Genesis 5:3 When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.
“all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years …’ The incredible ages attributed to the first humans may be the effort of the final editor’s of the Bible who wrote much later in history to show how sin will shorten the life spans of people through the centuries. Proverbs 10:27 says, “The fear of the LORD prolongs life.” Adam though disobedient to the Lord still fears God when he heard God walking in the garden (Genesis 3:11). The fear of God is a holy thing not a hellish thing. The biblical text may be suggesting that as time went on people decreasingly feared the Lord, and thus the life span of all humans even of God’s chosen ones becomes shortened through history. Many scholars note however that the life spans in the bible’s chronology pale in length to what one can find in other Mideast and Asian religions where sometimes rulers are said to have lived thousands of years. In 2005 MIT’s TECHNOLOGY REVIEW offered a prize of $20,000 to any molecular biologist who could disprove the idea that humans are capable of living to be 1000 years old. This contest had nothing to do with the Bible, but was a challenge issued because of the claims of certain scientists that aging is a disease that can be cured. The scientists who judged the contest concluded that not one biogerontologist could refute the claim nor offer irrefutable scientific evidence to support their own claims that thousand year life spans were impossible. Thus by the standards of modern science, there is nothing scientific that says it is impossible to live the number of years suggested in Genesis. It perhaps is ironic that secular scientists who might reject the ages of the ancient biblical characters as myths, now in seeking “eternal youth” say that such life spans are totally possible. Of course that doesn’t answer the question of whether living such incredibly long lives would be either good or fruitful. As Ralph Waldo Emerson quipped, “What would be the use of immortality to a person who cannot use well a half an hour?” And in Genesis even though these early humans live for centuries, the totality of their lives is summed up in a sentence. They live nine hundred years and their biography can be written in 4 lines. Longevity of life is obviously not everything to the God whose revelation of truth is contained in these Scriptures.
Because numerology was popular at different times in biblical history, it is also possible the numbers had significance to the composers of the stories which are lost on us. Much speculation exists about the secret meaning of the ages of the men named in Genesis.
Adam’s death is recorded. But very unceremoniously and quite unremarkably Adam (the first human, the parentless man created directly by God, and former resident of paradise) now returns to the dust from which he was made (Genesis 3:19). Was there even a funeral of some sort? Eve’s death is not even recorded, she simply disappears into history becoming dust unnoticed by anyone and unrecorded by those inspired by God to write down His revelation in the Scriptures.
“Adam lived 930 years.” Though God had warned Adam if he disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit he would surely die in the day he ate it (Genesis 2:17), Adam lives on for 930 years according to scripture. Adam surely didn’t die in the day he ate the fruit! The text itself suggests it is not meant to be read literally. Adam’s death fulfills the warning of God, but God allowed him to live for the continuation of the human race.
Adam died. Adam’s death is actually the first “natural” death recorded in Genesis. Abel was the first human to die but he was violently murdered by his brother Cain. Lamech also boasted of murdering a unknown man. From then until the death of Adam (some 800 years according to the biblical text), no other human death was recorded. No women’s death is recorded at all – the mothers and wives of these men are given no names and no obituaries.
If one reads the genealogy carefully one realizes Adam is alive when Lamech is born – all nine generations of humans living together on earth. Adam’s death still must have come as a shock – for now it is clear that even without violence, humans will die. The first man to be born after Adam dies is Noah.
Adam had “other sons and daughters.” This is the first mention of Adam’s daughters. Biblical literalists assume Adam’s sons got their wives from his daughters and that such sibling incest was needed for the humans to fulfill the command to be fruitful and multiply. Many Christian writers assume the story is precisely a narrative talking about humanity in general but not in scientific and historic accuracy. Christian scholars also see the Adam story as symbolic and prototypical with all human beings coming from God but not all are necessarily genetic descendents of Adam and Eve.