OUR LONG-LIVED ANCESTORS
This is the second of three articles, complete in themselves, which offer interesting and sometimes provocative comments on statements made in the book of Genesis. These are questions which have never ceased to interest mankind, and before his death in 1955 Wing Commander V. Matvieff, R.A.F. set out his views which are here published.
PART TWO: POST-DELUGE PERIOD
IN PART ONE we discussed the long lives and the rapid expansion of population prior to the Flood. To complete the picture, it is necessary to review the period subsequent to that event, at least to the point where lives became of a span more comparable with our own. Here, then, is a calendar drawn up on the same lines to cover the period from the Flood to the birth of Ephraim, and the death of Joseph, his father. Being in a separate issue of the magazine, it will be easy to lay Diagram 2, which appears below, side by side with Diagram I to facilitate comparison. But it must be borne in mind that, as the number of occurrences were so much closer in time, it has been necessary to double the scale to make it clear,while paper limitations preclude doubling the size of Diagram 1 to obtain a true comparison.
THE BIRTH RATE
As regards the latter period, it will be seen that Shem's first child was born within two years of the Flood, Shem being at that time 102. If he had any earlier children,
they did not survive the Flood and, having no bearing on subsequent history, are not mentioned. The next seven named generations were born within an average of 33 years of each other, as compared with 117 prior to Noah. While remembering still that the named inheritor is not necessarily the first-born, it would immediately appear that the age of puberty had been suddenly reduced to 28 per cent of the former state.
A direct result of this is the earlier and more rapid expansion of population. In this manner, the number of generations alive simultaneously increased to the amazing figure of eleven at the birth of Abram, two more than the pre-Flood record. We are amazed also to find that Noah and all his successors were alive until 48 years after the birth of Abram. Undoubtedly, the latter heard at first hand the tale of the Flood, and a description of conditions prior to the Flood, from both Noah and Shem; and through Noah a description of the Garden of Eden at only third hand. Thus the contemporary records on stone or clay tablets, subsequently incorporated by Moses into the book of Genesis, would be substantially confirmed verbally, without the material variation that occurs after many repetitions.
We must also remark the similarity in the two graphs. Towards the end of each, the rapidity of establishment of successive generations declines.
EXPECTATIONS OF LIFE
Noah lived a full span of 900 years but eight less than the average of his predecessors, and in fact outlived two of his successors. But a change in their length of life sets in, as well as in the age of puberty.
Shem, who also survived in the Ark, lived only two thirds of the former span, dyingat the age of 602.There follows a transitional period during which successive
reductions in the average life occur in steps of three. The three after Shem lasted an average of 445 years only, just under half the original span. All three outlived
the next five generations and Eber, founder of the Hebrew stock, not only lived to see the birth of Jacob, renamed Israel, but very nearly saw the birth of Jacob-
Israel's first-born, Reuben.
With Eber's son comes a further phase. Peleg, Reu and Serug averaged only 236, approximately a quarter of the initial figure. The next phase was somewhat erratic. Nahor lived just short of 150, Terah just over 200, and Abraham 175 years, averaging 172 or one fifth. Finally,Isaac, Israel and Joseph at 180, 150 and 110 respectively, averaged 146 years or one-sixth of the original expectation of life. Joseph lived only to an age still attained occasionally today, and thereafter lives were normal in accordance with our standards.
We observe, therefore, a gradual reduction in the expectations of life of mankind in the period between the Deluge and the first Children of Israel.We note also that these reductions occur in 'steps', and that each step except the first appears in groups of three. Nor must it escape our notice that there becomes apparent a most
pronounced and remarkable numerical sequence. the successive steps being approximately two-thirds, one half, one-third, onequarter, one-fifth and one-sixth of the
pre-Flood span of life,.despite some irregularities which appear in the last two stages.We are entitled to conclude, therefore, that this reduction was directed by God in accordance with His Plan, or conformed to some natural law, which is the same thing. We shall endeavour to ascertain this law in the concluding article.
How do these facts affect the repopulation of the world after the Flood? We have noted that the average expectations of life dropped in accordance with a precise pattern. We noted that from the beginning of the era, the age of puberty had dropped very considerably, though not, apparently, in proportion. We lack full evidence on this, however, as the first-born is not necessarily mentioned either before or after the Flood, and this reduction may also have been in ratio.
None of these reductions, however, would necessarily reduce the virility of these people during their prime, and the fertility of these Patriarchs appears to have been maintained to an amazing degree. Though their lives were shorter, they still lived a considerable number of fertile years which, with the earlier age of fruitfulness, combined to create new generations even more rapidly than before the Flood. As before, the Bible narrative gives up the task of enumerating their progeny, and verses 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23 and 25, etc., of Genesis chapter 11, are again content with the brief summary "and he begat sons and daughters". A denuded world was repopulated with rapidity and only these combined conditions could have permitted it.
The record gives no particulars of wives, other than Eve and those of Noah and his three sons, until the time of Abraham. There is no indication either way, though
the implications are rather that the named descendants retained monogamy before the Flood. But by Abraham's time polygamy had become recognised practice (see, for example Genesis 16:2), and had undoubtedly been so for many generations. The expansion of population increased today as between the Orient, where plurality of wives is permitted, and the Occident, where it is not, is very marked. This factor would also go far to explain the rapidity of repopulation by the Adamic stock after the Deluge.
Also, as with Adam, so with Noah; they were not the sole source of population. While the Deluge appears to have eliminated the whole of the Adamic stock (who
were probably congregated in a comparatively small area). with the exception of Noah and his family, others are known to have survived elsewhere. For instance, the pre-Adamic giants or Nephilim. referred to in Genesis 6:4 long before the Flood, are reported as still occupying the land of Canaan while Moses and the Children of Israel were in the wildemess. (Numbers 13:33)
3. THE LAST DAYS
I would ask you to Place Diagrams 1 (reproduced in the April-June issue of the ENSIGN MESSAGE) and Diagram 2 reproduced in this issue alongside each other
and compare them. It will be noticed that there is a marked similarity between them and in particular that:
(1) both started with one man and his wife and their children;
(2) on both occasions the world was to be populated or repopulated with a particular stock;
(3) in both diagrams, new generations were born with almost monotonous regularity and with rapidity as compared with the average length of their lives;
(4) in both periods, new generations so overlapped the old that no less than nine generations. in one case, and eleven in another were alive simultaneously;
(5) in both of these cases, none of the ancestors had died up to this point;
(6) thereafter, in both cases, deaths occurred in rapid succession until, during the lifetime of Noah and Israel respectively, the living generations fell to three only and
subsequently to two;
(7) a line joining the dates of births in both diagrams starts as an almost straight line and suddenly droops towards the end. Or, without drawing the line, in both diagrams the 'steps' get deeper suddenly, towards the bottom right-hand comer, showing that the birth of the son who inherited was suddenly deferred to an age in
his fathers life far beyond the normal;
(8) both eras ended by the intervention of God: the former by the Flood to eliminate accumulated evil and disease; the latter by the 'call' of Abram by God and his segregation from civilization to found a new and special race that would be His instrument in executing His Plan (Genesis 12:1).
We also note a major dissimilarity. In Diagram I, the expectation of life remained reasonably constant at an average of 907 years and 6 months (excluding Enoch, who did not die as we understand it) before the Flood. A line joining the dates of their deaths would be nearly straight. On the other hand, Diagram 2 shows a steadily decreasing life-span and these deductions occur in steps of three, until we reach a life span more consistent with our own.
Excepting this one dissimilarity, a repeating rhythm is apparent. The pattern is so clear that it must, we think, follow some natural law. There must be cause and effect - which is but another way of saying that there is evidence of the Hand of God. It behoves us, then, to ascertain the law in question, and to find an explanation for the exception.
THE GARDEN OF EDEN
Adam, as mankind before him (Genesis 1:31) was created perfect, and was, in addition, specially endowed with an inbreathing of God (Genesis 2:7). Adam was created with a special mission.Through him, Satan, who had been driven into the world (Revelation 12:7-9) subsequent to the creation of the earlier man, and the evil he had brought with him, was to be overcome, provided Adam obeyed God's commands. Adam was given free will and at some point he failed to obey. This was the 'Fall' (Genesis 3:6)
This disobedience had two immediate effects, it seems. Firstly, until then, Adam had lived on a higher plane. While possessing a physical body made of the earth, he was more spiritual than physical. By the very act of disobedience, in the twinkling of an eye, he was reduced to the purely physical. This was the actual exclusion from the Garden of Eden, for he could not, without God's help, return to his former state.
Secondly, it brought into effect God's alternative Plan, the necessity of which He had foreseen from the beginning (Revelation 13:8; Matthew 25:34). This rendered necessary a personal visit by the Second Adam, God's Own Son, and the creation of a special people to be His Instrument in the eventual restoration of the world to its former state of perfect harmony with God.
Immortality was available to Adam, but in the Fall he forfeited this and became subject to physical death (Genesis 3:19). Instead of multiplication by creation, a new and physical method of reproduction was introduced. Having fallen to the physical estate, childbirth, as for the purely physical animals and pre-Adamic man, became the order of the day (Genesis 3.16); and man had to work to live (Genesis 3:17).
The duration of Adam's residence in Eden is not indicated. In the brief Bible narrative major events follow each other in a verse or two, and one tends to regard these events in the Garden as occurring within a short period of time, a month or two, perhaps, or even less. There is nothing to support this. Adam had time to explore and name the boundaries of the Garden (Genesis 2:10-14). He had time to ascertain some at least of the geology of the area and to find gold and precious stones, and to be sufficiently impressed with their beauty to record the finds (Genesis 2:11,12). He walked and talked with God, and had time for instruction in many things, including horticulture (Genesis 2:15). He was a zoologist, and had time to see, examine and name every kind of living creature (Genesis 2:19).He had time to be lonely (Genesis 2:20).
Seth was not born until Adam was 130 years old, but Cain and Abel were born before that. These two had time to grow to manhood, and for the former to commit murder (Genesis 4:8). So also had Adam time to till the earth, and to gather flocks of sheep, in the interval between the Fall and the birth of Seth. Nevertheless, Adam could still have resided in the Garden of Eden for a hundred years or a little more.
THE DECREASING LIFE SPAN
The Fall had altered Adam's physical state but he had not ceased to be perfect to look upon. His body was free from germs, and the land was clean. Long life was
to be expected.
The hard labour of cultivating the ground (Genesis 3:19) began to wear down the body in the course of time. As an case from the labour of cultivation under difficult conditions, men turned from the first commandment God ever gave. to man, namely, that both man and beast should eat herbs, grains and fruit (Genesis 1:29-30), and became flesh-eaters. Then, to save hunting, men further descended to the domestication of animals and to keeping them in captivity to provide food. Agriculture to some extent, and the herding and butchering of animals to a greater, created refuse. Refuse in turn created bacteria and the insects that carried them. To dispose of decaying refuse, flies and other insects, carrion birds and mammals, and other creatures, developed all things we still hold in loathing. As the population increased, so these evils became aggravated.
Eventually, physical perfection became imperfection. The body, already weakened by toil and child-bearing, became subject to disease. Toil, procreation and disease took their toll on Adam. Old age became a new phenomenon, and finally Adam wore out and died in his 930th year. And so with his successors. Adam's children, grandchildren and the rest of the earlier generations were the offspring of Adam's originally healthy body and, like him, withstood the ravages of labour and disease, living for a comparable period.
But as time went on, more and more diseases developed. Children were the descendants of less healthy bodies already partially worn and diseased. Men took into their physical beings the very essence of the short-lived animals they ate, the germ of short life. The sudden and rapid succession of deaths, eliminating seven generations just before and during the life of Noah, before Shem was born, would introduce 'fear' into the nervous system, a new element to burn up the vitality and further reduce the physical defence against disease and old age. Finally, the holocaust of the Flood itself would operate to enhance this element of fear.
Thus Shem and his successors became subject to a number of elements, of ever increasing potency, which operated naturally under the law of cause and effect to
reduce the resilience of succeeding generations against toil, disease, procreation and nervous disorders. By a natural sequence life became shorter and shorter until
that mean where an equation between vital resilience and the factors reducing life was reached, when the normal span became static between 70 arid 100, subject
only to local and temporary variations of conditions.
We may conclude, therefore, that there is no reason to doubt the chronologies contained in Genesis. The long lives of our ancestors were normal, natural and in
accordance with God's laws. They were neither myth nor imagination. So, too, was the steady reduction in the length of life as recorded in the same book.
WHAT OF TODAY?
Examining the diagrams, at the end of each era we noted two factors - a falling birthrate and a reduction in the number of generations alive at anyone time. It is
noticeable that these two factors are in evidence today. Two or three centuries ago we married and bore children at 14 or 15, and it was usual to see one's great-grandchildren. Today economic factors have deferred the majority of marriages until about 25, and birth of the first-born is commonly retarded during early married life.It is not uncommon for the firstchild to be born between 35 and 40.
Unlike the birth-rate in the 16th to 19th centuries, our present birth-rate is inadequate to maintain, let alone increase, the population. Such small increase in population as the last census disclosed is attributable to two temporary factors. an acceleration of marriage and procreation during and immediately following any war, and the importation of refugees and foreign labour as the result of war. Large numbers of families have an only child or no child at all.A single child born to two parents represents a future reduction of 50 per cent in the family, and the nation is but an aggregate of families. Census statistics are causing much concem to Govemments of the Occident, in that they disclose that the Nordic or Adamic stock are rapidly becoming nations of old men and women The average age of the population of this country has recently increased enormously.
A SIGN OF THE END
Is this not a physical confirmation of other signs and portents that we are almost at the end of yet another era? That God is again about to intervene in the affairs
of men? The facts are too like our diagrams to ignore.
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