Methuselah - The Oldest Man Who Ever Lived

Profile of Methuselah, Pre-Flood Patriarch

Methuselah
Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah in Noah (2014). Image Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Methuselah has fascinated Bible readers for centuries as the oldest man who ever lived.  According to Genesis 5:27, Methuselah was 969 years old when he died.

Three possible meanings have been suggested for his name: "man of the spear (or dart)," "his death shall bring...," and "worshiper of Selah."  The second meaning may imply that when Methuselah died, judgment would come, in the form of the Flood.

Methuselah was a descendant of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve.  Methuselah's father was Enoch, his son was Lamech, and his grandson was Noah, who built the ark and rescued his family from the great Flood.

Before the Flood, people lived extremely long lives: Adam, 930; Seth, 912; Enosh, 905; Lamech, 777; and Noah, 950.  Enoch, Methuselah's father, was "translated" to heaven at age 365.

Bible scholars offer a number of theories as to why Methuselah lived so long.  One is that the pre-Flood patriarchs were only a few generations removed from Adam and Eve, a genetically perfect couple.  They would have had unusually strong immunity from disease and life-threatening conditions.  Another theory suggests that early in humanity's history, people lived longer to populate the earth.

As sin increased in the world, however, God planned to bring judgment through the Flood:

Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3, NIV)

Although several people lived to be over 400 years old after the Flood (Genesis 11:10-24), gradually the maximum human lifespan went down to about 120 years.  The Fall of Man and the subsequent sin it introduced into the world corrupted every aspect of the planet. 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23, NIV) 

Paul was speaking about both physical and spiritual death.

The Bible does not indicate that Methuselah's character had anything to do with his long life.  Certainly he would have been influenced by the example of his righteous father Enoch, who pleased God so much he escaped death by being "taken up" to heaven.

Methuselah died in the year of the Flood.  Whether he perished before the Flood or was killed by it, we are not told.   

Accomplishments of Methuselah:

He lived to be 969 years old. Methuselah was grandfather of Noah, a "righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." (Genesis 6:9,​ NIV)

Hometown:

Ancient Mesopotamia, exact location not given.

References to Methuselah in the Bible:

Genesis 5:21-27; 1 Chronicles 1:3; Luke 3:37.

Occupation:

Unknown.

Family Tree:

Ancestor:  Seth
Father:  Enoch
Children:  Lamech and unnamed siblings.
Grandson:  Noah
Great Grandsons:  Ham, Shem, Japheth
Descendant:  Joseph, earthly father of Jesus Christ

Key Verse:

Genesis 5:25-27
When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died.

(NIV)

(Sources:  Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Trent C. Butler, general editor; International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, general editor; gotquestions.org )

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Zavada, Jack. "Methuselah - The Oldest Man Who Ever Lived." ThoughtCo, Feb. 12, 2017, thoughtco.com/methuselah-oldest-man-who-ever-lived-701188. Zavada, Jack. (2017, February 12). Methuselah - The Oldest Man Who Ever Lived. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/methuselah-oldest-man-who-ever-lived-701188 Zavada, Jack. "Methuselah - The Oldest Man Who Ever Lived." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/methuselah-oldest-man-who-ever-lived-701188 (accessed May 24, 2018).