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WHY WAS HUMAN LIFE SO LONG BEFORE THE FLOOD?
SCIENCE AND THE BIBLE #4
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
Please turn in your Bible to Genesis 5:5.
"And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died" (Genesis 5:5).
Now turn to Genesis 5:27.
"And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died" (Genesis 5:27).
Adam lived 930 years and Methuselah lived 969 years. Dr. Henry M. Morris, the president of the Institute for Creation Research, says,
The lifespans of the antediluvians [those who lived before the Flood] averaged over 900 years (912 to be exact, including Enoch), indicating that environmental conditions were vastly superior to our age (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender's Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995, p. 18).
How can it be that people lived so long? Dr. Norman Geisler tells us that liberal Bible scholars have come up with various answers.
Some have suggested that these "years" were only months, which would reduce 900 years to the normal lifespan of 80 years. However this is not [possible] for two reasons. First, there is no precedent in the Hebrew OT [Old Testament] for taking the word "year" to mean "month." Second, since Mahalalel had children when he was only 65 (Genesis 5:15), and Cainan had children when he was 70 (Genesis 5:12), this would mean they were less than six years old [when they had children - if you take a month for a year] - which is not biologically possible.
Others suggest that these names represent family lines or clans [rather than individual people]. However, this does not make sense for a number of reasons. First, some of the names (e.g. Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah) are definitely individuals whose lives are narrated in the text (Genesis 1-9). Second, family lines do not "beget" family lines by different names. Third, neither do family lines "die," as each of these individuals did (cf. 5:5, 8, 11, etc.). Fourth, the reference to having "sons and daughters" (5:4) does not fit the clan theory (Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D., and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask, Baker Books, 1992,
Look at Genesis 5:4, for an example of the fact that Adam himself, rather than some "clan," produced sons and daughters.
"And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters" (Genesis 5:4).
No, the extreme longevity of men before the Flood must be accounted for some other way. Dr. Geisler gives this solution.
First, there were no genetic imperfections at the beginning of the human race. God created a genetically perfect Adam (Genesis 1:27). Genetic defects resulted from the Fall and only occurred gradually over long periods of time… (Geisler, ibid., page 39).
Dr. John MacArthur, though wrong on the Blood of Christ, gives a helpful comment on the nine hundred and thirty years of Adam's life. Dr. MacArthur said,
These are literal years marking unusual length of life which are accounted for by the pre-Flood environment provided by the earth being under a canopy of water, filtering out the ultraviolet rays of the sun and producing a much more moderate and healthful condition. See notes on 1:7; 2:6… God told Adam that if he ate of the tree he would surely die (2:17). It included spiritual death immediately and then physical death later (Dr. John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, Word Publishing, 1997, p. 23).
Turn in your Bible to Genesis 1:7. Please stand and read this verse aloud.
"And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so" (Genesis 1:7).
You may be seated. The Hebrew word translated "firmament" means "expanse." It refers to the atmosphere around the earth. Genesis 1:7 tells us that there was water under the firmament, in lakes and rivers and oceans - but there was also water above the firmament, above the "expanse" of the earth's atmosphere. That water above the sky formed an envelope or canopy around the earth. This water was above and around the earth - and it came crashing down at the time of the Flood. Dr. Henry M. Morris says,
The waters above the firmament had apparently been transformed into the vapor state in order to be separated from the heavier materials and elevated above the atmosphere, where it could serve as a thermal blanket for the earth's future inhabitants.
Such a vapor canopy would undoubtedly have provided a highly efficient "greenhouse effect," assuring a perennial spring-like climate for the entire earth. Water vapor both shields the earth from harmful radiations from space and also retains and spreads incoming solar heat. A vapor canopy would thus provide an ideal environment for abundant animal and plant life and for longevity and comfort in human life… the absence of rain (Genesis 2:5) and the rainbow (Genesis 9:13) is not only explained but required by a vapor canopy, not by an atmosphere like that of the present (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender's Study Bible, World Publishing, 1995, pp. 4-5).
The water above the firmament came pouring down on the earth at the time of the Flood.
So, what does that have to do with the longevity of man before the Flood? For one thing, the envelope of water vapor around the earth filtered out most of the radiation. Dr. John C. Whitcomb and Dr. Henry M. Morris point out the decrease in lifespan after the precipitation of the canopy. They say that it is reasonable
…in view of what is known about the somatic and genetic effects of radiations to infer that, over the centuries since the Flood, the accumulation of these effects in man in particular has resulted in gradual deterioration and decreasing life-span. Especially marked must have been the effect in the centuries immediately after the Flood…Before the flood, therefore, everything was conducive to physical health and longevity. Equable temperatures, freedom from environmental radiations, and other factors attributable to the vapor canopy all contributed to the effect…After the Flood, the canopy was [gone], its protective effects…removed, and then began a long decline in general health and longevity…Much of this decline…can undoubtedly be attributed to the greatly increased incidence of radiation upon the earth's surface… probably during and immediately after the Flood this increase was very sharp (John C. Whitcomb, Th.D., and Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Genesis Flood, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1993 reprint, p. 404).
Dr. Morris and Dr. Whitcomb also say that changes in diet and inbreeding, as well as increased radiation, are probable causes for the decline of longevity after the Flood (ibid., footnote 1).
Ralph O. Muncaster says,
People had long life spans - up to 969 years - until the Flood…Scientists studying the biblical claim have discovered possible explanations, one being the explosion of the Vela supernova, which dramatically increased radiation to the earth from space about the time of the Flood (Ralph O. Muncaster, Can Archaeology Prove the Old Testament?, Harvest House Publishers, 2000, p. 25).
And Dr. Gleason L. Archer said,
…After the terrible judgment of the Flood, the life expectancy of man became progressively shorter. By Moses' time a lifetime of seventy years was considered normal (Gleason L. Archer, Ph.D., Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, Zondervan Publishing House, 1982, p. 77).
Now look back to Genesis 5:27.
"And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died" (Genesis 5:27).
Methuselah holds the distinction of being the longest lived man in history. The average age before the Flood was 912 years old. Now watch how quickly the ages are reduced after the Flood. Turn to Genesis 11:10-11.
"These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood: And Shem lived after he begat Arphaxad five hundred years, and begat sons and daughters" (Genesis 11:10-11).
Shem lived only 600 years. Now drop down to verses 18 and 19.
"And Peleg lived thirty years, and begat Reu: And Peleg lived after he begat Reu two hundred and nine years, and begat sons and daughters" (Genesis 11:18-19).
So, Peleg lived only 239 years. Turn to Genesis 25:7. Let us stand and read it aloud.
"And these are the days of the years of Abraham's life which he lived, an hundred threescore and fifteen years" (Genesis 25:7).
So, Abraham lived 175 years. Turn to Genesis 47:28. Let's read it aloud.
"And Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years: so the whole age of Jacob was an hundred forty and seven years"
Now turn to Genesis 50:22. Here we see that Joseph lived only 110 years. Please read that verse aloud.
"And Joseph dwelt in Egypt, he, and his father's house: and Joseph lived an hundred and ten years" (Genesis 50:22).
You may be seated. Shem lived 600 years. Peleg lived 239 years. Abraham lived 175 years. Joseph lived 110 years.
Now we are getting close to the age man lives today. Last week, The Los Angeles Times reported that the second oldest person in the world died at the age of 114. "Charlotte Benkner…the woman who came to the U.S. from Germany as a child said she had voted in every general election since 1920…One of the thrills of her life, she later said, was greeting President Theodore Roosevelt… 'He tipped his hat and said hello to all of us. He was such a nice person and a good President,' Benkner said" (The Los Angeles Times, May 18, 2004, p. B-11). A woman named Ramona Trinidad Islesias-Jordan, of Puerto Rico, is two months older than Charlotte Benkner. A few years ago, a woman lived to be 127 years old in Arles, France. She had sold pencils to the artist Vincent Van Gogh when she was a child. That's about the age to which Moses lived. Turn to Deuteronomy 34:7.
"And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated"
But by the time of King David the average person lived to about 70 years old. Turn to II Samuel 5:4.
"David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years" (II Samuel 5:4).
Even though David was only 70, the Bible says, "the king was very old" (I Kings 1:15). Dr. Archer said, "It seems that there was a gradual working out of the cursed effects of sin on the physical well-being and stamina of the human race, even long after the Fall had taken place" (Gleason Archer, ibid.).
Please look at our last verse of Scripture, in Psalm 90:10.
"The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away"
You are only going to live into your seventies or eighties - at best! Many of you will die much sooner than that. That is why we need to prepare for eternity - and live for eternity - now!
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12).
We only have a short time to get saved and live for Christ.
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