Did People Once Live For Hundreds of Years? Evaluating the Long Life-Spans of Genesis 5 & 11

I have been publishing a series of articles addressing how one might best approach interpreting the early chapters of Genesis, and how science might illuminate Biblical texts and guide our hermeneutics. If you have not been following those, you can find the links to the three previous articles below:

So far, we have seen that, given that we have independent reasons to believe that Genesis is inspired and authoritative Scripture and that the earth and Universe are very ancient (on the order of billions of years old), we ought to prefer interpretations that harmonize those conclusions rather ones that put them in conflict. Even if the most face-value exegesis of the early chapters of Genesis would incline us towards young earth creationism, it does not follow that this should necessarily be the interpretation that we favor. The interpretation we should favor is that which labors under the least implausibility, requiring the least invocation of ad hoc auxiliary hypotheses. We have also seen that the popular creationist argument that the Bible teaches there was no animal death prior to the fall cannot be sustained from Scripture and in fact there are some Biblical reasons to doubt this view (though I argued that human physical and spiritual death is a consequence of the fall). Finally, we have seen that the literal historicity of Adam and Eve is of crucial importance theologically and that the best way to harmonize scientific evidence with the Biblical account is to posit the presence of thousands of skipped generations in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11. While this requires the postulation of an ad hoc auxiliary hypothesis, for which there is no independent evidence (besides the demonstrable possibility of ancient genealogies containing significant gaps), it is less ad hoc than any alternative (including, in my judgment, the denial of Christianity’s truth). I argued that the invocation of ad hoc auxiliary hypotheses is acceptable provided that one is upfront about this fact and acknowledges that one’s overall thesis has taken a probabilistic hit. Provided that the reasons to believe that Christianity is true are stronger overall than the reasons for rejecting it, attempts can reasonably be made to accommodate anomalous data within the Christian paradigm. I invite you to read the three articles linked above for a more detailed fleshing out of those points.

In this article, I want to consider in more detail the genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11, with a particular focus on the ultra long life-spans that appear, on first blush, to be claimed by these texts. Is the Bible really claiming that people once lived for hundreds of years, even in excess of nine hundred years in some cases? If this is the case, then it contradicts the evidence from skeletons and tooth wear, which reveals the average lifespan in antiquity to be approximately forty years. [1] For example, excavations at Jericho reveal that humans occupied the city as far back as 9000 B.C. and more than five hundred tombs have been uncovered. [2] The ages at death of the skeletal remains that have been discovered are consistent with normal human lifespans and are at odds with any notion that humans were living for hundreds of years. [3] Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen further notes that “External evidence from burials of all periods all over the biblical world and beyond would indicate that most people died in their sixties or seventies at the latest (and most often, much younger).” [4] Therefore, if the Biblical text really asserts that people were living for up to nine hundred years or more, then I would take this to be best accounted for by postulating that the Bible is in error on this point rather than by postulating that people really did live for such long periods of time (which seems to be strongly contradicted by other evidence). However, I would also argue that the epistemic consequence of postulating an error in regards to the long lifespans in Genesis 5 and 11 is significantly less than postulating, for instance, the non-existence of a robust historical Adam. It certainly would not entail the falsehood of Christianity, or even carry considerable evidential weight against it, if it were the case that Genesis errs on those lifespans.

It is not, however, certain that the Biblical text actually teaches these long lifespans. In this article, I will argue that there is some reason, internal to the Bible itself, to think that symbolic rather than literal ages are in view. While the arguments presented here are not decisive, they make this supposition sufficiently plausible to at least somewhat reduce the evidential weight of the claimed long lifespans in Genesis 5 and 11 against the reliability of the Pentateuch.
 

Extra-Biblical Precedent for the Use of Symbolic Numbers in Genealogies

Many have noted the parallels between the Genesis genealogies and the Sumerian King List, which lists the reigns of various pre-flood and post-flood kings. Before the flood, these kings are said to have reigned for absurdly inflated periods of time — being in the order of tens of thousands of years. The oldest known sources that preserve the Sumerian Kings List are a tablet from Larsa that dates to approximately 2000 BC and the Weld-Blundell Prism, which dates to just prior to 1800 B.C. The Sumerians used a sexagesimal base 60 system rather than the base 10 system that we use today. The base-60 system was based on three segments of the four digits of the human hand — adding up to twelve — and multiplying this by five, the number of fingers on the human hand. The reigns of the kings were measured in the numerical units of the Sumerians known as saroi (3,600), neroi (600), and sossoi (60). The lengths of the reigns of the kings listed on the Sumerian Kings List are said to range between 18,600 and 43,200 years. Similar to the Biblical account, following the great deluge, the numbers trend downwards. Though the Sumerian Kings List is thought to describe real kings who actually lived and reigned, it seems very unlikely that its author(s) believed that those kings had really reigned for the periods of time for which they are said to have reigned. This provides some precedent for the sorts of inflated ages that we observe in the Genesis genealogies.

While the exact explanation for the inflated ages in the Sumerian Kings List still remains elusive, attempts have been made to reverse engineer the time frames given to yield more reasonable estimates for their reigns, though there is undoubtedly an element of subjectivity to this exercise. Kenneth Kitchen, for example, suggests that the scribes ‘bumped up’ the numbers by using sexagesimal multipliers. [5] Thus, “at Hamazi and Uruk, reversing the process, we might take the 36,000 years of Alalgar or of Dumuzi and divide it by the factor 10 × 60 (600), which would give them each a reign of 60 years. Applied to Alulim’s (and others’) 28,800 years, he (and they) would have reigned 48 years; then Enmenduranna of Sippar at 21,000 years would have reigned 35 years. The mighty Enmenluanna at 43,200 years (the local Methuselah) would come out at 72 years—high but not impossible, even if it left Ramesses II (66 years) and Queen Victoria (64 years) just slightly jealous—but more modest than the 94 years of Pepi II, often granted. The more modest Ubartutu at 18,600 years comes out at 31 years, eminently reasonable. The principal works for all the preflood rulers, and no awkward fractions, etc., are left over.” [6] What about those who reigned after the flood? Kitchen notes, “After the flood, reigns are still high, until suddenly Gilgamesh’s son Ur-nungal (no longer heroic?) reigns only 30 years, and all his successors are modest too, except in Kish (a special center of Sumerian kingship). Most of the ‘heroic’ postflood kings may thus have been upped by only 60 years (not by 60 × 10). Thus Lugal-banda’s 1,200 years would then have been 20 years, and Enmebaragisi’s 900 years would have been 15 years. Those with 200 years down to 100 years may have had a factor of only 10 × years; but that is a baseless guess for now.” [7] While this project is to a large extent speculative, it seems quite plausible that the numbers given in the Sumerian Kings List are intended to be understood non-literally, even if we do not fully understand their significance or precisely how to translate them into actual, more reasonable, reigns.

Having established that there is at least some extra-Biblical precedent for taking those genealogical numbers to be non-literal, let us turn our attention to the text of Genesis to discover whether there is any Biblical basis for taking those ages to be non-literal as well.

Chronological Problems with a Face-Value Reading of the Genealogies

The notion that the long lifespans reflect literal ages to which the individuals described in Genesis actually lived runs into several significant problems internal to the Bible itself, which are often over-looked. For example, we read that “Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years,” (Gen 25:8). However, this statement is manifestly false if indeed it is the case that the ages of his ancestors are to be understood literally. If it is the case that the pre-Abrahamic genealogies are taken to be a complete genealogy (albeit an assumption I questioned in my previous article), then all of Abraham’s ancestors after Noah were his contemporaries, and four of those individuals (Shem, Arphaxad, Shelah, and Eber) were still living at the time that Abraham entered Canaan. Abraham himself would have been, on such a scenario, outlived by Eber and Shem. However, as Biblical scholar Craig Olson explains, “the text treats these men as respected ancestors, not contemporaries. There is no hint that these men were living at the same time as Abraham, and the narrative would not make sense if they were. Why would God choose Abraham to be the father of the Hebrews if their namesake — Eber — were still alive?” [8] Thus, from these clues, gathered from the text of Scripture itself, one is already pushed in the direction of rejecting either the completeness of the genealogies, or the literalness of the long life spans, or both.

Abraham Died at a “Good Old Age”

At this point, one may be content to accept that the genealogies of Genesis 11 are incomplete while still holding that the ages are intended to represent actual lifespans. However, as we shall see, there are yet further clues, internal to Scripture itself, that suggest that the ages are not meant to be taken literally, but rather are of symbolic significance. The first point to consider is that Abraham is said to have “died in a good old age, an old man and full of years,” (Gen 25:8). Indeed, Abraham is the first man in the Bible to be identified as an old man. He had in fact been promised by God that, “you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age,” (Gen 15:15). However, this makes little sense if we take the stated ages of his ancestors literally, since in that case Abraham died tragically young, at the age of only 175 (Gen 25:7), compared to the likes of Shem (600), Eber (464), Methuselah (969), Noah (500), Enoch (365), or even Abraham’s own father Terah (205). If those ages are taken at face-value, then what are we to make of God’s promise that Abraham would be “buried in a good old age” (Gen 15:15), and the Genesis account that indicates that Abraham “died in a good old age, an old man and full of years,” (Gen 25:8)?

“Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old?”

Another clue that suggests that the ages are not exactly literal is Abraham’s expression of incredulity that a man as old as one hundred could father a child (Gen 17:15-19). But one hundred appears to be relatively young to have a child if compared to the likes of Noah (who fathered children at 500), Methuselah (who fathered children at 187), or even Abraham’s own father Terah, who fathered children at 130. One can infer the age of Terah when Abraham was born from Genesis 12:4 (which indicates that Abraham was 75 years old when his father died) and Genesis 11:32 (which says that Terah was 205 when he died). By subtracting 75 from 205, one can infer that Terah was 130 years old when Abraham was born. There do not appear to be any skipped generations separating Abraham from his father Terah, since Genesis 11:31 says, “Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there.” Genesis 12:1 reports God telling Abraham to “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” We then read that “Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran,” (Gen 12:4). Thus, Abraham’s father’s house was evidently in Haran, the place where Terah is said to have died. Taken together, these clues suggest strongly that Terah was Abraham’s immediate father. This really makes Abraham’s incredulousness about having a son when he is a hundred years old very odd indeed, given that his own father conceived Abraham at 130 years of age.

Sarah likewise expressed incredulity that she would bear a child at ninety years of age (Gen 18:11-15). Indeed, the narrative itself states quite clearly, “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah,” (Gen 18:11). Sarah herself states, laughing incredulously, “After I am worn out, and my lord [i.e. her husband, Abraham] is old, shall I have pleasure?” (Gen 18:12). The Lord Himself even says to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen 18:13-14). This implies that the birth of Isaac is to be understood as a miraculous event that represents a deviation from the established norm. But if Isaac’s birth is to be understood miraculously, then this implies that the long lifespans ascribed to the various individuals in Genesis 5 and 11 are probably not intended to be taken literally.

The Statistical Unlikelihood of the Genealogical Numbers

When we turn our attention to the distribution of numbers in the genealogy found in Genesis 5, we observe that, of the thirty numbers that are listed in this chapter (relating to the ten individuals’ ages at fatherhood, remaining years, and total lifespan), twenty-one of those numbers are divisible by five. Of the remaining nine, eight of them become divisible by five by subtracting seven, the exception being Methuselah who died at 969. Lloyd Bailey suggests that “Even the one deviation, Methuselah, may fit the scheme, since his 969 years may be 955 + 7 + 7.” [9] In other words, Bailey observes that this number also becomes divisible by five when two multiples of seven (i.e. fourteen) are subtracted. However, one has to be careful here, since all numbers can be made divisible by five by subtracting multiples of seven. Thus, in my opinion, contrary to Bailey’s suggestion, Methuselah is best understood as an exception that does not fit the pattern described above.

Is there any evidence that reveals that the number seven might be intentionally added to numbers, elsewhere in ancient Near Eastern literature? Lloyd Bailey observes, “It is conspicuously present in the lists of pre-diluvian rulers known as the Sumerian King List. In two of the three editions that have been preserved, the ancient scribe expressed the total reigns in terms of a standard symbolic number plus an additional number seven.” [10] 

What about Biblical literature? Daniel 6:1 indicates that there were 120 provinces in the Persian Empire (Dan 6:1), whereas, according to Esther 1:1, at the time of Ahasuerus, Darius’ successor, there were 127. Lloyd Baily notes, “Nothing prevents an empire from expansion, but why precisely by seven?” [11]

How statistically probable is it that the distribution of numbers found in Genesis 5 would be as they are? Kenton Sparks notes, “If we look closely at the chronological figures in Gen 5, we’ll find that these are certainly symbolic rather than literal. The final digit for each number is 0, 2, 5, or 7 in all cases but one. Given that the probability of random ages like this is on the order of .00000006%, it is clear that these numbers are not chronological in the usual sense. A comparison of these numbers with the ancient Near Eastern evidence suggests that in both cases—the biblical and Mesopotamian king lists—the numbers were derived from, or influenced by, astronomical and mathematical figures. So it has always been a mistake to use the lifespans in Genesis to reconstruct actual human history, as Archbishop Ussher once tried to do, and many continue to do. Another similarity between Gen 5 and the Mesopotamian tradition concerns the seventh person in each list. The Mesopotamian king lists often stress the special importance of the seventh king (often Enmeduranki) and his wise advisor (often Utuabzu), who did not die but ‘ascended into heaven.'” [12]

Lloyd Bailey further observes that, “Useful contrast can now be made with the true randomness of the length of reigns of the kings of Israel and Judah (as recorded in the books of Kings, beginning with Rehoboam): 17, 3, 41, 2, 24, 2, 7 days, 12, 22, 25, 2, 8, 1, 28, 40, 17, 16, 29, 52, 41, 6 months, 1 month, 10, 2, 20, 16, 16, 9, 29, 55, 2, 21, 3 months, 11, 3 months, and 11. Note that these end in every available number of the 0-9 sequence, and that only five of them (from a total of 36) are divisible by five (about what one would expect from random distribution). It is quite unlikely, therefore, that the ages in Genesis 5 represent biological reality.” [13]

What is Going On?

I do not believe it is possible to say what exactly is going on with the long lifespans in the early chapters of Genesis, and we may never know for sure. However, I would agree with C. John Collins that there are enough clues to give us “reason to believe that some kind of symbolism is at work—even if we cannot be sure what it is.” [14] Collins offers a suggested symbolism for Lamech, who is said to have lived 777 years (Gen 5:31). Collins notes that [15], 

some find a link between the genealogy descended from Cain (Gen 4:17–22) and that from Seth (5:6–32). Both lists end with a figure named Lamech (Heb. למך, lemek), and the contrast between them is stark. The first Lamech had taken God’s assurance of sevenfold vengeance on anyone who kills Cain (4:15) and multiplied it by eleven for even a blow—that is, vengeance was no longer in God’s hands, and it was fiercer (4:23–24). The Hebrew for “seventy-sevenfold” is שׁבעים ושׁבעה [shib‘im weshib‘ah], “seventy and seven” (4:24). In 5:31 the second Lamech’s lifespan is 111 times seven years; in Hebrew, שׁבע שׁבעים שׁנה ושׁבע מאות שׁנה [sheba‘ shib‘im shanah usheba‘ me’ot shanah], “seven and seventy years and seven hundred years.” The 77 part comes first, in opposite order to that in 4:24. The first Lamech speaks bluster and threat; the second Lamech speaks hope and faith. The first embraces humans’ descent into sin and departure from God; the second bemoans it and looks for the gracious act of God. Rhetorically, the contrast enlists the audience to approve of the second and to side with him so that they can be loyal to God’s purpose through Noah—of whom Abram, and thus Israel, are the proper heirs.

Another idea that has been put forward is that the total years given in the Genesis genealogies may in fact refer to the clan or tribe represented by each of the ante- and postdiluvian figures listed in Genesis 5 and 11. Kenneth Kitchen, for example, floats this idea as a possibility. [16] Walter Kaiser criticizes this idea since “Enoch is credited with 365 years and is taken up to heaven, not as a whole tribe or clan, but as a man or an individual.” [17] However, this objection need not be fatal to the hypothesis since Genesis 5:23-24 does not indicate that Enoch was taken by God after living 365 years. Rather, it simply says, “Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him,” (Gen 5:23-24). A bigger problem with this proposal, however, is that it doesn’t account for some of ages at which people fathered children. For example, “After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth,” (Gen 5:32). Thus, I personally think that some sort of symbolism is more likely than the hypothesis that the time refers to the clan or tribe represented by those individuals.

There may even be some non-literalism going on with some of the lifespans outside of Genesis 5 and 11 as well. For example, Kenneth Kitchen observes that Joseph’s age upon death of 110 (Gen 50:22) corresponds to the Egyptian ideal life span, which contrasts with the Hebrew figures of 70 or 80 years (Ps 90:10). Kitchen notes, “In Egypt the 110-year tradition ran from the Old Kingdom down to the Hellenistic period, but the attested mentions cluster in the Ramesside period (thirteenth/twelfth centuries). Thus, as others have noted, this feature is specifically Egyptian; it could relate to Joseph’s general period, and/or it could have been an emphasis made by a later narrator, of the same horizon as the phrase ‘the land of Rames(s)es.'” [18]

Another clue that some of the ages may be non-literal is the non-random pattern observed in the lifespans of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which has been reported by Nahum Sarna. [19] Consider the following pattern relating to the respective lifespans of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

  • Abraham — 175 = 7 x 52
  • Isaac —       180 = 5 x 62
  • Jacob —      147 = 3 x 72
Notice that in all three instances, the sum of the multipliers (e.g., for Abraham, 7 + 5 + 5) is 17.

It is also noteworthy that, as Kenneth Matthews observes, “Textually the Samaritan Pentateuch (SP), Greek (LXX), and Hebrew Bible (MT) have ages for the descendants that are at odds with one another.” [20] This is also consistent with my suggestion that perhaps a purpose other than strict literalism was intended by the use of those numbers, even if we cannot be sure exactly what it was.
 

What About Genesis 6:3?

One may object to the arguments adduced here that God, in Genesis 6:3, shortly before the deluge, stated that from henceforth man’s lifespan would be limited to 120 years: “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” Many take this to suggest that the ages before this point were typically more than this. This interpretation of Genesis 6:3, however, runs into problems given that the individuals listed in Genesis 11 (and even individuals described later on in Genesis, such as Abraham) are said to have lived for much more than 120 years. Another very plausible interpretation of this text, though, is that God was giving a countdown until the flood — that is, God was announcing that the deluge would take place in 120 years.

Summary

In summary, we have seen that there are several reasons to think that a non-literal reading of the lifespans given in the genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11, and perhaps elsewhere, is at least plausible, even if the precise originalist intent eludes us. As previously stated, I do not believe this evidence to be decisive in favor of a non-literalist interpretation of those ages, but it does call for caution against dogmatism in reading the ages given in the Biblical genealogies literally, especially when the archaeological evidence indicates that ancient people lived normal human life spans and, if anything, average life expectancy was significantly lower, not higher, than it is today.

Footnotes

[1] Jesper L. Boldsen and Richard R. Paine, “The Evolution of Human Longevity from the Mesolithic to the Middle Ages: An Analysis Based on Skeletal Data,” in Exceptional Longevity: From Prehistory to the Present, Odense Monographs on Population Aging, ed. James W. Vaupel and Bernard Jeune (Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark, 1995), 25-36. Edwin M. Yamauchi, “Attitudes Toward the Aged in Antiquity, Near East Archaeological Society Bulletin 45 (200), 2.

[2] Soren Blau, “An Analysis of Human Skeletal Remains from Two Middle Bronze Age Tombs from Jericho,” Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 138, no. 1 (2006), 13.

[3] Ibid., 17.

[4] Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 444.

[5] Ibid., 446.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Craig Olson, “How Old was Father Abraham? Re-examining the Patriarchal Lifespans in Light of Archaeology” (paper presnted to the Southwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 31-April 1, 2017), 12.

[9] Lloyd Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilgeschichte?” in Richard D. Weis and David M. Carr, eds., A Gift of God in Due Season: Essays on Scripture and Community in Honor of James A. Sanders (vol. 225; Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996).

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Kenton L. Sparks, “Genesis 1–11 as Ancient Historiography,” in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Three Views on the Bible’s Earliest Chapters, ed. Charles Halton and Stanley N. Gundry, Zondervan Counterpoints Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015), 120.

[13] Lloyd Bailey, “Biblical Math as Heilgeschichte?” in Richard D. Weis and David M. Carr, eds., A Gift of God in Due Season: Essays on Scripture and Community in Honor of James A. Sanders (vol. 225; Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996).

[14] C. John Collins, Reading Genesis Well: Navigating History, Poetry, Science, and Truth in Genesis 1–11 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018), 182.

[15] Ibid., 184-185.

[16] Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 446.

[17] Walter C. Kaiser Jr., The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable & Relevant? (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2001), 73.

[18] Kenneth A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2006), 351.

[19] Nahum M. Sarna, Understanding Genesis (New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 2014), 84-85.

[20] Kenneth Matthews, The New American Commentary: Genesis 1-11:26 (New American Commentary) (Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 1996), 323.

2 thoughts on “Did People Once Live For Hundreds of Years? Evaluating the Long Life-Spans of Genesis 5 & 11”

  1. Pingback: A Matter of Days: Interpreting the First Chapter of Genesis - Jonathan McLatchie | Writer, Speaker, Scholar

  2. Interesting points, Jonathan, particularly regarding Abraham and Sarah. I will have to think on that. One question that I didn’t see addressed in here: the long lifespans are commonly associated with the idea that Earth had a dramatically different environment before the cataclysmic, world-changing flood, and that this accounted for the reported longevity. What are your thoughts on that possibility?

    On the Sumerian King List, I’d be more inclined to think there was some misinterpretation of the record on the part of modern researchers related to the base-10/base-60 issue. That just seems like a straightforward explanation of where unusually large numbers might come from. For instance, in my engineering job, I sometimes have to deal with metric calcs from Europe besides the calcs in Imperial units that are standard here in the US. It’s easy to think my European colleague has come up with some preposterous result for the stress in a beam because of conversion errors on my part – maybe assuming he was using gigapascals instead of megapascals, for instance. The fact that the pre-flood kings have more normal reigns after dividing by 600 just makes me question the initial statement that they were using a sexagesimal system. If they weren’t actually base-60, one would have reigns of several hundred years, similar to the pre-flood lifespans in the Bible, and continuity with the reigns post-flood. That seems less ad-hoc than postulating that the reigns were multiplied by 600 for one period, then by 60 for another period, then by 10 for another period.

    As far as playing with the numbers for the ages in the Bible, I have to say I’m very leery of that. It’s reminiscent of a lot of the “Bible Code” conspiracy theories. Not to say that there isn’t symbolic meaning to certain numbers in the Bible, or that God couldn’t orchestrate events to be both historically accurate and have symbolic meaning, but I’m just wary of looking for patterns and finding false positives. The fact that 3 individual lifespans can be factored down and the factors add up to 17 in each case is maybe interesting trivia, but unless there is some significance to the number 17 in Hebrew, I would question the value of that observation. Now, if there’s something special about 17, then the patriarchs having that in common would bolster the case substantially. Much like with intelligent design, observation of complexity isn’t enough; specified complexity is what raises eyebrows.
    Thanks for the interesting data to chew on, brother. 🙂

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