The book of Genesis tells readers that Adam and Eve’s first two children were Cain and Able. Then in Genesis 5:3, it states that when Adam was 130-years-old he had his third son Seth. The Bible and Talmud commentator Rashi (1040-1105) relied on the Midrash Genesis Rabbah and states that Adam refrained from having sex with Eve for 130 years. The super-commentary on Rashi Siftei Chachamim by the 17th century Polish scholar Shabbetai Bass explains that Rashi said what he said to tell us why the couple had no children for 130 years.

The book Zohar, composed by Moses d’Leon around 1280, is filled with supernatural descriptions and events. Zohar expands upon the drama. It states that the female demon Lilith who was originally created to be Adam’s wife, but whom he rejected and was given Eve in her place, was unable to find another male to help her produce children. She seduces Adam and has a long-standing 130-year relationship with him. Many demons result from the union.[1]

What is the more reasonable explanation of the 130 years?

As I wrote in my book Mysteries of Judaism, it is likely that the early humans did not have exceptionally long lives. The Bible calculates the years differently. The average life span before the flood of Noah may not have been hundreds of years, as indicated by a literal reading of the Bible. When the Torah states that Adam lived for 930 years, it may have been referring to years that lasted from one lunar cycle to the next, about 29 ½ days. If the 930 “years” are divided by twelve (months), the result is 77.5 currently-calculated years, which is about the length of lives today. Even if the world was created in a single day, Adam did not die in the year 930, but 77.

It is also possible that after the flood, the calculation of years changed and people considered the difference from a warm to a cold season as a year, so that two biblical years during this period equal to one year today. While the Bible states that Abraham lived 175 years, Isaac 180, Joseph 110, and Moses 120, they would have died at ages 87, 90, 55 and 60, respectively.

This explanation not only explains the seemingly highly unusual lifetime of early biblical figures, but also explains the 130 years before the birth of Seth without the need of the fanciful notions in the Midrashim.

Once it is recognized, that in the lifetime of Adam years were no longer than months today, the 130 “years” between the birth of Cain and Able to Seth (130 divided by 12) is a little over ten years, not an unreasonable long time.

[1] See my book Maimonides: The Exceptional Mind, Gefen, 2007, for information about Lilith and Zohar in the articles, “The Thrice-told Tale of the Likable and Loathsome Lilith” and “Who wrote the Zohar?”