After having been there at the Creation Museum this past week, I was greatly moved of God's mighty works which he has done. It was stated that Methuselah being 969 years old, around through Adam's time, Noah and the flood, where was he during the flood? The Bible seems to state that Noah and his wife, plus his three son's were on the ark. Why is he not mentioned if he was on the ark? If he was on the earth during the flood, he would have not lived all of his years.
To my understanding, all of the people that were on the earth and not in the ark were drowned by the flood.
Going back to Adam's time, where did Cain's wife come from? These are my unanswered questions thus far. May God Richly Bless You!
—J.W., U.S.

Great question, and I'm glad you asked. I sometimes give tours through the Creation Museum, and I pause at Methuselah to discuss him in more detail. Hopefully this will help.

Age

First, Methuselah was the oldest person recorded in the Bible who died. Of course, two others did not die: Enoch was translated without death (Genesis 5:24; Hebrews 11:5), and Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11).1 Methuselah was 969 years, older than Noah who was 950 and Adam who was 930, as well as several others whose ages approached 900. See the chart below:

Ages of the Patriarchs from Adam to Noah

  Patriarch Age Bible Reference
1 Adam 930 Genesis 5:4
2 Seth 912 Genesis 5:8
3 Enosh 905 Genesis 5:11
4 Cainan 910 Genesis 5:14
5 Mahalalel 895 Genesis 5:17
6 Jared 962 Genesis 5:20
7 Enoch 365 (translated) Genesis 5:23
8 Methuselah 969 Genesis 5:27
9 Lamech 777 Genesis 5:31
10 Noah 950 Genesis 9:29

Name

Methuselah's name makes it ironic that he would be the one who lived the longest, since his name actually contains the Hebrew word for death. The name as a whole is often signified as meaning man of the dart or man of the sword. The name may well mean more.

The Hebrew names in the Bible were often significant and have meanings behind them. For example, Peleg means "division," and Peleg lived when the earth was divided into its linguistic divisions at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 10:25). Abraham means "father of a multitude," reflecting the promise God made to Abraham (Genesis 15:5, 17:5). We could go on and on with Hebrew names that accurately describe the individuals to whom they belong.

The word muwth means "die/death" in Hebrew. The first part of Methuselah's name means "mortal". Taking meth/muth and combining it with selah, some have suggested that this signifies when the Flood will come. For example, a leading Hebrew scholar of the 1700s, Dr. John Gill said:

and that Enoch had a son, whose name was Methuselah, is affirmed by Eupolemus {r}, an Heathen writer; and Enoch being a prophet gave him this name under a spirit of prophecy, foretelling by it when the flood should be; for his name, according to Bochart {s}, signifies, "when he dies there shall be an emission," or sending forth of waters upon the earth, to destroy it. . . . [Notes by Gill: {r} Apud Euseb. Evangel. Praepar. l. 9. c. 17. p. 419. {s} Thaleg. l. 2. c. 13. col. 88. so Ainsworth.]2

He was affirming previous scholars, such as Eusebius, Samuel Bochart (French Bible scholar in the 1600s who compiled an Arabic dictionary), and Henry Ainsworth (commentator and Bible scholar [including Hebrew] of the late 1500s and early 1600s), who had said this before. Commentators Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown concur with Gill. They stated:

This name signifies, "He dieth, and the sending forth," so that Enoch gave it as prophetical of the flood. It is computed that Methuselah died in the year of that catastrophe.3

However, this interpretation that some have suggested does not come from merely the Hebrew. The transliterated name in Greek as used in Jesus's genealogy in Luke 3:37 is:

the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel, the son of Cainan,

The Greek from Μαθουσαλά or Mathousala, according to the New Testament Greek Lexicon literally means:

"when he dies, there shall be an emission"4

This is merely reiterating what previous scholars have suggested. But this definition may be why many scholars affirm that Methuselah's name means "when he dies it shall come" or "upon his death there will be a major change." Therefore, they say that this may have helped signify that the Flood would come when Methuselah died.

However a closer look at the Hebrew reveals that Methuselah's name may not mean this. Hebrew Scholar Dr. Ben Shaw at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary points out:

". . . it is extremely unlikely that the name Methuselah has the significance that Gill and others give to it. It is unlikely for the following reasons. The name is made up of two parts: Methu and shelah.
The methu part does not come from the word for death, because that would require a long u vowel between the m and the t. As it is, if this part of the name has any significance, it may come from a rare noun meaning "man." The second part of the name cannot mean "it is sent" or "there is an emission." Even supposing that the root meaning of the word is send (which is doubtful); it would have to be in a passive form, producing something like "shahluh." In order to produce the meaning, "when he dies, it is sent," the Hebrew would have to be something like bematoshahluh. Again, if the name means anything in Hebrew (which is at best doubtful), it is probably something like "man of a spear."5

So it may not be wise to continue to use Methuselah's name to mean "when he dies it shall come" or any variation of that. Regardless, the year Methuselah died was the same year as the Flood.

Enoch's Prophecy

Methuselah's father, Enoch (not Cain's oldest son, but rather Noah's great-grandfather), was said to be a prophet, and Jude recorded one phrase from him (Jude 1:14–15). There is indeed a book called the Book of Enoch floating around, though it is not inspired Scripture.

While Jude 1:14–15 quotes from the Book of Enoch (1:9), this simply means that the quote used by Jude was inspired of God as Scripture. It gives no credence to the idea that any other verse in the book of Enoch is inspired.

So, is the book we have today really from pre-Flood Enoch? This is extremely unlikely, since the book was not included in the canon of Scripture. Consider that it mentions Mt. Sinai (which didn't existed until after the Flood), and Enoch lived long before the Flood. Rarely, if ever, do prophetic works reveal the future name of a place.

But considering Enoch was a prophet, could the name he gave to Methuselah also have been prophetic? Many believe so.

The Death of Methuselah

If you match up the ages of the patriarchs, Methuselah died the same year as the Flood. See the chart below:

Patriarchs from Adam to Israel (Jacob)

Patriarchs from Adam to Israel (Jacob)6

Though some may mistakenly think Methuselah died in the Flood, this is highly unlikely. Methuselah was raised by a godly parent (Enoch) who walked with God and pleased God so that God took him away without death. In fact, Methuselah may have actually helped Noah in the construction phase of the Ark. But his death preceded the Flood.

Seven-Day Mourning Period

Some have suggested that Methuselah died immediately before the Flood. Whether this is true or not, we cannot be certain. God's instruction for Noah and His family to board the Ark seven days in advance was for several reasons (Genesis 7:1, 4, 10). Obviously, one reason was to complete the final phase of loading the animals (Genesis 7:2–9), and a second was a final test of faith for Noah and his family, the final boarding being on the seventh day (Genesis 7:11–16).

But keep in mind that it was common for prominent people to be honored with designated times of mourning after they passed (e.g., Genesis 27:41, 50:4; Deuteronomy 34:8; 2 Samuel 11:27). However, there were surely many who had mourning periods that are simply not mentioned in the Bible. In light of this, others have suggested that these seven days were also a mourning period for Methuselah. Whether this is true or not, we cannot be certain, but it would make a good "cap" to the life of Methuselah.

Fewer than Ten

With the passing of Methuselah, and the recent passing of Lamech, we pause to realize that there were not many righteous people left on earth. After all, fewer than ten people were saved on the Ark.

Consider Abraham's discussion with the Lord over the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 18:26–32). Abraham did not proceed to fewer than ten righteous people when pleading for Sodom. He may have believed that judgment would come if there were fewer than ten—perhaps a reflection of his knowledge of the Flood.

Methuselah and Lamech had recently died, and this left eight. So, judgment was coming, but the Lord also prepared a means of salvation for Noah and his family on the Ark, just as He did by sending the angels to rescue Lot and his family from Sodom.

Conclusion

Digging a little, even with someone who was only mentioned seven times in Scripture (in genealogies, no less), can enhance our understanding with some nuggets of truth. My hope is that you will be inspired to get into the Bible and learn a little more about a host of other characters. Many names appear in Scripture, even strange ones like Methuselah, but keep in mind these names are still part of the Holy Bible and profitable for understanding doctrines and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

As for your second question, you'll find an answer in this article: Cain’s Wife—Who Was She?

With kindness in Christ,
Bodie Hodge

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Footnotes

  1. Conversely, there have been several people who died twice. Lazarus (John 11:39–44), Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:49-56), and the son of a widow at Nain (Luke 7:11-15), each resuscitated by Jesus; the dead son that Elijah resuscitated through the Lord (1 Kings 17:19–24); the son of a Shunammite woman raised by Elisha through God (2 Kings 4:32–37); the unnamed man raised by the bones of Elisha, through God (2 Kings 13:21); Dorcas, also known as Tabitha, raised by Peter through God (Acts 9:36-43); and Eutychus resuscitated by Paul by God's power (Acts 20:9–12). Each of these people had to die a second time. Back
  2. Note on Genesis 5:21, in John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, adapted from Online Bible by Larry Pierce. Back
  3. Note on Genesis 5:21, in Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, adapted from Online Bible by Larry Pierce. Back
  4. New Testament Greek Lexicon as listed under Methuselah, 3103, from http://www.biblestudytools.com/search/?q=methuselah&s=References&rc=LEX&rc2=LEX+GRK. Back
  5. Taken from a personal correspondence by the author with Dr. Ben Shaw concerning the name Methuselah, July 8, 2010. Back
  6. This chart is also found in Ancient Patriarchs in Genesis. Back