Genealogical Ages of Genesis

Genesis chapters 5 and 11 provides an interesting genealogy from Adam to Abraham.

I’ve heard a number of people make comments along the lines of “this list isn’t a literal genealogy. The word ‘begat’ can mean ‘father to son’ just as easily as it can mean ‘father to great-grandson’. ‘Begat’ simply means that Person A is an ancestor of Person B. Therefore, this genealogy simply presents a list of notable people.” So the conclusion is made that it’s not ten generations, but rather 100, or even 1,000 generation – or more. Okaaaay – I’m curious as to what would motivate a person at least 3,500 years removed from Moses’ recording of to insist that Moses wasn’t being literal, but that’s a blog for another day. (By the way, be sure to check out the Male Population of Genesis page for more of the same.)

But the genealogies of and 11 are quite different from other genealogies in the Bible: these are the only two Biblical genealogies where years are given for the age of paternity (eg “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” ). So while people may insist there are more names in the genealogy, they cannot insist that there are more years in the genealogy or they make Moses out to be a liar. Not only was Moses quite specific when he wrote out the the age of Person A when Person B was born, but he was also under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. There can be no wiggle room. Either Moses (and the Holy Spirit) is right, or he is wrong. We can say “wellll.. ‘begat’ really means ‘ancestor'”, but we cannot say “wellll.. age X really means age Y” (although Harold Camping certainly tried).

So what do we see if we list the ages as Moses gave them? Glad you asked.

Person Gen Age of
Paternity
Age of
Death
AM* Death
Year
Years After
First Son
Birth Year
After Flood
AD
Adam 1 130 930 1 930 800 -1656 4114
Seth 2 105 912 130 1042 807 -1526 3984
Enos 3 90 905 235 1140 815 -1421 3879
Cainan 4 70 917 325 1242 847 -1331 3789
Mahalalel 5 65 895 395 1290 830 -1261 3719
Jared 6 162 962 460 1422 800 -1196 3654
Enoch 7 65 365 622 987 300 -1034 3492
Methuselah 8 187 969 687 1656 782 -969 3427
Lamech 9 182 777 874 1651 595 -782 3240
Noah 10 502 950 1056 2006 448 -600 3058
Shem 11 100 600 1558 2158 500 -98 2556
Arpachshad 12 35 438 1658 2096 403 2 2456
Salah 13 30 433 1693 2126 403 37 2421
Eber 14 34 464 1723 2187 430 67 2391
Peleg 15 30 239 1757 1996 209 101 2357
Reu 16 32 239 1787 2026 207 131 2327
Serug 17 30 230 1819 2049 200 163 2295
Nahor 18 29 148 1849 1997 119 193 2265
Terah 19 130** 205 1878 2083 75 222 2236
Abram 20 86 175 2008 2123 89 352 2107
Ishmael 21 ? 137 2094 2171 137 438 2021

*AM = Anno Mundi – In the Year of the World. Counted from the first year of creation.
** can be misleading. However, If you do the math on 11:31 and 12:4, you’ll see that Abram was born when Terah was 130.

While the & 11 doesn’t provide the AM, Death Year, Flood Year and AD, it does provide enough specifics to calculate these with some accuracy. One can debate whether the Bible accurately reflects world history, but what’s not debatable is that from Genesis to Revelation, with only one exception, the genealogy is consistent both with respect to people and dates. (The only discrepancy with any of these dates comes from Luke’s genealogy () where, like the Septuagint, he inserts an extra person, Canin, between Arpachshad and Salah (See in the LXXe). There are several suggestions used to resolve this discrepancy while staying true to the infallibility of Scripture. The most prominent view is that Luke wrote it correctly and subsequent well-meaning scribes used the Septuagint as a guide to revise Luke’s genealogy. Other views suggest that the meaning of the word Canin is akin to a surname to be used with another name and not a person. But that’s a blog for another day.)

Graphical View

This chart helps visualize a few things that might be missed in a cursory overview of the genealogy:

Genealogy from Adam to Ishmael, according to & 11

*Abram was born when Terah was 130. The graphic shows that he was born when Terah was 70. I’ll edit this later

  • There are 10 people from Adam to Noah (the flood) and, likewise, 10 people from Shem to Abraham. This symmetry might be an excellent reason for concluding that Moses is simply using a mnemonic device and not giving literal time lines. However his use of lifespans and paternal ages is still an issue that we can’t skirt, and I maintain that this is an excellent reason to insist that Moses intends to be literal.
  • The flood takes place about 1,656 years after creation. To get an idea of the population of the world after 10 generations, see this link. Bear in mind that people living in an agrarian culture with plenty of fertile land, natural resources, and a relatively clean gene pool,  the more kids a couple has, the better off they are. There would be little incentive to not produce many children, and every incentive to reproduce extravagantly. Furthermore, pre-flood humans lived about 10x longer than we do today. If today’s females can give birth up to about 40 years of age, it’s safe to assume they could do so up to about 400 years back then. So if they birthed 1 child every 7 years, each couple would have 50+ children. If that sounds outlandish, bear in mind that Josephus wrote that Adam had 33 sons and 23 daughters. No, Josephus isn’t inspired, but in light of this reasoning, his statement isn’t as outlandish as it might sound. If 50 children per couple was anything close to the norm, then the “10 sons” column on the Generations page presents woefully low numbers.
  • Lifespans after the flood are dramatically shorter than lifespans before the flood. So much so that Shem, son of Noah, outlived Abraham. If this listing is literal, there’s no reason to believe that Abraham did not personally know Shem. In fact, some ancient rabbis believed that Melchizedek, king of Salem, was none other than Shem. That’s certainly plausible.
  • If the Jewish tradition is correct about Melchizedek being Shem (and there’s no real reason to reject this tradition), it’s completely plausible that Shem faithfully relayed to Abraham the events of the world prior to the flood. Abraham would then have a pretty reliable source of historical knowledge dating all the way back to Adam. And the minimum descendants from Abraham to Moses is another 6 or so people. More we could say about this.


11:1 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

10 These are the generations of Shem. When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. 11 And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sons and daughters.

12 When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. 13 And Arpachshad lived after he fathered Shelah 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

14 When Shelah had lived 30 years, he fathered Eber. 15 And Shelah lived after he fathered Eber 403 years and had other sons and daughters.

16 When Eber had lived 34 years, he fathered Peleg. 17 And Eber lived after he fathered Peleg 430 years and had other sons and daughters.

18 When Peleg had lived 30 years, he fathered Reu. 19 And Peleg lived after he fathered Reu 209 years and had other sons and daughters.

20 When Reu had lived 32 years, he fathered Serug. 21 And Reu lived after he fathered Serug 207 years and had other sons and daughters.

22 When Serug had lived 30 years, he fathered Nahor. 23 And Serug lived after he fathered Nahor 200 years and had other sons and daughters.

24 When Nahor had lived 29 years, he fathered Terah. 25 And Nahor lived after he fathered Terah 119 years and had other sons and daughters.

26 When Terah had lived 70 years, he fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah fathered Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran fathered Lot. 28 Haran died in the presence of his father Terah in the land of his kindred, in Ur of the Chaldeans. 29 And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31 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. 32 The days of Terah were 205 years, and Terah died in Haran. (ESV)


5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (ESV)


When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. (ESV)


11 So Abimelech warned all the people, saying, “Whoever touches this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.” (ESV)


5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (ESV)


36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, (ESV)


12 When Arpachshad had lived 35 years, he fathered Shelah. (ESV)


5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.

When Seth had lived 105 years, he fathered Enosh. Seth lived after he fathered Enosh 807 years and had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.

When Enosh had lived 90 years, he fathered Kenan. 10 Enosh lived after he fathered Kenan 815 years and had other sons and daughters. 11 Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.

12 When Kenan had lived 70 years, he fathered Mahalalel. 13 Kenan lived after he fathered Mahalalel 840 years and had other sons and daughters. 14 Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.

15 When Mahalalel had lived 65 years, he fathered Jared. 16 Mahalalel lived after he fathered Jared 830 years and had other sons and daughters. 17 Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.

18 When Jared had lived 162 years he fathered Enoch. 19 Jared lived after he fathered Enoch 800 years and had other sons and daughters. 20 Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.

21 When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

25 When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he fathered Lamech. 26 Methuselah lived after he fathered Lamech 782 years and had other sons and daughters. 27 Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (ESV)