For many people, all that is known about Methuselah is that he lived before the flood and he lived longer than any other man, 969 years. No other descendants of Adam lived that long. The name Methuselah has come to mean something that is very long-lived, very old or ancient. Let’s review several facts about Methuselah.
Methuselah was the eighth generation from Adam (Genesis 5).
Methuselah was born when the world was still young, less than 700 years since creation.
Methuselah was very well acquainted with both Adam and Eve. He was 243 years old when Adam died, so his grandchildren were able to hear the story of creation and the fall from Adam himself.
Methuselah was the son of Enoch who was a prophet and one of the most holy men who ever lived. In Jude 14 and 15, it says, “Now Enoch, the seventh from Adam, prophesied about these men also, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all those harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’ ” Growing up in a godly home, Methuselah was one of the leaders in God’s work during his lifetime.
At the time his father was translated (taken to heaven), Methuselah was 300 years old. If you do a little arithmetic, you will find that Enoch was translated just 57 years after Adam died.
Because of his long life, Methuselah witnessed many things during his lifetime. When he was about 369 years old, Noah was born. Though he had many grandchildren, the only one that we know the name of is Noah. In Genesis 5:25, 26 it says, “Methuselah lived one hundred and eighty-seven years, and begot Lamech. After he begot Lamech, Methuselah lived seven hundred and eighty-two years, and had sons and daughters.” Even if he did not father sons or daughters during the last 300 years of his life, he could have had a lot of children in three or four hundred years. In those days when men lived such a long time, the families were very large. His sons and daughters got married, had children, and became a multitude of people. That was Noah’s generation.
When Methuselah was 849 years old, God told Noah there was going to be a flood in 120 years. This was not news for Methuselah who had known for over 500 years that there was going to be a flood; he just did not know the exact date until Noah told him. In Patriarchs and Prophets, 85 we are told that, “Through holy angels God revealed to Enoch [his father] His purpose to destroy the world by a flood, and He also opened more fully to him the plan of redemption. By the spirit of prophecy He carried him down through the generations that should live after the Flood, and showed him the great events connected with the second coming of Christ.” Over 500 years before, Enoch declared the prophecy that the Lord was going to come in judgment and that He would no longer put up with what they were doing (Jude 14).
Methuselah was the first man on record to go to the funeral of his own son who died of natural causes while the father was still alive. His son Lamech died when he was 964 years of age. Very few men have lived a sadder life than Methuselah.
A few other interesting facts about Methuselah are:
- He was a gospel worker and spoke of the coming Redeemer. He was one of the most renowned gospel preachers and leaders of God’s faithful people in those days. He was a preacher of righteousness. See Christ’s Object Lessons, 126.
- Methuselah aided Noah in building the ark. Somebody might ask, “Then why didn’t he get on the ark?” He died in the very year of the flood. The flood occurred 1,656 years after creation and that was the very year that Methuselah died. See Patriarchs and Prophets, 92.
- Ellen White tells us that Methuselah aided Noah in warning the antediluvians. He told them the present truth that there was going to be a flood and they needed to get into the ark. See Ibid. “This hope of redemption through the advent of the Son of God as Saviour and King, has never become extinct in the hearts of men. From the beginning there have been some whose faith has reached out beyond the shadows of the present to the realities of the future. Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—through these and other worthies the Lord has preserved the precious revealings of His will.” Prophets and Kings, 682, 683.
Methuselah’s many grandchildren could easily have been numbered in the hundreds and were contemporaries of Noah. We often do not realize that many of the people who heard Noah preach were his own relatives, the grandchildren of Methuselah. Usually, when we think about the flood we think about the descendants of Cain, who would have been in the great majority. Cain was Adam’s oldest son, and he was probably already married and having children before Seth was born, creating a generation jump between the two brothers.
In Patriarchs and Prophets, 90–104, Ellen White says this about the descendants of Cain:
- God’s bounties were used to glorify themselves in constructing fabulous, beautiful habitations and they vied with one another as to who could build the most beautiful houses.
- They reveled in scenes of pleasure.
- They reveled in scenes of wickedness.
- This is astonishing, being so close to creation, but the descendants of Cain denied the existence of God, even when Methuselah was right there among them and could tell them how the world came into existence. The Garden of Eden was also still on earth until the flood.
- Nature was adored and worshiped.
- Human genius was glorified. There were many geniuses and very skillful people.
- The descendants of Cain all became idolaters and were involved in sensual worship.
- Creatures were worshiped in place of God.
- As a consequence of idolatry, the understanding of the character of God was lost.
- Every conceivable sin was committed. Justice was trampled in the dust, and there were people who were oppressed, crying out to heaven for vengeance upon their persecutors.
- Polygamy was freely practiced.
- The rights of neither the marriage relation nor property were regarded.
- The descendants of Cain were flesh-food eaters. Flesh food did not start after the flood. The descendants of Cain were flesh-food eaters, although God had never given permission to the human race to eat flesh food before the flood.
- The descendants of Cain had no respect for life.
As mentioned previously, Methuselah’s father was Enoch.
Enoch lived apart, but: “He [Enoch] did not make his abode with the wicked. … He placed himself and his family where the atmosphere would be as pure as possible. Then at times he went forth to the inhabitants of the world with his God-given message. Every visit he made to the world was painful to him. He saw and understood something of the leprosy of sin. After proclaiming his message, he always took back with him to his place of retirement some who had received the warning. Some of these became overcomers and died before the Flood came. But some had lived so long in the corrupting influence of sin that they could not endure righteousness.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1088.
Methuselah was Enoch’s oldest son and, as the custom was in those days, when the father died, the oldest son took the place of the father as the spiritual leader of the family. After Enoch was translated, Methuselah became the spiritual leader of the movement that Enoch had started. Methuselah himself was a righteous and holy man. He was a religious leader and teacher. Therefore, we would expect that at least some of his grandchildren would be God-fearing.
Remember, those who had accepted Enoch’s message came out. The word church comes from the Greek word ecclesia, and that word means called out.
Enoch called the people out from these wicked cities. In other words, Enoch started what we would call today a revival and reformation movement or a home church movement. The sad part of the story is that Methuselah lived to see the complete collapse of the home church movement that his father had started. What would have made this development intensely painful for Methuselah was that a large number of those who backslid into worldly living were his own grandchildren.
The church is the people called out by God. Enoch called out people. Jesus called out people. They were called out of the evil of the world. Christianity is calling people out from the evil of the world today, and the people who choose to come out compose the church. Only one or two of Methuselah’s grandchildren were saved in the ark. The rest of them drowned in the flood, right along with the descendants of Cain. It was awful that the descendants of Cain drowned, but it is even more awful when you think of the fact that these people, the descendants of Methuselah, had come from a holy line. Their great-grandfather was Enoch; Methuselah was their grandfather, and he was a holy man. These people had been taught the truth, and they had, at one time, believed the truth. There were many who at first, when called out, received the warning. What happened?
In chapter 7 of Patriarchs and Prophets, Ellen White gives descriptions about these very people. Methuselah’s grandchildren, the great-grandchildren of Enoch, had been part of a revival and reformation movement. These were the people who had been called out and had been in the church. They had been living holy lives and were not part of the evil of the world. Yet, except for Noah and his wife, they all drowned in the flood. About these people who at first received the warning, she says:
- Their faith was tested.
- They did not have a true repentance.
- They were unwilling to renounce their sins. In other words, they were not willing to quit all sin.
- They failed to endure the trial or test, which is very similar to number one.
Point number one says their faith was tested. Point number four was that they did not endure the test. What does it mean to have your faith tested? Has your faith been tested of late? How is a person’s faith tested? These people believed that the flood was coming in just a little over a hundred years. They had a hundred years to have their faith tested, and by the time the flood came, they had all failed.
There are two very common ways that, I believe, faith is tested. The descendants of Cain, who were the largest part of the world’s population, opposed their faith, but that was not the biggest test. Their faith was tested by intermarriage. The descendants of Seth intermarried the descendants of Cain (Genesis 6) resulting in one of the reasons for the flood. Eventually the grandchildren of Methuselah were drawn in and their faith was tested, not so much by the descendants of Cain but by the other descendants of Seth, the other grandchildren of Methuselah.
Their faith was not tested as much by the people out in the world but by the people in the church. After intermarriage, the situation in the church changed; what people originally had thought was wrong, they no longer thought it wrong. Their standard of morality changed. Ellen White said they did not have true repentance; they were unwilling to renounce their sins, and they were not willing to quit all sin. If there is any sin in your life that you are not willing to give up, you are in the same situation as Methuselah’s grandchildren. These people believed a flood was coming and started to get ready for it, but before it started to rain, they were not ready to enter the ark. They were overcome by the prevailing unbelief and finally joined their former associates in rejecting the message. The standard of morality was lowered. Human beings are social creatures and do not like to live alone. They want to be with a group and to be accepted by the group. The devil knows too well how to use that principle, and Methuselah’s grandchildren were overcome with the prevailing unbelief by finally joining their former associates in rejecting the message.
There was a lot of opposition and social pressure on these people. “Some were deeply convicted, and would have heeded the words of warning; but there were so many to jest and ridicule, that they partook of the same spirit, resisted the invitations of mercy, and were soon among the boldest and most defiant scoffers; for none are so reckless and go to such lengths in sin as do those who have once had light, but have resisted the convicting Spirit of God.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 95. Notice, these are people in the church. These are not the descendants of Cain. These are the people who once had light but drifted away from it.
Some of them were worshipping God with idols and “they ceased to realize the holiness of His character, or the sacred, unchanging nature of His requirements.” Ibid., 96. They did not realize that His law could not be changed. “As sin became general, it appeared less and less sinful, and they finally declared divine law was no longer in force.” Ibid., 95. Sin became so prevalent everywhere in the world, including the church, that, finally, it did not look so bad anymore. As sin became general, it appeared less and less sinful, until they finally declared that the Divine law was no longer in force. They believed it was contrary to the character of God to punish transgression, so they thought Noah’s message was just a delusion.
- More confidence was placed in science than in the Word of God. One of the biggest problems we have today is that there are people who have more confidence in science than in the Word of God. This is one of the reasons why the gospel in general is so unsuccessful with highly educated people.
- Some of the things they said were:
- “It has never rained.” That was true!
- “God protected Cain after he (Cain) killed Abel.”
- “God put a mark on him and would not let anybody kill him. Would God kill the whole world? He would not even let anybody kill Cain.”
- “God only does good. God never does evil.”
- “God is in the salvation business, not in the destruction business.”
- “Have you ever thought of the fact that there is not enough water in the whole world to cause a worldwide flood?”
- “Do you not know, we have talked to Adam?” Some of the older ones had. “We have talked to Seth. Don’t you know that God is a God of love? God is not a God to just destroy everything that He made.”
Hitler understood this. If you tell somebody something enough times, they will believe it. That is why the educated people believe in evolution, because they have been told about it ever since they were little children in school. They have heard it thousands of times, seen it thousands of times on television, and read it in books. That is one of the reasons we need to have Christian schools.
They talked about all these things among themselves over and over until they believed them, and they said, “Noah is deluded.” There were probably some people who said, “If God was going to do something like that, He would not tell just one person. He would not tell some woman who had only a second or third grade education. He would tell more people than that.” Have you ever heard that argument?
- Another thing that got them Jesus mentioned in Luke 17. It was a time of intense worldliness. John said that they are of the world, and they talk about the world. Our speech is about God. A person who is of God listens to us. We have different things to talk about (1 John 4:5, 6). Ellen White says they continued their festivities and their gluttonous feast. They ate and drank, planted and built and laid their plans in reference to advantages they hoped to gain in the future; they went to greater lengths in wickedness. See Patriachs and Prophets, 97.
Remember, this is not referring to the descendants of Cain, but to Methuselah’s grandchildren. They became hardened by persistent rejection of light so that the truth only made a momentary impression. By the way, is there any spiritual light that you have but that you have not accepted? Are you not living up to what you know is right? If you know something is right and you are not doing it, your heart will become hardened.
There are several lessons we should learn from Methuselah’s grandchildren.
First lesson: Will your faith endure the opposition of family and friends who go back from where they were? Notice what Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’ He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” Matthew 10:34–38.
That was the situation in which Methuselah was. He had to watch a few of his children, his grandchildren, and the entire revival and reformation movement that Enoch had started collapse. It must have been intensely sad and painful. He had to walk alone. Noah walked alone!
Second lesson: Have you decided to renounce all sin or has the devil convinced you that it is impossible? That is what the devil has been trying to do for thousands of years. One of the things God intended to teach the world by translating Enoch was to show that His law could be kept and he did do it. The devil is still trying to convince people of this lie. The apostle John said, “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.” I John 3:7–10.
Third lesson: Would you remain faithful to the truth if your church family, your children, and your grandchildren went back out into the world? That is exactly what Methuselah had to do. I want to tell you something encouraging. I do not know how many people I have met who have said something to the effect, “Well, if my children are not going to be in heaven, I do not want to go either.” They will not be there either, as we read in Matthew 10. Jesus said that if you do not love Him more than son or daughter, more than father or mother, you are not worthy of Him and are not going to heaven (verse 37). But, there is some good news. Though, like many families today, Methuselah’s family was fractured, God is going to put his family back together. His immediate grandchildren are not going to be saved because Jesus said that a man’s foes or enemies would be those of his own household (Matthew 10:36). But someday his family will be put back together again and you may be part of it.
Isaiah says, “ ‘Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.’ ” Isaiah 54:1–3.
This is talking about all the people who are in Methuselah’s situation. He lost his whole family except for Noah and his wife. He lost nearly everything. In the Kingdom of Heaven there will be people from all ages who have come from this kind of a situation. Their families have been absolutely fractured and shattered because many members of their families went into sin, would not accept the gospel, and are going to be destroyed. But God is going to put the families of these fractured people who are saved back together again.
Does sin not appear sinful anymore to you because you have seen it so much? Remember Methuselah’s grandchildren. The natural law of the mind is that by beholding we become changed. Examine carefully the things you are reading, what you are looking at, and to what you are listening. Never forget that what you are doing in your spare time could determine your eternal destiny.
We have been called out of the world. We have to live in the world, but we do not need to be part of the evil of this world. However, if we are looking at it, watching it, and listening to it, it is going to have an effect on us that eventually we will not think it is so bad, and we will lose our soul.
Remember Methuselah’s grandchildren!
[Bible texts quoted are NKJV translation.]
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316–788–5559.