Many people recognize the ancient adage “As old as Methuselah,” and can probably identify it as of Biblical origin. Other than being the oldest person in the Bible, who was Methuselah?
The purpose of the fifth chapter of Genesis appears to be to highlight the link through the ten generations between Adam and Noah. Despite his longevity (969 years!), Methuselah’s entire life is encapsulated in 5 verses.
“And Enoch lived 65 years, and begot Methuselah. And Enoch walked with God after he begot Methuselah for 300 years, and begot sons and daughters ... And Methuselah lived 187 years, and begot Lamech. And Methuselah lived after he begot Lamech for 782 years, and begot sons and daughters. And all the days of Methuselah were 969 years; and he died “(Genesis 5: 21-22, 15-27).
Lamech then fathered Noah, whose family was chosen to be the only human survivors of the great-flood. Noah’s special connection to God (“He walked with God” - Genesis 6:9) was not an anomaly. The same was also said about his great-grandfather, Methuselah’s father, Enoch. So too, Methuselah is noted in the Midrash as being a person of such extraordinary righteousness that God actually delayed the flood on his behalf. When the people challenged Noah as to why God wasn’t yet punishing them as Noah continually warned, Noah responded that God had: “one dear one to draw out from you” (Sanhedrin 108a) This was Methuselah.
In a later chapter, the Bible states: “‘And it came to pass, after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth’ (Genesis 7:10). What was the nature of these seven days?--Rav said: These were the days of mourning for Methuselah, thus teaching that the lamenting for the righteous postpones retribution” (Sanhedrin 108b).
According to tradition, the flood began on the 17th of Cheshvan. This means that today, the 10th of Cheshvan is the anniversary of the death of the oldest man in the Bible.
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