How Old Was Moses When He Died: Why Did People Live So Long In The Old Testament?

People would stare at you if you revealed that someone you liked lived to be a ripe old age of 120. “Wow, they lived an extraordinarily long life here on earth,” someone would remark.

However, If you told someone in the Old Testament that Moses lived for 120 years and they responded that he passed away too soon, He passes away with his freshness and eyes unfading (Deuteronomy 34:7).

While Isaac and other biblical characters may have aged and become blind, Moses dies with his sight unimpaired and seems like he could have lived for many more years, if not decades.

So why does God permit Moses to pass away too soon? Did Moses commit a sin that caused him to pass away so soon? We will go into these issues and others.

Moses Life Timeline

Moses had a unique existence. God made a method for Moses to grow up in safety, despite the fact that a Hebrew lady gave birth to him and that Pharaoh had ordered the Egyptians to kill any male Hebrew babies.

He is discovered in the Nile by an Egyptian princess, who has Moses’ mother care for him during his early years and raises him as her own (Exodus 2).

He lives in Egypt as royalty for 40 years before killing an Egyptian due to the mistreatment of a Hebrew slave. He flees into the bush, finds his wife in Midian, and makes his home there for an additional 40 years (Exodus 2).

God appears to him in the form of a burning bush when he is 80 years old, instructing him to travel to Egypt and request that Pharaoh release his people (Exodus 3).

How Old Was Moses When He Died

For those of us who are familiar with Moses’ narrative, he returns to Egypt, and as a result of their failure to release the Hebrews, 10 plagues devastate Egypt. The Egyptians released them following the tenth plague, then changed their minds and pursued them across the Red Sea (which collapses on the Egyptians).

The Israelites are now free from Egypt and are traveling to the promised land. On Mount Sinai, Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, a set of guidelines to follow, on this journey (Exodus 19).

However, God forbids a large portion of Israel from accessing the promised land as a result of their celebration of idols, constant whining, and disobedience, and they roam the desert for 40 years, Moses included.

At the age of 120, Moses passes away before the Israelites get to the promised land.

Why Did People Live So Long In The Old Testament?

We may have noted that many people lived exceptionally long lives before the deluge. Methuselah lives for 969 years before passing away just prior to the Flood. Moses appears to live to be 120 years old, however, it appears that he could have lived for much longer.

But doesn’t the Bible claim that after the deluge, humans won’t survive past the age of 120?

Genesis 6:3 states that after seeing man’s wickedness, God declared, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal, and their days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

People appear to live longer than 120 years after the flood, though. Isaac outlives Abraham by 180 years. What gives, then?

According to others, this means that when God saw how wicked people were, he gave them 120 years to turn around before the Flood. This discussion appears to support the same reading.

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This still doesn’t explain why humans seemed to live for a very long time both before and after the flood. We are aware that Josephus discusses this in the opening chapter of his Antiquities:

“But let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives, and with the few years which we now live, think, that what we have said of them is false; or make the shortness of our lives at present an argument that neither did they attain to so long a duration of life: for those ancients were beloved of God, and [Lately] made by God himself: and because their food was then fitter for the prolongation of life, might well live so great a number of years.

And besides, God afforded them a long time of life on account of their virtue, and the good use they made of it in astronomical and geometrical discoveries: which would not have afforded the time for foretelling [the periods of the stars] unless they had lived six hundred years; for the Great Year is completed in that interval.”

In other words, the effects of sin—which manifest themselves through old age and disease—hadn’t clung to them as tightly as they did to later generations because they had stronger DNA and better food supplies.

Moses lived much later than Methuselah, which may help to explain in part why he lived 120 years rather than 969. But we’ll also look into the real reason God took his life early.

Moses included, much of Israel failed to reach the promised land as a result of their obedience. We’ll examine the verses that demonstrate this:

…and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.

 And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” – Numbers 20:7-12

Why Didn’t Moses Go to the Promised Land?

Moses hits the rock rather than speaking to it. But how on earth does this justify him missing out on the promised land? due to the temper tantrum he had?

Academics have argued over this. Some claim that Moses accuses the Israelites of being rebels before breaking a clear order from God. Others have asserted that Moses took full credit for the water flowing from the rock, which was God’s doing, and that this is akin to the New Testament passage where a king gets eaten by worms when he takes credit for a gift from God.

They appear to have broken two rules in this situation: they were disobedient and failed to give credit where credit was due.

These events result in Moses’ death.

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