“What About People Who Live Longer than 120 Years?”

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.

Sue Bohlin

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