Doctrinal Matters: Difficult Passages
Did Methuselah die during the global Flood?
In Genesis chapter 5, Moses recorded the genealogy of Adam. The name that commonly stands out in that list is Methuselah. Methuselah is the oldest person recorded in Scripture, and his name is often used today when referring to something or someone very old. In verse 21 of that chapter, we learn that Methuselah was the son of Enoch. We are then informed:
Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and begot Lamech. After he begot Lamech, Methuselah lived seven hundred and eighty-two years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died. Lamech lived one hundred and eighty-two years and had a son (vss. 25-28).
Lamech’s son was Noah. The Bible records in Genesis 7:6 that Noah was 600 years old when the floodwaters were on the Earth. In light of this information, we can take the age of Methuselah when Lamech was born (187), add to that Lamech’s age when he begot Noah (182) and the age of Noah when the floodwaters came (600), and determine that Methuselah was 969 years old the year the Flood occurred [187+182+600=969]. Since Genesis 5:27 indicates this was the age at which Methuselah died, it is logical to conclude that he died the year of the Flood. However, the Bible does not indicate that he died as a result of the Flood. [Remember, his father was Enoch, one of a select few who walked with God and was taken directly by God, not experiencing death. Thus, Methuselah’s father was a very righteous man, who undoubtedly set a proper example for his son.] While the exact meaning of Methuselah’s name is unknown, many scholars have suggested that it means, “When he dies, it shall be sent,” implying that the Flood would result when Methuselah died (Morris, 1976, p. 160). But, here again, we cannot be certain and should not be dogmatic.
Morris, Henry (1976), The Genesis Record (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).