Post-flood decline of long years

In the previous post, we saw the huge number of years in people’s lifespan were actually months based on the evidence from the book of Job regarding how ancients calculated their lifespans. In this post, we will explore deeper on the genealogies mentioned from the sons of Noah up to Moses and what really caused the decline of these long lifespans.

Terah’s lifespan: 145 not 205

Before going deeper into the genealogies, I want to show how unreliable these values are. Take the lifespan of Terah.

Gen 11:26 Now Terah lived seventy years, and begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran. … (32) So the days of Terah were two hundred and five years, and Terah died in Haran

Gen 12:4 So Abram departed as the LORD had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.

Gen 21:5 Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 

If Abraham was born when Terah was 70 years old, then Terah would have been just 170 years old when Abraham was 100 years old during the birth of Isaac. However, Terah died at Haran 25 years before Isaac was born when Abraham was 75 years old (i.e, 170-25 = 145). Hence, Terah died at the age of 145 not 205 as the texts say. If Terah lived 145, where did the scribes copied (or) calculated the value of 205 from? How did the value 205 got into the texts? Comparing it with Samaritan Pentateuch, Terah’s days were correctly mentioned there as 145 years.

This shows a fundamental and systematic error in interpreting the numerals present in manuscripts. Take for example, the values for Terah and Abraham.

Masoretic / LXXE Samaritan Pentateuch
Patriarch Son Remain Lived Son Remain Lived
Terah 70 145 205 70 75 145
Abram 100 175 100 175

As you can see the values got somehow jumbled and wrongly interpreted in different manuscripts. However, there are a few noticeable and unavoidable points of interest.

  • In Masoretic / LXX, wrongly adding the true lifespan of Terah (145) and the age when his son was born (70) gives 205. The value 205 does not occur anywhere else and there is no other possible mistakes through which 205 can occur. This undoubtedly shows that the scribe did manually calculate the value of Terah’s lifespan as 145 years, but then he mistaken it to be remaining years and added it to 70 (when his son was born) to arrive the wrong value of 205 years. In other words, the genealogy was later added by a later scribe or a redactor.
  • The difference between the time when Terah’s and Abraham’s sons were born (i.e, 100 – 70 = 30) is the same difference between their lifespans (175 –  145 = 30). The different is even same with the wrong value of Terah’s lifespan (205 – 175 = 30). This shows that the mistake was made in a numerical system which is a factor of 30. Interestingly, Sumerian and Babylonian numerals are all sexagesimal numerals (base 60).
  • If the true remaining years of Terah (75) are accidentally added as Abraham’s remaining years after Isaac was born, it gives Abraham’s lifespan of 175 years. Did the scribes accidentally did this mistake?

Apart from textual inconsistencies (as above), there are several inconsistencies in the manuscripts themselves. The values in Masoretic & Vulgate, Septuagint and Samaritan Pentateuch are all different.

Masoretic & Vulgate Septuagint
Son Remain Lived Son Remain Lived
Shem 100 500 100 500
Arphaxad 35 403 135 400
Cainan 130 330
Salah 30 403 130 330
Eber 34 430 134 270
Peleg 30 209 130 209
Reu 32 207 132 207
Serug 30 200 130 200
Nahor 29 119 179 125
Terah 70 205 145 70 205 145
Abram 100 175 100 175

The red color-ed values in the above table (adapted from Wikipedia) are the core cause of difference. In general, the lifespans can be divided into three sections:

  1. The first section is Shem’s lifespan, which is around 600 years. This is typically 6 times more than the normal human lifespan of around 100 years.
  2. The second section is from Arphaxad to Eber (from whom the word ‘Hebrews’ came from). It is important to note that the earth was divided into multiple languages during the days of is son, Peleg. In this section, the lifespan was reduced by two-third of Shem’s lifespan (previous section). i.e, 400 years. This is typically 4 times more than the normal human lifespan of around 100 years.
  3. The third section is from Peleg to Terah (after the earth was divided into multiple languages) where the lifespan was reduced to a third of Shem’s lifespan (or half of previous section). i.e, 200 years. This is typically twice the normal human lifespan of around 100 years.

The decline in lifespan is not a gradual one but a stepped one. This shows a change in the way people calculated time, and represented in the new language for a certain period of time until the new change came into existence (esp., on the lineage of Abraham). The numerical change due to language changes are clearly visible. Let us look into some of the calendar systems of ancient civilizations to see if we can find some pattern that corresponds to the long lifespans.

Pentecontad Calendar

During the time of Shem up to Babel (until Eber), the most likely calendar system used was Pentecontad calendar. The year is broken down into 7 periods of 50 days (a total of 350 days), with an annual supplement of fifteen or sixteen days. The calendar’s use dates back to at least the 3rd millennium BCE in western Mesopotamia and surrounding areas. Each 50-day period was made up of 7 weeks of 7 days and 7 Sabbaths, with an extra 50th day. Did you notice some similarity in the law? Did you also notice God expecting them to follow sabbaths even before the law of covenant was given to Israel? In Pentecontad calendar, if Shem’s age was in months as with Antediluvians, then his true age is as follows. His son was born when he was 100 Pentecontad months old (or) 14 years old (100 / 7 = 14). Then he lived for another 500 Pentecontad months (or) 71 years (500 / 7 = 71). Hence, his total lifespan was 600 Pentecontad months (or) 86 years. Using the same idea, we can populate the table from Shem to Eber (using Septuagint data as source).

Son Remain Lived
Shem 14 71 86
Arphaxad 19 58 77
Salah 19 58 76
Eber 19 61 81

Hence, from Shem to Babel, they used the Pentecontad calendar. But after the earth was divided into multiple languages in the days of Peleg, the calendar and/or number system got changed. To what calendar did it change?

Seasonal Calendar

After the tower of Babel, from Peleg to Nahor, they calculated their age based on the 4 seasons. This is similar to how ancient Egyptians divided their year by 3 seasons based on rising of river Nile except in Mesopotamia, there are 4 seasons. For example. Peleg gave birth to Reu after 130 seasons (or 130/4 = 33 years). He then continued to live for 209 seasons (209/4 = 52 years). Hence, his total lifespan was 339 seasons (or 339/4 = 85 years). Using the same idea, we can populate the table from Peleg to Nahor (using Septuagint data as source).

Son Remain Lived
Peleg 33 52 85
Reu 33 52 85
Serug 33 50 83
Nahor 45 30 75

Hence, from Peleg to Nahor, they used the seasonal calendar.

Bi-Annual post-Exodus Calendar

Terah and Abraham came from Ur in Babylon to Canaan. Abraham also went to Egypt and then back to Canaan. Isaac and Jacob also lived in Canaan. Looking into their lifespans, it seems that they calculated their age bi-annually (equinox and solstice?)

Exod 12:2 “This month shall be your beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you.

Exod 23:16 “and the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year, when you have gathered in the fruit of your labors from the field.

Lev 23:34 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘The fifteenth day of this seventh month shall be the Feast of Tabernacles for seven days to the LORD. … (39) ‘Also on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when you have gathered in the fruit of the land, you shall keep the feast of the LORD for seven days; on the first day there shall be a sabbath-rest, and on the eighth day a sabbath-rest.

How did the “year-end” (after God had given the beginning of months) became 7th month? The calendar system changed from ancient Egyptian after Israel came out of Egypt. This is explained in the post, How did year end become seventh month? We don’t know much about the pre-exodus calendar system but without intercalary months, it can also quickly get off course. Hence, the pre-exodus Israelite people seems to have followed a bi-annual calendar system.

Abraham was born when Terah was (70 years old in pre-exodus calendar system) or 35 years old. Using the same idea, we can populate the table from Terah to Exodus (using Septuagint data and Genesis as source). The calculated years were take from timeline data.

Son Remain Lived
Terah 35 38 73
Abram 50 38 88
Isaac 30 60 90
Jacob 44 30 74
Levi 21 69
Kohath 67
Amram 69

Moses was 80 “pre-exodus calendar” years old when Israelites came out of Egypt. When the new calendar system was given by God, the Israelites started using 360 day per year calendar. This means, Moses was actually 40 years when he stood before Pharaoh. With duration of exodus another 40 years, he died at 80 years old.

Ps 90:10 The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years …

In the psalms called prayer of Moses, was he prophesying the age of his own death?

Conclusion

After reconstructing the table based on the above analysis using the different calendar systems, we get the following lifespans.

Son Remain Lived
Shem 14 71 86
Arphaxad 19 58 77
Salah 19 58 76
Eber 19 61 81
Peleg 33 52 85
Reu 33 52 85
Serug 33 50 83
Nahor 45 30 75
Terah 35 38 73
Abram 50 38 88
Isaac 30 60 90
Jacob 44 30 74
Levi 21 69
Kohath 67
Amram 69
Moses 80

Hence, the long years of lifespans were actually a misinterpretation of the calendar systems followed by the patriarchs.

Continue to read in Part 3, Reconstruction and realignment of biblical timeline.