Throughout the book of Genesis, the recorded lifespans of people are much greater than they are today. Methuselah being the oldest recorded at 969 years (Gen 5:27). This is a major point of contention for those who consider that today, living to be 100 years old is quite an accomplishment. However, there is purpose in everything in God’s Word, even if at first, you don’t understand it.
When things are put in a strange way, we should stop, take notice, and ask questions. This is one of the intentions of allegory and what are sometimes viewed as inconsistencies in God’s Word. They draw our attention to them for consideration. Upon consideration, we might find that they were simply translation errors. On the other hand, we might find hidden gems waiting for our discovery. Remember, God is the Creator of our perfectly ordered Universe (kosmos), so anything coming from Him MUST be logical.
This particular inconsistency regarding the lifespans of the people of Genesis has done its job well. Christians of all denominations and Atheists alike have filled books attempting to address this question. Most assume that this is literal and sadly the discussion ends there. Atheists accusing Christians of the belief that people lived to be 900+/- years old. Christians accusing atheists of not having the faith to believe in what seems illogical.
What you will see if you continue reading is that the power is in the allegory or shadow and not the literal meaning. Don’t get caught up in something that is unproveable and miss the point.
To answer this question, we are going to focus on one specific event, the seduction of Eve by the serpent.
And the Lord God commanded the man (Adam), saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.Genesis 2:16-17
Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, Yea, has God said, You shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, lest you die. And the serpent said unto the woman, You shall not surely die: For God does know that in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and you shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.Genesis 3:1-5
Notice that God said “… in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.” And the Serpent said “You shall not surely die…” but “…in the day you eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened…” With that in mind, consider that after this Adam lived to be 930 years old (Gen 5:5) and Eve lived long enough to bear their children (Gen 4).
Adam and Eve did not physically die in that earthly day. Could it be that God was wrong when he said “…in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.” and that the serpent was right?
Peter leads us to the spiritual answer to this question:
But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.2 Peter 3:8
Now, you can hopefully see that both statements are correct, but coming from two different and opposite perspectives. Satan interpreted God’s Word to Eve from an earthly or physical (24 hour day) point of view. God spoke His Word from a heavenly or spiritual (1000 year day) point of view. What is being shown to you is the specific difference between God (Spiritual or Heavenly) and Satan (Physical or Earthly).
Adam, having died at 930 years old, did die in the Heavenly day in which he ate of the tree. The Serpent incorrectly interpreted God’s Word literally in relation to a 24 hour day on Earth.
What we have here is a major point being made by God. This point is made repeatedly, by the ages of the people in Genesis. No one lived beyond a thousand years. God is making it abundantly clear that there are two very specific and opposite ways to interpret scripture. This error began in the Garden and breaks down as follows:
The Earthly, Physical, Literal interpretation of the serpent, which are the doctrines of men.
This people honors me with their lips; but their heart (or mind) is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the precepts of men.Matthew 15:8-9
The Heavenly, Spiritual meaning of God, who spoke them, which is the Spiritual Truth.
But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.John 4:23-24
The bottom line is that lifespans of the people of Genesis has a spiritual meaning. You will never know the full meaning of God’s Word if you approach it in the literal sense. This is referred to in scripture as a fleshly or carnal mindset, which is interpreting the Word of God from the perspective of the flesh or man.
The Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance defines the Greek word translated flesh as follows:
Flesh/Carnal NT:4561 sa/rc sarx (sarx); flesh, … or (by extension) the body (as opposed to the soul [or spirit]), or (by implication) human nature (with its frailties [physically or morally] and passions), or (specifically) a human being (as such): KJV – carnal (-ly, -ly minded), flesh ([-ly]).Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
Notice that flesh is referring to the body as opposed to the spirit and specifically the mind or mindset. This is the “doctrines of men or mankind.” Viewing the Word of God from a human or physical perspective as did Satan when, in reference to an earthly day, he told Eve you shall not die.
In Romans 8 Paul makes this point even clearer.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made you free from the law of sin and death.Romans 8:1-2
There is only one Law but two very different ways of understanding it. One produces life and the other produces death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh (literal interpretation), God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:Romans 8:3
The Son of God condemned sin in the fleshly interpretation of the Law by teaching us the meaning of the Law in the Spirit.
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh (-ly mind), but after the Spirit (-ual mind).Romans 8:4
The righteousness of the Law is fulfilled not in the literal or fleshly meaning, but in the Spiritual meaning as Hebrews 10:1 points out.
For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.Hebrews 10:1
Literally killing animals and burning them on the altar was never the intent of the Law. See Isaiah chapter 1.
For they that are after the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be fleshly minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the fleshly mind is in opposition to God: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be.Romans 8:5-7
The Law of God is a spiritual shadow, as we saw in Hebrews above, which a fleshly mindset cannot grasp.
So then they that are in the flesh (-ly mind) cannot please God.Romans 8:8
You cannot keep the Law of God in the fleshly or literal mindset, because as Paul also said, “…the things of the Spirit of God… are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14) The next time you sit down to study, read 1 Corinthians Chapter 2 which continues to make this same point.
In conclusion, if you are being taught from a literal interpretation of the Words of God, you are eating from the Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil as served up by the serpent.
Think about that…