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Why Did People in the First Millennia Live for So Long?

Why Did People in the First Millennia Live for So Long?


Dear Rabbi,

Can you explain why the lifespans of the early generations were incredibly long? According to Genesis, Adam died at age 930, Noah was almost 500 when he started building the ark (not bad!), and Methuselah lived a world record 969 years. So what happened? Why don’t we live that long anymore?


The longevity of our patriarchs raises several questions. What does it feel like to hit 900? When did they have their midlife crisis? Were centenarians getting up to teenage mischief? Did parents tell their children, “Stop acting like a 40-year-old!”?

Whatever the case, the first few generations of humanity lived extremely long lives, and then after Noah’s flood we see a dramatic reduction in average lifespan—people begin to live as long as we do today.

We know that each soul that comes into the world arrives with a set of missions to fulfill. The person housing that soul is given a lifespan that is long enough to complete these missions.

The main difference between the earlier and later generations is that the first generations of humanity had large, “all-encompassing” souls. People in later generations possessed only fragments of those original souls. Those souls were broken up and shared between several individuals.

The earlier generations had big souls and long lifespans, because they had a lot of work to do. In later generations, these big souls were spread out among thousands and millions of individuals, in the form of smaller souls with less work to do, and thus shorter lifetimes to do it in.

But if, for whatever reason, a soul does not complete all the work it needs to in one lifetime, it is given more chances. A reincarnated soul is a spark of an earlier soul that comes back to earth in a new body to complete unfinished business from its previous life.

None of us know how much time we have, but we do know that we don’t have centuries. We don’t have the luxury to start building our ark when we are 500. Better start now.

Aron Moss is rabbi of the Nefesh Community in Sydney, Australia, and is a frequent contributor to
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Discussion (115)
October 5, 2015
I am aware this is wrong because them days they never had 12 months in a year so they weren't nearly 1000 years old In today's years maybe back then when they never had months.
Nicholas sizer
United Kingdom
August 4, 2015
Lot and the old man in Judges 19 were both hosts protecting their guests from evil men of their time. The similarities end there. Fortunately for Lot, his guests were angels in disguise carrying out G-d's order. Unfortunately, the old man's guest in Judges 19 was an undisciplined guy who had a hard time saying "no". Although both of these events ended in a tragic way, there are more differences than similarities. Just remember evil ways bring destruction.
Bill Balano
August 3, 2015
Judges 19 is a re-telling of, and partial misunderstanding of, the experience of the angels in Lot’s Sodom. Judges 19 is correct in locating, in effect, Lot’s Sodom in the Jezreel Valley. [Per Genesis 13: 9, Abram sojourns south of Bethel, and Lot (although leaving Bethel going east in order to turn north at the Jordan River) sojourns north of Bethel, with Lot’s Sodom being in the lush Jezreel Valley, where soft city life beckoned.] In Genesis 19, Lot reasonably fears that the angels will be mistaken for agents of Pharaoh whom the locals hate (having recently burned to the ground the Egyptian garrison at nearby Beth-Shean). So to protect these men/angels, Lot insists that the angels lodge with him that night, provided that they must be gone from Sodom at the crack of dawn the very next day. Lot does good in protecting the angels, but errs in not opposing the locals’ rebellion.
Jim Stinehart
August 2, 2015
Hello! Please, can you discuss the similarities of Lot in Sodom and Judges 19?
July 26, 2015
maybe the patriarchs of genesis did not actually live to be that old.

.....just a thought
Emanuel Akkerman
January 22, 2015
God does not control our destiny?
I'd like to make the argument that it is our individual choice what we want to do. God does not force us or want us to do anything. He just wants us to stay holly. He loves us and doesn't want to see us fall into the devils hand. He's not going to stop us from evil influence. Its our job to stay holly, its our job to get things done. To think god controls our destiny is a little disheartening. Are you saying everything you do is not your work, you didn't work hard, god made you do it? I don't believe so. God gives us free will to do what we please. He only gave us one thing, life and its our job to make something out of it. We can choose to sit down and shut up or rise to our own destiny. However, if god made Noah live longer because he wanted him to do something I believe that. But to say that he controls all souls, that he controlled noah, that noah wasn't his own soul I believe is not true. Noah learned to tap into god and gain insight from him. Something we should all thrive for.
Ben Kleschinsky
January 6, 2015
Re: Re: Counter Arguement
Based on that article, the brain and the soul are the same thing. The two things attributed to the soul. A want to connect with God and self-preservation are in the brain. If it was responding to a outside force i that is not physical, then it should be detected by better equipment. It also doesn't explain How you (or anyone from any religion for that matter) know this? A claim stated without evidence can be refuted without evidence.
Eli Asarch
January 5, 2015
To Eli Asarch. I'm sorry, I must not have made myself clear. When I said Barney Asarch taught in the English department, I meant he taught secular, as opposed to Jewish subjects. I had him as a teacher in a yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY.
Murray A. Gewirtz
Brooklyn, NY
December 26, 2014
Re: Counter Arguement
The body and soul are meant to work in tandem. The body and "brain" are a receptacle for the soul. So while it is true that with a damaged brain one is limited. It is also true, that if you have a perfect and complete brain, if it isn't "alive" then it cannot do anything either. In short, the body needs the soul, and the soul needs the body. For more on what the soul is see What is a Soul?
Yehuda Shurpin for
December 25, 2014
re: Murray A. Gerwirtz
To Murray A. Gerwirtz. No, my family moved from Russia to the USA in the early 1900s and never came to England.
Eli Asarch