1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Seth

SETH (mi according to Dillmann, “setting” or “slip”; Septuagint, Philo and New Testament, ∑ῄθ, but I Chron. i. I ∑ῄς in A; Josephus, ∑ῄθος, Vulg. Seth), in Gen. iv. 25, 26 (J) and v. 3-8 (P), the son of Adam. At the age of 105 he begat Enos; he lived in all 912 years. Seth was born after the murder of Abel, and in iv. 25 a popular etymology is given of his name—Adam's wife called his name Seth, “For God,” saith she, “hath appointed, shéth, me another seed 'instead of Abel.” It is further said that after Enos was born, men began to worship Yahweh. Apparently Gen. iv. 25, 26 had no original connexion with ].'s story of the creation, which speaks of Yahweh freely from the outset. As Enos is a Hebrew word for man, it is probably derived from a tradition in which Enos was the first man. An examination of the Sethite genealogy, vv. 12-27, Kenan, Maholalel, Jared, Enoch, M elhuselah, Lamech, shows that it is a slightly different version of the Cainite genealogy, iv. 17-18, Cain (Heb. Kayin), Enoch, I rad, M ehujael, M ethusael, Lamech. Seth is named in the opening genealogy of Chronicles, 1 Chron. i. 1, and in Luke's genealogy of Christ, Luke iii. 38. The Hebrew text of Ecclesiasticus xlix. 16 has “And Shem and Seth and Enosh were visited, ”-probably with divine favour; the Greek version runs, “ Shem and Seth were glorified among men.”

In Num. xxiv. 17, the Authorized Version has “the children of Sheth” in a list of nations; the Hebrew is the same as Seth in Genesis. The passage may perhaps indicate that Seth was originally the name of a tribe. The “ Seth ” of Numbers is sometimes identified with the Bedouin, who appear as Sum in Assyrian and Babylonian inscriptions. But the Revised Version takes the word shéth as a common noun, “tumult,” and others interpret it as “pride”; cf. Gray's Numbers, p. 371.

If the ten patriarchs of Gen. v. (see Noah) correspond to the ten primitive kings of Babylon, Seth, as second, will correspond with the Adapa of the Babylonian inscriptions, the Alaparos or Adaparos of Berosus. The two have been compared in that Adapa was demiurge and Logos; and Seth figures as the Messiah in later Jewish tradition.[1] We may also note the resemblance between the names Sheth, Set, the Egyptian god of war, and the Hittite deity Suteh. The latter has been supposed to be a Hyksos or Semitic deity and to have some connexion with Sheth; but Cheyne and Müller reject this view.[2] Seth is also identified with Moab or the land of Moab.[3]

A mass of Christian and Jewish tradition has gathered round the name of Seth. Philo, De posteriori Caiml, § 3, explains the name as meaning ποτισμός, “watering” or “irrigation,” connecting it with the Hebrew root Sh Th H. Josephus, Ant. I. ii. 3, tells us that Seth was a virtuous man, andthat his descendants lived in perfect harmony and happiness. They discovered astronomy, and inscribed their discoveries on two pillars, one of which, says Josephus, survived in his time. In the Book of Jubilees (1st century A.D.) the name of Seth's wife is given as Azura. In the Ascension of Isaiah (1st century A.D.) Seth is seen in heaven. In the Book of Adam and Eve (A.D. 500–900) Seth is described as perfectly beautiful, like Adam, only more beautiful. Seth was the last child born to Adam; he grew in stature and strength, and began to fast and pray strenuously. A Gnostic sect took the name Sethians.  (W. H. Be.) 

  1. A. Jeremias, Das A. T. im Lichte des alten Orients, p. 118.
  2. Encycl. Biblica, “Seth,” “Egypt.”
  3. E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstämme, p. 219.