What was Moses' life span
"Age, dignity and responsibility are very closely related"
The biblical texts hold older people in high esteem, says Pastor Benjamin Simon-Hinkelmann. They can even be interpreted as a generation contract.
Pastor Benjamin Simon-Hinkelmann works as press spokesman for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Hanover.
Mr. Simon-Hinkelmann, when a person gets very old, one speaks of a "biblical age". What life expectancy records are set in the Bible?
BENJAMIN SIMON-HINKELMANN: Many formative figures in the Old Testament are ascribed a very old age. This expresses a special appreciation and is intended to emphasize how extraordinary their actions were. Adam was 960 years old in the creation story, Methuselah, the oldest man in the Bible, even 969. His son Lamech died comparatively young at 777 years.
These ages are of course to be understood symbolically, as life expectancy over 2,500 years ago, when many of the texts of the Old Testament were written down, was much lower than it is today. Many biblical stories describe a time that was a long time ago even for the authors of the biblical books. It is idealized as a play as a time when human life was far less physically bound than it was during the lifetime of the biblical authors.
How does that change as the Bible progresses? Does God Himself Put a Limit on Human Life Expectancy?
SIMON-HINKELMANN: Yes, even before the flood, God limited human life to 120 years and justified it with the words: "My spirit should not rule in man forever, for man is also flesh" (Genesis 6: 3). Psalm 90 then mentions a life span that perhaps most closely corresponds to our experience today: "Our life is seventy years, and when it comes up, it will be eighty years ..." (Psalm 90:10). Ultimately, this is based on the recognition that life is finite and that there are physical limits that we as humans must accept in the 21st century.
Does the Bible portray old age as a blessing or a burden?
SIMON-HINKELMANN: The biblical texts paint a realistic picture. On the one hand, they describe the complaints of old age, how the senses and powers become weaker (Ecclesiastes 12: 1-7). On the other hand, we also come across biblical figures again and again who do not allow their courage to live until old age and who take on a prominent responsibility for their people.
"Whether someone is still able to achieve something cannot simply be read from the number of years of life."
SIMON-HINKELMANN: For example Moses, about whom it is reported: “Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died. His eyes were not weak and his strength was not deteriorated ”(Deuteronomy 34: 7). To the end he directed the fortunes of his people. Or Abraham, who was already 75 years old when he moved out of his fatherland at God's command, which was just the beginning of his biblical “career”. The prophet Hannah also achieves significant things in old age: in old age and according to the evangelist Luke "about eighty-four years" (Luke 2,37), she was one of the first to announce the redemption through the baby Jesus (Luke 2,38).
So there are certain achievements and abilities in the Bible that are not necessarily reserved for boys only?
SIMON-HINKELMANN: It is very interesting that there is nowhere in the biblical stories any information about a specific age, which would be a prerequisite for assuming a prominent role. Whether someone is still able to achieve something can therefore not simply be read from the number of years of life - as little in the Bible as it is today. Older biblical figures also naturally bear responsibility for the community, for their city or their tribe. Age, dignity and responsibility are very closely related.
What can we learn today from the Bible's images of age?
SIMON-HINKELMANN: The biblical texts depict the struggles of old age, but they also hold older people in high esteem. There are a number of legal agreements in the biblical stories that we today might refer to as intergenerational contracts. It's about solidarity between young and old, about being dependent on one another, about learning from one another. In the book of Isaiah God promises us humans: "I am the same up to your old age, and I will carry you until you turn gray" (Isaiah 46: 3 + 4). It becomes very clear: life has an inestimable value and an inviolable dignity in all phases.
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