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Apparent Contradiction of Words and Numbers

Four Witnesses to a 430-year Sojourn in Egypt

Abraham’s Witness to a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Jacob’s Life Requires a 430-Year Egyptian Sojourn

Elasticity of Hebrew Genealogical Terms

Abbreviated/Condensed Genealogies

Shem’s List: The Ultimate Example of Condensing

Shem’s Genealogy—Which Bible?

Evidence from the Lifespan of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Message of Job for Missing Generations

Evidence from the Times of Job for Missing Generations

Biblical Earth Movements After the Flood

Peleg, Joktan and the Table of Nations

Historical Errors Obscuring the Condensing of Shem’s Line

Interpretative Errors Supporting Ussher View

The Missing World between the Flood and Peleg

Recent Scholarship Improves Biblical Understanding

Summary of Biblical Findings

Secular Evidence—Those Many Documents Unavailable to Ussher


Shem’s List: The Ultimate Example of Condensing



The line of Messiah from Adam to Noah appears in Genesis five and continues from Shem to Abraham in Genesis 11.  Each list contains ten names and maintains a pattern.  Hebrew scholars are certain that Shem’s list omits generations but are uncertain where or how many.  This chapter will show that 40-50 generations are omitted between the 3rd and 4th names, dating the Flood to c. 4000 BC.  Therefore, Shem’s list is not a chronology and the Flood occurred nearer that date than Archbishop James Ussher’s 2348 BC date. 

Up front HB must answer the most obvious objection to its view.  Those who hold to the doctrine of inerrancy reply that Scripture names each heir and tells the age of the father when that heir was born.  Thus, they say, those who accept inerrancy are obligated to accept those numbers.  By adding them, they follow Ussher’s method to calculate the date of the Flood. 

In reply, HB appeals to biblical genealogies.  Names in a list can be the immediate offspring or descendants further down the line.  The years in Shem’s list tells when each man “fathered” his immediate son and thus continued the line.  However, the name of the son he “fathered” may be his immediate son or any son down the line.  The view that the 4th name is the immediate offspring of the 3rd name is an interpretation.  Powerful, even overwhelming biblical evidence, backs HB’s interpretation while the traditional view has no biblical evidence and can only cite the views of men.  

HB’s biblical evidence is based on the scriptural record of dozens of lifespans.  While there was no decrease in lifespans before the Flood, lifespans decreased steadily about four and a half to  five years per generation in the years after the Flood.  The lifespans of the 4th– 6th names are just half that of names 1-3.  A whopping 225-year difference exists between the third and fourth names.  By dividing the average decrease into this enormous 225-year decrease and making other adjustments, the missing 40-50 generations become apparent.  The rest of the chapter will develop this view and answer many puzzling issues. 

Unchanging Lifespans Before the Flood – 900 Year Average

Simple words, easy to understand, present ten fathers from Adam to Noah in Adam’s Genesis 5:3-31 genealogy.  The list follows the pattern set by the first two names below. 

3When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.  4The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.  5Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died. 

6When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh.  7Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had others sons and daughters.  Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.  Genesis 5:3-8.

The biblical doctrine of inerrancy requires that all Scripture be taken literally according to its literary type.  The literary type here is simple historical narrative.  Thus, we must understand that Adam was a real person, that at the age of 130 he fathered a son and that his remaining years were 800.  Exact numbers are given for the names that follow as well—the father’s age when he fathered his son and the number of years he lived afterwards.  Those numbers are not fiction.  They are facts and each fact is true. 

The pattern remains unchanged for the next seven men other than adding the reason for Enoch’s short life and preserving the prophecy of Lamech about his son Noah.  Noah is the transition, so some information is given here and some is given with Shem’s genealogy later. 

Thus, eight of the ten lived and died before the Flood.  They lived an average of 900 years (Adam-930; Seth-912; Enosh-905; Kenan-910; Mahalalel-895; Jared-962; Methuselah-969; Lamech-777.  Genesis 5:3-31).  Apparently, they reached adulthood at about the age of 100, because on average that is when they started their families. 

This list contains one more feature than Shem’s list in Genesis 11.  It totals the years for each father while Shem’s list simply gives the years before and after fathering a son, leaving the reader to total the individual’s years.  Why did God do the math in Genesis five?  This was highlighting, underlining.  God wanted no uncertainty.  Before the Flood people truly lived about 900 years. 

  When Moses wrote these words, lifespans had been reduced to less than a tenth of the pre-Flood ones.  But these people really did live 900 years, so the Holy Spirit led the writer to sum the years for each individual.  We repeat—to prevent later readers from questioning such long lifespans, God summed just two numbers on nine occasions to avoid all misunderstanding.

Word of mouth also passed on pre-Flood information, but that record became distorted.  Babylonian legend has one king ruling 43,000 years.  Myths like that arose.  So to certify these long lifespans, each of their years before and after fathering a son were separately stated and then the two numbers were summed up.  Those born after the Flood lived much shorter lives, but whatever caused those shorter lives obviously had no effect on those who were born and died before the Flood.  Because Noah and Shem lived both before and after the Flood, they must be treated separately and will be discussed later. 

Lifespans Cut in Half After the Flood — 450 Year Average

Simple words, easy to understand, also present ten fathers from Shem to Abraham in Shem’s genealogy.  After explaining that two years after the Flood Shem reached the age of 100 and fathered Arpachshad, the passage continues the following pattern for seven consecutive generations without deviation:

12When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah.  13And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.  14When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber.  15And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.  Genesis 11:12-15.

The first three generations born after the Flood—Arpachshad, Shelah and Eber—all lived about the same number of years (438, 433 and 464).  This is astonishing in that all eight individuals who lived and died before the Flood each lived twice that long, about 900 years.  Then, immediately after the Flood human longevity was reduced by half, from 900 to 450 years.   

As the Ark couples and their descendants began to repopulate the earth, this change to human longevity became apparent.  Something decidedly extreme had happened.  While Noah and Shem lived 350 and 500 years respectively after the Flood, those who were born after the Flood lived only half as long as pre-Flood folks.  Thus, longevity was only reset for post-Flood births.  The genes of those who boarded the Ark could produce offspring to live 900 years.  But when they got off the ark a year later, their genes could only produce offspring to live 450 years.  And those were the genes they gave to their offspring.  

We repeat: to recognize this change in the genes of mankind, one must compare those who lived and died before the Flood with those born after it.  The very first generation born after the Flood lived only half as long.  The same was true for the next two generations that followed.  There were no children on the Ark, only eight adults—Noah and his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives.  Noah’s three sons were all under the age of 100 although each had taken a wife.  Each of Noah’s sons began his recorded family after the Flood.  Of Noah’s three sons Scripture only gives the years for the line of one, Shem, but the Table of Nations (Genesis 10) indicates a similar and even parallel pattern of reproduction in the lines of his two younger brothers. 

    Shem begat Arpachshad, his first named son, two years after the Flood.  Arpachshad lived 438 years.  He begat Shelah who lived 433 years.  Shelah fathered Eber who lived 464 years.  In short, before the Flood people lived about 900 years; those born after the Flood, about 450 years.  For some reason, not explained by Scripture, man’s new lifespan after the Flood was just half of what it was before.  The Giver of Life no longer enabled anyone born after the Flood to live to the age of 900. 

Cause of 50% Decrease in Post-Flood Lifespans 

This drastic change to human longevity may have been a direct act of God, a result of the Flood’s rage or a combination of the two.  Whatever the cause it is worth pondering the potential harmful health effects of the Flood.  For starters, it released 500 million years’ worth of nuclear decay according to RATE findings published in 2005.  Further, it released radon and other chemicals that are damaging genetically.  In addition, it caused rapid polar reverses.  Also, creation scientists have come to realize the actual violence of the Flood.  First, all the fountains of the great deep burst forth.  This resulted in splitting apart the world’s one giant land mass.  During this process the Flood also laid down enormous crustal layers.  The entire earth bears testimony to this violence. 

In the past, students of Scripture had no inkling of the Flood’s extreme violence.  But as it became known, the question would arise, “What did such violence do to those on the Ark; does Scripture give any hint?”   Upon more careful examination, the stumbling block was discovered.  In charts of chronology, the lifespans of Noah and Shem obscured this 50% cut in human longevity.  Once the significance of living in both the pre- and post-Flood worlds was realized, they could be viewed as a separate category.  Then it became obvious that while lifespans were 900 years throughout the entire history of mankind before the Flood, they were immediately reduced to 450 years for people born after the Flood. 

As an aside, we have creation scientists to thank for discovering the violence of the Flood.  Due to their work, students of early Genesis can now accept this enormous decline in human longevity without second thoughts. 

Lifespans Steadily Decrease After the Flood: from 450 to 70 Years

Now that we see beyond question that lifespans were cut in half at the time of the Flood, we are ready to examine a second change to lifespans after the Flood.  They slowly declined from 450 years to 70 years.  Many verses of Scripture reflect this decline.  They establish an undeniable pattern. 

This decline is first seen in Shem’s list.  Shem fathered Arpachshad who is presumably the first person to be born in the new world two years after the Flood.  He lived 438 years.  His son, Shelah, was born when he was 35 and Shelah lived 433 years.  Thus, the very first record of two consecutive lifespans after the Flood shows a five-year decrease from one generation to the next.  Such a small decline is only about a 1% difference in lifespans. 

When Shelah was 30 he fathered Eber who lived 464 years.  Thus, Eber lived 31 years longer than his father and 26 years longer than his grandfather.  Why?  Maybe Eber lived an easier life.  Maybe he was more robust.  But the increase was not 450 years so that he had the lifespan of a pre-Flood person.  Rather, it was simply an increase of about 6% over his grandfather and 7% over his father.  So this second record is an increase, not a decrease in lifespan.  While Scripture records a gradual decrease in longevity, the years of any given individual could be more or fewer than those before him. 

The next three names in Shem’s list are the fourth, fifth and six names.  The fourth, Peleg, and the fifth, his son Reu, both lived 239 years while Peleg’s grandson lived 230 years.  There was no change between the fourth and fifth names.  But the sixth individual, Serug, lived nine fewer years than both his father and grandfather, a 4.5-year average decrease over two generations.  

Not mentioned above is the difference between the 3rd and 4th sons.  Eber lived 464 years while his “son”, Peleg, lived 239 years, 225 years fewer than his father.  This is not a 1% decline or even a 7% decline.  This is a decline of 50%.  At the rate of a 1% decline per generation, this would represent 50 generations. 

How can this 50% decline be explained?  It has to do with how Scripture presents genealogies.  The simple fact is that the Old Testament sometimes omits generations in a longer genealogy.  Chapters six and seven list 17 such cases.  Many generations are omitted between the 3rd and 4th names and this entire chapter is given to show beyond question that such was the case.  But first HB must complete its examination of continual longevity decline until Moses.  Peleg introduces a second group of names that lived much later than the first three names.  Dating this second group of names is much more certain.  Peleg was born around 2400 BC.

A third set of specific lifespans comes from Jacob’s record which jumps down to the time in Canaan and Egypt, about 500 years after the Peleg group above.  Jacob lived to the age of 147.  His son Levi lived to the age of 137.  Levi’s son Kohath lived to the age of 133 and Kohath’s son Amram lived to the age of 137.  A casual look finds the total decline from Jacob to Amram (four fathers or three generations) was 10 years (147 – 137 = 10) or 3.3 years per generation (10/3 = 3.3). 

Finally, we examine the fourth and final record of declining lifespans.  The time period is from the beginning of the Egyptian sojourn to the end of Israel’s wilderness wandering, from 1876 to 1406 BC, 470 years (1876 -1406 = 470).  This period begins with the lifespan of Joseph (110 years) and concludes where Moses wrote that a man’s lifespan was 70 years (Psalm 90:10).   Lifespans decreased by 40 years over this period (110 – 70 = 40).  At the rate of new generations every 25 years, this represents 18.8 generations (470 / 25 = 18.8), a decline of 2.1 years per generation (40/18.8 = 2.1). 

In summary, HB has drawn from Scripture four rough measures of lifespans.  Immediately after the Flood man’s lifespan was 450 years.  Then, considerably later, it was 236 years.  Five hundred years after that it was down to 137.  Finally, 470 years after that it stood at 70.  Would anyone question that the Bible records a continual decline of longevity from the Flood to the death of Moses?  This gradual decline explains the halving between Eber and Peleg.  The “halving” was simply the result of skipping 40-50 generations of gradual decline between them. 

The Post-Flood Gradual Decline at a Glance

HB has cited much complex data to show beyond question that longevity gradually declined after the Flood.  The four periods cited above are not stated as such by Scripture.  They are extracted from Scripture.  Below, HB organizes this information for ease of reference and comparison.

Period #1:  Arpachshad to Eber—Lifespans Average 450 Years

(First Three Consecutive Fathers Born After the Flood, beginning about 4000 BC)

Arpachshad (438 years) – Shelah (433 years):  5-year decline per generation

Shelah (433 years) – Eber (464 years):  31-year increase

Decline from one generation to the next (omitting Eber):  5 years

Period #2:  Peleg to Reu—Lifespans Average 236 Years

(First Three Consecutive Fathers Born After the Gap, beginning about 2400 BC)

Peleg (239) – Reu (239):  0-year decline 

Reu (239) – Serug (230):  9-year decline

Average Decline per Generation:  4.5 years

Period #3:  Jacob to Amram—Lifespans Average 137 Years

(Four Consecutive Fathers beginning about 2006 BC)

Jacob (147) – Levi (137):  10-year decline 

Levi (137) – Kohath (133):  4-year decline 

Kohath (133) – Amram (137):  4-year increase

Average Decline per Generation:  3.3 years 

Period #4:  Egyptian Sojourn to Psalm 90:10—Lifespans Average about 90 Years

(Joseph – Psalm 90:10, 1876 BC - 1406 BC)

      Average Decline per Generation:  2.1 years

Life After the Flood

In this section we will look at the effort needed to restart life after the Flood.  The Flood began ‘In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month.” (Genesis 7:11).  One hundred fifty days later the Ark came to rest on the highest hill visible to Noah: “in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.”  (Genesis 8:4). 

Two and a half months later he saw the tops of other mountains: “In the tenth month, on the first day of the month, the tops of the mountains were seen.”   (Genesis 8:5).  Three months later Noah could no longer see the flood waters: “In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth.”  (Genesis 8:13.)  Fifty-six days later God directed Noah to leave the Ark:

14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out.  15Then God said to Noah, 16“Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”  Genesis 8:14-17.

Much speculation has gone into the year on the Ark.  Creationists estimate that one male and one female of up to 15,000 kinds of animals were on the Ark plus food for a year.  Before the Flood animals and man lived in harmony, so caring for them was not dangerous.  But feeding the animals and cleaning their pens was a never-ending job for all eight adults.  Because of the violence of the Flood, the animals must have bonded deeply with their caretakers.  Some animals semi-hibernate when deeply stressed, so maybe the Ark crew had some relief from that quarter. 

Now God said to release the animals.  Today, the Ararat region is a plateau and the highest mountain is Great Ararat, 17,900’ high.  A dozen miles away stands lesser Ararat at 11,000’ while the plateau below varies from 3,000 to 5,000’ in elevation.  If it was 13,000’ down to the plain below, that descent would have been as dangerous as the year on the Ark.  Further, the Ark carried all the things the humans needed to restart life.  There would have been thousands of trips back up to retrieve everything from food for a couple of years, to building materials and starts for fruit trees. 

Further the Ararat region continues to be an active volcanic area to this day.  Just recently an eruption added to the volume of Great Ararat.  As the Flood came to an end, the decreasing water level was mostly caused by the earth’s surface movement, the rising of continents and deepening of oceans.  The area of Ararat changed greatly between the beaching of the Ark and Moses’ day due to millennia of volcanic activity that produced the mountains.  In our view the Ark passengers did not have to make a perilous descent from the top of Great Ararat to the plains far below.  Most likely the ground the Ark came to rest on was only a little higher than the adjacent land.  

As the oldest son, Shem may have taken charge of the family’s efforts to care for the animals and later, to reestablish life after the Flood ended.  In effect, he may have worked himself to an early grave.  This would partially explain why he only lived to the age of 600 while his father lived 950 years.  Shem’s son, Arpachshad and grandson, Shelah, may also have died prematurely at 438 and 433 after strenuous lifetimes because of the grueling workload while Eber’s 464 years may have been due to less stress and a lighter workload. 

In the same way Jacob nearly worked himself to death during his 20 years with Laban.  After that period in his life, he was so worn out that he designated Joseph to oversee his brothers.  He died at the age of 147 while his father, Isaac, died at the age of 180.  Overwork versus easier lives may help to explain these varying of lifespans.  The greatest example of extreme hardship is slavery.  During the time in Egypt when the Hebrews were treated as slaves, the lifespans of an entire people may have been significantly decreased.  Yet it could be that hardships of the 40 years of wilderness wandering even exceeded the severity of slavery in Egypt.  It killed off an entire generation. 

Later in the chapter a whole section will look more carefully at lifespans that did not conform to a steady decrease of longevity.  But this section provides a quick answer to objections appealing to varying lifespans. 

Gap Between 3rd and 4th Names in Shem’s Genealogy

With this frame of reference, we can now look at the most obviously abbreviated genealogy of all, that of Shem.  The evidence is overwhelming, but is like the proverbial elephant in the room that nobody seems to notice.  Poorly reasoned arguments explain this gap away.  Some even elevate the idea that Shem’s line is complete to the level of a doctrinal statement and make it a test of doctrinal correctness.  Nevertheless, the facts point to Shem’s line being shrunk by over four-fifths  

The average decline of longevity per generation immediately after the Flood was about five years.  But averages represent many individuals and everyone is different.  So an occasional variation of 25 years (5%) or even 50 years (10%) might be acceptable.  But the decline between Eber and Peleg was not the standard decline or even 25 or 50 years.  The difference between Eber’s and Peleg’s lifespans was 225 years, 57% of the entire decline from the Flood until Moses (225 / 394 = 57.1%) and a clear sign that Shem’s line is abbreviated. 

Since Hebrew genealogies (apart from certain lists of kings and priests) are about identifying ancestors with their descendants and visa-versa, not proving succession, Moses gave only ten critical names spanning the time from the Flood to Abraham: the Patriarch Shem, the first three generations born immediately after the Flood, the three generations following the large gap of omitted names and the three names involving Abraham—his grandfather, his father and Abraham.  This efficiency saved Moses the trouble of recording the omitted 40-50 names. 

Down through history many other explanations for this decrease have been offered.  The most common is that the numbers are wrong.  Such an answer, however, raises the issue of the integrity of Scripture and is both unacceptable and unnecessary.  A variation of this is that the numbers in the Masoretic Text are wrong.  One must consult the Septuagint for the correct numbers.  Yet even the LXX shows a 33% drop between Eber and Peleg.  The entire next chapter will be devoted to discussing the LXX numbers but HB accepts the numbers of the original text language. 

Others regard Peleg as an exception.  But this cannot be, because his son Reu also lived to the same age.  If Peleg died due to an accident or sickness, Reu would have lived 10 years fewer than Eber, but he also lived 225 fewer years than Eber.  Even if both Peleg and Reu were exceptions, one would expect Reu’s son Serug to have lived simply 15 fewer years than Eber, but he lived 234 fewer years than Eber.  Peleg was not an exception.  He lived a normal lifetime and no one born after him is recorded to have lived longer than he lived. 

Causes of Slowly Declining Lifespans

Now for a closer look at this second impact of the Flood on human longevity.  It might be called “the long-term impact of the Flood.”   Like the decrease in longevity immediately after the Flood, it may have been a direct act of God or a long-term result of the violence of the Flood or a combination of the two.  But Genesis 8:22 introduces a new possibility: “seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”  While God promised not to send another worldwide Flood and He promised to continue providing an earth that would sustain life, it seems that this verse is stating that making a living would take more effort and planning, and be more precarious. 

Without question, when the first parents sinned by eating of the forbidden tree, God cursed the ground because of them.  It would produce thorns and thistles and by the sweat of his face man would eat bread (Genesis 3:17-19).  While some commentators understand Genesis 8:22 to be a promise that, just as before, the earth would sustain life, these conditions suggest a drastic change in the annual processes of nature. 

Formerly food grew year around; now there would be seedtime and harvest.  Before, a more uniform climate extended from pole-to-pole.  Now there would be cold and heat.  Near the equator and in desert regions man would learn to survive during times of intense heat and unpredictable precipitation while near the poles he would learn to survive in times of intense cold. 

Creation scientists tend to favor the view that pre-Flood man lived in a more predictable, semi-tropical climate unthreatened by natural disasters and very possibly shielded from solar radiation.  Now he would experience crop failure, four definite seasons, powerful earthquakes, volcanic activity, violent weather and the Ice Age.  Heat and cold would produce deadly storms and killing drought.  Even more ominous, heat in the oceans (estimated as high as 86o in some areas) would produce an ice age while tectonic plate movement would produce earthquakes and lift mountain ranges into the clouds.   Additionally, the human gene pool would acquire mutations that gradually reduced fitness and thus longevity.  These changes placed unique stresses on mankind. 

Scripture says the Ark landed in the mountains of Ararat.  Many of those mountains are volcanoes.  Mount Ararat itself would eventually grow to 18,000 feet above sea level and the entire region would rise to become a plateau 3000 to 5000 feet high, much of it volcanic rock.  Rising mountains and volcanism were happening worldwide. These volcanoes released ash that blanketed the earth for centuries and lowered summer surface temperatures significantly.  Migration to Lower Mesopotamia and on to Arabia and the southern Mediterranean regions brought some relief from the volcanic activity and the growing cold. 

The earth tilts 23.5o on its orbital axis.  This tilt is stable, i.e., it does not change.  As a result, one hemisphere becomes slightly closer to the sun than the other hemisphere during earth’s annual orbit and this action produces the seasons.  The earth did not tilt when that first couple lived in Eden.  Nor are the effects of tilting recorded at the time of the Fall.  One professor said the law of the conservation of energy would require an immense jolt to tilt the earth.  Creation scientists find that the entire upper part of the earth was violently disturbed during the first days of the Flood.  Maybe this violence caused the tilt. 

This second change in human longevity, whatever its cause, produced an on-going effect on human lifespans.  These new conditions slowly drained away much of man’s vitality, steadily shortening lifespans. The longest recorded lifespan of any born after the Flood was Eber who was a third generation post-Flood individual.  He lived 464 years.  But this gradual decline continued to the end of Moses’ life (about 1406 BC) when a man’s normal lifespan became 70 years (Psalm 90:10).  While that decline from Eber (464 years) to Moses (70 years) was a huge decline, 369 years, it was nevertheless gradual, happening over nearly three millennia.  The causes of this second kind of change remain to be explored, but their effect on man is clear.  

Lifespans that Do not Fit the Pattern – Noah, Shem, Others

Averages must be protected from exceptions and unusual circumstances.  Both unusually vigorous people and people with lifespans considerably less than the average must be treated with care and when justified, appropriate adjustments made.  On the other hand, Noah and his son Shem are special cases in a category by themselves.  Since both were born before the Flood, they received the genes that called for 900-year life spans.  As a result, both lived a long time after the Flood—Noah 350 years and Shem 500 years. 

Genes given at birth plus those replacements in one’s early years have the most effect on one’s lifespan.  Noah was 600 years old when the Flood came.  His physical body developed for 600 years under pre-Flood conditions.  Further, his walk with God gave him extra vitality.  Because of these considerations, the new conditions after the Flood had less effect on him.  If he had lived his entire lifetime before the Flood, perhaps he would have lived over 1000 years and set the record for the longest lifespan in human history.  He also lived during those first two hundred years after the Flood that may have been a quiet time especially given by God for the Ark passengers to get on their feet before the Ice Age began taking its toll.  Whatever causes produced 450-year lifespans after the Flood had little effect on Noah. 

While Noah lived 1/3rd of his life after the Flood, Shem lived 5/6ths of his life after it.  He had only 100 years to develop his body before the hard times following the Flood.  Without the impact of the Flood Shem most likely would have lived 900 years like his forefathers.  Thus, it must be that those 500 years after the Flood had a much greater impact on his body than the 350 years had on his father’s body.  Additionally, as his father’s heir, the burdens of leadership and especially upholding faith in God could well have taken their toll on his lifespan. 

Shem may also have chosen to remain in the growing mountains of Ararat where the climate was more severe rather than in the Mesopotamian civilization bowl where Noah’s descendants were defying God at Babel.  His life may even have been cut short by accident or violence.  So while Shem was not given those post-Flood genes which would have cut his life to 450 years, his body did bear the impact of living under the new conditions far more than it did on his father’s body.  Thus, Noah and Shem must not be cited in the averages.  To include them is to compare oranges with apples and thus to obscure this lasting impact the Flood had on human longevity.

Nahor and Terah also do not fit the pattern.  While Serug lived 230 years, his “son” Nahor lived a short 148 years, 82 fewer years than his “father”.  The next equivalent dozen named generations after Nahor all lived between 175 and 205 years so most likely he was sickly or died from violence or an accident.  Terah lived 205 years, a 25-year decrease from his grandfather Serug.  Even more unusual, he bore his first son at the age of 70 while all the preceding fathers born after the Flood fathered their first sons between the ages of 29 and 35.  Because Nahor and Terah do not fit the clear pattern of the three born before the gap and the three born after the gap, we are not using them in our search for the average years of longevity decline after the Flood.

An entirely different consideration is the work of God in judging unbelief while giving certain leaders and the line of Christ greater years and vitality.  History records that in the early second millennium BC, pharaohs were living about 60 years.  Yet Joseph lived 110 years and each of those first three fathers in the line of Levi lived about 135 years.  Even more startling, four centuries later Mariam, Aaron and Moses all lived 120 years or more.  While Moses himself wrote that a full lifetime was 70 years (Psalm 90:10), God supernaturally granted him and his siblings more years to start the nation that would give the world the Messiah. 

In conclusion, the entire period from Eber to Moses was one of continuous, gradual declining longevity, but the decline was not a straight line.  Rather it was faster or slower depending on many factors such as the level of stress and the location of the individual.  Stressful conditions such as living in the teeth of the Ice Age or living as a slave would certainly reduce longevity faster.  So the amount of generational decline most likely varied from region to region, period to period and situation to situation.  Our records come mostly from just one family line so they reflect the conditions in that line’s experiences.  The decline between Eber and Peleg appears to be an obvious exception to this gradual decline.  The next section will explain that it was not an exception but the result of omitting 40-50 generations.


Years in a Generation

The records show that as longevity decreased, the years until families were started also decreased.  While one might suspect this to be true, the record clearly shows it did happen.  Those who lived 900 years started families when they were 100 while those who lived 230-450 started families at 30.  Although this does not help us find any missing generations, it strongly supports the concept that human longevity gradually declined after the Flood.  HB uses 32 years to mark the start of families between Arpachshad and Jacob and 25 years in the period after Jacob.  Details follow. 

Standard #1: 32 Years Per Generation.  In the first grouping following the Flood (Arpachshad-Shelah-Eber), families began when fathers were 35, 30 and 34 or an average age of 33 years.  (35 + 30 + 34 = 99) (99/3 = 33).  In the second grouping (Peleg-Reu-Serug), families began when the fathers were 30, 32 and 30 or an average age of 30.67 (30 + 32 + 30 = 92) (92/3 = 30.67).  The average for all six was 31.83 (35 + 30 + 34 + 30 + 32 + 30 = 191) (191/6 = 31.83).   For the sake of simplicity, we round this up to 32.  Thirty-two then becomes the average number of years in each generation missing between Eber and Peleg.  By way of example, if ten generations were missing between Eber and Peleg, 320 years would need to be added to the Shem line to determine the time of the Flood (32 x 10 = 320). 

Following the first six fathers, the next group of fathers started families very late due to unusual circumstances: Terah at age 70, Abraham at age 86, Isaac at age 60 and Jacob at age 82.  Infertility in Tarah’s line was the difficulty in the first three instances.  He did not father Abraham until he was 130.  Scripture specifically states that Sarah, Abraham’s wife and daughter of Terah, was barren.  By divine intervention she and Abraham had their son when Abraham was 100.  Sarah bore no other sons to Abraham.  Abraham’s son Isaac and his wife Rebekah were also both descendants of Terah and did not have a child until God answered Isaac’s prayer for an offspring twenty years after they were married (Genesis 25:21).  By that time Isaac was 60. 

Jacob’s situation is more unusual yet.  Since Abraham arranged a marriage for Isaac when he was 40, Jacob and his twin brother Esau likely expected that their father would arrange a marriage for them when they turned 40.  Unfortunately, Isaac did not.  So at the age of 40, Esau took not one but two Canaanite wives.  They so distressed his mother that Jacob, being sensitive to his mother’s feelings, decided to wait.  It would be another 42 years before Jacob was married and his first child was born. 

Determining the beginning of new generations based on Terah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would miss the average by a country mile.  Yet, their ages are frequently used as the measure of a generation, and this is one of the reasons our declining longevity argument has been so well hidden.  Since they are unusual cases, we will use the standard of 32 years derived from Arpachshad through Serug in determining generations from the Flood down to the time of Jacob.  In this way Terah being 130 when he begat Abraham represents four normal generations while Abraham fathering Isaac at the age of 100 represents three typical generations, Isaac fathering Jacob at the age of 60 represents two and Jacob beginning a family at age 82 represents three.  So they represent the equivalent of 12 generations (4 + 3 + 2 + 3 = 12). 

Standard #2: 25 Years Per Generation.  Again, Scripture provides us with much useful data—in this case, Jacob’s extended family that accompanied him to Egypt (Genesis 46:8-27).  While Jacob started his family in his 80’s and even his twin brother waited until he was 40, Jacob’s sons began having families in their twenties and even before they were twenty.  Case in point:  we know the most about Judah’s fathering in the years before the relocation to Egypt.  In his first 45 years Judah grew up, married and fathered three sons.  But that is not all.  His three sons grew up.  Two married and the third reached the age of marriage, all in the same 45 years.  Then Judah committed incest with the widow of his second son, thereby starting a third-generation family.  The twins borne by his daughter-in-law should have been grandsons.  This works out to starting the next generation when he was 23 and a second generation when he was 45, two generations in 45 years or 22.5 years per generation. 

Some will protest that this was an unusual circumstance and requires an adjustment.  Having sons through a daughter-in-law certainly was unusual.  What should have happened is that when his first son was married at the age of 20, that son should have fathered a child instead of spilling his seed on the ground so that the LORD slew him.  Then these two successive generations would have started when the fathers were 23 and 21 or an average of 22 years for fathering. 

But consider this: the second family Judah fathered consisted of twins—Perez and Zerah.  The twins were born just before or just after the move to Egypt.  Those named who moved to Egypt include two sons of Perez even though they were still in the womb and would not be born for another 20 or 25 years (Genesis 46:12).  If this were not the case, a fourth generation would have been added to Judah’s line by the time he was 45.  This would amount to new generations starting when each father was 15 years old which is highly unlikely.  Since Hebrew genealogies are flexible, the writer of this part of Genesis chose to provide a fuller record of Jacob’s lineage in Egypt, so he included sons still in the womb, yet to be born.

The record of Benjamin tops them all, further illustrating sons born to a very young father, even including unborn sons.  Benjamin was 24 when they moved to Egypt in 1876 BC.  Genesis 46:21 lists ten sons for him!  If they were all alive at the time of the move, Benjamin would have needed multiple wives and start fathering sons in his teens.  Most likely some were grandsons or even great grandsons.  Further, several are attributed to another of Jacob’s sons in another passage, so apparently a scribal error contributes to the confusion, but a few must have been alive at the time of the move meaning he was in his late teens or early twenties when he started his family. 

At the time of the move, Jacob’s sons ranged from age 48 for Reuben to age 39 for Joseph plus Benjamin who came along later and was 24.  Each of Jacob’s sons had at least one named son at the time of the move demonstrating the vigor of his line.  It seems that some of his grandsons were well beyond infancy.  All of this points to the sons of Jacob starting families in their early twenties and even in their teens. 

Conclusion.  By the time of the Exodus 430-years later all able-bodied males aged 20-50 served in Moses’ citizen army to defend their infant nation.  Presumably, if a 20-year-old was considered old enough to risk his life in defense of his country, he was also old enough to marry and start a family.  So the decline of longevity to the age of 70 was accompanied by the decline in reaching adulthood to the age of 20.  Thus, the potential age for starting families shrunk from 32 to 20.  This would indicate a 12-year decline in reaching maturity after the Flood.

 But reaching adulthood and starting a family at that time did not coincide as it did in the generations after the Flood when God’s command to repopulate the earth was paramount.  Since those early generations needed to repopulate the earth, they started families as soon as they were able.  For our purposes we need averages, not potential.  By the time Israel was in Egypt and after, even though young men could start families at 20, they had the leisure of starting them later and many examples are found, even Joseph the stepfather of Jesus.  As a result, we suggest using the age of 25 for determining generations after Jacob.  However, since the omitted names comes long before Jacob, the next section will center on the first standard of 32 years in a generation. 

Dating the Flood

Now we can estimate when the Flood happened.  By recognizing omitted generations between Eber and Peleg the Flood dates between 3800 and 4100 BC.  While a specific year would be gratifying, this range of years is a reasonable date with the information Scripture supplies.  Further, these dates are encouraging to those who accept the Bible as divinely inspired because they encompass the earliest advanced civilizations revealed by overwhelming secular evidence.  Even more, HB’s numbers provide an earlier date than the LXX which some creationists are resorting to. 

The older date, the maximum date for the Flood, is found by summing the following numbers:  2417 years from Christ back to Peleg; 1600 omitted years between Eber and Peleg and 101 years from the Flood to the gap or 4118 BC (2417 + 1600 + 101 = 4118 years).  The years in the gap consist of a 225-year longevity decline from Eber to Peleg (464 – 239 = 225 years), a decline of 4.5 years per generation (225/4.5 = 50 generations) and generations of 32-year lengths (50 x 32 = 1600).  Before the gap is a period of 101 years—the two years until the birth of Arpachshad, the 35 until he fathered Shelah, the 30 until Shelah fathered Eber and the 34 until Eber fathered the first unrecorded generation (2 + 35 + 30 + 34 = 101).  Again, by this maximum measure the Flood occurred in 4118 BC.  For sake of convenience, we round this number to 4100 BC. 

Conversely, the minimum date for the Flood is found by summing these numbers:  2417 years from Christ back to Peleg; 1283 omitted years between Eber and Peleg and 101 years from the Flood to the gap or 3801 BC (2417 + 1283 + 101 = 3801 years).  This minimum date assumes Eber had extraordinary vigor but also had less stress than his father or grandfather.  Consequently, HB splits the difference between the longevity he should have had (428) and the longevity he actually enjoyed (464 years), resulting in an increase of 18 rather than 36 years ( (464 - 428) / 2 = 18 ). 

This minimum year scenario would set the decline in the gap at 207 years instead of 225 years (446 – 239 = 207 years).  Using this 207-year decline and five years for the average decline sets the minimum number of missing generations at 41.4 (207/5 = 41.4).  Multiplying 41.4 by an average of 31 years per generation calculates to 1304 missing years (41.4 x 31 = 1283.4 years).  Rounding 1283.4 to the nearest 100 gives a round figure of 3800.

 In this way HB establishes the minimum and maximum number of years for the Flood to be a range from 3800 BC to 4100 BC.  For ease of reference, the 41.4 missing generations are rounded down to 40, so generally speaking 40-50 generations are missing between Eber and Peleg.

Peleg’s Birth Year.  This book tags 2417 BC as the year of Peleg’s birth.  The trail to that date begins with Jacob’s move to Egypt in 1876 BC, the standard date preferred by Evangelicals.  When he came to Egypt, Pharaoh asked his age.  Jacob replied that he was 130 (Genesis 47:9).  By adding 130 to the 1876 BC date, Jacob was born in 2006 BC (1876 + 130 = 2006).  Isaac was 60 when Jacob was born (2006 + 60 = 2066).  Abraham was 100 when Isaac was born (2066 + 100 = 2166).  By adding the numbers for the years of the five previous fathers (Terah-130; Nahor-29; Serug-30; Reu-32; Peleg-30 = 251), we find Peleg was born about 2417 BC (2166 + 251 = 2417). 

Jacob and Jacob’s Sons’ Birth Years.  Joseph was elevated to the position of governor of Egypt at the age of 30 (Genesis 41:46).  Seven years of plenty and two years of famine had passed so Joseph was 39 when Pharaoh asked his father’s age and Jacob replied that he was 130.  Thus, Joseph was born when his father was 91 (130 – 39 = 91) which would place Joseph’s birth at 1915 BC (2006 – 91 = 1915).  Joseph was the youngest of the eleven sons born to Jacob in Haran in just nine years so his oldest brother Reuben would have been born in 1924 BC (1915 + 9 = 1924) and the third oldest, Levi would have been born in 1922 BC (1924 – 2 = 1922).

Shem’s List – Not a Chronology

In the past, it was easy to conclude that Shem’s list was a chronology because the begetting age of each father is given.  But like a red flag Scripture does not add those numbers even though it gives important chronological totals elsewhere such as the 430-years in Egypt (Exodus 12:40) and the 480 years from the Exodus to the Temple (I Kings 6:1).  In fact, it neither invites the reader to add those numbers nor even gives a single hint that those numbers should be considered a chronology.  While the silence of Scripture does not close the issue, it is a strong witness against the chronology argument. 

Actually, Shem’s list gives an obvious clue that its objective was something other than a chronology: it’s ten names match the number of names in Adam’s list.  Symmetry, not chronology appears to be the goal of placing ten names in each list.  Ten representative names from Adam to Noah and ten more from Shem to Abraham begin the line to the Redeemer first promised in Genesis 3:15.

Viewing Shem’s list as a chronology is an interpretation, not a fact.  Interpretations of Scripture and facts of Scripture must be carefully distinguished.  The Gospel is a fact.  That Jesus is the predicted Messiah of the Old Testament is a fact.  That Shem’s list is a chronology does not qualify as a fact.  A special branch of bibliology called hermeneutics formulates the science of how to interpret Scripture.  The most basic rule of hermeneutics is to compare Scripture with Scripture.  This is the rite of passage that determines how any given author of a passage meant his words to be understood. 

How did the author of Shem’s genealogy use the words he chose?  The answer lies in how other Scripture use genealogies.  Eventually it becomes apparent that they were about relating fathers to sons and sons to fathers, not giving exhaustive and complete lists.  In effect they were used as this book points out in its first 100 plus pages.  Identity was the issue, not history.  Ultimately, Adam’s line comes to a specific person named Noah and Noah’s line comes to a specific person named Abraham whose descendants God will use to form the nation of Israel and send the Savior.  This is the beauty of Hebrew genealogies which need no longer be hidden.

Omissions in Adam’s List

Genesis five records Adam’s genealogy, ten names from Adam to Noah.  While it is not the subject of this book, it is usually discussed along with Shem’s list, so we must add a word about it.  If Shem’s line is explicit, Adam’s line is more so.  While Shem’s line gives five details including the years before and after the birth of the son, Adam’s list gives those details and totals the years of the father as well.  Why that sixth detail?  Most likely, because of the great ages involved, the author felt that he needed to total the years to avoid any misunderstanding. 

As in Shem’s line, each of the details in Adam’s line is literal.  Each named person was a real person.  He actually lived all the years the passage says and he fathered a son.   Some see in this list the abbreviation of many millennia.  One is the well-known covenant scholar, Meredith Kline, who taught that Adam’s list represented more human history than the entire time since the Flood[1].  He observed that the list contained ten names, which raises the suspicion that it is tailored.  But his reason for this vast amount of time is that he views history in terms of divine covenants, and according to him Peter divides history into the world that was, which perished by water, and the world that now is, which will perish by fire (II Peter 3:5-7). 

One of his students, Michael Lawrence, showed this author the printed notes from Dr. Kline’s class on covenant theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary where Lawrence received his theological training.  Lawrence had previously earned a bachelor’s degree at Duke University and completed his education with a Ph.D. in church history at Cambridge University.  While he did not agree with Kline’s idea of so many years before the Flood, he did give insight into why Archbishop James Ussher felt the lines of Adam and Shem were tight, exhaustive, immediate father-son relationships.

Lawrence explained that Ussher was a Bible scholar who loved the Word of God and believed in inerrancy.  But he was bound by the rigid thinking concerning genealogies in Great Britain which viewed them as precise, exact and complete.  England and Scotland had a combined monarchy.  When Queen Elizabeth died childless, a careful examination of genealogies determined that James VI of Scotland was the correct successor and he became King James I of England-Scotland.  This selection required careful records for officials to determine who had the next claim to the throne.  Precise genealogical records gave the answer.  To Ussher it was inconceivable that genealogies could be taken in any other way.   Ussher was a product of his culture and brought to the Scripture his cultural experience just as all Christians bring to the Scripture a framework of ideas.  In this way he made unfounded assumptions about Biblical genealogies.  To him genealogies were all about a line of succession.[2] 

While condensation is all but demanded by the enormous drop in longevity between Eber and Peleg, no such clue is found in Adam’s line.  Instead, Scripture records a growing pattern of sin.  “The wickedness of man was great in the earth and...every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  Conversely, Enoch walked with the LORD and became the first of four successive, unbroken generations—Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech and Noah—so it was exactly 969 years from the birth of his son Methuselah to the Flood.  Further, Seth was the immediate son of Adam.  Only four fathers remain who might have represented thousands of omitted years—Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel and Jared. 

Because of man’s growing sinfulness, God’s justice required Him to terminate generations born into this irreversible situation.  To stop this pattern God limited the number of generations before the Flood.  Kline failed to grasp the purpose of the Flood—to break the enslaving straight jacket of sin and restart the human race.  While Adam’s line does not represent millennia of human history, a few names might have been omitted to produce precisely ten.  Even if two or three were omitted, this would add only 200-300 years to the age of the earth. 

 Kline’s call for a long pre-flood era of many millennia is merely another example of how much we all wonder about the years before the Flood. We take our various stabs at them. Yet, they lie not in numbers as much as in understanding the mysteries of iniquity and godliness (II Thessalonians 2, I Corinthians 15: 51-58.)  For instance, in Book 2 of creation geologist John Reed’s fictional Flood trilogy, the godly who had helped build the Ark intended to board it, but the enemy murdered their entire community.[3]  Only the eight escaped.  Nevertheless, genealogies are a joy, when correctly understood, to keep us true to inerrancy and prevent presumption in our interpretations of Scripture.

One minor discrepancy in our point that all eight who lived and died before the Flood lived about 900 years is Lamech who died at the age of 777.  The next greatest deviation from the 900-year average is Methuselah who lived to 969.  Methuselah died the year of the Flood, but his son (Lamech) died five years before the Flood.  Very possibly Lamech was the victim of foul play as attempts grew to silence Noah and his message of judgment.  Yet even this foul play served the purposes of God for it fell on the 777th year of Lamech’s life which in numerology has extreme significance.  Seven represents completion and triple sevens would reflect that all three members of the trinity acknowledged this total rejection of the Creator. 

Inescapable Conclusion

Beyond question Scripture itself reveals a continuing decline of lifespans from the time the Ark survivors left the Ark until Joshua succeeded Moses nearly three millennia later.  This progressive decline is undeniable.  Disputing this gradual decline violates the inerrancy of Scripture. 

Foundational to the inescapable conclusion above, Scripture reveals an astonishing reduction in lifespans at the time of the Flood.  Those who lived and died before the Flood lived an average of 900 years.  That number was reduced by 50% as seen in the first three generations born after the Flood.  They lived 450 fewer years and no one after them in the biblical record ever lived longer.  Such a mammoth reduction would have been unbelievable if God had not said it.  But since He did, it actually happened even though commentators have overlooked it through the centuries. 

While the secular world regards people living 900 years or even 450 years as evidence the Bible contains myths and legends, those who accept Scripture as God-breathed, are confident this is the truth of the matter.  But between the 3rd and 4th names is a 225-year decline.  Bible students have concluded that this was a second severe drop in human longevity, but they are wrong.  They do not understand the Hebrew practice of shortening long genealogies.  The average decline was about five years per generation, so this 225-year difference was the result of omitting 40-50 generations. 

A friend saw our estimates of missing generations between Eber and Peleg and took strong exception.  He said four calendars from different parts of the world (China, India, Europe and the Americas) all point to about 4000 BC as the beginning of the earth.  He said to read After the Flood by Bill Cooper.  Amazingly, Cooper cited three calendars that he felt were free of major internal contradictions.  All three placed creation at 4700 BC or earlier.  Of the three, he considered the Parker Chronicle to be the most reliable.  It is Anglo-Saxon and places creation at 5200 BC.[4]  HB’s minimum/maximum date for creation (see Appendix B.1) of 5472 BC to 5972 BC is not that much greater than the Parker Chronicle and its dates come solely from Word. 

What Abbreviated Genealogies Teach

To summarize, a faulty view of biblical genealogies leads to the idea that the dates of the Flood and the creation of man can be calculated within a few years.  This chapter has explained why Hebrew genealogies do not support such calculations.  It finds overwhelming support that as many as 1300-1600 years elapsed between Eber and Peleg and maybe 200 additional years before the Flood.   This means that whereas many creationists thought that man and living things were created about 6000 years ago, they really were created nearer 8000 years ago.   Thus, we have good reason to be tentative where God is silent.  But whether 6000 or 8000 or even 10,000 years old, lifeforms on planet earth are still vastly young compared to the billion-year figure of secular science.  

So, this book joins those who find overwhelming biblical and scientific support for life on earth being but thousands of years old.  However, we take exception with those who insist that Genesis chapter eleven presents a complete father-son list allowing a more exact age calculation.  Just one clear abbreviated genealogy would question the idea that Shem’s genealogy is complete.  This book presented such an abbreviated genealogy in chapter one, the Levi-Aaron list.  Chapter six provided 15 more lists where abbreviation is certain or suspected.  We must conclude that it was not God’s will for man to be burdened with establishing and defending the age of the earth to within a few years.  Such an approach is not helpful.  It produces divisions within the body of Christ and justified criticism without, all of which harm the Kingdom of God.

The next chapter tackles what may be the greatest disinformation to Shem’s genealogy, that found in the Septuagint. 

[1]Meredith Klein, “Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview,” (Hamilton, MA.: Gordon-Conwell Seminary classroom notes, 1992), 8.

[2]Michael Lawrence, Senior Pastor, Hinson Baptist Church, Portland, OR, Interview by the author, 5/19/2015.

[3] John K. Reed, Lost Worlds Book 2, Mabbul, (Evans, GA.: Mabbul Publishing, Word Ministries, 2007)

[4]Bill Cooper, After the Flood (Chichester, England: New Wine Press, 1995), 122.

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