Here’s an excerpt from the bestselling Complete Guide to the Bible. It’s a short sidebar feature in the section of the book devoted to Genesis.
BEFORE THE DEVASTATING FLOOD, people generally lived for centuries according to the Bible. Some lived almost 1,000 years.
Methuselah lived longest: 969 years. If people lived that long today, Richard the Lionhearted might still be telling his war stories—from the Crusades.
As high as these numbers are, they’re dwarfed by those in other ancient records. A clay prism from the world’s first known civilization, Sumer in what is now Iraq, says only eight kings ruled the land up until the flood—and those eight ruled for a total of 241,200 years. The shortest reign was 18,600 years.
Maybe the ancients measured time differently than we do, some history experts guess. Or maybe these are polite exaggerations, a way of honoring beloved leaders—perhaps a bit like giving some folks today honorary doctorates even though they didn’t spend a day in college.
Others wonder if the numbers might be accurate. Perhaps the flood somehow changed the world in a way that drastically cut life spans. Maybe constant cloud cover before the flood gave way to blue skies and harmful sun rays. Or maybe the geysers released toxins previously buried deep in the earth.
For an earlier blog on this topic, see Did people before the flood live for centuries?