Postdiluvian Timeline

When I worked on the Antediluvian Timeline, I was fascinated. But when I worked on this Postdiluvian Timeline, I was… flabbergasted. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Needless to say, it completely changed the way I read Genesis and the stories in that book. So, I invite you to go through this with me – I think it’d be worth your time.

Postdiluvian timeline

There’s no easy way to communicate all of the fascinating points observed from this exercise, so I’ll do it in bullet points. I’d also add that with the postdiluvian timeline, there’s some caveat and uncertainties in the accounting, since the data are not as explicit as the antediluvian ones. I’ll go over these uncertainties in this post. And for references too, the bulk of the data is found in Genesis 11:10-26.

  • I was fascinated to find out that 9 generations lived together for 56 years in the antediluvian period, but after the flood, there were 10 generations who lived together for 118 years! It was the sequence from Noah to Terah (Abram’s father), from year count 1878-1996. This happened because the age of humankind shortened after the flood, so while Noah and Shem still had the blessing of longevity, their offspring were starting to reproduce at younger ages. Thus, they saw more generations.
  • Actually, it may even be 11 generations (or more) living at the same time, since according to Luke 3:36, between Arphaxad and Salah, there’s Cainan. For some reason the genealogy in Genesis 11 skips Cainan (this is true in some instances of genealogies where the ‘father’ may not necessarily be the direct parent, but may actually be the grandfather or great-grandfather, etc). So here, I’m taking Gen 11:12 to mean that Salah was born when Arphaxad was 530 years, doesn’t matter whether Arphaxad was his father or grandfather. What I’m not assuming is that Arphaxad actually begat Cainan when he was 530 and we don’t know at what age Cainan begat Salah. I hope you could follow that.. (comments on this point are welcome)
  • Shem was still alive when Abram was born. Even greater yet, he was still alive when Isaac was born. Shem died when Isaac was 50 years old, some 10 years before Esau and Jacob were born, 10 years after Isaac married Rebecca.
  • Shem saw 10 generations after him, although not all living at the same time.
  • In Patriarchs and Prophets p. 125, it says “Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Shem, in unbroken line, had preserved from age to age the precious revealings of His will. The son of Terah became the inheritor of this holy trust.” This is taken to imply that Abram was instructed by Shem personally. Imagine that, to hear of God’s grace and judgment from someone who went through the flood, who saw and experienced the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures.
  • Abram was born some ~350 years after the flood, but he was instructed by someone who actually went through the flood! (This is so crazy I have to write it twice!)
  • In Gen 10-11, it is recorded that the nations were divided after the flood. So, even though these generations lived at the same time, they might not live in the same places, although of course there are possibilities of them traveling and visiting each other, as probably what happened in the case of Abram and Shem.
  • Everyone from Arphaxad to Isaac had direct interaction with at least one person who actually went through the flood.
  • Everyone from Arphaxad to Terah could hear about the flood from Noah himself!
  • This means that everyone who was born from right after the flood up until the days of Isaac was contemporary of the survivors of the flood. Imagine how ridiculous a skeptic would sound in those time periods who would deny the flood ever took place. Noah and Shem would be like, “Err..I was there.” It would be equivalent to a 21st century person saying that 9/11 didn’t happen. Basically for these people, the flood was not ancient history.
  • Noah outlived Nahor (Abram’s grandfather) by 9 years.

Postdiluvian Genealogies

  • If you put the postdiluvian timeline side by side with the postdiluvian genealogy below (click on picture), you’ll see something else that’s amazing. In Gen 23 after Sarah died, Abraham went to the children of Heth to buy a piece of land for Sarah’s burial. Sarah died when she was 127 years old, i.e., when Isaac was 37 years old, 3 years before Isaac got married (year count 2145).
  • Heth was Canaan’s son, Ham’s grandson, meaning that he was approximately contemporary of Salah, who was still alive during the time of Abram, but died before year count 2145. This means that it could very well be that when Abraham went to the children of Heth, Heth himself might still be alive, or even Caanan himself might still be alive. But what’s more likely is that Ham was still alive, since he also probably had a long life as Shem did. (Note: the descendants of Heth were called the Hittites – FYI; in Gen 26:34-35, Esau married two Hittite women and grieved his parents). I recommend using these figures when you read Genesis or even the rest of the Old Testament. It’s kinda cool to see the lineage of certain people and nations in Israel’s history.

 

Genesis Genealogy

Antediluvian and Postdiluvian Patriarchs

Now if you zoom out to see both the antediluvian and the postdiluvian timelines, you can count the degrees of separation between Adam to Abram.

Adam to Joseph Timeline

  • Adam could pass on his knowledge of God to Methuselah and Lamech, who had direct interactions with Shem for about 100 years. Shem, then passed it on to Abram, and possibly Isaac. Thus, there are only 3 degrees of separation between Adam and Abram. See why they didn’t need written records as much back then?
  • Seeing this zoomed-out version makes me realize that there’s not that many degree of separation between these guys and Moses as well, since Moses lived around 200 years after Joseph’s time (my next timeline project). This means that the assumption that the Israelites forgot everything about the true God while they were enslaved in Egypt may not be true, since these things were not ancient history for them. In fact, it may very well be that they remembered a lot of it.

As before, if you want the Excel file for these timelines, let me know and I can email it to you. There’s much more notes than what I can share in this blog entry, especially with the collection of the data. For example, the age of Terah when Abram was born is inferred from several Bible verses, so there’s some uncertainties there. The age of Jacob when Joseph was born also needed to be calculated from several time points given in multiple places in Genesis. I still have to type these out, but if you want them, I can send it to you as well.

This is the second of the Genesis Timeline and Genealogies series. Read the first here.

Antediluvian Timeline: From Adam to Noah

This is the first of the Genesis Timeline and Genealogies series. Read the second here.

How many of you, when you read Genesis 5, are just itching to draw a timeline? I love Bible genealogies, and so when I read the numbers in Genesis 5, the data are calling out to me to analyze them. The antediluvian timeline really is fascinating, and there are a lot of lessons to be gleaned from it.

The Patriarchs’ Lives

When I was younger, I’d read the chapter and because of the way it’s written, I got the impression that these people lived back-to-back, i.e., one dies before the another starts his life. For example:

“And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, and after his image; and called his name Seth: And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters: And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died. And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos: And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died. And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan.” Gen 5:3-9

Because it would describe a complete life of a person first before going to the next, the overlap is not as highlighted. But in fact, the overlap is quite remarkable, because the reality is that Adam didn’t die in verse 5; he was still alive when Lamech was born in verse 25! These overlaps paint a different picture of life back then, and here’s my version of the antediluvian timeline.

Antediluvian Timeline from Adam to Noah

This means that Genesis 5 can also be written in the following way:

Adam lived 130 years and begat Seth.

When Adam was 235, Seth begat Enos.

When Adam was 325, Enos begat Cainan.

When Adam was 395, Cainan begat Mahalaleel.

When Adam was 460, Mahalaleel begat Jared.

When Adam was 622, Jared begat Enoch.

When Adam was 687, Enoch begat Methuselah.

When Adam was 874, Methuselah begat Lamech.

When Lamech was 56, Adam died.

All the days that Adam lived were 930 years.

That’s 9 generations living at one point for 56 years!!

Here are some points of observations from the timeline:

  • Of the 10 antediluvian patriarchs, Methuselah lived the longest. He died the same year as the Flood.
  • Methuselah was also the first patriarch to see a son died. All the other patriarchs died before their sons.
  • Methuselah’s son, Lamech, died 5 years before the Flood (i.e., he did not die because of the Flood. God showed kindness to him and laid him to rest).
  • Lamech was the most short-lived patriarch out of the 10. He died at 777. Interesting number.
  • Lamech was also the only patriarch to be recorded to prophesy in Genesis 5 when he named his son, Noah. “And he called his name Noah [which means rest or comfort], saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.” Gen 5:29. It sounds like he was weary of some toil – perhaps preaching to the people around him about righteousness and God.
  • All 10 patriarchs saw the deprivation of mankind in their lifetime.
  • Methuselah saw all the patriarchs from Adam (except Enoch and Noah) died.
  • Enoch was taken up to heaven at year count 987.
  • Seth was still alive when Enoch was taken up to heaven – he was 857 years old.
  • This means that everyone from Seth to Lamech was around when Enoch was taken up to heaven.
  • This also means that only Adam had died when this happened, meaning that everyone only saw one death, and the next big thing was Enoch’s translation. What encouragement! Adam had to leave Eden, but just 57 years after he died, someone in the 7th generation made it back to heaven. It’s a message of hope to humanity.
  • Noah was born 14 years after Enoch’s translation.
  • The chapter before records the genealogy of Cain. It does not, however, contain markings of time (i.e., no age, no date of birth). The way that we can tell time is through the lineage of the righteous.

If you have any additional observations, feel free to comment!

P.S. If you want the Excel file I used to create the image, let me know and I can email it to you.

Antediluvian Guesstimate

The book of Genesis is fascinating in many ways. To a borderline geek like me, it is simply hard to not be fascinated by it. One of the things I fancy myself doing is imagining what the antediluvian world was like – both the natural world and the people who lived in that era.

The Flood

This started about two years ago when I sat in Sean Pitman’s seminars at GYC 2008 San Jose. That was the first time I heard and thought about how catastrophic the Genesis flood was. Prior to that, my conception about the flood was not much different than the one I had from primary Sabbath School class – a calm, standard, global flood. The teaching props they used in primary Sabbath School class definitely did not do justice, and they implanted a wrong picture of the story! (i.e., they should change them!)

In fact, the Bible does describe the flood in a very spectacular way, water coming from above and beneath. “The fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.” Gen 7:11. Repeatedly it says that the “waters prevailed.” That must have been quite a sight. Seeing the rugged mountains, trenches, and rocky areas that exist now, no, the earth wasn’t taking a calm bath; that flood must have been cataclysmic.

Perhaps pictures from the recent tsunami in Japan can help us understand what happens when the “waters prevailed.” That tsunami totally wiped out entire modern civilizations in hours. What used to be towns is now absolute wasteland, nothing more than mud sludge. The force of water is powerful. The natural laws that govern the dynamics of this fluid are such that no one and nothing can escape when it prevails. Now multiply what happened in Japan by however many factors to cover the entire world, plus the fact that the water of the flood prevailed many days (Gen 7), what you have is the wiping out of any kind of civilization that people might have built back then.

Basically, the world was an entirely different place before the flood.

The World Before

Humanistic anthropology has this view that ancient human societies were primitive civilizations. They couldn’t walk or cook right, much less construct buildings. I would beg to differ, by a lot, especially in the case of the antediluvian world.

Take the present condition of the world as a base line. The scientific and technological achievements of the day are, by anyone’s standard I think, quite marvelous. In the past 20 years especially, the way modern societies live have changed dramatically. Mind you, these achievements were realized by people whose life expectancies are mostly between 70-80 years and whose brain capacity usage is estimated roughly to be 10% (sure, arguments exists that this number is arbitrary, but I’ll let the neurologists debate about that). Given these two factors, maybe I can entertain you in imagining how advanced the antediluvian world was.

Longevity

Compared to how long the antediluvian people lived, the increased life expectancy in the longevity report done by National Geographic a few years ago is like noise in the data. These people lived to be 700, 800, even more than 900 years old. That’s close to a millennium! Based on the numbers alone, their advantage over the modern man is about 10 times greater. But this is actually a conservative estimate.

If you have a craft and you get 900 years to develop and improve it, imagine what you end up with at the end of your life. But this achievement will be more than the accumulative achievements of 10 modern men who live back to back (in fact, it would take many more than 10 modern men to achieve what one antediluvian man could do in his lifetime), because the effect of time on efficiency is more than one-to-one linear correspondence. What I mean by that is the following. What you can do or the increase of knowledge that you acquire in the 51st year of your craft will be more than the sum of what you achieve in the 50th year, because by this time you’ve already had 50 years of experience and wisdom under your belt. Similarly, the 50th year is more than the 49th year and so on. Basically, the 10 times longer lifetime corresponds to much more than 10 times advantage for them. I look at professors today and their achievements in the 20-30 years of their career are amazing! If they get to do research for 900 years…man…I can’t even imagine what they can do.

Another advantage of this long life is also present in the area of mentorship, apprenticeship, and the transfer of knowledge. They probably didn’t have to worry about this. They didn’t have to allocate time to do extensive training, since Adam was around when Lamech (Noah’s father) was born. That’s 9 generations coexisting at one point! Adam died when Lamech was 56 years old! (Note: the antediluvian genealogies are super fascinating – I’ll reserve it for another post). So the real transfer of knowledge between generations happens only once in about a millennium. There was very little overhead time to wait until the protégé reaches maturity and starts his development process himself.

But, for the sake of this guesstimate, I’d be conservative and take that factor of 10.

Brain capacity

The whole antediluvian world was within 10 generations from the Garden of Eden, within 10 generations from creation, 10 generations from perfection, when God said that everything was very good. Nourishments from the fruit of the Tree of Life were probably still very present in their bloodstream, and their brain capacity usage was probably very close to 100%. This would give them 10 times greater advantage to us today in numbers.

But then when we hear stories of present day geniuses whose IQ’s are way above average, those who are said to use more of their brain capacity than the average man, their intelligence, memory, calculative skills are all way above those of the normal population. There is no doubt that someone who uses 20% of their brain capacity will be more than twice smarter than someone who uses 10%. For 100% … I don’t know what to say.

But, for the sake of this guesstimate, I’d be conservative and take that factor of 10.

Multiplication

When you multiply the effects of these two factors alone, what you have is that the antediluvian world had 10 x 10 = 100x greater advantage than our society today. Mind you, these are conservative estimates. Certainly, the form of their technological development was probably radically different than ours, since frankly they probably wouldn’t need the stuffs we need now due to our physical limitations.

Other factors

On top of these two simple factors, however, they had many more other advantages than we do today. Their health was pretty much perfect (i.e., no sick days), the weather was never severe (i.e., no snow days), and their stature and physical features were far superior, to say the least. This means that their physical constraints to human activities back then were much looser. They wouldn’t need many of our machineries today to execute their work. If they built a crane to lift things up, for example, that crane would have been much taller and bigger than what we have now.  If they wanted to mine precious metals and stones from the earth, their drilling machines would have been much more powerful. If they built buildings, today’s skyscrapers were probably the standard height (they were tall people). Moreover, they were not as dispersed geographically and they spoke one language. Collaborative and synergistic efforts would have been easy and very fruitful.

Extrapolation

Basically, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that their societies could be FAR more advanced than ours. Now, all of their advantages and capacities to do right, to understand God and His character, were the same capacities to do evil. It makes you think twice when God says that the “wickedness of man was great” at the time of the flood.

Then God sent great waters to destroy all of this. Whatever it was that their society had developed could not prevail against God’s judgment; the waters prevailed. And the world was never the same again. It must have been mind-boggling for Noah to see the before and after scenes – something to ask him someday.

Closing

Congratulations for making it until the end. For more reading, see Patriarchs and Prophets, chapter 7. I think this is my nerdiest post so far. I had a lot of fun with it – hope you did too!