Why Is it Important That God Gave Adam and Eve a Third Child, Seth?

Why Is it Important That God Gave Adam and Eve a Third Child, Seth?

Quite a lot has been written about Adam and Eve’s time together in the Garden of Eden and the tragic story of their first two sons. Much less has been said about their son Seth, an obscure Old Testament figure who biblical genealogies show was an ancestor to some very important people. Let’s take a look at what the Bible tells us about Seth and his family.

Who Was Seth in the Bible?

Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve, born after his brother Cain had killed Abel. When Seth was born, Eve said, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel” (Genesis 4:26), indicating that having Seth filled the void left after that tragedy. The Bible mentions Adam and Eve having Seth after a section about Cain’s descendants, but it’s hard to say whether the author is listing events in chronological order or by subject. Therefore, it’s possible that Seth was born shortly after Abel’s murder, before Cain started having children of his own, or that he was born when Cain’s family was well established. Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born and lived to be 930 years old, while Seth lived to be 912 years old (Genesis 5:3-8).

What Happened to Seth's Siblings?

The story of Seth’s brothers Cain and Abel is perhaps one of the most famous Bible stories. While Cain was a farmer, Abel was a shepherd, and they each made offerings to God. After God favored Abel’s offering over Cain’s offering, Cain killed Abel out of jealousy (Genesis 4:1-8). As a result, God made Cain a “restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:12) who would not be able to grow crops.

Cain’s response to this condemnation was interesting: the first thing the Bible mentions after him being cursed to wander is that he had a son named Enoch (not to be confused with the famous Enoch) and that Cain named a city after his son (Genesis 4:17). Since a city is generally a collection of permanent buildings in one place, it seems like Cain was fighting his curse to wander. More generations followed, including some descendants who became known for creating new tools, and in some cases, new sinful behaviors. Lamech, Cain’s great-great-great-grandson, is the first polygamist mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 4:19) and he had three sons:

-       Jabal, “the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock” (Genesis 4:20)

-       Jubal, “father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes” (4:21) 

-       Tubal-Cain, “who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron” (Genesis 4:22)

While the Bible doesn’t mention Abel having a wife or children, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t. Biblical genealogies are sometimes designed to be selective. For example, the list of King David’s wives in 1 Chronicles only mention the wives who had sons, not every woman David married or fathered children with. The line of Adam listed in Genesis 5 focuses on Seth, leaving out Cain or Abel entirely, even though we know Cain had children. So, the fact that the Bible doesn’t mention Abel having children may not mean he died childless.

It’s also interesting to notice that when God curses Cain to wander, Cain responds that if he wanders, then some stranger may kill him (Genesis 4:14). This indicates that Cain, Abel, and their parents were not the only humans (or human-like beings) on the planet at this point in time. You can’t worry about being killed by a stranger if the only humans in existence are your parents (and possibly a few sisters). A similar point can be made about how Lamech killed a man whose name he never mentions (Genesis 4:23-24), suggesting that Lamech didn’t know his victim. Granted, the Old Testament mentions various men who lived long lives and fathered children even in their old age (Abraham and Ishmael, for example). So, if Cain’s family didn’t come with him when he wandered, if he was a negligent father going around and fathering more children here and there, it’s possible that by Lamech’s time the Cain clan wasn’t keeping track of each other. However, this seems unlikely. Even in a large family with multiple generations, it’s hard to meet someone you don’t know when your immediate family is the only family around.

Scholars have suggested several ways to explain these references to “other people,” including arguing for the existence of angels who had human children, citing the “sons of God” mentioned in Genesis 6:4. Another possibility is that Abel (and possibly Cain) had several children and even grandchildren by the time that Abel’s murder took place. Ultimately, this is all speculation since the Bible doesn’t give any details on this subject.

What Happens to Seth and His Family?

According to Genesis 5, Seth turned out reasonably well. He had a son named Enosh, and several generations later a descendant named Enoch. Enoch is described as living 365 years, and that “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24). This seems to be saying that Enoch didn’t physically die, that like the prophet Elijah, God simply took him directly to heaven. Enoch’s son Methuselah lived 969 years, which makes him the oldest man mentioned in the Bible (possibly the oldest man ever). Genesis 5:28 establishes that Noah was Methuselah’s grandson, which makes him a direct descendant of Seth. Seth’s ancestry is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 1:3, which starts by mentioned Seth and the several ancestors leading to Noah, then describes the family branches created by Noah’s three sons.

Since Noah’s family was the only one that survived the flood, this means that Seth’s direct family line survived God’s punishment, whereas Cain’s family line did not. Given that the Bible cites Cain’s family having some dysfunction—Cain murdering a brother, Lamech being a polygamist, and killing a stranger—this may suggest Seth’s family followed God more closely.

What Lessons Can We Learn from Seth?

Since the Bible tells us so little about Seth’s personal life, we don’t know how he interacted with his parents or siblings. We don’t know anything about his relationship with Cain, how much he knew about Abel, or how he reacted when he learned about Abel’s murder.

However, the Bible says Seth was a son just like his father Adam (Genesis 5:3), suggesting that Seth was the worthy heir to Adam’s legacy. The fact that it was his descendants, not Cain’s, who held onto God’s teaching and survived the flood, suggests that he followed God and set up a spiritual legacy for his family to follow. In that light, we can say that the most important lesson we can learn from Seth is the value of following our parent’s teachings about God and passing that knowledge on to our own children.

The story of Seth also teaches us something about the value of paying attention to the mistakes our parents or siblings make. Adam made a key mistake by eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden, which had huge consequences for his family. Cain sinned in his own way by killing his brother. We have no record of Seth committing any terrible actions, which suggests he knew when not to follow his family’s example as well as when to follow it.

On a more general level, the fact that Seth was born in the first place is an example of how the Lord gives and the Lord takes away (Job 1:21). Losing Abel would have been a terrible experience for Adam and Eve, a loss that couldn’t truly ever be replaced. However, Seth’s birth brought Eve joy, and the fact he followed Adam’s example would have made them both proud. Tragedy will take place in this life, but there are moments of joy as well that alleviate the pain.

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Connor SalterG. Connor Salter is a writer and editor, with a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing from Taylor University. In 2020, he won First Prize for Best Feature Story in a regional contest by the Colorado Press Association Network. He has contributed over 1,200 articles to various publications, including interviews for Christian Communicator and book reviews for The Evangelical Church Library Association. Find out more about his work here.