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2013-11-13

Numbers 8 ends with life getting even better for the Levites yet again. We already know that the priests get free room and board, and the movers have to do minimal work only every couple days, but now we learn that they donít even have to start lifting a finger until they turn 25! And even with such simple work, they still get to retire at 50! How could being a Levite get any cushier? Why not throw in some strippers and a beer volcano while youíre at it? Oh wait, thatís a different religion.

And while young-earth Creationists wonít realize it, this is actually more evidence that the bible was not written during their expected time line. Young-earthers put the authoring of Numbers at around 1450 BCE, near the end of the Bronze Age. However, the estimated life expectancy for that period in history was only 26. This means that the majority of those who entered the priesthood would be dead and buried before they even finished their training, let alone reach retirement. But then, maybe that is Godís way of keeping down social security taxes?

 

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Maju writes:

 

Life expectancy is a very rough measure and may change a lot if you exclude some segments (usually youngest children, lower classes/castes).

I commented a couple of years ago at my anthropology blog on a study on a SW Iberian Bronze site (frontier castle): http://forwhattheywereweare.blogspot.com/2011/03/childhood-and-death-in-neolithic-and.html . Most of the deaths happened in the Infancy I segment (age: 0-6) and the Mature segment (not sure of the age but probably around 40-60) and of the dead kids most were low class women.

So I would presume (if the Iberian data can be extrapolated to ancient Palestine, same rough dates in any case) that the ages suggested, retirement included, do make good sense for Bronze Age elite men: most aristocratic men would reach adulthood and die only after 40, plausibly quite later considering their high quality of life. It would be still in most cases 10 or 20 years less expectancy that today in developed nations but it the retirement at 50 makes good sense for that time.

That does not mean it's from ~1450 BCE but it could well be from a similar period like the Late Bronze or some time in the Iron Age. We can expect similar life quality all along before modern medicine and food abundance, always according to social segments (i.e. poor girls would get the worst share, etc.)

Maju writes:

 

Erratum:

1. Not "SW" but SE Iberia, La Mancha specifically.

2. More precisely: half (6) of the infancy I deaths were unweaned babies, and only the other half (5) were very young (but weaned) females of the "low protein" nutritional segment (low class).

PS- Notice that in the same entry I also discussed the case (same study) of a (presumably) more egalitarian society of NE Iberia (Catalan Chalcolithic), which had less than half of deaths in infancy but, on the other hand, most people died in adulthood before reaching "maturity" (i.e. before the age of 45 maybe).

Well said maju writes:

 

Well said maju. Life expectancy is from birth and is skewed by high infant death rates. A child who lived past six wouldn't have been expected to die at 26.


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Oh the irony!