Knowing when a Bible character lived helps readers understand their social context, personal challenges, and faith in God. For example, knowing when Abraham was born and died is important to his story. The same is true for Moses, Joshua, Ruth, David, Solomon, Esther, Jesus, and Paul. Yet Noah lived before these biblical figures, leading to unique issues for constructing a timeline of his life.
Noah lived three to five thousand years ago. According to Genesis 5, he was born ten generations after Adam. Noah’s grandfather was Methuselah, and his great-grandfather was Enoch. He lived after Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, yet before the Tower of Babel and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
How does Genesis address Noah’s age in relation to the creation account? Why does the flood story use Noah’s age to mark time? What is Noah’s legacy in the Bible according to the New Testament? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and more.
Calculating the year of Noah’s birth
The first section of Genesis (Ch. 1-11) contains multiple genealogies that help readers understand the history of God’s people. Not all the genealogies in the Bible provide the age that each person listed was born and when they died, but the one in Genesis 5 does. The ages it records help scholars make certain estimations.
What information does Genesis 5 give readers about Noah?
Genesis 5 records a genealogy that lists the names and ages of Noah’s ancestors dating back to Adam (see table below). Using the numbers in the passage, readers can calculate the year of Noah’s birth in relation to creation and the other patriarchs. This method assumes there are no gaps in the genealogy, which some Genesis scholars, even conservative ones, don’t think is true.
What are “gaps” in a genealogy?
Scholars disagree on if the genealogy in Genesis 5 includes “gaps,” which means that the list skips multiple generations, maybe even hundreds. Thus, some contend that there may be gaps of thousands of years between certain names, making it nearly impossible to know the exact dates of certain events related to Noah. Those who believe there aren’t gaps simply add up the dates in the list.
|Name||Birth Year||Death Year|
*Genesis 5:24 teaches that Enoch never physically died but was taken to heaven: “Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him” (ESV).
This dating method also contends that the “days” in the creation account of the first chapter of Genesis are seven consecutive 24-hour periods. If the creation account is poetically describing a process of millions of years, then the method of calculating the ages of the patriarchs, like Noah (mentioned above), wouldn’t be reliable.
The flood uses Noah’s age to mark time
The flood story uses the life of Noah to count time. While this dating method gives readers insight into Noah’s age at the time of the flood, it doesn’t help readers pinpoint the century or even the millennium in which Noah lived and died.
|Event||References||Year, Month, Day|
|God announces the flood||7:4||600, 2, 10|
|The flood starts||7:11||600, 2, 17|
|Last 40 days||7:12||600, 3, 27|
|The waters recede||8:4||600, 7, 17|
|The mountain peaks appear||8:5||600, 10, 1|
|Noah sends the raven||8:6||600, 11, 10|
|Noah sends the dove for a 2nd time||8:10||600, 11, 24|
|Noah sends the dove for a 3rd time||8:12||600, 12, 1|
|The flood waters dry up||8:13||601, 1, 1|
|Noah exits the ark||8:14||601, 2, 27|
When did Noah die?
The story of Noah continues in Genesis after the flood waters subside. First, God establishes a covenant with Noah (Gen. 8:20-9:17). Second, readers learn more about him and his sons, including a disastrous scene that reveals that God didn’t save the family because they were sinless but because he was gracious to them because of Noah’s faith (Gen. 9:18-29).
The passage ends with a report of Noah’s death. “After the flood Noah lived 350 years. All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died” (Gen. 9:28-29).
|Adam||5:5||Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.|
|Seth||5:8||Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died.|
|Enosh||5:11||Thus all the days of Enosh were 905 years, and he died.|
|Kenan||5:14||Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died.|
|Mahalalel||5:17||Thus all the days of Mahalalel were 895 years, and he died.|
|Jared||5:20||Thus all the days of Jared were 962 years, and he died.|
|Enoch||5:23-24||Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. Enoch walked with God, and he was not,c for God took him.|
|Methuselah||5:27||Thus all the days of Methuselah were 969 years, and he died.|
|Lamech||5:31||Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.|
|Noah||9:29||All the days of Noah were 950 years, and he died.|
What is Noah’s legacy?
The New Testament includes eight references to Noah. Jesus himself mentioned the patriarch, as did Peter. The references to Noah reflect on the wicked time in which he lived (Gen. 6:5), his righteousness, and his relationship with God (Gen. 6:9).
- Matthew 24:37, “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
- Matthew 24:38, “For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark”
- Luke 3:36, “the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech”
- Luke 17:26, “Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man.”
- Luke 17:27, “They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.”
- Hebrews 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
- 1 Peter 3:20, “because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water”
- 2 Peter 2:5, “if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly”
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