|Messianic Education Trust|
B'resheet/Genesis 9:29 And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years; and he died.
View whole verse and interlinear translation ...
Here, right at the close of Noah's life we find something of an abrupt end. After living for nine hundred and fifty years, he died. Simply that; no more and no less, Noah died. Not for Noah the flourish granted to Sarah's obituary, "Sarah's lifetime -- the span of Sarah's life -- came to one hundred and twenty-seven years" (B'resheet 23:1, NJPS), implying that Sarah's life - although much shorter than Noah - almost counted twice. Neither does the record of Noah's passing equal that of Avraham, "This was the total span of Avraham's life: one hundred and seventy-five years. And Avraham breathed his last, dying at a good ripe age, old and contented; and he was gathered to his kin" (25:7-8, NJPS), who - although he too lived many less years than Noah - had a life that was good and ripe, making him contented, before being gathered to his kin. Noah's impressive total of days, nine hundred and fifty years of them, ends almost - one might think - suddenly with the single Hebrew word: " and he died." No fanfare, no eulogy, no funeral notes; he died. His life just stopped.
In one sense, of course, this is exactly what we might expect. Noah was born before the flood and the lives of all the generations before the flood are reported in the same terse manner: "All the days of Methuselah came to 969 years; then he died" (5:27, NJPS); chapter five lists the whole genealogy from Adam to Noah in precisely the same apocopated way. But then again, Noah did things; Noah heard from G-d and built the ark; Noah was "a righteous man; he was blameless in his age; Noah walked with G-d" (6:9, NJPS). Doesn't he deserve a little more attention in his passing, a little more credit for a life well lived, for his obedience to G-d's instructions? His was the third longest life recorded in the Bible. Noah is the start of the cross-over period, after the flood but beforeHaShem called Avraham. Noah died ten years after the dispersion from the Tower of Babel and nearly sixty years after Avraham was born.
OvadiahSforno tells us that Noah died, "prior to the major historical event of that era, namely, the awakening of Avraham to call in the name of HaShem." In spite of his having worked with HaShem to save mankind through the flood, perhaps our text is nevertheless setting Noah firmly in the context of his fathers. Similar though his call and response may sound to that of Avraham, was he too firmly embedded in the old era? Can we hear the same comparison being drawn between Yeshua and His cousin John the Baptist? Yeshua tells the disciples that "among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than Yochanan the Immerser! Yet the one who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he!" (Matthew 11:11, CJB). John was the herald, the one who fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah - "A voice cries: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the L-RD; make straight in the desert a highway for our G-d ...'" (Isaiah 40:3, ESV) - who was "Eliyahu, whose coming was predicted" (Matthew 11:14, CJB) by the prophet: "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the L-RD comes" (Malachi 4:5, ESV), but yet, according to Yeshua, is not counted among those who respond to Yeshua in the kingdom of G-d.
There were many in the ancient world who saw life as a gigantic game of chance, with man at the bottom of the pile, used as a pawn or a plaything by fickle and capricious gods. Eliphaz, the first of Job's so-called friends to speak tries to persuade Job that "affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, but man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward" (Job 5:6-7, ESV). Qohelet, Israel's teacher of wisdom thought by some to be King Solomon, a man who ought to have known better, has a similarly dismal view of life: "For what does a man get for all his toil and longing of his heart for which he labours under the sun? For all his days, his work is pain and grief. Even at night his mind does not rest. This also is futility" (Ecclesiastes 2:22-23, TLV). Even the prophet seems to be taking a gloomy view, when he says, "The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the L-RD blows on it; surely the people are grass" (Isaiah 40:7, ESV). The Psalmist, too, seems to see mankind as insignificant when he tells G-d, "When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?" (Psalm 8:3-4, ESV). If this is all there is to life, then why bother? What does it really matter?
Firstly, we mustn't only take half of what the Bible has to say; we have to read it all - or at least the immediate context - to properly understand a part. Although Isaiah certainly did say, "The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the L-RD blows on it; surely the people are grass" (Isaiah 40:7, ESV), he immediately continued with "The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our G-d will stand forever" (v. 8, ESV). Man may come and go on the earth - all human life spans are temporary - but G-d's word, the word that gives light and life to all mankind, never fades or changes; just as G-d is for ever, His word is for ever, which is why we can trust Him as the siddur tells us, "You maintain Your faith to those asleep in the dust" (Amidah, stanza 2, G'vurot). Similarly, the Psalmist answers his own question, "What is man that You are mindful of him?" (Psalm 8:4, ESV) by pointing out that HaShem has made man only a little lower than the angels and crowned us with glory and honour: "You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas" (vv. 6-8, ESV).
So it is in the context of man's value rather then valuelessness, of his worth rather than worthlessness, that the Psalmist speaks about the days of our lives. This gives us rather a different perspective than might otherwise be expected. First of all, the Psalmist speaks to HaShem, saying, "teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12, ESV). It is by numbering our days, being aware of the passage of time rather than just mindlessly letting weeks and months rush past us in a wash of busyness, that we can receive and grow wisdom in our hearts. Time is precious, not in the rat-race "time is money" way, because each day is provided by G-d - "This is the day that the L-RD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24, ESV) - for interacting with Him and His creation and for deepening our relationship in trust and faith with Yeshua. We need to wait on Him, waiting for His presence and direction in all that we do.
Secondly, the Psalmist reminds HaShem that "Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them" (Psalm 139:16, ESV). We may struggle to appreciate that or see it as a blessing, but the Psalmist somehow understands that even before we were born, all our days - the full extent of our lives - were known and recorded by HaShem in His book. We count through them, we live them and experience them, but G-d already knows the end point: the hour and the day when He will call us home. But here's the blessing: your days were formed for you, not for me or anyone else. G-d knew you and created days for you, days that only you can live and appreciate, days to grow in grace and know Him better, days to celebrate and enjoy as His gifts to you. More, they are days to use wisely to serve Him and our fellows, to prepare for that day when He will call us to give an account of how we have used the time He has given.
Noah reached the end of his nine hundred and fifty years and died. Noah passed from this world, never to return, to judgement before the throne of G-d: "just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27, ESV). His body was buried and returned to the elements of which it was made, to fulfil G-d's word to Adam and Chava: "By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (B'resheet 3:19, ESV). But that is not the end, either for Noah or for us; our physical bodies may return to elemental dust, but our souls, the living spirits within our physical bodies, will await the return of Yeshua, as he told His disciples: "For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay each person according to what he has done" (Matthew 16:27, ESV). Yeshua echoes the prophet Daniel who reports that, "many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2, ESV).
That brings us back to wisdom again, for Daniel continues, "And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (v. 3, ESV). If we are wise, we will number our days, making the most of each one as it passes, filling it with the kingdom of G-d and allowing the Spirit to guide us. As we number our days, counting their value and worth, we touch eternity as we carry out the "good works, which G-d prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10, ESV), experiencing each moment the living presence of Yeshua as He dwells within us by His Spirit. We will become "blameless and pure children of G-d, without defect in the midst of a twisted and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the universe" (Philippians 2:15). Then instead of the bleak epithet afforded to Noah - "and he died" - we will hear the welcome of Yeshua's own lips: "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21, ESV).
Further Study: Matthew 5:14-16; 1 Corinthians 4:5
Application: Do you make the most of every day, committing it to the L-rd and listening for His voice to guide you as you work through the choices and tasks that present themselves or do you just shrug your shoulders and fritter away the time because there's always another day tomorrow? You need to speak to the Chief Horologist today to make sure that you are synchronised with His calendar and in His schedule.
Comment - 09:42 23Oct22 JS: I have often wondered why these deaths were so succinct, it has often made me think about them and especially Noah, thank you for his timeline, that was helpful. Time is so precious isn't it. As I get older I am more aware of its value and what a wonderful gift it is.
Buy your own copy of the Drash Book for Genesis/B'resheet now at Amazon US or Amazon UK.
© Jonathan Allen, 2022
|Messianic Trust Home Page||Join Weekly Email||More Weekly Drashot|
Support the work of producing this weekly commentary
|Last Year - 5782||Scripture Index||Next Year - 5784|
Your turn - what do you think of the ideas in this drash ?Like most print and online magazines, we reserve the right to edit or publish only those comments we feel are edifying in tone and content.