120 Years in Genesis 6

Lily Sarah Prymus lizp at sbcglobal.net
Wed Jan 23 04:05:23 EST 2002

According to the Book of Jasher (chapter 5):
Noah (then, age 480) and Methuselah were told by G-d that He would give
the people a period of 120 years to turn from their evil ways.  At the end
of the 120 year period, Methuselah died and the Flood came (Noah, age

The Book of Jasher consists of 91 chapters and is referenced in Joshua
10:13 as well as in 2Samuel 1:18. Covers Genesis (in depth) & Exodus along
with portions of Joshua. Can fax or e-mail you a copy of the chapter if
you would like it.

I'm a "newbie" and enjoy your forum. Presently, a student (a very o-l-d
one!) in Classical & Modern Hebrew.  - Lily

> Concerning the two options of interpreting the meaning of 120 years in
> Gen.6:
> I would prefer the interpretation that 120 years refers to the limiting of
> man's age even though there has been an attempt of mixing a divine or super
> race with a human one.
> 1.There is no direct evidence of the idea of repentance nor is any warning
> given to Man by G-d in this unit or the following narrative.
> 2. The story of Chapt.6 (like the Tower of Babel Story) seems to have an
> independant quality that while it relates to the adjacent narrative it
> serves as a marker between eras.
> Therefore there is no reason to relate 120 years to the flood chronology
> itself.
> The limiting of man's age because he remains flesh, even though there has
> been a union of Divine (Elohim) and Human, fits in with a motif that runs
> from Garden of Eden through the Tower of Babel stories concerning the
> Humaness of man and the problem of defining his limits vis a vis the Divine.
> 3. It could be claimed that, even if the above speculation is true, in the
> present context the original meaning of 120 years as a limit of man's age is
> irrelevant-rather it should be connected to the Flood story that follows.
> This is necessary to explain away the contradiction that, in the present
> Biblical context, the 120 year age limit contradicts the evidence of the
> following chapters where men continue to achieve longer life spans.
> However in the broader context of the Torah we can note the following:
> A. 120 years is considered an optimum age (see Moses' age at Death.) (The
> 110 years of Joseph is considered an Egyptian equivalent and Joshua, a
> direct descendant of Joseph and "second" to Moses inherits the same age at
> his death.)
> B. There is a progressive decline in ages of death as we move from Creation
> Epics to the Historical Epic of Israel. (Step one-between creation and
> flood, step two-between Flood and Patriarchs, step three-Patriarch and
> finally Joseph and Moses-founders of the nation)
> C. The people being born of the special union of Chapter 6 are called Men of
> Renown (literally Men of NAME). The point of the story in the broad Biblical
> context is not only to show us why the flood takes place but also to
> highlight that attempts of acheiving NAME and being closer to the divine are
> dependant on G-d and not man's actions. The builders of the Tower of Babel
> wanted to make a NAME for themselve and were thwarted. However G-d revealed
> himself to Abraham and promised him tha his NAME would be blessed. The
> direct reactions that G-d takes, dispersing the builders and limiting man's
> age are proof of his total control.
> There seems to be a variety of expressions of Biblical notions concerning
> the evolvement of History and it relation to superhistorical periods and
> events.
> It is amazing how the Bible affords us the opportunity to read these units
> as part of an onrunning narrative on the one hand, but also keeps alive
> other messages by linking them through various motifs and common language.
> Also note that the Rabbis also desired to preserve the interpretion that 120
> years means the maximum that even a Man of Elohim like Mose could live. They
> comment that the word BeSHeGaM (which appears in the verse in question)
> numerically equals the MoSHeH (Moses) in gematria.
> Shabbat Shalom and have a Good Weekend,
> Myron
> Myron Joshua/Kibbutz Kfar Etzion
> > Hi
> > I am wondering if anyone has any great interpretations for the Genesis
> > passage that talks about man only having 120 years left.  Some say that
> this
> > is the new "lifespan for mankind" others say this is how long it would be
> > until the flood....which is correct? Either? Are there any Hebrew
> insights?
> > Thanks for your thoughts
> >
> > Jeff Fisher
> > Minister,  Church of Christ
> > San Diego

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