Genesis 5:27 “So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years, and he died.”
This investigation now takes a turn from all the previous methods described. Students of Literal Qabalah have been given ample examples of all the tools necessary to investigate Methuselah’s alleged longevity should anyone wish to do so.
Methuselah seems to be the oldest patriarch recorded in the entire Bible. Hurrah! Let's hear it for Methuselah! But, curious. Story-wise Methuselah does not appear to be any more special than the all the other patriarchs mentioned. Even less so, except for his alleged ‘age’ which has created considerable speculation and rancorous arguments with no ultimate conclusions. The contentions, speculations and arguments by ‘authorized’ translators of Old Testament literature have become so numerous that they have been combined into groups and fall generally under four main categories: Literal, Mistransliteration, Symbolic and Myth.
Literal: Mainstream evangelicals argue the position that the Old Testament and the entire Bible is the concrete word of God, Almighty, and therefore the ages of the patriarchs are based on the actual (current) solar cycles that determine a solar year; Methuselah’s 969 ‘years’ means exactly 969 solar cycles. The fact that time measurement has changed radically through the course of history seems to have been dismissed entirely. A few, however, do argue that ‘years’ were perhaps measured differently back then. Some evangelists claim that these individuals were godly men imbued with the Divine Spirit and given their longevity by the Grace of God. Others speculate that the environment of the period was pure, foodstuffs simple and healthy, free of contaminants that arrest the life. If that is the reason then everyone living should have enjoyed the same results.
Mis-transliteration: There have been Biblical commentators that claim all the age-numbers in Genesis 5 might be multiples of some other number, such as 5, 10 or 12. However, if we divide any of those ages by these digits we come to some ludicrous numbers and speculations. Some of the patriarchs would then have fathered off-spring when in their early teens or even puberty. Other authors have suggested those ‘years’ may actually have been lunar cycles, then inadvertently and subsequently transcribed in the copying of the material as ‘years’ instead of months. Ultimately that doesn’t work out for all the patriarchs either. Then, yet another author theorized the possibility of these ‘ages’ to be representative of dynasties; periods measured by the “age of Enoch,” or the “age of Methuselah,” as we might measure the “iron age” or the “bronze age”. Logically this also renders a difficult fit.
Symbolic: Of the 34+ principal references (and numerous secondary references) that have been proffered by Biblical commentators around the ‘age’ possibilities of the patriarchs, there seems to be just one actually categorized as ‘symbolic’. That reference is:
“Methuselah’s father Enoch, who does not die but is taken by God, is the seventh patriarch, and Methuselah, the eighth, dies in the year of the Flood, which ends the ten-generational sequence from Adam to Noah, in whose time the world is destroyed.” – Abraham Malamat, “King Lists of the Old Babylonian Period and Biblical Genealogies,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 88 (1968): 165.
As symbolism goes this seems weak. Is Methuselah’s age merely plugged-in and presented as 969 solely to synchronize his death with the supposed year of a mythical flood? However, as for the ‘ages’ being symbolic I would have to concur, as will be presented in yet another category totally unrecognized by mainstream Biblical commentators.
Myth: Then there are the arguments from authors who do not believe anything Biblical; the hard-core materialists, the staunch scientifically minded, and the pure atheists. The numbers in Genesis 5 and the age of Methuselah have no meaning at all. This group of authors speculate that Bible stories are just that. Total myth. The stories were intended to create various impressions, or conceived and put forth to promote religious cults and priesthoods in order to sway and hold power over frightened, confused or otherwise duped populations.
None of the above categories offer any definitive or satisfactory level of insight or knowledge surrounding any of these supposed ‘ages’ of the patriarch-characters. However, there is a fifth category of authors totally unrecognized or dismissed entirely by all the ‘authorized’ commentators of the four groups above. And this is the Qabalistic group. None of the authors in the aforementioned groups were or are Qabalists. Many of the writers and commentators of ‘authorized’ versions of the Bible may not even have seen, let alone researched and studied, Hebrew versions of the Old Testament or understand the hieroglyphic implications of Hebrew letters and the numerical significance behind them. Yet the Qabalistic explanations of Bible passages, even those considered theoretical and speculative explanations, throw more insight and thought provocation on the enigmatic writings than any other ‘authorized’ venue. Are the writings symbolic? To a very certain degree, yes. The surface stories highly symbolize very esoteric concepts in disguise, but the ardent seeker must work to find the carefully concealed information. Why is this? Simply because of the power they contain. The secrets will remain hidden from all save those in whom their desire to know burns brightest.