Thursday, June 16, 2011

Seth: The Original "Replacement" Child?

Who was the third son of Adam and Eve? Seth (Genesis 5:3)

Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve, born after their eldest son Cain murdered their youngest, Abel. Though Adam and Eve had other children, only Cain, Abel, and Seth are named in the Bible.(Adam and Eve must have liked four-letter words given the names of their first three sons...)
Adam had relations with his wife again; and she gave birth to a son, and named him Seth, for, she said, “God has appointed me another offspring in place of Abel, for Cain killed him.” (Genesis 4:26, NASB)
The text utilizes a pun as the name “Seth” means “appointed”. It is interesting that with Cain’s exile (Genesis 4:16), Eve lost both of her sons, yet it is the victim that she misses most. Even in naming her newborn son, Eve does not conceal her association between her dead son and her newborn. In psychology, such a baby is often described as a “replacement child” as the infant serves as a substitute for the deceased offspring. These children are often thought to be at risk of later psychological difficulties because of a struggle to form an identity apart from their deceased sibling.

How would it make a child feel to be seen by her own mother as a replacement for a deceased sibling? Can you think of historical examples? Can we learn anything about “replacement children” from the case of Seth?

Seth is the least known of Adam and Eve’s named sons as there are no stories of Seth in the Biblical record (though in the case of Adam and Eve’s children, no news might be good news). There is a folk etymology for Seth’s name in Genesis 4:25 associated with the Hebrew word meaning “to plant”. This is fitting as Seth would become known by his seed. All nine Biblical references to Seth are genealogical (Genesis 4:25, 26; 5:3, 4, 6, 7, 8; I Chronicles 1:1; Luke 3:38). More importantly, the appointed one led to the anointed one - Seth’s lone New Testament appearance is in Luke’s genealogy of Jesus (Luke 3:38).

Would it have been wrong for the Messiah to come from the line of Cain and not the line of Seth? Why?

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