Legends of Old Testament Characters/Chapter 13

XIII.

METHUSELAH.

IT is related that an angel appeared to Methuselah, who was then aged five hundred years, and lived in the open air, and advised him to build a house. The Patriarch asked how long he had to live. "About five hundred years more," answered the angel. "Then," said Methuselah, "it is not worth taking the trouble for so short a time."[1]

"Methuselah," says the Midrash, "was a thoroughly righteous man. Every word that fell from his lips was superlatively perfect, exhausting the praises of the Lord. He had learnt nine hundred chapters of the Mischna. At his death a frightful thunder was heard, and all beasts burst into tears. He was mourned seven days by men, and therefore the outbreak of the Flood was postponed till the mourning was over."[2]

Eusebius says, "He lived longer than all who had preceded him. He, according to all editions (of the LXX.), lived fifteen years after the Deluge, but where he was preserved through it is uncertain."[3]

But the general opinion of the Jews follows the Midrash. The Rabbi Solomon says, he died seven days before the Flood; and the Pirke of Rabbi Eliezer and the Jalkut confirm this opinion. He is said to have pronounced three hundred and thirty parables to the honour of the Most High. But the origin of this is to be traced to the Cabbalists, who say that, by transposition of the letters of his name, the anagram "He who prophesied in parables" can be read.[4]

He had a sword inscribed with the Schem hammphorasch (the Incommunicable Name), and with it he succeeded in slaying a thousand devils.[5]

  1. Colin de Plancy, p. 102.
  2. Midrash, fol. 12; so also Targum of Palestine, Etheridge, i. p. 179.
  3. Chron. Græc., ed. Scaliger, Lugd Batav. 1606, p. 4.
  4. Fabricius, i. p. 225.
  5. Eisenmenger, i. p. 651.