Genesis Bible Commentary: Timeline Clues
This is part 3 of a series of 6 articles on the Bible's book of Genesis.
by Rod Martin, Jr.
(I recommend you read the series of 6 articles in sequence for the greatest understanding.)
I had already established that there were many problems with the literal Genesis timeline. Some scholars suggested that Genesis was never meant to give us a usable timeline. That is a valid possibility. I decided, however, to investigate the possibility that Genesis contained a valid timeline (one matching reality), but one that could only be retrieved by finding the right clues. As with any search for answers (scientific or exegetical), humility was required. I had to let go of many preconceived notions.
A possible solution can be found near the start of Genesis 5: "Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created" (Genesis 5:2). Here, Adam is all of humanity—both male and female. Adam is the "tribe" of man. In fact, the Hebrew masculine noun, "adam," can refer to an individual or to all of humanity. And "adam" was created from "adamah" (dust of the ground, referring to Genesis 2:7).
So, the names of the patriarchs could apply to individuals and to tribes.
Do we have any justification to increase their ages with some factor? Perhaps such justification can be found in the book of "Numbers."
"After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise" (Numbers 14:34).
The factor used in the above passage was one of 365 days per year. Is this what we use?
One phrase that is used several times in Genesis is that of "the generations of." Genesis 5 starts, "This is the book of the generations of Adam."
Another repetition is found throughout Genesis 5 in the form of, "And all the days that [patriarch name] lived were [number] years: and he died."
Notice the use of "days...were...years." This seems to nudge us to use some factor. Here again, the factor seems to be 365.
Another possible factor is the length of a generation. This proves to be somewhat more difficult, because the length of a generation is not something clearly defined. The dictionary defines this merely as the length of time between the birth of the father and the birth of their first born. This could be anywhere between a dozen years and a hundred. Only the female reproductive age is more restricted, but even this is not exact.
Genesis 6:3 seems to interrupt the narrative for a commercial break. It sticks out and thus seems out of place. This calls attention to itself, but for what purpose? Genesis 6:1–2 talk of the daughters of men and the sons of God. Then, we have an interruption. After this interruption, the narrative resumes.
"And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years" (Genesis 6:3).
There have been many conflicting interpretations for the 120 years mentioned here. Could this "bookend" on the other side of the Genesis 4–5 "Tree of Life" from the Garden's "Tree of Life" (Genesis 3) be the clue we need?
It took me awhile, but finally I realized that there was one individual who lived to exactly this age—none other than the patriarch, Moses.
I found out from the associate who had loaned me the books on Kabbalah that ancient Jewish tradition held that a man's life be dedicated in thirds—the first third for his parents and their family, the second third for his wife and his own family, and the final third for spiritual pursuits.
Tradition also holds that Moses spent 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in Midian and 40 years in the service of God to bring His people out of bondage. His first born son, Gershom, was thus born around the time Moses was 40 years old—a perfect third of his life.
This is the number I used for the length of a generation.
Read the Book that Changes Everything
This book is from years of my own research into a biblical timeline compatible with those of mainstream science. I wasn't surprised that God's holy book would match his own creation (reality), but there were many surprises, including discovering through science the target of Noah's Flood -- a species which went extinct at that time.
Using "40" as the factor to multiply the ages of the patriarchs before Moses, I achieved the chart, above.
Interestingly, the date for the Flood was a veritable bullseye for the date given by Cayce—a less than 1% difference. However, the date for Adam proved to be a big disappointment.
At that time, I figured this was a fluke—my date for the Flood was merely a happy coincidence with Cayce's. I let the project sit for several weeks, figuring that, if I couldn't find another clue, I would have to junk this little research project.
Next: Magic Numbers
After shelving the project for awhile, I found another pair of clues which did far more than solve my timeline quest. They revealed new connections. See, Magic Numbers.