“And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.”
This is a text for all seasons, but, in a special way, it is a text for this time of the year, when the church reflects upon the coming and birth of the woman’s great promised Seed—the coming of the Dragon-slayer.
It is a passage easily overlooked. It is dressed in such common garb—a man “knew” his wife “again,” and a child results. Throughout the history of the fallen human race, what has been more ordinary and commonplace than that?
But to overlook either this passage or Seth due to their outwardly ordinary appearance would be a serious oversight indeed. The birth of Seth is a matter of extraordinary significance. Mother Eve certainly read it that way.
Genesis 4:25 is a jewel of a text, filled with gospel light and beauty. Jehovah God, God of covenant promise and faithfulness, is set forth as the gift-giving God.
You have here a love story—of Adam loving Eve his wife, and of God loving His church and quickening her womb once again, a love that provides the answer to death, death just experienced, death in all its horrors.
Common and ordinary though the record of Seth’s birth is, his birth is anything but ordinary. That becomes plain when you consider what Seth was, to whom he was born, and when.
Every birth is a wonder, that which displays the splendor of the mind of the Creator—the God who endows strands of DNA with life-giving power that brings forth a full-bodied child to be held in one’s arms. Hold your little one, newly emerged from the womb, wrapped in a blanket, and exclaim, “What hath God wrought!” We are fearfully and wonderfully made.
But more than that, this child Seth was a child spiritually alive. From fallen Adam and Eve should come forth one having spiritual life? Talk about a wonder of grace! These were two who had been guilty of base ingratitude. God had given them the whole earth, but still it was not enough. “Is this all we get? We want more!” Sound familiar? That these two should receive such a child, one having spiritual life, and that from the very One whom they have snubbed, is a wonderful and extraordinary thing indeed.
And this child, of course, foreshadows that One whom God would give to a fallen humanity and church, in whom would be eternal life itself—eternal life for ourselves not only, but for our little ones as well.
Grace beyond telling. Fall on your knees.
But, as well, this Seth was born at an extraordinarily critical time. He is born when everything appeared to be lost, and that for the second time. The first time was when Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit and persuaded Adam to do likewise. Surely all was forfeit— humanity under the sentence of death, barred from the tree of life itself. But God had mercy and gave the “mother promise,” which spoke of spiritual seed and of One who would bring victory. Hope revived.
Now this latest crisis, the death of Abel, murdered by his own brother. And Cain shows himself to be the serpent’s seed. It seemed the crushing of all hope.
There is evidence that Eve had thought Cain himself, her firstborn, might be the promised conquering champion. As chapter 4:1 states, “[A]nd she…bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.” Already God is making good His promise, she thinks. And if not Cain, then Abel. But that hope was cruelly dashed. Cain was not godly seed. He was reprobate and ungodly to the core. And Abel, the believer, powerless before him, was dead. Evil has triumphed. The Dragon has conquered after all.
This history of Cain and Abel, itself a harbinger of the whole of Old Testament history to follow: the Dragon seeking to slay the woman’s seed (cf. Rev. 12:3, 4), and coming perilously close time and time again. But here already, at the dawn of history, the promise and coming of the woman’s seed, the Dragon-slayer seemingly is cut off before it has scarcely begun. Evil has triumphed again. What hope in the face of such power?
But deep are the ways of God. In bleakest times, the God of promise is still at work. He works within the womb of Eve, and implants from Adam a seed of special significance. Seth is conceived and born. An ordinary baby boy from every human perspective, yet extraordinary in that he is of the promised seed. This one is to be the direct link to the great Seed. He and his birth ultimately spell the Dragon’s doom.
And note you well, such is the wisdom of God with our children as well—ordinary, everyday children of believers, not necessarily extraordinarily gifted at all. In such not only does God still work salvation, but through such He works victory over Satan and evil as well. The world may count them as ever so ordinary. Be sure the Dragon does not. They are his bane.
Deeply woven into this passage is the golden strand of love, covenantal love. This is highlighted when you put the text into its historical context. Eve speaks of “another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.”
Consider Eve’s grief.
You want to talk about grief of an almost bottomless sort, tending sometimes to despair, then you talk about the death of a child, be it daughter or son. Such is never forgotten by a mother. Be it fifty years after the death, mention to an 80-year-old widow that you see she had five children, and she will respond, “No, pastor, I had six. One died of tuberculosis when only six months old.” They never forget. The love of a mother goes deeper than life itself.
Now add to such a grief this, that one’s son was murdered by his own brother! The loss of two sons, really, in one stroke. And add to that the certain knowledge that one of your children, the firstborn, is reprobate, carnal to the core. Talk about monumental grief! Mother Eve’s.
But here, coupled to all that grief, is the knowledge of Eve that, in a very real sense, she was the cause. She was to blame. “I brought this into the world. This is due to my sin and folly. The Lord brings my sins to remembrance. He is punishing me. He has forgotten to be kind.”
I do not know that I would have wanted to have been Eve’s pastor at this point. Would you? What would you have said?
It is hard enough in some tragic circumstances, though you have the whole of the gospel in your hands, to know just what to say to answer to some griefs that overwhelm. But now Eve, at this point in time—not only no Jesus to comfort her, but without even Seth, the replacement, yet born. Just the body of Abel, and Cain unveiled as a complete stranger to them. What would you say?
Despair, that’s all. An overpowering sense of guilt. “I am being punished for my folly and my sin.” Surely, all hope is destroyed.
True, there was a gospel word prior to that—the mother promise, the promise of the Seed who was to crush the head of the Serpent—but right then, for all the world, it looked to our mother as if the Serpent had overwhelmed the promised one. Her seed was dead, the promise hung in tatters, shredded beyond repair. And she to blame!
It is into such circumstances of grief and guilt that Seth is given and is born. Another seed! Eve clung to him and what he represented with all the power of her faith. She does so because she recognizes that this child is a word of God to her.
Notice, “God hath appointed unto me another seed.” God! This Seth, whose name means “compensation”— given to replace and console for one’s loss—represents a word from God, a word of remembrance and love.
The birth of this Seth tells her that the face of God towards her is not the face of implacable anger, of condemning wrath: “You turned your back on Me, Eve, and ruined it all. Now, you are going to pay.” Rather, in the power and timing of this birth she sees the face of a gift-giving God, a face of faithfulness and forgiving love. Hope revives.
Indeed, it is because of Seth, and that other seed whom he represents, that we have a word to bring in times of desperate grief. This passage demonstrates in a most concrete and tangible way that God has not forgotten to be kind. As a Father He takes pity on His children, moved by their cries. He is the God who abundantly pardons. In return for our evil, He is good and kind.
If in this passage you cannot hear the echo of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “Comfort ye, Comfort ye, my people, saith your God,” set to strains of the great Oratorio, The Messiah, you are tone deaf.
In this child Seth, another son, this new heir, Eve beholds the smile of her God. The line of the covenant and coming of the Dragon-slayer has been preserved.
In addition, we point out that this passage tells us how God chooses to defeat Satan and the power of sin and death, namely, through the common, yet anything but ordinary ordinance of Christian marriage and its love.
As the text states, “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son….” Seth was the fruit of love—marital love. By that word “knew,” the Scripture is telling us more than that Adam had a sexual relationship with Eve, resulting in a child. Rather, this is a knowledge that has to do with love and understanding. Eve clings to Adam in her grief and despair. Adam knows her grief, their loss, and her sense of guilt over what she introduced into the world. And in this knowledge he holds her and seeks to comfort her. He “knew her again,” that is, with a purpose.
Adam, full of grief himself, could have lashed out, pointed his finger at her, and declared, “See what you did when you acted on your own! It is all your fault. If it were not for you…! Get away from me. Because of you, our sons are gone.” But he did not. Instead, he loved her, embraced her, and assured her he did not blame her. He had sinned as well. And from that love, forgiving and self-giving, comes life, comes the Christ and salvation of the world and of the chosen human race.
In this seemingly unequal battle between the church and the Dragon, never underestimate the importance of marriage and its fruits, where love and faith and repentance dwell. From such love comes the woman’s seed and Satan’s defeat.
And all of this a harbinger, a harbinger of another day, one even far more wonderful, and of that Other Seed, Mary’s firstborn, wrapped in swaddling clothes. Ever read of anything so commonplace and ordinary as that birth? In outward appearance, nothing to mark this One off from the most ordinary of children. But let not appearance deceive. He was and is anything but ordinary. In this Christ-child related to mother Eve dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily—He, too, the fruit of love, God’s great love for His own.
This Seth, who replaced Abel, was but a forerunner, an essential forerunner in keeping the line of the coming Seed of the woman unbroken and alive, but only a forerunner for all of that. Thanks be to God, another replacement was yet to come. Seth himself would die and could himself destroy neither the Dragon nor the power of sin and death. But Mary’s firstborn could and has. Worship Him!
Do you hear God’s word to you through Him? Not a word of implacable wrath and condemnation, but a word of remembrance, of kindness, of love—just as with Seth, so long ago held in mother Eve’s arms.
And also of the Dragon’s certain doom.
Deep is the wisdom of God, faithful in His surpassing love. With our little ones let us celebrate that revelation of His love this season of the year.