For most generations of Genesis, years of lives can be found; the exceptions are those in the middle, those of Shem through Nahor.

Adam through Noah have lifetimes noted (Gen 5:3 – 31, 9:29). Next, those from Shem through Abraham’s grandfather Nahor don’t (Gen 11:11 – 25). Finally from Gen 11:26 – 50:26, extents of lifetimes from Abraham’s father Terah through Joseph can be found.

Why might that be?

Note: While one explanation might have been that different authors give different notes, Nahor and Terah are right next to each other. While one has his lifetime noted the other doesn’t.

  • So, as an example, we have "When Shem was 100 years old, he fathered Arpachshad two years after the flood. And Shem lived after he fathered Arpachshad 500 years and had other sonds and daughters" (ESV Genesis 11:11-12), and the question is why there isn't a "Thus all the days of Shem were 600 years, and he died" afterward? – Dennis Meng Jan 9 '14 at 5:31
  • Yes. While the totals of lifetimes/lives are given for everyone else, they are not given from Shem through Nahor. Then these are given for Nahor's son Terah through Joseph. – John Martin Jan 9 '14 at 12:20
  • @Dennis Meng I noticed that while the extents of lives/lifetimes aren't shown for every generation, we can determine every parenthood (i.e. the fathers', along with Sarah'). I think the Genesis authors are focusing more on parenthood that extents of lives. What do you think? – John Martin Feb 13 '14 at 12:39
  • That wouldn't surprise me – Dennis Meng Feb 13 '14 at 16:31

In my research on the use of numerology in Genesis, I found:

  • Shem is given as living 600 years
  • Arphaxad lived 438 years - 35 years before the birth of Salah (11:12) and 403 after (11:13)
  • Salah lived 433 years - 30 years before the birth of Eber and 403 years after (11:14-15).
  • Eber lived 464 years - 34 years before the birth of Peleg and 430 years after (11:16-17).
  • Peleg lived 239 years before the birth of Reu and 209 years after (11:18-19)
  • Reu lived 239 years - 32 years before the birth of Serug and 207 years after (11:20-21).
  • Serug lived 230 years - 30 years before the birth of Nahor and 200 years after (11:22-23).
  • Nahor lived 148 years - 29 years before the birth of Terah and 119 years after (11:24-25)
  • Terah lived 205 years (11:32).

Note that another Nahor is the brother of Abram. He is not given an age, as Genesis focusses on the major genealogy.

The dramatic change in style, including the lack of explicit ages, for a contiguous sequence of persons who fill the gap between the participants in the Noah story and the participants in the Patriarchs story, suggests to me that these originate with a different tradition, even if the writer/scribe is the same as that preceding and that following.

  • Sure, but the question wasn't "how long did each of them live," it was touching on why the passage didn't explicitly state the span of each patriarch's life (rather than just the time before son's birth and the time after) – Dennis Meng Feb 24 '14 at 6:59
  • Dennis, I took the liberty of answering your question by added a paragraph at the end of my original answer. – Dick Harfield Apr 2 '14 at 4:12

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