Why did people in the Bible live so much longer than we do today?

Anyone reading through the book of Genesis will soon notice people lived a whole lot longer than they do now. A little math in Genesis 5 will reveal that Adam died at the age of 930. His son Seth lived to be 912. Methusaleh died at the age of 969. All but three of the first ten patriarchs lived over 900 years. After Noah’s flood human lifespans dropped dramatically. The first death recorded after the flood is of a man 239 years old. For the next several generations, most of the men lived 175-250 years. By the time of Moses, the recorded life spans were much closer to our own. After Moses no generation had an average life span significantly longer than those of modern man. For the first quarter of human history, man appears to have averaged a life span of nearly 1,000 years. (Genesis 5) Over the next 1,500 years man appears to have averaged a life span of around 200 years. (Genesis 11) Throughout the second half of human history, up to today, the life span seems to average around 70 years. Why the changes? What happened to man?

The Bible does not give us any definite answer to this question, so we are left with speculation. It seems that two things are the primary factors in the incredible decrease in human life span. First is the destructive effect of sin on the world and the human body. When man sinned he immediately fell under the penalty of death. Man was separated from God who is the only source life. (Genesis 3:8) This separation from God results in physical death. (Genesis 3:19) Not only did man’s sin bring death, it also brought a curse upon the entire world. As man moved farther and farther from God, the effects of sin upon his life would have become more and more pronounced. Romans 8:22 says, “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together.” All creation is in agony because of sin. The human body has been devastated by sin and the effects continue to wreck our health and strength today.

The agony of sin’s curse includes an environment that is inimical to human life. The other factor in man’s shortened lifespan is the radical changes in the world after the flood. We do not know for certain anything about the world before the flood, but we can be confident that the world immediately after the flood was a world ravaged. The living conditions after the flood were much less conducive to life than those pre-flood. To add to the harsh conditions of the flood shattered world, at the tower of Babel the language of mankind was confused and population scattered. The population became divided in small groups and driven by God out of the area, isolating pockets of people from the rest of humanity. The difficult conditions brought about by man’s continued rebellion against God would have horribly diminished man’s life.

All speculation aside, we know that death is the result of sin. No matter how long men may live, death is inevitable. Death is not the result of errors creeping into our DNA, or certain proteins no longer working properly. Death is the result of man’s separation from God. Only reconciliation to God through the forgiveness of Jesus will remove the spectre of death and give men eternal life.