The original question was:
God told Noah in Genesis 6:4 that His intention was to limit man’s lifespan to 120 years. Why then did Abraham live to be 175? Isn’t that a contradiction?
Answer by John Mackay
Let’s first check what the Bible says so we can deal with this.
In Gen 6:3-4 we do read: ‘And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” ‘
And in Gen 25:7-9 we find ‘This is the sum of the years of Abraham’s life which he lived: one hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. ‘175 is definitely more than 120 and Abraham lived way after the flood.
Long after the days of Abraham, Moses is recorded as dying at 120 years old, and in the present world very few of us reach 120 years of age.
So how do we understand Genesis 6:4? Let’s start again in Genesis.
We first meet Noah in Genesis 5: 32 where we read he “was five hundred years old, and Noah begot Shem, Ham, and Japheth. “ I am sure you can imagine that after five hundred yrs without any baby noise or clutter in Noah’s house, the arrival of these children must have made for a radical change in Noahs lifestyle. The pre flood world was a radically different one to our present day planet.
But if you try to make God’s statement in Genesis 6:3-4 mean that man’s life span after the flood would be a maximum of only 120 years, you crash against the untenable position that every patriarch from Noah to Abraham broke your ‘rule’. Noah’s lifespan is recorded in Gen 9:28-29 with the words: ‘ And Noah lived after the flood three hundred and fifty years. So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died. ‘ Even Jacob, who lived 147 years, is on record as stating to Pharaoh when he was 130 years old that; “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” So Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.’ (Gen 47:9-10 Emphasis added)
So Jacob’s immediate ancestors back to Abraham were widely known to have lived longer than the 120 years, as had Jacob.
Now for the key point: all this was known to Moses who a few centuries later would pen Genesis under God’s guidance using all these family records as background. In addition all of this was known through Moses’ readers down to the days of Jesus and to the end of the penning of the book of Revelation, yet nobody has ever changed it to remove what is being called a contradiction.
So what is a better option, given the first rule in any literature is that an author must be assumed to be sane and not seeking to deliberately contradict themselves in order to confuse us?
Here is some more data: Gen 5:28-31 records that Noah’s father ‘Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years, and had a son. And he called his name Noah, saying, “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord has cursed.” After he begot Noah, Lamech lived five hundred and ninety-five years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Lamech were seven hundred and seventy-seven years; and he died. ‘
Now add that we first hear of Noah when he was 500 years old and became a father for the first time. Then we read that: ‘God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.’ (Gen 6:13-14) Note that we are not told exactly how old Noah was when this information was imparted to him.
Lastly we read that: ‘In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.’ (Gen 7:11-12) and by the end of those 40 days, everyone on the planet who was not on the Ark was dead, and that sadly included Noah’s brothers and sisters. It was a minimum time of 100 years from Noah having his first child..
So the more logical meaning and easier reading of the 120 years, is that it formed a maximum countdown from the time God warned Noah to the start of the flood. It would also not be unreasonable to suggest that God revealed his intention to wipe out the world twenty years before Noah’s first child was born. In addition we can add there appears to be no way to force the interpretation that God’s statement to Noah referred to how long mankind lifespan would be after the flood.
For more information on lifespans see the question:
LIFESPAN: Why don’t we live for many centuries like the people in the early generations in the Bible? Answer here.
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