Recently, I have been looking into the idea of longevity in Genesis. Today, I stumbled upon R. Nissim of Marseilles's opinion of it, but no matter how many times I read over the article that mentioned it, I remain baffled. For anyone that has knowledge on the subject... just wondering: How does R. Nissim justify his opinion in relation to Noach and the after-flood generation? Plus, does anyone have a link to a direct source online where I can find his opinion?

'R. Nissim of Marseilles (early 14th century) was another who did not take the numbers literally. He took the same approach as R. Moses Ibn Tibbon. The numbers did not indicate the lifespan of the specific individuals named. Rather, it included the total years of the descendants who followed his customs and lifestyle.' (From this article)

My issue with this interpretation is how it collides with Noach, someone who is CLEARLY a singular person and who lives for many, many years. Am I missing something here? I have searched all over and I cannot find an answer.


וְנֹ֕חַ בֶּן־שֵׁ֥שׁ מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָ֑ה וְהַמַּבּ֣וּל הָיָ֔ה מַ֖יִם עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

בִּשְׁנַ֨ת שֵׁשׁ־מֵא֤וֹת שָׁנָה֙ לְחַיֵּי־נֹ֔חַ בַּחֹ֙דֶשׁ֙ הַשֵּׁנִ֔י בְּשִׁבְעָֽה־עָשָׂ֥ר י֖וֹם לַחֹ֑דֶשׁ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֗ה נִבְקְעוּ֙ כָּֽל־מַעְיְנֹת֙ תְּה֣וֹם רַבָּ֔ה וַאֲרֻבֹּ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם נִפְתָּֽחוּ׃

וַיֵּ֖צֵא־נֹ֑חַ וּבָנָ֛יו וְאִשְׁתּ֥וֹ וּנְשֵֽׁי־בָנָ֖יו אִתּֽוֹ׃

These quotes display Noach as a singular being... living over 600 years.

  • 1
    Short but relevant bio. on this relatively unknown Rishon. – Oliver Aug 13 '19 at 1:14
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of Rationalist Position on Bible Ancients' Long Lives – Renato Grun Aug 13 '19 at 2:37
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    Post edits, I gave this an upvote (although I do believe this may be a duplicate). I still don't understand why those specific examples with Noach are more difficult to comprehend than most of the other examples in the Torah. See for example 5:28, the simple, straightforward reading is that Lamech was 182 when he gave birth to Noach. The simple reading for that entire section is the literal one, once it's being explained in a more allegorical way, what makes one section easier to comprehend than another? – Salmononius2 Aug 13 '19 at 2:49

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