The time one has lived, usually counted by years, months and days; also the mature age. (Gen. 21:2; 48:10; Num. 8:25; 1 Ki. 14:4; John 9:21; Heb 11:11) The Authorized Version employs the word “age” in translating the Hebrew words hheʹledh and dohr (or dor) in some texts, where more modern translations prefer such terms as “lifetime” or “life’s duration [Heb., hheʹledh],” “generation [Heb., dor].”—Job 8:8; 11:17; Ps. 39:5; see OLDER MAN.
Under the Law, at the age of twenty years the men qualified for military service. (Num. 1:3) The man blind from his birth to whom Jesus gave sight must have been at least twenty years old, since his parents told their interrogators: “Ask him. He is of age. He must speak for himself.” (John 9:21, 23) Sarah is spoken of as being “past the age limit” for the bearing of children, as she was then some ninety years of age.—Heb. 11:11.
An age limit was set for qualification to temple service, as well as an age limit at which obligatory service ceased. Some have alleged a discrepancy in the statements at Numbers 4:3, 30, 31 and 8:24-26, since the age for beginning Levitical service is stated first as from thirty years of age and thereafter as from twenty-five years. However, the case seems to be that of two categories of service involved. Thus, certain rabbinical sources present the view that at the age of twenty-five a Levite was introduced into the tabernacle service but only to perform lighter tasks, and then, on reaching the full age of thirty, entered into the heavier tasks. They point out that the references to the “work” “laborious service and the service of carrying loads” mentioned in Numbers 4:3, 47, do not appear at Numbers 8:24, where the age limit is twenty-five. Others add the suggestion that those serving from the age of thirty years up had to do with the transporting of the tabernacle and its equipment when on the move, while those serving between the ages of twenty-five and thirty served only when the tabernacle was erected and standing at an encampment site. Those favoring the view that only at the age of thirty were assignments to heavier tasks given, advance the reason that at that age greater strength, intellectual maturity and soundness of judgment would have been attained. Later, in David’s time, the age limit was dropped to twenty years for beginning tabernacle service, thereafter replaced by temple service.—1 Chron. 23:24-32; compare also Ezra 3:8.
As to retirement from obligatory service, this took place when the Levites reached the age of fifty. The statement at Numbers 8:25, 26 indicates that at this age the Levites could still voluntarily assist those still eligible for assigned duties but they themselves were given no direct assignment nor were they held accountable to fill such. The suggestion is made that the reason for the retirement limit for Levitical service was not merely out of consideration for their age but to prevent overcrowding of such offices. This age limit for Levites did not apply to the Aaronic high priest, for the high priest himself served in his holy office until death if he continued capable. (Num. 35:25) Aaron, Israel’s first high priest, was chosen for service when he was more than eighty and served for almost forty years afterward.—Ex. 7:7; Num. 33:39.
THE GREEK “AION”
“Age” may also refer to a period of time in man’s history, whether having or not having datable bounds. It is frequently used to translate the Greek word ai·onʹ (plural, ai·oʹnes) in some translations. Greek lexicographers show the word to mean “space of time clearly defined and marked out, epoch, age,” and also “lifetime, life,” or “age, generation.” Since an epoch or age can begin and end or it can go on forever, it follows that ai·onʹ could refer to a period of time that is endless, though having a beginning. Thus, as recorded at Mark 3:29, Jesus said that the blasphemer against the holy spirit was guilty of “everlasting [agelong, perpetual, eternal] sin,” or a sin never to be canceled out at any future time. A similar expression was used with regard to the fruitless fig tree, where “forever” in the Greek is literally “to [for] the age.” (Matt. 21:19) At Jesus’ birth the angelic promise was that “he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever [literally, to (for) the ages].”—Luke 1:33; see TIME INDEFINITE.
However, ai·onʹ can also refer more particularly to the consistent state of things or the current state of affairs or features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch or age rather than to the matter of time itself. As Archbishop R. C. Trench states in New Testament Synonyms (1901, p. 202): “Thus signifying time, it comes presently to signify all which exists in the world under conditions of time; . . . and then, more ethically, the course and current of this world’s affairs.” For such use of the word ai·onʹ in other texts see SYSTEMS OF THINGS.