Even a casual reader of the early chapters of Genesis notices that God’s Word records that in the years just after creation, people lived a great deal longer than they do now. Moreover, following the flood, there was a decline in human longevity.
- Adam lived 930 years (see Gen. 5:5).
- Seth lived 912 years (see 5:8).
- Enosh lived 905 years (see 5:11).
- Kenan lived 910 years (see 5:14).
- Mahalalel lived 895 years (see 5:17).
- Jared lived 962 years (see 5:20).
- Enoch lived 365 years (God took him; see 5:23-24).
- Methuselah lived 969 years (see 5:27).
- Lamech lived 777 years (see 5:31).
- Noah lived 950 years (see 9:29). Note the decline in longevity following Noah.
- Shem lived 600 years (see 11:10-11).
- Arpachshad lived 438 years (see 11:12-13).
- Shelah lived 433 years (see 11:14-15).
- Eber lived 464 years (see 11:16-17).
- Peleg lived 239 years (see 11:18-19).
- Reu lived 239 years (see 11:20-21).
- Serug lived 230 years (see 11:22-23).
- Nahor lived 148 years (see 11:24-25).
- Terah lived 205 years (see 11:32).
- Abraham lived 175 years (see 25:7-8).
- Isaac lived 180 years (see 35:28-29).
- Jacob lived about 147 years (see 47:28–48:2; 49:29-33).
- Joseph lived 110 years (see 50:26).
We should always take what the Bible says at face value, interpreting it literally unless the text gives us reason to understand a passage figuratively or metaphorically. This does not diminish the truth of anything stated in the Bible, but it does help us think clearly about what God’s Word really means. For example, when Jesus said, “I am the door of the sheep” in John 10:7, He did not mean he was a panel of wood past which the sheep must enter.
For the Bible-believing Christian, it makes sense to accept as literally true the testimony of Genesis that people lived longer before the flood. How could this have been? For one thing, modern medical science has discovered that many diseases are tied to genetics. Thus, people who lived soon after creation lived longer in part because the human genetic pool was still in a pure state. Over time, it became contaminated and diseases became more common, shortening life. A second reason for pre-flood longevity is the possibility that the earth’s pre-flood atmosphere was thicker and filtered a great deal more of the sun’s radiation—radiation that causes, among other things, aging. After the flood, the atmosphere had changed, giving people greater exposure to the sun’s radiation and thus causing them to age faster.