All the World's a Classroom
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.
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.
- 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.
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 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.
The foundation of biblical time management.
To continue the “pillars” analogy, something I did not mention as a pillar in my previous post is God. That’s because God is not a pillar in my life; He’s the foundation. “For in him we live, and move, and have our being …” Acts 17:28. He infuses all the other things that I do.
Biblical time management builds on a platform that is radically different from any other management methods, namely a relationship with God, the solid Rock. This is the foundation on which all the other pillars stand, and naturally, the single most important factor in the whole picture.
Several things naturally ensue when we have a good foundation. First, the pillars can actually stand still, whereas if we don’t, stability is infeasible. Things can still be shaky when we have a solid foundation, but if we don’t, they can never be not shaky. Second, it buffers unexpected movements or perturbations that may take place. It means that when winds blow, the pillars won’t sway as much.
I don’t know how it works, but it does. Personal, quiet time with God is indispensable to good time management. It’s the key to sanity, really. When we ensure that this happens, when we truly experience communion with God, things simply settle. At the very least, the mind is settled and the soul is calm, and that makes a big difference.
Yet, this is more than an exchange, if at all. Meaning, I don’t spend time with God so that my pillars won’t sway. It may start that way, but something else happens in the process – I just want to be with God for who He is. It doesn’t really matter whether all other things are shaking or not; most likely they do stabilize, but that’s secondary in nature.
What’s a wonder to me is that when it comes to God, time is not a constraint; the math simply doesn’t add up. Somehow, I would have more time to do more things. For example, if I think I only have X amount of time to do 5 things, and so I crowd God out of my schedule, what usually happens is that I run out of time (i.e., X/5 amount of time to do each task, where X is a positive number, is not enough). Naturally, time’s already tight anyway. But when I add God to my schedule, like allocate more time to study His Word, pray, and remain in quietness, it may seem like the time to do the original 5 things is less (i.e., now I have X/6 instead of X/5 amount of time to do each task). As it turns out however, I would end up with not only enough time to do 6 things, I actually would have some more extra time. Go figure! It’s supernatural. Maybe God stretches out time, maybe He makes me more efficient, maybe He shapes the circumstances such that what I do in the given time suffices, or maybe it’s a combination of all of those. I don’t know.
Have I been to both ends of the spectrum? Absolutely. If anyone wants a sure recipe for life to fall apart, or bitterness, just leave God behind. I don’t recommend it. I’ve been so frazzled because I would crowd God out of my life, and I’ve been in moments where I would be amazed at the present reality, at how well things are going – “Is this for real?” These highest points correlate with the times when I’d study the Bible more than usual, typically to investigate a question or an issue. This type of search can make me not want to go to bed and so eager to wake up. It’s exhilarating and I’m a much happier person when this happens. Maybe things just don’t seem as bad when I have this kind of existence. Somehow, although my mind is more occupied even when I’m doing all the other stuffs, the results still turn out fine. Again, I don’t know how this works.
The things that are hard constraints for us are variables for God. He can shape and mold circumstances, and His hands can play with immaterial things – things that we can’t necessarily quantify. That means, when we schedule our days with this Being who sees time as an elastic material, we’re in for some crazy and mind-blowing rides.
“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Matt 6:33-34.
See if this picture sounds familiar. Your life, as it were, is a building held up by a few main pillars. These pillars are the main roles that you play in life, whether it be family, school, work, church, ministry, etc. There are times when everything is going well, the earth is stable, and you can afford to coast through your days. But if you’re like me, you wish that these pillars are firmly planted or super glued to the ground so that you don’t have to keep working to make them stand still.
Ever felt like you’re doing mental acrobatics? The pillars are swaying, each of your hand is holding a pillar, maybe one is leaning against your body, one foot stabilizing another, and the other foot on the ground. You can’t move. Because if you do, something’s going to fall, so you keep your balance ever so precariously. Or, you’re constantly running from pillar to pillar to keep them standing still, but when you let go of one, another is swaying. You run to that one, another one sways. Once you get to the end, the first one is moving again. And on and on and on… Been there?
I crack myself up every time I think of these mental images.
These scenarios are perfect recipes for burning out. You can even get burned out doing the things that you love, and out of all the good things you can do out there, the worst kind is getting burned out from ministry.
In my life, these pillars translate to, in alphabetical order, ANEW, campus ministry, family, friends, personal development, research, and Think Tank, all of which I absolutely love and don’t want to give up. Although on a day to day basis I mostly operate with the “something’s gotta give” paradigm, I still am a firm believer that you can do everything right. If everything is going right work-wise, most likely I’m not eating right, behind in laundry, haven’t done groceries in a while, etc. These are the easiest to “give.”
In fact, just until yesterday, I had no replacement for my two pairs of walking shoes, one’s 8 years old and the other’s 5 years old, that are falling apart. True story. I wear them almost everyday because they’re so comfortable, and why should I buy more? I mean, shoes are supposed to last forever right? Never thought the day would come when their soles would be torn and part of it is getting detached. Up until yesterday I was actually praying that God would keep them from falling apart, kinda like how He kept the soles of the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness. I honestly didn’t have the time to go to the store.
But, as I said, I have not given up hope that one can do everything right, especially when God has called him/her to each area that he/she has in his/her life. Hence, I want to decode the problem and see if something can be done to remediate it. I’m really brainstorming for myself here, but also for my fellow laborers in Christ. So, I think I’m going to start a series of posts on time management, things I’ve experimented with, things I’ve failed miserably at, basically, just sharing my notes. Hopefully, someone else doesn’t have to go through the experiment again.
“And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him [Moses] in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” Exodus 3:2