Genesis 5:3 When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. 4 The days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years; and he had other sons and daughters. 5 Thus all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.
We know nothing of Adam’s life since his expulsion from the Garden of Delight, other than he fathered a few children. After committing his original sin, Adam becomes silent, voiceless. Had he nothing to say? He lives 130 years before fathering Seth. What was he doing all this time? The text gives us no clue. If he did much as a parent, we will never know. He lives 930 years and apparently said nothing worth remembering; he had nothing to say for himself. Besides living long, he is noted for little else. He is not credited with having contributed anything to human culture, skills, inventiveness or achievement. Even those inspired by God to write Genesis were given nothing to say about his incredibly long, yet apparently totally uninspiring life. When God punished Adam for his sinful disobedience, God said, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:17-19). Genesis however never speaks about any hardships Adam has with farming, and he is never reported to having broken a sweat about anything. The only part of the consequence for Adam’s sin that is recorded to have come true is Adam dies – some 930 years after God sentenced him to death. Adam was granted a speedy trial, but it took almost a millennium to carry out the sentence. “But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:8). Was the long-suffering Lord waiting all that time for Adam to repent?
Perhaps what is the case is that Adam as an individual human, or as a historical figure, is not all that important. His memory is not significant in the Jewish canonical scriptures. In the New Testament he is remembered by St. Paul for being a “type” of all human beings (see typology). No matter how many years he lived, his significance in theology and in scripture is not for any historical contribution to humanity, but rather his importance is as a symbolic (typological) figure of all humans born of the dust of the earth. His story is the story of each of us – created in God’s image and likeness, yet destined to die and return to the dust of the earth because of our sins. Yet his story does not really end there, for the story of humanity is also taken up by another typological figure – Jesus Christ, the new or second Adam, the man of heaven, who overcomes death and gives eternal life to all humankind.
“a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.” In Genesis 4:2, Eve attributed the birth of Seth to herself and God (her helper). Here the story reasserts the patriarchal connection – Eve may have given birth to Seth with God’s help – but Seth is in Adam’s image and likeness. Eve credited God with the birth, but here God is not directly in the picture – the fatherhood is Adam’s not God’s. Eve is not mentioned at all. And the text clearly wants to trace the history of humanity from God through Adam, not through Eve who is not listed even as the generic “wife.” In this telling of events, Seth is a virtually motherless child. Of course, this also tells us why it is important to read all of the scriptures and not just select verses or versions of the stories that we prefer. It is even important for us to know how these Old Testamental texts were used by the New Testament authors. In doing this we come to understand the original text in its context, how it compares to parallel or similar texts, and how it was understood by Christ and His disciples. To read a text without the greater context of the entire Bible is to lose elements of the story and of Truth itself.
Jesus is said to be the new Adam – Christ God’s Word incarnate gives new voice and hope to all humankind. Adam may have lived an incredible 930 years, but he still dies and passes mortality to his descendents. “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Romans 5:12). Jesus lived only 33 years and yet managed to give eternal life to all. “For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. … If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men” (Romans 5:15-18). It is not longevity of life that measures how much any one person contributes to humanity or to salvation.
In this version of the Adam story there is no mention of Cain and Abel, but the descendents of Adam begin with Seth. This is a quick recapitulation of what the Genesis text has taught us up to this moment. Note that Eve is also absent from the picture. This is a patriarchal retelling of the story. The absence of any reference to Paradise or to the murderous Cain convinces scholars that several different traditions (sources) have been blended together to form the Jewish/Christian scriptures.
Perhaps the text is suggesting Seth is in the image and likeness of his father in a way that Cain was not. Cain was a murderer, as is Satan (John 8:44) who is described as Cain’s real father (1 John 3:12). Seth is in Adam’s image and Adam in God’s image. Cain is in the image of Satan for he was disinherited by an act of God from Adam’s descendents. Cain is not even to be remembered.