Meet Methuselah: The Oldest Man Who Ever Lived

Explore theories on how this pre-flood patriarch lived to be 969

Old Man Methuselah
Prophet (Masto Ciccio), 1914, by Vincenzo Gemito (1852-1929).

De Agostini Picture Library / Getty Images

Methuselah has fascinated Bible readers for centuries as the oldest man who ever lived. According to Genesis 5:27, Methuselah was 969 years old when he died.

Key Bible Verse

When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he became the father of Lamech. And after he became the father of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Methuselah lived 969 years, and then he died. (Genesis 5:25-27, NIV)

The name Methuselah (pronounced me-THOO-zuh-luh) is most likely of Semitic origin. Several possible meanings have been suggested for his name: "man of the spear (or dart)," or "javelin man," "worshiper of Selah," or "worshiper of the deity," and "his death shall bring..." The final meaning may imply that when Methuselah died, judgment would come in the form of the Flood.

Methuselah was a descendant of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve. Methuselah's father was Enoch, the man who walked with God, his son was Lamech, and his grandson was Noah, who built the ark and rescued his family from perishing in the great Flood.

Before the Flood, people lived extremely long lives: Adam lived to be 930; Seth, 912; Enosh, 905; Lamech, 777; and Noah, 950. All of the pre-Flood patriarchs died natural deaths except one. Enoch, Methuselah's father, did not die. He was one of only two people in the Bible who were "translated" to heaven. The other was Elijah, who was taken up to God in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11). Enoch walked with God at age 365.

Theories on Methuselah's Longevity

Bible scholars offer a number of theories as to why Methuselah lived so long. One is that the pre-Flood patriarchs were only a few generations removed from Adam and Eve, a genetically perfect couple. They would have had unusually strong immunity from disease and life-threatening conditions. Another theory suggests that early in humanity's history, people lived longer so that they could populate the earth.

As sin increased in the world, however, God planned to bring judgment through the Flood:

Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” (Genesis 6:3, NIV)

Although several people lived to be over 400 years old after the Flood (Genesis 11:10-24), gradually the maximum human lifespan went down to about 120 years. The Fall of Man and the subsequent sin introduced into the world corrupted every aspect of the planet. 

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23, NIV)

In the above verse, the apostle Paul was speaking about both physical and spiritual death.

The Bible does not indicate that Methuselah's character had anything to do with his long life. Certainly, he would have been influenced by the example of his righteous father Enoch, who pleased God so much he escaped death by being "taken up" to heaven.

Methuselah died in the year of the Flood. Whether he perished before the Flood or was killed by it, we are not told in the Bible. Scripture is also silent as to whether Methuselah helped to build the ark.

Accomplishments of Methuselah

He lived to be 969 years old. Methuselah was the grandfather of Noah, a "righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God." (Genesis 6:9,​ NIV) It's reasonable to assume, then, that Methuselah was also a faithful man who obeyed God since he was raised by Enoch and his grandson was righteous Noah.

Methuselah is named among the ancestors of Jesus in the genealogy of Luke 3:37.

Hometown

He was from ancient Mesopotamia, but the exact location is not given.

References to Methuselah in the Bible

Everything we know about Methuselah is found in three passages of Scripture: Genesis 5:21-27; 1 Chronicles 1:3; and Luke 3:37. Methuselah is likely the same person as Methushael, who is mentioned only briefly in Genesis 4:18.

Family Tree

Ancestor: Seth
Father: Enoch
Children: Lamech and unnamed siblings.
Grandson: Noah
Great Grandsons: Ham, Shem, Japheth
Descendant: Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus Christ

Sources

  • Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
  • "Who was the oldest man in the Bible?" https://www.gotquestions.org/oldest-man-in-the-Bible.html