In the first chapter of the Book of Genesis we read:

Genesis 1:27-28: "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'"

However, in Genesis 5 we read that it took Adam over a century to have his 3rd son:

Genesis 5:3: "When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth."

If God commanded the first couple "to be fruitful and multiply" so early in Genesis, whey then did Adam and Eve have Seth only as they reached the age of 130? Are we to understand that they had only daughters until that point?

  • 2
    A reasonable Q in my view +1 and not worth a dv either.
    – Steve
    Sep 17, 2021 at 2:50
  • In the absence of a scriptural response - first, it wasn’t 130 years - because did their (age) count start at ‘0’? If you ask Qs that (I don’t think? but could be proven wrong) can not be answered exegetically - we can only, at best, speculate.
    – Dave
    Sep 17, 2021 at 3:19
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    Speculating (which could in time lead to more?), I would go the route of the chosen lineage: he had Seth at 130 years of age (looking 180? 🤣) but may have had more sons and even daughters before.. but Seth is important to the story: Gen is structured around the lineage that eventually leads to Jesus.
    – user36337
    Sep 17, 2021 at 6:23
  • 1
    Why would it take Adam and Eve 130 years to have Seth - For the same reason it took Seth himself over a century to father Enosh, or Noah half a millennium to father Sem and his brethren, etcetera; notice that their age of fertility is proportional to their lengthy lives, spanning centuries, rather than mere decades.
    – Lucian
    Sep 17, 2021 at 12:07
  • @Lucian Thanks for that. I too have wondered about "age fertility [being] proportional to their lengthy lives, spanning centuries".
    – Xeno
    Sep 17, 2021 at 17:47

6 Answers 6


Genesis 4:25 (NIV): Adam made love to his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”

Seth was named by Eve in honour of Abel, after Cain killed him. So the natural interpretation is that Abel was killed shortly before the 130th year, probably at most a few years before. This doesn't mean Seth was only their third son, he's just the third named child because Noah would be his descendant through the direct male line.

Some people believe Adam and his family were not the only humans alive at the time, but if you do think that Adam and Eve are the parents of all humanity, then 130 years is enough time for their descendants to number in the hundreds, so that Cain would be afraid of them, and for Cain to find a wife amongst his sisters, nieces, or grand-nieces.


If you use the lineage of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1 as an example of this, only the righteous Kings of Judah/Israel are mentioned. The most wicked of the bunch are left out completely.

The dates for the birth of Cain and Able are not listed, but happened prior to Seth's.

What you're seeing is a typical ancient Jewish way of officially marking time via the Righteous Kings, ignoring the wicked kings.

It is very likely Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters between the first two sons and the third who are listed, but "lost them" to the influence of Cain, the devil and his angels.


The question is based on the un-evidenced idea that Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve. There is no evidence that this is true and was almost certainly untrue.

Josephus says [Book 1, Chapter 2, verse 3 footnote] that Adam and Eve had 33 sons and 23 daughters. Some Rabbinic traditions put the figure much higher.

Thus, we have no idea how many children Eve had before giving birther to Seth.

  • 1
    With Abel dead, and Cain exiled, Seth was the next in line; otherwise, another would have been named. Though sometimes firstborns lose their afferent rights, reasons are always explicitly stated in the story (Cain & Abel, Jacob & Esau, Ruben & Judah, etc). Also, the quoted Judeo-Christian tradition does not imply any of the rest preceding these three.
    – Lucian
    Sep 17, 2021 at 11:45
  • @Lucian - that assumes we have the full story, which we do not. Your list does not include Shem, Ham and japheth in which Shem was NOT the oldest.
    – Dottard
    Sep 17, 2021 at 21:06
  • @Dottard Is right, qualifications like "a son in his own image" mean we simply don't know if the author is delineating important sons and daughters. It doesn't say 'first' or 'second' or 'third' son or daughter. Maybe Seth was the most like Adam. We simply can't speculate, nor is it, by any means, an argument from silence to assume or ask whether they had children not mentioned. Sep 18, 2021 at 21:18

Although there is no specific mention of when "sons and daughters" were born to the first Humans (Genesis 5:4), we certainly can infer that all along children were being born to them. Otherwise, where did Cain get his wife?


Rabbinic Kabbalistic sources provide a different explanation.

First, the primordial sin was about the forbidden relations between Adam and Eve, hence its association with sex. In (rabbinic interpretation of) Biblical Hebrew, eating (אכילה) is associated with sex, and eating the forbidden fruit transformed into having forbidden relations with Eve.

The action took place on Friday afternoon, right before Sabbath. The divine plan envisioned the holy day of Sabbath as the perfect time for the first night when it could be done in holiness (without submitting to one's urges and without the involvement of evil forces, that control the weekdays), hence the rabbinic tradition of having relations (exclusively) on Sabbath eve.

So Adam failed to wait and the sex was somehow "contaminated" with evil forces, and that's how the boys Abel and Cain came out somewhat defective.

Second, in order to atone (after experiencing God's wrath), Adam left Eve and went to... dip himself in the Gihon river. As you remember, semen is a source of ritual impurity and one is commanded to immerse in a natural water source to cleanse himself.

Technically, Adam did not worry about the commandment, because by having two boys (and commentaries add twin sisters) he technically fulfilled the commandment of being fruitful (acc. to Jewish Halachic standards).

Third, Adam liked the waters so much, he spent 130 years pleasuring himself in the Gihon River, remembering how beautiful Eve was, wasting seed, and creating all kinds of evil forces, demons, angels, and whatnot. This narrative is frequently used to explain where did all the evil come from, but it misses the point of #1.

When he finished (I mean ended) those 130 years, he made full repentance, returned to Eve, and begot Seth that was a Tzaddik.

I only forgot the interpretation of the number 130.

  • Al, thanks for this perspective. Could you quote the part whereas the semen is a source of a ritual impurity?
    – grammaplow
    Jan 22, 2023 at 12:40
  • 1
    "Leviticus 15:16–18 states that any male who emits semen is considered ritually impure - whether the emission came through masturbation, nocturnal emission, or sex between married heterosexual partners." Google
    – Al Berko
    Apr 20, 2023 at 6:54
  • I read this part as regarding to the sickness of the gonorrhea. In fact this the exact word that is used in the Septuagint. In Levitcus 15:3 the emission has to be unclean. In 15:8 also the spit is declared contagious. So it’s not just the semen but the contagious fluids of a person that are unclean (contagious) and semen is just one of those fluids.
    – grammaplow
    Apr 20, 2023 at 18:55
  • In modern terms we may think, instead of contamination, of spiritual immaturity. Conceiving children is easy but raising them is hard unless one is ready to be a parent. I upvoted the answer but would have appreciated references for the traditions. Jan 24 at 6:10

It is worth noting that Genesis chapter 5 is a list of Adam's descendants to Noah, arranged in a standard pattern;

Each father lived for some years, became the father of a son, lived for more years, and had other sones and daughters before he died.

While the list mentions each father had many sons and daughters, only one son is named. He was the chosen one, the son of God described in Genesis 6:2. In Genesis 5:3, Seth is described as a son in Adam's likeness, which could be interpreted as a reference to his godly nature. In Genesis 4:26, after Seth begot his son Enosh, people began to proclaim the name of God, which could be interpreted as a sign of their faith in God.

Therefore Seth is unlikely to have been the third son of Adam, nor were the sons' names in Genesis chapter 5 necessarily the eldest. It also sheds light on why Cain was afraid of being killed (Gen 4:14). After he killed his brother Abel, he may have feared that other brothers would kill him to avenge Abel.

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