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I've heard that Methuselah's name was given to him by Enoch in response to a prophecy concerning the flood. Since he seems to have died in the year of the flood (according to the Masoretic and Samaritan texts), it's not surprising that interpreters would search for evidence for a deeper meaning to his (record-breaking) life. But there's very little to go on other than the meaning of his name. Here is the sum of the biblical account of his life:

When Enoch had lived 65 years, he begot Methuselah. After the birth of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years; and he begot sons and daughters. All the days of Enoch came to 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, for God took him.

When Methuselah had lived 187 years, he begot Lamech. After the birth of Lamech, Methuselah lived 782 years and begot sons and daughters. All the days of Methuselah came to 969 years; then he died.—Genesis 5:21-27 (NJPS)

The two interpretations I've seen are:

  1. "man of the dart" (or possibly "spear")
  2. "he shall send his death" or more provocatively "when he is dead it shall be sent"

See, for instance this answer, which references Gleanings from Genesis and this article, which also references Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names.

Do these definitions of the name "Methuselah" stand up and, if so, what is the significance to our interpretation of Genesis 5?

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R.S.R. Hirsch has an interesting take on the names of both antediluvian lines, referring to stages of deviation from and return to God’s will, and the attitudes of the leaders towards the hoi polloi. If I can find a copy handy I’ll write this up as a full answer, but from what I recall Hirsch translates Methuselah as “casting aside [shelaḥ] the ignoble masses [methu]”; i.e., while some in that generation were righteous, they ignored their responsibility to teach others. – J. C. Salomon Oct 10 '12 at 22:10

Long Hebrew names are made up of smaller words.

The two-letter subroot 'Meth' means death.

I believe Hirsh interprets the dead to be the 'ignoble masses' rather than unpack it from the name.

Strong sometimes interprets it to mean 'man' but most of the time in translation it is referring to a 'few men' and often to a few men who were doomed, or apparently doomed though they survive it. The words 'doomed' can often be substituted for 'men' (Meth) and still have a sensible narrative.

The vav at the beginning of a word is used for 'and' with Methushalach being a compound word we can use it as 'and' in the middle too.

The two-letter sub-root 'Shl' us used to ease-off the sandal, or to let fall some of the sheaves so that Ruth could pick them up.

The addition of the 'Ch' to the sub-root adds an emphasis or completeness in purpose which can be taken to be more of a 'thrusting' or 'sending out'. It is from this that the word SHalach takes the meaning of spear or dart.

In my opinion, 'man of the spear' is a secondary option since neither 'man' nor 'spear' are the primary meanings of the underlying sub-roots.

'Death and sent' or 'death and let-fall with purpose' best summarize the sub-roots. Sub-roots are not words. They are similar to hieroglyphic ideas such that the words made from them will contain the metaphors presented by the sub-roots.

"At his death [something] was sent' falls within the practice of interpreting sub-roots and the hieroglyphics of the letters.

But if we miss the connection, God gave us a second meaning so that those who interpret his name the other way also have a warning:

Methuselah means 'man of the spear' and since 'Cain' means 'possessor of the spear' Methuselah is parallel type to Cain as the one who brought death into the world.

So both meanings can be derived from the name, and both are fruitful in meditating upon the scriptures. It is probable that both meanings were intended by God.

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"When he is dead, it (He) shall be sent." The Old Testament points to the New Testament - the Flood destroyed the world and all who lived except for righteous Noah and his righteous family.

In Revelation the world is destroyed as Christ comes back to earth to judge mankind and the righteous are saved while the ungodly are destroyed cursing God to the end.

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Brad, Welcome to BH.SE. As you know, this site is dedicated to interpretation of scriptures. And I can see you want to do that here. But can I recommend to you a book that will help you to do well what it seems you are trying to do? namely, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sydney Greidanus. As a good expositor, you need to make a good case for your interpretation, not merely state it in two sentences. This site will help you do so, and this book will give you good principles on what makes a strong Christological interpretation. – C. Kelly Mar 1 at 3:11
Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Thank you for taking the time to share your insights. @BradBlair This doesn't show its work, which is a requirement on this site. Don't just tell us what you know, tell us how you know it. – Paul Vargas Mar 2 at 18:18

If we split the name מְתוּשֶׁלַח into two parts, we have מְתוּ+שֶׁלַח

Possibilities for מְתוּ

From Akkadian mutu meaning husband, warrior, or man.

Although מְתוּ could be related to the word for death, I would prefer the Akkadian cognate (husband, warrior, or man), especially in view of another name that shares this root in Gen 4:18: מְתוֹשָׁאֵל

This name is best understood as meaning something like “man of God” and HALOT analyzes it thus: מתוׂ + שֶׁ + אֵל

Possibilities for שֶׁלַח

There are a range of possibilities for שֶׁלַח given in HALOT, all derivatives of שלח, to send. Here are a few of them:

a. the river of the underworld which is effective as a harbinger of trouble

In Job 33:18, crossing over the שָּֽׁלַח seems to be a metaphor for dying:

He spares a person’s life from corruption, his very life from crossing over the river
(שָּֽׁלַח). (Job 33:18 NET)

b. The name of a deity (that is, the deified river of the underworld)

c. a place name

d. from שׁלח to let loose, give free rein to; or to cause water (a spring) to flow; aqueduct, canal, water channel

e. missile, javelin

Thus “man of a, b, c, d, or e” are all possibilities.

Options a, b, and d, all having something to do with water, sending forth water in the form of a river, channel, or spring, or a deity related to such, could potentially relate his name to the flood that occurred in the year of his death.

If we split מְתוּשֶׁלַח into מְתוּ+שֶׁ+לַח as HALOT does for the name מְתוֹשָׁאֵל, it should be noted that לַח is likely derived from לחח, meaning “to make moist,” also an interesting possibility.

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Septuagint 2242am Flood connects Methuselah to Menes (Men) as year 955 (167+188+600) This is Noah's year 950 (600+350) in 360-day post-Flood 600+355 = 955 when Narmer (Nar Merod or Narmer Rod) is given the name Men or Menes to replace Noah with a house of kings in Egypt. 42 kings of 42 cities, perhaps all the kings (elders) meeting with them. The 1st sole Pharaoh is Hamitic 11th dynasty, and Abram leaves Ur when he hears Shemetic 12th dynasty takes over. This is why Nimrod's death is wrongly placed as a full 950 after the Flood to retain the formula 100 after Noah until 600 after Noah. So if Methuselah is equated with Men's 955 and his Meth means Men, my learning here that meth & men means death then explains why Gilgamesh gave Noah the name Man when he turned 930 in 2040bc. BUT I came here to see the connection of Meth-Shelah to Arpaxad's son Shiloh (Shelah) who become Siva or Shiva. Peleg using Shelah's blessing in year 137 to make Reu (Chinese YU) the first human king. Year 137 is Shelah's age 100 (mistaken by Chinese as YU from 2333-2233bc) blessing Reu at age 6 in 2233bc. However, the 137 blessing by Shelah upon Reu (his 100 being 30+34+30+6) in year 137 (=2+35+30+34+30+6) is mistaken as blessing of Arpaxad upon Shelah in 137 (=2+135) because Chaldean means those who claim the stars choose kings. Which at age 6 Reu understood grandpa Shelah's math better than Peleg did, (137 Julian = 139x 360 day). SO HOW DOES METHUSELAH fit in with being Shelah (Shiloh) who selects kings. King of longevity? He that lives long is accredited with knowing how? Jesus proved this not the case by his death, and Jewish Demetrius & Eupolemus (in Jack Finegan) proves by using Melkizedek (title for any current king of right) for year 600 and 1200 as 1843bc is using Abram instead of Shem. This means while Nimrod was alive headed to age 500, that Shem indicated to be like Abram Melkizedek (though Abram died 25 years after Shem). BTW 2242am is the 13-year Mars of Hamurabi Marduk 13 years before 2256am in 1778bc, eight years before Egyptian year 600 is 2256am.

I conclude from this real-time analysis that Meth-Shelah means the death of he who had the longevity rights (whose right it is). That makes Jesus Meth-Shelah even though he was only 33, it was the death of the oldest person in existence since he was created first by God before the angels. Though he is Meth-Shiloh, it was John Baptizer who was selected to express his KNOWING the one whose right it was, (John was Shiloh knowing who was the Christ-king, it was Jesus) just as Shelah knew Reu would grow to know his astronomy and be teaching his dad Peleg. But Shelah did not define king as what Peleg did, appoint the boy elder over and above elders just because Nimrod back home in Kish was that way.

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Hello, I have a very hard time following this. Please read what we’re looking for in answers. You need to connect the dots in a way that other people can understand. Also, using some formatting to make this more clear would be an improvement. – Susan Jul 5 '15 at 23:41
The internet never ceases to amaze me. – Joshua Feb 29 at 0:59

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