In Genesis 6, God says man will not live past 120 years of age. I heard that someone lived to be around 140 in modern times. I searched this out and found a woman was reported to have lived 122 years. How can we explain this apparent contradiction to the Bible?
Let's look at what Genesis 6:3 actually says.
Then the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."
There are two interpretations that have been offered, and they can both be true at the same time. One is that the 120 years refers to how much longer God would allow mankind to live on the earth before He sent the Flood.
The second interpretation is that God was about to limit the individual lifespans of mankind to 120 years, which would start to happen after the Flood. (You can see the decline recorded in Genesis 11 by noting the ages at which the patriarchs died.) That is the upper limit for all but a few hardy souls, such as the one you found. This is not a contradiction in the Bible since the middle-Eastern mindset from which the Bible was written was not concerned with the excruciating attention to detail and minute accuracy that our Western mindsets have come to expect. It's not wrong, and it's not a contradiction—it's just a different way of seeing things. Consider the difference between 120 and the amazing longevity of pre-flood folks: Noah lived 950 years, Adam 930, Methuselah 969. The point is the difference between 969 and 120, not the difference between 120 and 122. Does that make sense?
Hope you find this helpful.
© 2009 Probe Ministries
About the Author
Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker with Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois, and has been a Bible teacher and conference speaker for over 35 years. She is a frequent speaker for MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) and Stonecroft Ministries (Christian Women's Connections), and serves on the board and as a small group leader of Living Hope Ministries, a Christ centered outreach to those dealing with unwanted homosexuality. Sue is on the Bible.org Women's Leadership Team and is a regular contributor to Bible.org's Tapestry blog. She is also a professional calligrapher and the webmistress for Probe Ministries; but most importantly, she is the wife of Dr. Ray Bohlin and the mother of their two grown sons. Her personal website is suebohlin.com.
What is Probe?
Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.
Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075