the seventh or Sabbath day, and the days of the ensuing week were employed in entering the ark...” (Clarke’s Commentary).


As we see during the flood, Noah counted months as the calendar was established at that time as God had appointed (Gen 1:14; 7:11; 8:4-5, 13-14). The word “chôdesh” and “yerach” both  mean “Month” (Strong’s #2320; 3391) which consists of 30 days. These are used interchangeably. We see women weeping for their parents and virginity for a month or two months which consists of 30 days (see Deut 21:11-13; Num 20:29, Deut 34:8; Judges 11:37-39).


And of course a year in the Bible is 12 months, or 360 days, when we go back to Noah. Genesis 7 says, “And Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth” (v.6). Then in Genesis 8:13 it says, “And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year [Noah Life see Gill], in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth:” From the time of the beginning of the flood till the end it was a whole year. In between we see in the relevant verses in chapters 7 and 8:


·        Gen 7:11, In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on the same day all the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened.

·        Gen 7:24, the water prevailed upon the earth one hundred and fifty days.

·        Gen 8:3, and the water receded steadily from the earth, and at the end of one hundred and fifty days the water decreased.

·        Gen 8:4, In the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark rested upon the mountains of Ararat.


Note that from verses 7:11 and 8:4, we see that the span of time extends from the 17th of the second month to the 17th of the seventh month, which is exactly five months. Meanwhile, verses 7:24 and 8:3 equate these same five months with exactly 150 days. The implication is that each month is 30 days (5 months x 30 days/month = 150 days). From this, we derive that the closest thing to a year must be twelve 30-day months, which is 360 days.


Notice, Noah saw that in the “10th month” (Gen 8:5) the mountains were seen.


Then he waited “at the end of forty days” (Gen 8:6) and sent out a “raven.” This is the 11th month. Then he sent the “dove” out. In verses 10 through 12 there is a two week experiment with the dove. When the dove had “returned not again;” this happened near the end of the 11th month and beginning of the 12th month.


Noah waited one more month and then “And it came to pass in the six hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried up from off the earth: and Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry.” (Gen 8:13). Clearly a year in the Bible consists of 12 months of 30 days of 24 hours, and weeks consisting of 7days! So when the Bible says Noah and the other Patriarchs were 600, 900 etc.… years it is literal years close to how we count years today!  


Other Historical Sources


It is interesting that other historical documents also tell of the extraordinary life spans of historical characters. Halley’s Bible Handbook states: “Berosus, a Babylonian historian of 300 B.C. basing his history on archives in tile Temple of Marduk, copied from primitive inscriptions, many of which have been found, named 10 long-lived kings who reigned before the Flood, each reigning from 10,000 to 60,000  years as:


“Aloros, Alaparo, Amelon, Ammenon, Megalaros, Daonos, Eudorachus, Amenpsinos, Otiartes, Xisuthros, ‘In the name of  Xisuthros’ says Berosus, ‘the Great Deluge occurred.’


“The Weld Prism and Nippur Tablets (see pages 48, 49), assigning name the Pre-Flood kings as: thousands of years to each reign, name the pre-flood Kings as:



Reigned at Eridu

28,000 years


Reigned at Eridu

36,000 years


Reigned at Badgurgurru

43,000 years


Reigned at Larsa

43,000 years


Reigned at Badgurgurru

28,000 years


Reigned at Badgurgurru

36,000 years


Reigned at Larak

28,000 years


Reigned at Sippar

21,000 years


Reigned at Shuruppak

18,000 years

Zinsuddu (Utnapishtim)


64,000 years


“‘Then the Flood overthrew the land.’


“These must be the same kings as those named by Berosus, known by different names after the Confusion of Tongues at Babel. The tablets that give these names were written after the Historic period began. It seems that the ancients, in speaking of their Prehistoric times, fell into the same temptations that our moderns do, of exaggerating to vast dimensions the chronology of their primeval world.


“Besides the Babylonians: Persians, Egyptians, Hindus, Greeks, and others had traditions of the great longevity of earth’s earliest in­habitants. Where could such traditions come from, except from the fact that the first men did actually live long?” (pp.71-72, emphasis added; see also Merrill Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Handbook , revised by Gary N. Larsen, Chicago: Moody Press, 1984, p. 36).


Of course we know that “In the ancient Near East, the rule is that simple accounts or traditions may give rise (by accretion and embellishment) to elaborated legends, BUT NOT VICE VERSA. In the ancient Orient, legends WERE NOT SIMPLIFIED or turned into pseudo-history (historicized) as have been assumed for early Genesis...The recent discoveries of Creation accounts at Elba confirm this. The library of more than 17, 000 clay tablets pre-dates the Babylonian account by about 600 years. The creation tablet is STRIKINGLY CLOSE TO GENESIS...This shows that the BIBLE CONTAINS THE ANCIENT, LESS EMBELLISHED VERSION OF THE STORY and transmits the facts without the corruption of the mythological rendering” (N. Geisler, When Skeptics Ask, p.182, emphasis mine). We know that the Genesis accounts give the true years of the patriarchs and not the embellished account as the other cultures. However this shows that, “Such a universal belief [is] not springing from some instinctive principle of our nature, must be based on an Historical Fact.” (ibid, p.76, emphasis added).


The World has Changed


Many people when they read the account in Genesis assume that the world has NOT changed from that time to this. But the evidence shows the exact opposite.


The Apostle Peter stated that the world was different before the Flood, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: 

Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (2 Peter 3:5-7). The old world is now gone, and the world now as we know it is being “reserved” till the second coming of Christ. It was a different environment then compared to now.


The Bible gives few insights on how the world was before the flood. It does suggest the following features:

1.     Before the Fall, the atmosphere was perfect for sustaining life (Genesis 1:31) and there was no death (Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:22). This soon ended.

2.     Earth’s atmosphere likely had sunlight and temperature variations within the days and nights (Genesis 3:8).


3.     Given that Adam and Eve were told to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:27; 3:21) and they were “naked and unashamed” before the Fall (Genesis 2:25), it appears they had no need of clothing before the Fall.


4.     The Flood ruptured earth’s single land mass. It rearranged continents and pushed up today’s mountains (Psalm 104:8).


5.     Genesis 2:5–6 states, “For the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” While this may mean that there was no rain until the Flood, this passage is at least clear that God originally used an underground system to water plants. After the Flood, a new, above ground system we call the water cycle began.


These insights point to the idea that the pre-Flood world was quite different than the post-Flood world of today. 


Science reveals, “Evidence from the fossil record does suggest that carbon dioxide (also possibly oxygen) levels were higher in the pre-Flood world.” (Article; Living for 900 years, by Carl Wieland).


Morris writes, “Biologically, with the greater extent of land areas and the more congenial environment, one would anticipate that there would be a much more virile, varied, and abundant life upon earth before the Flood than afterwards. This is supported by the tremendous fossil deposits of plant and animal life we find and the tremendous coal deposits. Coal, of course is made up mostly of fossilized plant life.

“There is thus evidence that there was very lush vegetation and very abundant animal life before the Flood. There were undoubtedly ecological niches for the various assemblages of life forms, with a variety of topographic and Zoological relationships at all latitudes and longitudes.” (The Pre-Flood World, by Henry M. Morris, Ph.D.).


The fossils do indicate differences in the pre-Flood:


·        Giant land beasts, such as sauropod dinosaurs that grew as large as 115 feet and 200,000 pounds.

·        Giant flying reptiles called pterosaurs had over 50-foot wingspans (e.g., Quetzalcoatlus).

·        Giant dragonflies had 2-1/2 foot wingspans and 17-inch bodies (Meganeura).

·        Mushrooms grew over 20-feet high (Prototaxites).

·        Giant millipedes grew over eight feet long (Arthropleura).

·        Sea lilies (not plants, but Echinoderms) are measured in inches today, but reached over a dozen feet before the Flood.

·        Millions or more fossils of shallow marine creatures show that the pre-Flood world had vast (continent-sized) stretches of shallow seas unlike today’s deep oceans.


Creationists and evolutionists agree that these giant creatures, plants, and habitats existed. Indeed, they are in the fossil record for everyone to evaluate, regardless of the worldview lens through which they are viewed. They also agree that these ancient features existed in a different version of the Earth.  


Genetic Purity


Not only the environment, but also man was pure, genetically, then “the accumulation of mutations in the human genome…humans add over 30 new mutations every generation... This should cause an exponential decay in fitness.” (Why don’t we live as long as Methuselah? by Jonathan Sarfati).


When the first two people were created, they were perfect. Everything God made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). “That means their genes were perfect, no mistakes. But when sin entered the world because of Adam (Genesis 3:6), God cursed the world so that the perfect creation then began to degenerate, that is, suffer death and decay (Romans 8:22). God said, “dying thou shalt die” in the original Hebrew (Gen 2:17); the process of dying began.


“The human race sprang from a single couple…The blood stream of man was fairly pure… The stream is always pure at the source. Every generation, like the cities on the bank of a stream, puts its sewage into the human race [as a result of Sin].” (Discovering God’s power, p.82, Doris W. Craig, emphasis added).


But there was also one more factor that shrank the life expectancy of man to what it is now.


Tree of life on Earth


In the Garden of Eden there was in its midst the “tree of life.” (Gen 2:9); which God did NOT prohibit Adam and Eve to eat of (Gen 2:16). God told them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil not the tree of life. And what is the tree of life?


First, These were two literal trees in the garden as it says when Eve partook of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Gen 3:6). However, there is a spiritual principle involved with these two trees!


These two trees also represented a choice either to obey God and receive eternal life (the tree of life) or to disobey God which leads to death, “for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen 2:17). The wages of sin (disobedience) is death (Rom 6:23). Obedience leads to life, “but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17).


The tree of LIFE symbolized eternal life (Rev 22:14). They did not, as yet, possess immortal life. This was freely offered to Adam and Eve as GOD’S GIFT OF RIGHTEOUSNESS which the tree always symbolized in the Bible: “that they might be called trees of righteousness, [God’s law Psalm 119:172] the planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified.” (Isa 61:3). To eat of the tree of life, they would have had the spirit of God embedded in them (you are what you eat; see Romans 5:5) and learned the way of righteousness and lived forever-this is what God wants!


Instead they chose their way, the devils way [he helped in their decision] “to know good and evil.” (Gen 3:22) They would come to understand the difference between good and evil, between obedience and disobedience to the will of God; a choice to live two philosophies of life.


When they ate the fruit, it was them willingly yielding to it was what caused the sin. Then their eyes were opened as a result of it-now the knowledge of evil had come. “They KNEW,” it says. Yes, knowledge came-they knew! To have the knowledge of evil is to know evil-it’s to participate in it-and that means to rebel against God and to break His Commandments. They came to the wrong knowledge. Man’s knowledge is mostly a mixture of good and evil. Human nature is a mixture of good and evil. There’s good in all people, and there’s also evil in every one of us as well.


After the fall of man, the tree of life was still there in the garden right up till the time of the flood. God said, “And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of US, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:” (Gen 3:22). Or as it should read in the original Hebrew, “And the Lord God said, The man who was like one of US in purity and wisdom, is now fallen and robbed of his excellence; he has added לדעת ladaath, to the knowledge of the good, by his transgression the knowledge of the evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat and live for ever in this miserable state” (Clarke’s Commentary). God did not want man to partake in the tree of life and live forever in his fallen sinful state. So God place Cherubim to guard the way to the entrance of the garden and the tree of life (Gen 3:24). So for 1656 years, from Adam to Noah, the tree of life was on earth!


The very presence of the tree of life contributed to the longevity of man during that time; but then just before the flood, God calling Noah for his task, God said, “My spirit [Tree of Life, see below] shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Gen 6:3). The flood was coming and the tree of life was to be taken off of the earth and the longevity of man was to shrink to what we are now.


After the flood we see the ages of the patriarchs fall. Noah still aged to 950 years (Gen 9:29).



(1) Life was later shortened to 120 years as a punishment from God (Gen. 6:3).

(2) Life span decreased gradually after the flood from the 900s (Gen. 5) to the 600s (Shem 11:10-11), to the 400s (Salah 11:14-15), to the 200s (Rue 11:20­21).

(3) Biologically, there is no reason humans could not live hundreds of years. Scientists are more baffled by aging and death than by longevity.


Paradise Restored (Tree of Life)


At the second coming of Christ and the setting up of the Kingdom of God, the curse that God put on man and the earth due to sin will be lifted, “and there shall be no more death…And there shall be no more curse” (Rev 21:4; 22:3).

Paradise-Eden will be restored when Christ comes again as Jesus promised to the overcomer, “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.” (Rev 2:7). This is “An emphatic promise of eternal life, of the enjoyment of eternal nourishment to eternal rejuvenation.” (Lange’s Commentary, emphasis added). The tree of life is a literal tree, spiritually it is a symbol of obedience and imbibing the Holy Spirit, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right [“They have the right” Pulpit commentary] to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Rev 22:14). Keeping God’s righteousness produces the “fruits of righteousness” (2 Cor 9:10; Phil 1:11; Psalm 119:172) which leads to eternal life-the tree of Life! (Matthew 19:17).


During that time, “And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb…In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev 22:1-2). The water of life is a symbol of the holy spirit (John 4:10-14; 7:37-39), in liquid form coming from the throne of God and the Lamb- the tree of life drinks in the water, the spirit of God as well and this is how the world may be healed of eating of its spiritual fruits of righteousness.


But notice by these passages, the tree of life when it was on earth before the flood, obviously its very presence had healing power that could have also contributed to the longevity of the patriarchs.


The tree of life will be restored on earth with all its benefits-spiritually and physically to heal all nations of sickness and disease and cause people to live longer healthier lives. To spiritually grow and create the character God wants them to have to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48; Psalm 19:7).




Did the patriarchs live such long lives? Is it a farfetched idea? Absolutely Not! Universally, the ancient world knew that the early peoples of the earth lived long lives showing that it must be based on a Historical Fact.


The earth’s environment was completely different than what we see today.


The presence of the tree of life was there in the pre-flood world.


Genetically the human race was pure till eventually as a result of sin became corrupted over time. So it is absolutely plausible that the pre-flood people lived as long as they did and recorded in the Bible.


All these factors is why, “The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty if we are strong—yet their pride is but labor and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Berean Standard Bible).  The Psalmist remarking in a general way that most people live between 70-80 years, which is still true today. Some may live fewer years and some may live longer. Nevertheless, 70-80 years is generally the length of life for mankind today!

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