In Genesis 4:25, it states: "And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and called his name Seth: 'for God hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel; for Cain slew him"

What is the ancient interpretation of this "appointment?"

In the pseudepigraphal text, Greek Life of Adam and Eve (GLAE), also known as the Apocalypse of Moses, ch. 38 delineates the first steps of Adam's burial. In Ch. 38 it states:

1 Now after all these things the archangel asked about attending to the remains. 2 And God gave orders that all the angels should gather before him, each according to his rank. 3 And all the angels came together, some with censers and others trumpets. And the Lord of hosts mounted up, the winds drawing him, and the cherubim being above the winds; and the angels of heaven were leading him. And when they came to the place where the body of Adam was, they took it. 4 And they came into Paradise and all the plants of Paradise were stirred, so that all those born of Adam became drowsy from the fragrance except Seth, abecause he was born according to the appointment of God.a
a-a διὰ τὸ γεννηθῆναι αὐτὸν καθ᾽ ὅρον τοῦ θεοῦ
-- Passage cited from M. D. Johnson's translation in James Charlesworth (ed.), Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 2 (1983), p. 291. Greek cited from Tischendorf edition.

Verse 4 is of particular interest to me because I don't quite understand why Seth is excluded from the drowsiness emitted from Paradises' fragrances. It states that it is "because he was born according to the appointment of God." But what does this mean? In Gen. 4:25, it seems to merely indicate that he is a replacement of Abel, but are some divine attributes granted him too? Well, in this historical interpretation of Seth?

Is Seth associated with eschatology/immortality/resurrection in pseudepigraphal texts? How does he avoid the same effects it has on his fellow mortals? And what does this symbolize? What does the fragrance symbolize? Immortality? Have scholars noted on Seth's role or fragrances in this case?

What was the ancient historical interpretation of Seth's appointment in Gen. 4:25 when it came to GLAE? What did his "appointment" entail?

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    – Caleb
    Dec 19, 2017 at 15:54
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    For clarification purposes, this comment is necessary. GLAE was considered scripture by both ancient Jewish & Christian communities in the first few centuries. So I just wanted to point out the first statement above is false. This is indeed a biblical psudepigraphal and apocryphal text found in any reputable scholarly source that compiles such ancient biblical texts. Furthermore, the above question has been edited, regardless of being an acceptable question based on Secondary Sources to begin with, to include a connection to Genesis. So.... I don't understand the remaining status. Dec 19, 2017 at 18:46
  • Source for "GLAE was considered scripture by both ancient Jewish and Christian communities?" I suppose you mean much more than 'several Jews or Christians thought it was good reading.' Mar 3, 2019 at 15:16

4 Answers 4


I think the key word here is “seed”, which takes us back to Gen. 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (NKJV).

With this prophecy, Adam and Eve were looking for the promised Seed. They naturally thought that Cain, their firstborn, was that Seed. When that didn't work out and they had Seth, Eve transferred her Messianic expectations to Seth, thus saying that God had “appointed” him.


One needn't go to pseudepigraphal texts to find things which are easily misunderstood to give Seth divine attributes. He is a prophetic shadow of Christ, who is divine. When the shadow is understood literally rather than metaphorically as intended, Seth gets credit for being divine.

Though there are many parts of the shadow which point to Christ, the specific one of the OP concerns his immortality.

Abel is considered to be immortal. It is suggested that his voice still is heard: Ge 4:10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.

Since Seth is the replacement, it is misunderstood by some that Seth is immortal. The thing about immortality is that it happens after death. Though we die, we shall live. The cartoon version of immortality is that the flesh continues to live even though it may be abused and broken and writhing in pain according to many myths.

Most hermeneutics are descriptive, telling how one obtained an interpretation. But sensus plenior is prescriptive in that it guides one into a verifiable and reproducible interpretation. It is self-correcting. As such it helps identify the steps of interpretation that have gone awry to obtain a different answer.

There are several words for appointment. The one used of Seth is his name itself שת.
It means 'compensation', 'sixth' and even 'buttocks' and that 'God's word gave two'.

Seth is the compensation for the loss of Abel.

Bereshith 'in the beginning' when split, means bara 'created' shith 'six'. The rabbis identify the meaning of bereshith as including the creation in six days. The beginning was not just the point at which creation started, but inclusive of the six days of creation.

But God created the heavens and the earth, Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, then Seth as the seventh. He was the 'rest' of God, but he was named the sixth, the man (Christ Jesus) who died to obtain his bride. The sixth (Abel) and seventh (Seth) were one.

Seth is the 'buttocks' or seat of creation meaning 'finished'. On day 6 God said he would create man in his image and likeness, but he only created in his image. His likeness is not complete until the beginning of Ge 5.

The intervening account is a shadow of how Christ obtained his bride in resurrection (Seth the resurrected Christ where Abel is the crucified Christ). Seth is fruitful and multiplying as Christ is in resurrection. Abel died desolate as Christ did on the cross.

Christ, the man is the 'express image of God' and his bride, the church, is made to be like him. Together they are the image and the likeness, and the finished work, or seat.

The shin in formation is a vav as God's word coming to earth, which returns two back to heaven. As a metaphor seen from various angles it is the word which gives the increase, the increase itself, the marriage of the word and his bride, the spirit which gives life to the bride through the death of the word.

These all speak of Christ in prophecy, which were taken improperly to apply to Seth. They mixed literal methods and the methods used by Christ to say that all the scriptures spoke of him. Hence the misunderstanding about Seth's immortality.


The generations from Adam to Noah declare the comming of Lord Jesus. It was divinely inspired that Eve would call him Seth


English ... Man Appointed Mortal Sorrow; The Blessed God Shall come down Teaching His death shall bring The Despairing Rest, or comfort.

  • Usually we expect answers to be supported by references to other verses, quotes from well respected sources or linguistic arguments. Please try to improve this answer by finding references to support your position.
    – user17080
    Mar 3, 2019 at 7:30

שָׁת פ' קל (literary) to put, to place.

שֵׁת שֵם ז' (literary) backside

It's funny how far can one go with translation...

In the bible all names (there weren't any last names than) got meanings. שת here called like that because Eve decided that he is instead of Abbel and since she can't call him the same she choose to use this.

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