The recent movie Noah portrays Methuselah–the grandfather of Noah–as an old man who lives alone atop a mountain and wields mystical powers ala Gandalf. The film also shows the famous patriarch–recorded by religious texts to be the oldest man who ever lived–getting taken out by the Great Flood of Noah’s day.
Many people weren’t familiar with the source of such an idea, so here’s a quick video to break it down. [If you hate moving pictures you can just read words below the video].
Of course, not everyone believes in the apocalyptic flood or that humans lived for centuries once upon a time. So how do we sort all this out?
1. The timing of Methuselah’s death
According to Genesis 5, Methuselah was 187 when he had Lamech who was 182 when he had Noah. So that would make Methuselah 369 when his grandson Noah was born. Genesis 7:11 says Noah was 600 when the waters came, so you get 969 as the age of Methuselah in the year of the flood. Therefore, the story goes, he died in the year of the great flood.
Various traditions have differing estimates of when Methuselah died ranging from 6 yrs before to 14 yrs after the flood. But even people who hold to the biblical numbers and believe he died in the year of the flood believe him to have died before the actual event.
btw Lamech is reported to have lived 595 years after Noah was born, so by the literal count he would’ve died 5 years before the flood.
2. But what about those crazy age ranges?
If the long ages of man are to be taken literally, God miraculously preserved man somehow. Some Young Earth Creationists suggest a vapor canopy that protected man from harmful UV rays.
Perhaps the numbers were simply mistranslated. If they meant months instead of years Methuselah’s 969 months is a realistic 78.5 years. But that would mean Enoch had Methuselah when he was 5 years old. So others suggest a possibility that the numbers were multiples of 5 or 10 for convenience or that they are in tenths of years. So Enoch had Methuselah not at 65 years old as the Bible states but at 16.5, and Methuselah wasn’t 969 but really 96.
Others say the numbers are symbolic or that you can read the entire Genesis account mythologically. Others theorize that the numbers were merely placeholders, and many believe they are completely fictional and/or meaningless.
Regardless of your interpretation we have the answer to why Aronofsky’s Noah movie suggests that Methuselah died in the Great Flood. Because the Bible tells us so.
Did you know the story of Methuselah’s life and death?
Learn tons more about the new Noah movie by listening to our recent StoryMen podcast with Rabbi Eliyahu Fink and Mikey Fissel of Reel World Theology.