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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
Antediluvians, the name given collectively to the people who lived before the Deluge. The interval from the Creation to that event is not less, even according to the Hebrew text, than 1657 years, being not more than 691 years shorter than that between the Deluge and the birth of Christ, and only 167 years less than from the birth of Christ to the present time, and equal to about two-sevenths of the whole period from the Creation. By the Samaritan and Septuagint texts (as adjusted by Hales) a much greater duration is assigned to the antediluvian period—namely, 2256years, which nearly equals the Hebrew interval from the Deluge to the birth of Christ, and much exceeds the interval from the birth of Christ to the present time.
In the article 'Adam' it has been shown that the father of men was something more than 'the noble savage,' or rather the grown-up infant, which some have represented him. He was an instructed man—and the immediate descendants of a man so instructed could not be an ignorant or uncultivated people. Their pursuits from the first were agricultural and pastoral; for it is remarkable that of the strictly savage or hunting condition of life there is not the slightest trace before the Deluge. In fact, savagism is not discoverable before the Confusion of Tongues, and was in all likelihood a degeneracy from a state of cultivation, eventually produced in particular communities by that great social convulsion. All that was peculiar in the circumstances of the antediluvian period was eminently favorable to civilization.
By reason of their length of life, the antediluvians had ample opportunities of acquiring the highest skill in the mechanical arts. They had also more encouragement in protracted undertakings, and stronger inducements to the erection of superior, more costly, more durable, and more capacious edifices and monuments public and private, than exist at present. They might reasonably calculate on reaping the benefit of their labor and expenditure. The earth itself was probably more equally fertile, and its climate more uniformly healthful, and more auspicious to longevity, and consequently to every kind of mental and corporeal exertion and enterprise, than has been the case since the great convulsion which took place at the Deluge.
But probably the greatest advantage enjoyed by the antediluvians, and which must have been in the highest degree favorable to their advancement in the arts of life, was the uniformity of language. Nothing could have tended more powerfully to maintain, equalize, and promote whatever advantages were enjoyed, and to prevent any portion of the human race from degenerating into savage life.
The opinion that the old world was acquainted with astronomy, is chiefly founded on the ages of Seth and his descendants being particularly set down (Genesis 5:6, sqq.), and the precise year, month, and day being stated in which Noah and his family, etc. entered the ark, and made their egress from it (Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:13). The knowledge of zoology, which Adam possessed, was doubtless imparted to his children; and we find that Noah was so minutely informed on the subject as to distinguish between clean and unclean beasts, and that his instructions extended to birds of every kind (Genesis 7:2-4). A knowledge of some essential principles in botany is shown by the fact that Adam knew how to distinguish 'seed-bearing herb' and 'tree in which is a seed-bearing fruit,' with 'every green herb' (Genesis 1:29-30). With mineralogy the antediluvians were at least so far acquainted as to distinguish metals; and in the description of the garden of Eden gold and precious stones are noticed (Genesis 2:12). That the antediluvians were acquainted with music is certain; for it is expressly said that Jubal (while Adam was still alive) became 'the father of those who handle the kinnur and hugab' (Genesis 4:21). The kinnur was evidently a stringed instrument resembling a lyre; and the hugab was without doubt the pandean pipe, composed of reeds of different lengths joined together. This clearly intimates considerable progress in the science.
Our materials are too scanty to allow us to affirm that the antediluvians possessed the means of communicating their ideas by writing or by hieroglyphics, although tradition, and a hint or two in the Scriptures, might support the assertion. With regard to architecture, it is a singular and important fact that Cain, when he was driven from his first abode, built a city in the land to which he went, and called it Enoch, after his son. This shows that the descendants of Adam lived in houses and towns from the first, and consequently affords another confirmation of the argument for the original cultivation of the human family. The metallurgy of the antediluvians has been noticed in 'Adam:' and to what is there said of agriculture we shall only add a reference to the case of Noah, who, immediately after the Flood, became a husbandman, and planted a vineyard. He also knew the method of fermenting the juice of the grape; for it is said he drank of the wine, which produced inebriation (Genesis 9:20-21). This knowledge he doubtless obtained from his progenitors anterior to the destruction of the old world.
Pasturage appears to have been coeval with husbandry. Abel was a keeper of sheep, while his brother was a tiller of the ground (Genesis 4:2); but there is no necessity for supposing that Cain's husbandry excluded the care of cattle. The class of tent-dwelling pastors that is, of those who live in tents that they may move with their flocks and herds from one pasture-ground to another—did not originate till comparatively late after the Fall; for Jabal, the seventh from Adam in the line of Cain, is said to have been the 'father' or founder of that mode of life (Genesis 4:20).
It is impossible to speak with any decision respecting the form or forms of government which prevailed before the Deluge. The slight intimations to be found on the subject seem to favor the notion that the particular governments were patriarchal, subject to a general theocratic control. The right of property was recognized, for Abel and Jabal possessed flocks, and Cain built a city. From Noah's familiarity with the distinction of clean and unclean beasts (Genesis 7:2), it would seem that the Levitical rules on this subject were by no means new when laid down in the code of Moses.
Marriage, and all the relations springing from it, existed from the beginning (Genesis 2:23-25); and although polygamy was known among the antediluvians (Genesis 4:19), it was most probably unlawful; for it must have been obvious that, if more than one wife had been necessary for a man, the Lord would not have confined the first man to one woman. The marriage of the sons of Seth with the daughters of Cain appears to have been prohibited, since the consequence of it was that universal depravity in the family of Seth so forcibly expressed in this short passage, 'All flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth' (Genesis 6:12).
It is probable that even the longevity of the antediluvians may have contributed to the general corruption of manners. As there was probably a good deal of time upon their hands, the temptations to idleness were likely to be very strong; and the next step would be to licentious habits and selfish violence. The ample leisure possessed by the children of Adam might have been employed for many excellent purposes of social life and religious obedience, and undoubtedly it was so employed by many; but to the larger part it became a snare and the occasion of temptations, so that 'the wickedness of man became great, the earth was corrupt before God, and was filled with violence.'
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Antediluvians'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/a/antediluvians.html.