One of the favorite characters in the Old Testament is Methuselah, who lived 969 years (Genesis 5:27), longer than anyone else recorded. His father was Enoch, of whom it is said he "walked with God" (5:24) but who was taken to heaven without dying at 365 years. Methuselah's son Lamech died a few years before the Flood at 777 years (5:31) after bearing Noah.
When Methuselah was born, his godly father must have prophetically known of coming things for his son's name means "when he dies, judgment," and interestingly enough, Methuselah died in the same year God judged the sinful world with the great Flood of Noah's day.
There are many details of the Flood account about which we can only speculate, but perhaps Noah was given up to 120 years of warning that the Flood was coming (6:3), and we are told he was a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5) during the building, yet only "eight souls were saved" (1 Peter 3:20). Why didn't he influence more people? His faithful obedience in building a huge boat on dry land must have been both attention-getting and a source of conviction to the surrounding sinful people. We might suspect that Lamech and Methuselah espoused the same testimony, yet only the eight close family members boarded the Ark.
Since Methuselah died the same year of the Flood, some have wondered if he was likewise an unbeliever and perished in the Flood waters. Of his spiritual condition we know little, other than that he was the son of godly Enoch, and his son Lamech prophesied with spiritual insight at the birth of Noah (Genesis 5:29).
Here are a few more hints to ponder. God had promised that "the seed of the woman," Eve (3:15) would one day destroy Satan, and ever since Satan, in his hatred for God and His image in man, had schemed to thwart God's plan (4:7, 6:2). Furthermore, man thought of "only evil continually" (6:5) and "the earth |was| filled with violence through them" (6:13). If left unchecked, there soon would be no survivor of Eve remaining.
Certainly the violence took the lives of many. Animals became violent and bloodthirsty. Wars must have been rampant as man's sinful nature had full sway. Would we not be correct in assuming that the violence was directed toward believers most of all? Perhaps Noah had many more converts over the years, and the only ones left were the eight mentioned.
And this may have been what happened to Methuselah. Perhaps he was the last martyr, and when he was killed, God's patience was over. In order to preserve mankind, and in particular Eve's lineage through whom the Redeemer would one day come, God's justice was finally unleashed.
*Dr. John D. Morris is the President of the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: John D. Morris, Ph.D. 2006. How Did Methuselah Die?. Acts & Facts. 35 (12).