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Methuselah (Hebrew: מְתוּשֶׁלַח‬, Methushelah "Man of the dart/spear", or alternatively "his death shall bring judgment"[1]) is a biblical patriarch and a figure in Judaism and Christianity. He is reported to have lived the longest of all characters mentioned in the Torah at the age of 969.[2] Methuselah was the son of Enoch, the father of Lamech, and the grandfather of Noah.

Methuselah Stained glass.jpg
Spouse(s) Edna
Children Lamech, and other sons and daughters


In the BibleEdit

Methuselah is mentioned in Genesis 5:21–27, as part of the genealogy linking Adam to Noah. The following is taken from the King James Version of the Bible.

21 And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:
22 And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
23 And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:
24 And Enoch walked with God: and he [was] not; for God took him.
25 And Methuselah lived a hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech:
26 And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:
27 And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.
Genesis 5:21–27

There have been numerous attempts to account for these differences – the most obvious being accidental corruption by copyists and translators. Some errors may be the result of mistaken attempts to correct previous errors. Gerhard Larsson has suggested that those who translated the Septuagint from Hebrew to Greek in Alexandria around the 3rd century BC, aware that the Egyptian historian Manetho makes no mention of a Deluge, lengthened the patriarchs' ages to push back the time of the flood to before the first Egyptian dynasty.[3]

Methuselah is mentioned once in the Hebrew Bible outside of Genesis; in 1 Chronicles 1:3, he is mentioned in a genealogy of Saul.[4] Methuselah is mentioned a single time in the New Testament, when the Gospel of Luke traces Saint Joseph's lineage back to Adam in Luke 3:23–38.[4]

Extra-biblical mentionsEdit

Methuselah appears in two important Jewish works from the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC. In the Book of Enoch,[5] Enoch (as the narrator) tells Methuselah of the coming worldwide flood and of the future Messianic kingdom. He is known to have a great sword (Sword of Methuselah) that conquers evils and ghosts. The Book of Jubilees names Methuselah's mother and his wife – both are named Edna – and his daughter-in-law, Betenos, Lamech's wife.

The 17th century midrashic Sefer haYashar ("Book of Jasher")[6] describes Methuselah with his grandson Noah attempting to persuade the people of the earth to return to godliness.[7] All other very long-lived people died, and Methuselah was the only one of this class left.[8] God planned to bring the flood after all the men who walked in the ways of the Lord had died (besides Noah and his family).[9] Methuselah lived until the ark was built, but died before the flood, since God had promised he would not be killed with the unrighteous.[8] The Sefer haYashar gives Methuselah's age at death as 960[10] and does not synchronize his death with the flood.

The Sumerian King List mentions a character named Ubara-Tutu who seems almost identical to Methuselah. He was the son of En-men-dur-ana the Sumerian Enoch, and king of Sumer until the flood swept over the land. Although their ages are different, their father and their year of death remain the same.[11]

Methuselah (Arabic: Mattūshalakh) is also mentioned in Islam in the various collections of tales of the pre-Islamic prophets, which also say he was an ancestor of Noah. Furthermore, early Islamic historians like Ibn Ishaq and Ibn Hisham always included his name in the genealogy of Muhammad.[12]

Joseph Smith taught that Methuselah was "righteous". The Book of Moses says that after Enoch and the City of Zion were taken up to heaven, Methusaleh stayed behind; this was so that God's promises to Enoch - that he would always have descendants on earth and that he would be an ancestor of Noah - would be fulfilled. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints further teaches that Methuselah was a prophet.[13]


Bartolomé Bermejo, Christ Leading the Patriarchs to Paradise, c. 1480. In this depiction of the Harrowing of Hell, Methuselah is portrayed as leading the procession of the righteous behind Christ, along with Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Adam and Eve.

The meaning of Methuselah's age has engendered considerable speculation, but no widely accepted conclusions. These speculations can be discussed under four categories and their combinations: literal, mistranslation, symbolic, and fictional interpretations.


Interpretations of the Bible following biblical literalism take Methuselah's 969 years to be 969 solar years. Some literalists suggest certain arguments for how this could be: early humans had a better diet, or a water vapor canopy protected the earth from radiation before the Flood.[14] Others introduce theological causes: humans were originally to have everlasting life, but sin was introduced into the world by Adam and Eve, its influence became greater with each generation, and God progressively shortened human life, particularly after the Flood.[15] The Catholic Encyclopedia says "Certain exegetes solve the difficulty to their own satisfaction by declaring that the year meant by the sacred writer is not the equivalent of our year."[16]


Some believe that Methuselah's extreme age is the result of an ancient mistranslation that converted "months" to "years", producing a more credible 969 lunar months, or 78½ years,[17] but the same calculation applied to Enoch would have him fathering Methuselah at the age of 5[18] using numbers from the Masoretic Text. Donald V. Etz suggested that the Genesis 5 numbers "might for convenience have all been multiples of 5 or 10".[19] If the Septuagint numbers are divided by 10, Methuselah's 165 when he fathered his son would be 16.5 years, and the 969 when he died would be 96.9 years.

Ellen Bennet argued that the Septuagint Genesis 5 numbers are in tenths of years, which "will explain how it was that they read 930 years for the age of Adam instead of 93 years, and 969 years for Methuselah instead of 96 years, and 950 years for that of Noah instead of 95 years"... "Surely it is much more rational to conclude that Noah lived 50 years instead of 500 years before he took a wife and begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth." and lists the Septuagint total ages with decimal points: 93.0 for Adam, 91.0 for Cainan, 96.9 for Methuselah, 95.0 for Noah, etc.[20] Robert M. Best provided a similar table of the same Septuagint Genesis 5 numbers with decimal points inserted in the same tenth position.[21]

There is also the possibility that the ages represent not the length of life of an individual but rather the time span of a dynasty. Under this interpretation, it isn't that Methuselah lived for 969 years but rather that his clan had "dominion" for that period.[22]


Methuselah's father Enoch, who does not die but is taken by God, is the seventh patriarch, and Methuselah, the eighth, dies in the year of the Flood, which ends the ten-generational sequence from Adam to Noah, in whose time the world is destroyed.[23]


Among those who believe that all the numbers of Genesis 5, including Methuselah's age, have no meaning at all, Kenneth Kitchen calls them "pure myth",[24] Yigal Levin believes they are intended simply to speed the reader from Adam to Noah,[25] and Claus Westermann believes they are intended to create the impression of a distant past.[26]

Cultural influenceEdit

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Methuselah's name "has become a synonym for longevity".[16] It was used in this sense in the title of Robert Heinlein's novella Methuselah's Children, about a group of people persecuted because of their longevity.

Saying that someone is "as old as Methuselah" is a humorous way of saying that someone is very elderly.[27] The word "Methuselarity," a portmanteau of Methuselah and singularity, was coined by Aubrey de Grey to mean a future point in time when all of the medical conditions that cause human death would be eliminated, and death would occur only by accident or homicide.[28]

Anthony Hopkins played Methuselah in Darren Aronofsky's 2014 film Noah.[29] In the film, Noah's adopted daughter Ila (played by Emma Watson) is infertile until Methuselah blesses her.[29]

In the novel Altered Carbon, which has been adapted into a TV series of the same name, a class of people are known as Meths, in reference to Methuselah, as they can afford to live forever by transferring their consciousness into cloned bodies.

In 2016, it was announced that producer David Heyman would produce a biblical epic starring Tom Cruise as Methuselah with Joachim Rønning to direct.[30]

Methuselah's great-granddaughter is a character in Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle.

In the short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, at the end of the second chapter when Mr. Button was asked by his son, “What are you going to call me, dad”; after thinking for just a brief moment his father responded,”I think we’ll call you Methuselah.”C.F.C.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Cornwall and Stelman Smith, The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names
  2. ^ Genesis 5:27
  3. ^ Quoted in the website of the Institute for Biblical and Scientific Studies
  4. ^ a b "Methuselah". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved November 12, 2017. 
  5. ^ "The Book of Enoch". Retrieved 2006-08-29. 
  6. ^ Sefer Ha-Yashar: Or, the Book of Jasher (1887), Salt Lake City: J. Parry & Co.
  7. ^ (Jasher 5:7)
  8. ^ a b (Jasher 5:21)
  9. ^ (Jasher 4:20)
  10. ^ (Jasher 5:36)
  11. ^ Pritchard, James B. (ed.), Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1955, 1969). 1950 1st edition at Google Books. p.44: "...a flood [will sweep] over the cult-centers; to destroy the seed of mankind; is the decision, the word of the assembly [of the gods]."
  12. ^ Ibn Ishāq, Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, tr. A. Guillaume (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), p. 3
  13. ^ "Methuselah". Guide to the Scriptures. Retrieved November 12, 2017. 
  14. ^ John C. Whitcomb, Jr. and Henry M. Morris, "The Genesis Flood" (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1961), 399–404
  15. ^ Pilch, John J. (1999). The Cultural Dictionary of the Bible. Liturgical Press. pp. 144–146. ISBN 0-8146-2527-4. 
  16. ^ a b "Methuselah". Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2017-11-12. 
  17. ^ Hill, Carol A. (December 2003). "Making Sense of the Numbers of Genesis" (PDF). Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith. 55 (4): 239–51. 
  18. ^ Morris, Henry M. (1976). The Genesis Record: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House. p. 159. ISBN 0-8010-6004-4. Such an interpretation would have made Enoch only five years old when his son was born! 
  19. ^ Etz, Donald V. (April 1993). "The Numbers of Genesis V 3-31: A Suggested Conversion and Its Implications". Vetus Testamentum. 43 (2): 171–89. doi:10.1163/15685339993X00034. JSTOR 1519351. INIST:4293595. 
  20. ^ Bennet, Ellen H. (1897). "Cosmogony, or Creation of the World". Astrology: Science of Knowledge and Reason: A Treatise on the Heavenly Bodies in an Easy and Comprehensive Form. New York. pp. 30–7. OCLC 11451986. 
  21. ^ Robert M. Best, Noah's Ark and the Ziusudra Epic, 1999, page 108
  22. ^ Borland, James A. (1990). "Did People Live to be Hundreds of Years Old Before the Flood?". The Genesis Debate. Grand Rapids, MI. p. 174. 
  23. ^ Abraham Malamat, "King Lists of the Old Babylonian Period and Biblical Genealogies," Journal of the American Oriental Society 88 (1968): 165. See also the discussion of "ten" in the Gen. genealogies in M. Abot section 5, Jacob Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988), 685. Duane A. Garrett also thinks this is deliberate, thus indicating redaction, Rethinking Genesis: The Sources and Authorship of the First Book of the Bible, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2000, p. 99.
  24. ^ Kitchen, K. A. (1966). Ancient Orient and Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. p. 40. 
  25. ^ Levin, Yigal (October 2001). "Understanding Biblical Genealogies". Currents in Research: Biblical Studies. 9: 11–46. 
  26. ^ Westermann. Genesis 1–11: A Commentary. p. 354. 
  27. ^ "as old as Methuselah". Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 2017-11-12. 
  28. ^ de Grey, Aubrey (2008). "The singularity and the Methuselarity: similarities and differences" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-13. Retrieved 2017-02-24. 
  29. ^ a b Zuckerman, Esther (March 27, 2014). "Why Emma Watson Is the Secret Key to 'Noah'". The Atlantic. Retrieved November 12, 2017. 
  30. ^ Lodderhose, Diana. "Joachim Rønning Attached To Direct David Heyman's 'Methuselah' With Tom Cruise". Deadline Hollywood. 

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