11 January 2014

The genealogy of Genesis 11: could Shem have met Abram, his grandson of 8 generations?

The dating of those in the genealogy of Genesis 11, including the possibility that greatgrandparents outlived their grandchildren’s children, intrigued me so much that I had to do the math. So I made a chart to find out exactly who would have outlived who. This chart is based on the assumption that no extra generations are skipped in the genealogy, which might have happened (e.g., Shem begetting (i.e., fathering) the father/ancestor of Arphaxad at 100 and not Arphaxad himself)). 

If we number the date of Arphaxad’s birth as 100, this is how the years work:
Shem begets Arphaxad (2 years after flood) + lives another 500 years
Shem dies in ‘600’
Arphaxad begets Shelah + lives another 403 years
Arphaxad dies in ‘538’
Shelah begets Eber + lives another 403 years
Shelah dies in ‘568’
Eber begets Peleg + lives another 430 years
Eber dies in ‘629’
Peleg begets Reu + lives another 209 years
Peleg dies in ‘438’
Reu begets Serug + lives another 207 years
Reu dies in ‘468’
Serug begets Nahor + lives another 200 years
Serug dies in ‘491’
Nahor begets Terah + lives another 119 years
Nahor dies in ‘439’
Terah becomes father of Abram; lives total of 205 years
Terah dies in ‘525’

On the basis of this calculation, Shem would still have been alive when Abram was born and when Nahor died. In fact, all of the first four generations outlive the next five. Only Eber outlives Shem, at least according to the numbers given. This gives a different impression (again) of Abram leaving his family – especially assuming others of the earlier generation also lived so long.

If we include Noah in the genealogy, he would have died in 448 (98 being the year that the flood ended, and he lived 350 more years after the flood). That means Peleg would have died before Noah did, despite Noah. What is more interesting is that Abram could have known Noah since Noah would still have been alive when he was born.


Anthony said...

very interesting. Sara says this could explain why the oral history was passed down so accurately.

Brenda said...

It also accounts for why everyone would know the names of their great-great- great grandparents. It does change my perspective of how one can define extended family and how it would have been possible for the earth to feel "fuller" faster than we might expect.