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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Age, Aged, Old Age

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AGE, AGED, OLD AGE . In the OT advancing age is represented by words of different root-meanings. The aged man is zâqen , perhaps ‘grey-bearded’ ( Genesis 48:10 , 2 Samuel 19:32 , Job 12:20 ; Job 32:9 , Psalms 71:18 , Jeremiah 6:11 ); ‘old age’ is also sêbhâh , i.e. ‘hoary-headedness’ ( Genesis 15:15 , 1 Kings 14:4 ; cf. Genesis 42:38 , Psalms 71:18 ). According to the Mishna ( Ab . v. 21) the latter word implies a greater age (70) than the former (60). But in Job 15:10 (cf. Job 29:8 ) yâshîsh , i.e. ‘very aged,’ marks a further advance in years, of which the sign is a withering of strength. Psalms 90:10 is the only passage in which a definite period is fixed for human life. The idea that ‘hale old age’ ( kelach ) is a blessing is expressed in Job 5:26 ; the contrast is furnished by the gloomy picture ( Job 30:2 ) of the ‘fathers’ whose old age lacks vigour.

The wisdom of the old was proverbial (Job 12:12 ; Job 32:7 ), though there were exceptions ( Job 32:9 , Psalms 119:100 ). The experience of the older men fitted them for positions of trust and authority; hence by a natural transition of thought ‘elders’ became an official title Exodus 3:16 , Acts 11:30 ). Respect is to be shown to the old ( Leviticus 19:32 , Proverbs 23:22 ), and the decay of reverence for age is an evil omen ( Deuteronomy 28:50 , 1 Kings 12:8 , Isaiah 47:6 ). It was to the grandmother of Obed that the Hebrew women said ‘he shall be … a nourisher of thine old age’ ( Ruth 4:15 ); the dutiful affection of children’s children illumined the gracious message of Israel’s God: ‘even to old age I am he, and even to hoar hairs will I carry you’ ( Isaiah 46:4 ).

J. G. Tasker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Age, Aged, Old Age'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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