I have a question which has confused and troubled me for some time. In Enos 1:25, we read that “179 years had passed away” from the time Lehi left Jerusalem, and yet Enos is still alive. I always understood Enos to be the son of Jacob, who was the son of Lehi. If that is so, then it doesn’t seem possible that Enos could still be alive, even though he admits that he was “very old”. Perhaps I have misunderstood or overlooked something here. Can you help me understand this passage?
Thank you for your question. Indeed, 179 years seems to be a little long for one generation to pass. However, there are some explanations which may help.
One explanation is that, in Jacob 7:27, Jacob “said unto my son Enos: take these plates”. This establishes that Jacob had a son named Enos to whom he gave the plates before dying.
In Enos 1:1, Enos writes “it came to pass that I, Enos, knowing my father that he was a just man – for he taught me in his language, and also in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – and blessed the name of my God for it”. Here, Enos claims his father was a righteous man, but he does not say the name of his father or that his father was Jacob. In fact, the name “Jacob” does not appear anywhere in the Book of Enos.
The explanation is, there was an Enos the elder and an Enos the younger, similar to Alma the elder and Alma the younger. Jacob gave the plates to Enos the elder, who was Enos’ father referred to in Enos 1:1, and then Enos the elder gave the plates to Enos the younger, who wrote the Book of Enos. Who knows – maybe there were several generations in there!
Another explanation is simply that Jacob and Enos lived a long time. Jacob was not born until about ten years after Lehi left Jerusalem. (See 1 Nephi 1:18.) This would leave us with 169 years to account for. If Jacob then had Enos when he was 70 years old (not as uncommon of a situation as one would think – I had a man in my last ward have children at this age after marrying a much younger wife), taught Enos until Enos was 20 and Jacob died at 90, then Enos lived to be 100, it is certainly plausible that this time period lasted one generation.
The bottom line is we don’t know for certain how to account for the 179 year gap, but there are several explanations which could have occurred.