(Masoretic Text) metûšelaḥ; Septuagint (LXX) mathousala. Eighth from Adam in Seth's line (Gen 5:21, 22, 25, 26, 27 [traditionally assigned to the P or Priestly source]; 1 Chr 1:3; Luke 3:37), this figure's lifespan of 969 years (MT and most versions; Samaritan has 720 years) is the longest in the Bible. As with the lifetimes of Adam and Seth, this number is divisible by three; that all these figures were less than one thousand years old may be an intentional point in the assignment of the lifetimes. Assuming a connection between age and godliness, Methuselah's great age may reflect his father Enoch's piety, and thus he may have been assigned some of the years due to his father, whom “God took” (Gen 5:24).
The name Methuselah is made up of mutu, “man” and Shelah: mutu, the sense of “devotee” and followed by a divine name or epithet, “devotee of X,” is well attested in second-millennium BCE archives (Hess 1993, 115, 208; Huffmon 1965, 234). Shelah is a divine name (cf. KTU 1.5 v. 19; KTU 1.14 i 20–21; 1 Kgs 22:24; Job 33:18; 36:12; Becking 1999; Hess 2009, 70–71). Although identified as the god of the infernal river (Tsevat), Shelah is more likely an epithet, “spear, sword,” associated with an unidentified deity (Becking; Hess).
In later literature, Methuselah retains a special significance as the son of Enoch and recipient of special wisdom from his father and of blessing from God. In 1 Enoch 82–85, Enoch recounts his visions to his son. In 2 Enoch 69–73, Methuselah receives special blessings from God at the end of his life. Other texts emphasize how knowledge came to Methuselah through the angels (Pseudo-Eupolemus, Praeparatio Evangelica 9.17.2–9; cf. 1QapGen 2.19). In later Jewish traditions, Methuselah was proclaimed leader by all the earth's kings and possessed a piety that forestalled the Flood. His name is identified with his sword by which he put to death thousands of demons and bound their leaders in chains. Both heaven and earth mourned his death.
- Becking, Bob. “Methuselah.” In Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, edited by Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, pp. 762–763. 2nd ed. Leiden: Brill, 1999.
- Amarna Personal Names. American Society of Oriental Research Dissertation Series 9. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 1993.
- Hess, Richard S. Studies in the Personal Names of Genesis 1–11. Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2009.
- Huffmon, Herbert B. Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts: A Structural and Lexical Study. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1965.
- Tssevat, Matitiahu. “Additional Remarks to ‘The Canaanite God ŠÄLAH̱,’” Vetus Testamentum 4 (1954): 322.
- Tssevat, Matitiahu. “The Canaanite God ŠÄLAH̱,” Vetus Testamentum 4 (1954): 41–49.
Richard S. Hess