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In its article on the decline of human life spans, CreationWiki states,

Interestingly, Noah died only two years before Abraham was born.

Unfortunately for readers they provide no biblical support. What is the biblical basis for this claim?

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    It's a rather inconsistent article, as the main table has Abraham being born in 1978 and Noah dying in 2006! – curiousdannii Jan 12 '16 at 6:54
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    This is based on the Masoretic timeline, the Septuagint timeline IMO is more correct... – Morris Buel Jun 20 at 20:22
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Noah lived 350 years after the Flood (Gen 9:28). Arphaxad was born 2 years after the Flood (Gen 11:10) Salah was born 2 + 35 after Flood (verse 12) Eber was born 2 + 35 + 30 after Flood (v14) Peleg 2 + 35 + 30 + 34 (v16) Reu 2 + 35 + 30 + 34 + 30 (v18) Serug etc, etc (v20) Nahor (v22) Terah (v24) Abraham was born 2 + 35 + 30 + 34 + 30 + 32 + 30 + 29 + 70 (v26) = 292 years after the Flood. However, Abraham was actually born not in Terah's 70th year but in his 130th year (see below), meaning Abraham was born 352 years after the Flood which was 2 years after the death of Noah (Gen 9:28). However, as I try to show below, even that is probably not correct.

(Most of this post is heavily reliant on Appendix 2 of Dr John Whitcomb and Henry Morris's book "The Genesis Flood" from which I quote:- )

The genealogy in Genesis 11 and probably Genesis 5 also is not what we would expect. Genesis 11:26 says: "And Terah lived seventy years and begat Abram, Nahor and Haran."

Taking this statement at face value, one might well conclude that Terah became the father of triplets in his seventieth year (even as his grandson Isaac became the father of twins in his sixtieth year), Abram being the firstborn of the triplets. We are somewhat astonished, however, to discover upon further investigation that Abram was not the firstborn of the three and that Terah was not seventy, but rather one hundred and thirty years old when Abram was born!

In Genesis 11:32 we read that “the days of Terah were two hundred and five years: and Terah died in Haran”; while in 12:4 we find that Abram was seventy five years old when he departed out of Haran.” Thus, if Abram left Haran to go to Canaan after Terah’s death, Abram must have been born when his father was 130 years old. The possibility of Abram’s leaving Terah in Haran sixty years before Terah finally died is excluded by Stephen’s statement that “from thence, when his (Abraham's) father was dead, God removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell” (Acts 7:4). In the light of these considerations, we may paraphrase Genesis 11:26 as follows: “And Terah lived seventy years and begat the first of three sons, the most important of whom (not because of age but because of the Messianic line) was Abram.”

So seeing Terah was 130 when he begat Abram then this would mean that Noah died two years before the birth of Abram. This would mean that CreationWiki is correct.

However, to further quote from the same source:-

It is quite possible that only a small number of the patriarchs listed in Genesis 11 were firstborn sons. A comparison of 11:10 with 5:32 and 8:13 suggests that Shem was not. A comparison of 11:10 with 10:22 suggests that Arphachshad was not. And we have already seen that Abram was not. Actually, not one of the Messianic ancestors in Genesis, whose family background is known in any detail such as Seth, Abram, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and Perez, was a firstborn son. The year of begetting a first son, known in the Old Testament as “the beginning of strength”, was an important year in the life of the Israelite (Gen. 49.3, Deut. 21:17, Psa. 78:51, and Psa. 105:36). It is this year, then, and not necessarily the year of the birth of the Messianic link, that is given in each case in Genesis 11. Thus we have clear evidence for the possible addition of a limited number of years from the lives of some of these patriarchs to the total of years from the Flood to Abraham."

A careful comparison of Exodus 6:20 with 1 Chronicles 6:1-4, Numbers 3:27-28, and Numbers 26:59-62 calls into question the whole premise of the CreationWiki view that the genealogy in Genesis 11 is a literal father to literal son genealogy. Exodus 6:20 says: "And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years."

On the face of it it is abundantly clear that Amram and Jochebed were the parents of Aaron, Moses and Miriam.

And the similarity of structure between this verse and verses in Genesis 11 should be noted.

But here is a big problem: in Number 3:27,28 we learn that in the days of Moses, the number of males who were grandchildren of Kohath, Moses's supposed grandfather, were 8,600. Assuming the same number of females would make 17,200 grandchildren of Kohath: dividing this by the four sons of Kohath would give over 4,000 children each to Amram, Izehar, Hebron and Uzziel. Such a number is surely impossible and we must conclude, as Exodus 6:16-20 implies, that Amram and Jochebed were distant ancestors of Moses and Aaron, not their parents.

[It might be suggested that there were the ancestors Amram and Jochebed, and the immediate parents by the same name. But a reading of Exodus 6:16-20 does not suggest this. And if that is what is intended in Exodus 6:16-20 then we are left with precisely the same possible interpretation for the verses similar to Exodus 6:20 in Genesis 11 (and maybe Genesis 5 also). The Genesis 11 genealogy need still not be literal fathers and sons. Besides this, even if Amram fathered Moses when he was as old as 55 years old then he would have been still alive, at 135 years of age, when Moses returned to Egypt at 80 years of age. And yet we do not read of Moses going to pay his respects to his parent(s) when he returned to Egypt; we only hear of Miriam and Aaron. The clear impression given is that his parents have both died. Could Amram, Moses literal father, have married late and fathered Moses beyond 55 years of age? It is possible, but the explosive birth rate of the Israelites in Egypt for 400 years argues quite strongly against it. The population at the time of the Exodus is only possible if the Israelites married and started families, virtually en masse, in their early twenties at the latest. For these reasons it seems to me very unlikely that Moses's literal father is referred to at all in Exodus 6:20.]

There are many reasons for doubting the premise of CreationWiki of literal fathers/sons in Genesis 11. A fuller description of the peculiarities of genealogies in Scripture can be found in the online article by Dr John Millam: "The Genesis Genealogies - Are they complete?"

What then is Genesis 11 actually demonstrating? Genesis 11:26 shows us what is very important in the chapter: seeing as Abram is named first and yet is not the firstborn of Terah, it follows that the writer of Genesis 11 wants to stress God's preservation and protection of the Messianic Line through all the troubles, difficulties, sins and rebellions of the human race. The chapter also highlights the increasing grip of the Edenic Curse through the succeeding generations, with the age at death steadily declining. Genesis 5 and 11 together show that the curse pronounced on Adam and Eve is transmitted to the whole human race, no one is excluded, not even Abraham and his descendants. And so it shows that being under the curse is not the last word - there is a way (John 14:6) to get out from under the curse (Galatians 3:13, etc), because Abraham found that way (John 8:56). In essence, Abraham was one of us, and yet he was blessed - so we can be too.

So Genesis 11:10 could mean "Shem was a hundred years old and begat an ancestor of Arphaxad two years after the flood." To appreciate this seemingly unlikely construct as a possibility it would be important to read all the examples in scripture of such a construct as revealed in John Millam's article.

(Summarising Whitcomb and Morris) a literal father to son genealogy in Genesis 11 raises serious objections:-

  1. Why did Sarah laugh in unbelief at being told she would have a child at her age when, upon the literal father-son interpretation of Gen 11, there were many around her who had had children at much older ages than her?
  2. Abram's fathers are said to have been idolaters, yet many of the postdiluvian patriarchs would have been still alive (on the premise Gen 11 is a literal father-son genealogy). It is hardly conceivable that the likes of Noah would have fallen into idolatry, or even that idolatry would have spread amongst his descendants while Noah was still alive. The premise, then, that Gen 11 is recounting father-son descent is struck down.
  3. On Abram's journey into Canaan he bumps into scores of different tribes, language groups and cities. There is not enough time for the population to arise, and the implication of the story of Abraham is that the Tower of Babel was long before his time. This is further implied by Abraham bumping into Philistines in Canaan: yet these had not come direct from the Babel in the plain of Shinar in the east, but via Caphtor, supposedly Crete, in the west (Jeremiah 47:4, Amos 9:7).
  4. The Flood would have happened in the middle of recorded history, with the Great Pyramid of Egypt having been built before the Flood. And attempts to re-date Egyptian history, such as by David Rohl, do not agree with scripture on other grounds. (David Rohl puts insufficient years between Moses and Joseph, disagreeing with Exodus 12:40, and furthermore making the Biblical accounts of the Israelite population at the time of the Exodus entirely impossible.)
  5. The number of years from the Flood to Abraham are not totalled. When it comes to the patriarchs before the Flood, Moses totals them for each individual patriarch (in Genesis 5). It would have been straightforward for Moses to have given the total number of years just as he does in Exodus 12:40. Does he not total them because they are not intended to be totalled, because such a totalling would be meaningless?
  6. It is said of Peleg that he lived in the days when the earth was divided (Gen 10:25). Many hold that this is referring to the division of languages at the Tower of Babel, there being no other Biblical possibility. But if the literal father-son is intended in Genesis 11 then Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah and Eber all outlived Peleg and thus all of them lived during the time of judgement at the Tower of Babel. Why then does Scripture say only Peleg lived at this time?
  7. The great fall in life expectancy at the time of Peleg is indicative of a large difference in the era in which Peleg and the post-Peleg patriarchs lived compared to the pre-Peleg patriarchs.
  • I really appreciate your response. It’s very meticulous and the order of Abraham’s birth relative to Terah’s age was very well explained +1 for that alone. It’s clear you are using the MT, and unfortunately it’s the only manuscript that allows for Noah to be so close to Abraham, by dropping off 100 years from several descendants of Noah thereby shortening the gap by 500 years between Noah and Abraham. Please consider reading my response and commenting, especially if you disagree. Thank you – Autodidact Feb 2 at 3:10
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That’s only possible to get Noah being contemporary near and around Abraham if you go by the Masoretic text (MT) which a far more recent piece of work than the manuscripts

  • Greek Septuagint LXX,
  • the Samaritan Pentateuch,
  • the Dead Sea Scrolls DSS,
  • writings by Josephus Flavius
  • and even limited quotations from the Tanakh by Apostle Paul in NT writings

Regardless whether it’s two years before Abraham was born or later it’s wrong. That’s a strong charge and I intend to justify it on the evidence of two or three witnesses

“"A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭19:15‬ ‭ESV‬

I have personal reservations and a strong bias against the MT, and I am fully cognizant of this, as it seems to have changed passages in an attempt to discredit the divinity of Christ.

This question is an example of this very attempt by the MT. The interpretation of Shem being contemporary with Abraham appears to be a deliberate attempt to disqualify Jesus as being a priest of the order of Melchizedek as Shem would be reasoned to be Melchizedek by some Jewish scholars despite obvious problems with this hypothesis. This is done by dropping off one hundred years in the genealogies to bring Shem and Abraham as contemporaneous and not around 500 years apart as was the case. This also brings in other issues, like the pyramids being constructed before the flood instead of after the flood,

It’s very interesting that Genesis 10 places the transfer from Shem not onto his son but on Eber skipping right over Arphaxad and Shelah, which has significance to the hEBREw people that would come later but that’s another side note.

“To Shem also, the father of all the children of Eber, the elder brother of Japheth, children were born.” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭10:21‬ ‭ESV‬‬

MT

  • Arphaxad 35
  • Shelah 30
  • Eber 34
  • Peleg 30
  • Reu 32
  • Serug 30

Image I found online

Greek LXX, Samaritan Pentateuch(Torah), Josephus Flavius

  • Arphaxad 135
  • Shelah 130
  • Eber 134
  • Peleg 130
  • Reu 132
  • Serug 130

Second image I found online

All these other earlier texts have an additional hundred years. The DSS unfortunately does not have chapter 10 of Genesis. The LXX does have a mistake in that it adds an additional Cainan which the gospel of Luke copies telling us he probably used a later copy of the LXX because the mistake is not found in earlier LXX manuscripts but if cross referenced with other manuscripts it’s clearly a mistake.

The answer to your question is the Masoretic Text is the reason people believe Noah was alive close to Abraham’s birth, whether that be two years or otherwise and so that is my reference and you can either consult it directly or any Bible translation that uses the MT. However Noah died long before Abraham came onto the scene of history.

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    Don't the LXX chronologies have Methusalah dying AFTER the flood? I have a few extensive discussions (papers) on this but I haven't studied them in depth yet. – Alex Strasser Feb 2 at 15:11
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    @Autodidact - thank you for your kind words. You are not alone in thinking the Septuagint (LXX) is more reliable than the Masoretic Text. I think Methuselah died about 5 years before the flood in the LXX. You could remove the DSS from your text since there remains only one word from Genesis chapter 5, translated "Cainan", and nothing from ch 11, so it is misleading to have it in your text. It looks to me as if the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP) was a deliberate corruption of the Jewish Hebrew original text to add to the political project to keep the Northern tribe worshippers from Jerusalem. – Andrew Shanks Feb 26 at 17:03
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    @Autodidact - I mean the new national leader Jeroboam of "Israel"/the Northern Tribes/Samaria did not want "his" people to see themselves as owing religious allegiance to Jerusalem and so a corruption of their religious text was instigated to further Jeroboam's aim to separate the new rebel nation from Judah. This Samaritan Pentateuch was then translated into Greek before the LXX was produced, and hence was used by the producers of the LXX. A comparison of Genesis 11 in the MT, the LXX and the SP, in my opinion, suggests this direction of travel of corruption. For instance, see Table 1 of – Andrew Shanks Feb 26 at 17:08
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    @Autodidact Table 1 of "The Genesis 5 and 11 genealogy and chronology research project" at biblearchaeology.org. Personally, I do not think that extending the date of the flood further back by 500 years makes a sufficient difference to the problems I have mentioned in my main article (which was heavily reliant on John Whitcomb and Morris's, The Genesis Flood, Appendix 2.) – Andrew Shanks Feb 26 at 17:11
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    I see what you meant by the DSS. Wasn’t meant to be deceiving as that wasn’t my point, my point was the MT is very young comparatively, plus I didn’t use the DSS in the table later. As for the SP, supposing you’re right, doesn’t follow automatically that the LXX is corrupted, it’s on the table but what’s also on the table are manuscripts in Hebrew that we don’t have but they may have had, like the one the SP was translated from. And doesn’t change that the MT is a far more recent work... (Which also had an agenda against the deity of Christ). But again I was blessed by your response, well put – Autodidact Feb 26 at 17:31

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