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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?

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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?

Answer:

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 Chabad.org.
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Discussion (120)
December 25, 2015
The decline in ages from Adam to Noah and then to Abraham fits a biological decay curve almost perfectly. Why do any of us age? Because over time we accumulate mutations as our cells divide. As we accumulate mutations the cells are less able to carry out their function. We are at a disadvantage that Adam and those early generations did not have: we start off with mutations that we inherit from both are parents, Adam and Eve were created perfect without mutations. After they were placed under the curse their bodies slowly accumulated mutations resulting in death. Imagine needing to pass a physics exam and you were given a physics textbook to study from and if you studies the textbook perfectly you could in theory receive a passing grade of 100%. Now, let's say the class in the following semester is only allowed to receive a copy of the original textbook, but everytime you copy the textbook about 5 to 10% on the information will be loss. After enough information loss, genetic meltdown is
Rudy
December 23, 2015
I have been following this for quite some time and I am inclined to agree somewhat with Anonymous of Earth that because Adam and Eve were the first created they were created more perfect and lived a wonderful life until they fell into sin and then things began to change. So it is possible for those who were created more towards the beginning to be made more perfect and could live longer then those who came generations later. While the calendars did change slightly it would not have come to a few hundred years different. Yet numbers did have a different meaning back then and were often placed in writings to show a religious significance. So perhaps this might have been part of their reasoning as well. In those days years meant wisdom; our society today does not give older people the respect of years in the same way anymore.
Midget01
La Porte
December 21, 2015
You guys were so funny without even trying. You really made my day. Thanks a lot.
Bill Balano
Toronto
December 20, 2015
When did the shoes transform into pants?
Murray A Gewirtz
BROOKLYN
December 19, 2015
Adam/Eve were created perfect. Perfect bodies, hearts, health, etc. With the inability to get sick or suffer old age. They were not going to die...that is, until they sinned. After that, the perfection disappeared and theu began to age/suffer sickness/etc. The reason people lived so long back then Adam, his children, etc, is because they weresi close to perfection.... having those perfect genes.

It's like buying a new pair of shoes. When you first where them they're clean and new, let's say you give them to your son, and he to his son, etc. Eventually the pants won't look new anymore, but instead they become worn.
Anonymous
Earth
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
Toronto
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?
Leo
July 26, 2015
maybe the patriarchs of genesis did not actually live to be that old.


.....just a thought
Emanuel Akkerman
Iseral