See God Questions His Creation: Genesis 4:19-24 (c)
4:25 And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another child instead of Abel, for Cain slew him.” 26 To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time men began to call upon the name of the LORD.
Though her name is not explicitly used in the text, this is the last reference to Eve in the canonical Jewish scriptures. Eve speaks as she did when Cain was born and she is the one to name the son. Adam who had little to say in Paradise remains mute after the fall of humankind. Adam engages in no conversation nor are any more words attributed to him. Despite being a man of so few words, his name will be remembered throughout the history of the people of God.
As with Cain, Eve names the child – an interesting twist since the mother’s name is excluded from the text and women will not be named in the genealogical lists until long after the flood when Abram takes Sarai to be his wife. Sarai will be the next named wife and mother in the Sethite lineage.
It is through the lineage of Seth that St. Luke will trace Christ the son of God back to Adam the son of God (Luke 3:38). In the Jewish Septuagint we find these words: “Shem and Seth were honored among men, and Adam above every living being in the creation” (Sirach 49:16).
With the murder of Abel, Adam and Eve lose both sons – Abel to death, and Cain is banished from their company. Eve laments only her dead son and finds comfort in the new child who replaces the deceased Abel.
“To Seth also a son was born…” Unless the text is suggesting that the men of yore were able to bear children, we have to assume there was a mother. Mothers and wives get short shrift in the Seth family tree. They are implicit in the text, but never explicitly mentioned. The question is often asked, “Where do the wives of these men come from anyway?” While some think the wives were their sisters and that early on God allowed incest, this seems unlikely as nowhere in the text is incest ever blessed. Polygamy was mentioned in the text in relationship to Lamech son of Cain. Incest is not mentioned let alone approved. In fact, incest is needed to explain the source of the nameless wives only if one reads Genesis literally and assumes there are no other people on earth other than those specifically mentioned in the text. Genesis does not deny the existence of people outside of the purview of the text, and seems to imply their existence. The story only focuses on a very particular lineage, and is already developing the Biblical theme of the chosen people. The text mentions the main characters have “other sons and daughters” but it has no interest in these other children and gives us no account of what becomes of them. Genesis narrowly follows a very particular geneaology, shows little interest in the mentioned “other” children of the main men (they are in fact called the “other” son and daughters – those children not pertinent to “our” story), and absolutely no interest in the humans that are unrelated to the chosen lineage. The story does not deny the existence of other humans which God created, it ignores them. Ignoring the “other sons and daughter” is indicative of the author’s focus and his totally disinterest in people who are not of this particular pedigree. The Bible contains truth, it is the revelation of God, but it never claims that all the facts of human history are contained in Genesis. It never claims that it is co-terminus with all that can be known about humankind and human history. It does in fact give strong hints of “other” peoples not part of the main story – the Nephilim for example. When it comes to people, the Bible has a very narrow and precise focus and interest. It is showing how God worked in and through a very particular people on earth. The sense of election and favor are essential to the biblical revelation and message. Genesis does offer us the truth about being human, but does not claim to give the history and name of every human that ever existed. Genesis is the true story of what it means to be human – it really is doctrine in the guise of narrative as St. Gregory of Nyssa claimed. In this sense in every generation it is the story about “us.” St. Paul wrote about Adam being a prototype (1 Corinthians 15) – his story is the story of all humans that ever existed. We don’t have to be genetically related to Adam to be spiritually related to him. The same is true of Christ who is the new Adam, the new prototype of all humans. St. Paul who knew nothing about genetics sees our human relationship in this way: “For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God. … We say that faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it reckoned to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received circumcision as a sign or seal of the righteousness which he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised and who thus have righteousness reckoned to them, and likewise the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but also follow the example of the faith which our father Abraham had before he was circumcised” (Romans 2:28-29, 4:9-12). This is as close as Paul gets to a genetic conversation. He is not much interested in those related to Adam or Abraham according to the flesh. The real issue is if we are people of faith. The importance of Genesis 1-11 is not lost if we are not all related genetically to Adam. The fact is Adam is a prototype of all humans – we are related to him spiritually and are his descendants because we have his same mortal nature not because we have his genes.
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