METHUSELAH (Heb. מְתוּשֶׁלַח), patriarch of mankind, son of enoch , father of lamech , and grandfather of noah (Gen. 5:21–25). The name has been variously explained as meaning "man of the weapon" or "man (worshiper) of (the deity) Salah." Methuselah in the genealogy of Seth (Gen. 5:2–21, P) is the counterpart of Methusael in that of Cain (4:18, J). The parallel is even more exact in the Septuagint which transcribes "Methuselah" in both instances. Methuselah according to the Bible lived 969 years, longer than any of the pre-Abrahamic fathers of the human race. Babylonian tradition attributes exaggerated longevity – tens of thousands of years – to its heroes. U. Cassuto believes that the Bible wishes to negate the fantastic figures which attribute to kings a longevity that is unnatural to human beings and that makes them godlike. Not even Methuselah attained the age of 1,000 years, a single day of the Almighty (Ps. 90:4). If the biblical story be compared with the prevailing Babylonian tradition, the many years of Methuselah seem a modest, even a short life-span. The Bible diminished the exaggerated ages attributed to people in the Ancient Near East, but still preserved the tradition of assigning extraordinary longevity to great men. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: K. Budde, Die biblische Urgeschichte (1883), 93–103; A. Ehrenzweig, in: ZAW, 38 (1919/20), 84; E.G. Kraeling, ibid., 40 (1922), 154–5; M. Tsevat, in: VT, 4 (1954), 41–49, 322; U. Cassuto, A Commentary of the Book of Exodus 1 (1961), 287.

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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