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In Numbers 24:17 Balaam says to Balak that all the children of Sheth will be destroyed. Who are these children?

In Genesis I read Enosh is a child of Sheth and Noah is a grand-grand-grand-child so everyone living now is a descendant of Sheth. But what does Balaam mean?

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The phrase you reference in the NASB (same wording in KJV, others) appears to come from וְקַרְקַר כָּל-בְּנֵי-שֵׁת (copied from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, same text found elsewhere too). שֵׁת is almost always translated as Sheth or Seth, but there are those who have translated it differently. The meaning of the name is tumult. The meanings of names in Hebrew scripture will sometimes have more relevance than the actual names of the individuals (Naomi of Ruth fame being one example). Other suggestions, even less common (name of an otherwise unknown city, one of the specific princes that was sent to fetch Balaam, others) can be found here. There is meaning to be had from stripping the individuality from this particular word, but enough people seem to dispute that this meaning is the intended meaning (including the translators of your sourced translation, who used the word tumult often but Sheth only once in the entire text), that we will continue.

Yes, Sheth (or Seth) was a very famous son of Adam and Eve, and if it is the same one, then all the sons/children of Seth would in fact refer to every person born on earth in postdiluvian times, including speaker and listener. I find this conclusion plausible, as the topic of conversation here is decidedly not local or recent in scope, discussing an event far into the future that will impact the greatest (known to the speakers/listeners) military, political, and cultural organizations the world over.

The impetus of this question probably comes from the fact that the understanding for most believers of Hebrew scripture of the actions and intents of כּוֹכָב מִיַּעֲקֹב (translated Star ... come forth from Jacob in the sourced NASB above) are anathema to the "destroying every person" verbiage found in the NASB, and many other English translations of this passage. Frankly, some of the other English translations are gruesome and disturbing, and at a minimum lead one to doubt the identity of Sheth.

I don't have access to the notes of the various translators into English, so perhaps they had more information than I have, but the verb destroy appears to be translated out of the Hebrew קַרְקַר. A definition found here gives definitions of digging out (as in a well), breaking down (as in walls of a fortification), and refrigerate (probably not relevant here). Translation is both a science and an art, so I won't give an authoritative translation of this phrase, but others have. In this light, the verbs break down, uproot, and undermine seem plausible alternatives. To me, those verbs even convey similar ideas to Psalms 34, 51, and 147, for example, but now we are coming dangerously close to individual interpretations, which are always colored by personal beliefs.

Now, your second question, what does Balaam mean? Can't be completely sure, since I didn't say it, I didn't write it, and I wasn't even there... maybe ask someone who was? :)

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I fixed the links; feel free to flag such things for moderator attention in case we don't happen upon them. (P.S. I think "tumult" requires emendation from šēt to šĕʾēt, which is dependent on Jer. 48:45 which cites the Num. passage but uses šāʾôn (which actually does mean "tumult", and of which šĕʾēt is apparently a proposed synonym). Genesis, of course, offers a different etymology for that šēt. P.P.S. I think the verb is qrr rather than qwr (per your link), though there's some relationship there.) – Susan May 30 at 7:43
Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange CWilson, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. – Steve Taylor May 30 at 10:08
@Susan Thanks for the fix. @ Everyone: If my grammar and spelling of the source is way off, please let me know. I am more interested in accuracy in knowledge than appearing right in conversation. At least in this case. :) – CWilson May 30 at 12:26
In reference to the verb: The link posted for definition didn't list this usage in its "verse count", but it was a)the clearest definition I could find through Google, that b)had reference to the OP's biblical translation. Would be better, or can anyone find one better than that? That site has a doctrinal bias that I don't usually like in a dictionary. – CWilson May 30 at 13:11
Does the fact that Strong's (officially only KJV, according to…) says that the verb is 6979 quwr, yet the 'Strong's' for the NASB in the link above says the verb is 7175 qeresh mean that the translators used two different source texts, or does it mean that the OP's choice in site/translation for source ... should not have been my own? Which is the correct actual verb? Or is it a third one altogether? 6979 looks correct to me, otherwise I wouldn't have posted the above, but I'm not fluent in Hebrew. – CWilson Jun 6 at 1:18

Given the larger context of the prophesy, it seems clear that this Sheth was a Moabite:

A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel,
And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,
And tear down all the sons of Sheth.

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Seth and Sheth are two English spellings of the same name, Hebrew שֵׁת ! Of, course, this does not mean that they are the same person. – fdb Apr 4 '14 at 18:06
@fdb - depends on the translation used. If you note the references I used, they are distinctly different. – warren Apr 4 '14 at 19:54
I am not using any translation. You are perhaps aware that the Old Testament was written in Hebrew. – fdb Apr 4 '14 at 20:14
@fdb - the point still remains: the immediate context does not allow for such an interpretation – warren Apr 7 '14 at 14:32
What I am saying is very simple: They are two different people with the same name. Is that not clear enough? – fdb Apr 7 '14 at 16:03

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