“…she said: ‘God has appointed for me another child…’” – Genesis 4:25
How sad the reflections.
Hunched down in front of her tent, she stared into the fire that had to be kept alight to keep at bay the hostile animals which at one time had been friendly. Her heart melted inside her as she remembered how once she would shiver with delight when the rustling in the treetops announced the presence of God the Creator. Now noises in the treetops or in the undergrowth spelled only danger. Among the trees all around, like heavy drapes, hung the somber forebodings of new unknown perils that could afflict their scarred family on this now-cursed earth.
Terrible had been that day, when God angrily asked them to give account. The man who had once jubilantly embraced her, bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, had pointed his finger: “that woman You gave me made me do it.” There was no solidarity in guilt, no comfort in huddling together. Huddling? How solitary began the life after the fall! It still thundered in her ears: “That woman.” Coming from her husband, her glory, her king!
She was indeed the one who had taken the first evil step. They had been warned: the day you eat of that tree you shall die. They had eaten, and now the lifeline, through which the energy of love flowed between man and his Maker, was cut off – cut off by themselves through their willful disobedience.
They moved about like before, but they were dead. Everything was lost through guilt. Her guilt. His guilt. Their guilt.
But was there not the promise of the renewal of life, through the seed of the woman, that would eventually crush the head of the serpent? Yes, they had heard and believed the promise. And they looked forward to its fulfillment.
They were not unlike the flowers and the trees early in the year: buds begin to swell, and there is the stirring of new life, a looking forward to friendly sunshine, mild summer showers and buzzing insects. And expectations began to grow, but as yet undefined and without specific contents.
Then came the day when she began to feel the stirring of new life inside her own body. It was something totally new. Animals gave birth to their young, and buds burst open on the twigs to allow the tiniest little leaves to unfurl and show their brand-new foliage to the sun. But to man, no children have been born as yet. And therefore, what longing, what looking forward! Will this be the seed that was to crush the head of the serpent?
The woman, who was called Eve by her husband because she was to be the mother of all living, carried her first child.
And she talked to him, and she prayed for him, and she sang for him the lullaby for the unborn (as women would do for centuries after her), and she felt him thrashing around inside. Her husband would put his ear against the taut skin of her belly, which was round and hard as the bellies are of women who are great with child, and in his ear sounded the thud, thud, thud, of a forceful heartbeat, and he laughed, because the LORD had given cause for laughter. Advent had come; the firstborn who was to open the womb was about to be delivered.
Yes, and the day came that those mysterious feminine powers of her body took over because the child that had been so intricately wrought in the depth of the earth was now full-grown, and wanted to see the light. Her husband had to act as instant midwife, because there was no one else about. How strong the power of her contractions, wave after wave! The world was startled with an entirely new sound, the crying of the firstborn child. And above the chortling baby noises, there sounded the victorious song of an exhausted mother: “A man! With the help of the LORD I have gotten a man!” The mother promise have been fulfilled.
And another son was born, and daughters; a family was being formed on the face of the earth beyond the gate of Eden, but yet before the LORD. Their children, conceived and born in sin, were nevertheless children of the promise and they brought them up in the knowledge and the fear of the LORD of the covenant. They were actively expecting the day of the fulfillment of the promise…
But when the lads attained manhood, the robust tiller of the soil stood up against his brother and killed him. He killed him, because his works were evil and those of his brother were righteous. The motivation for his deed came from the depths of depravity.
Their mother still remembered how they had found Abel’s dead body and seen what bodily death looks like. They discovered how rigor mortis sets in after a certain length of time. Dust they were, and here was the first one to return to dust. How they had wailed and lamented! Even years later, she could not hold back her tears as she remembered all that had passed. The man that she had gotten with the help of the LORD: a murderer, a marked man, who had chosen the camp of the evil one, East of Eden. Her second son: a martyr, dead and buried, the first soul under the altar to call for justice. Is that then the way in which God fulfills his covenant promises?
Instead of the presence of God rustling in the treetops, there seemed everywhere the triumphant snickering of Satan, with his mock salutation:
Ave Eva, are you the mother of all life?
The LORD has left you;
Cursed are you among women,
And doomed is the fruit of your womb!
It was the year one hundred and thirty, from the start of the world. The years that had passed had taught them to walk in faith, not by what meets the eye. What they observed was a broken line. The sum total of their experiences looked very much like a dead end road.
But they had in their way, through suffering, learned obedience. Their tribulation had worked endurance, and endurance had produced character, and character did produce hope. And in hope they were not disappointed, because again God granted life. Her arms, which had been empty, were again graced with the moist warmth of a new son. He drank from her, and as he smiled, as children do, nestling against their mothers’ bosom, his mother repeated over and over: “Seth, Seth, for God has appointed me another child instead of Abel, for Cain slew him…” It was the profession of her faith in Him who after much distress because of sin still provided friendly sunshine, and a new hope.
“Seth, Seth,” she hummed as gently she rocked him to sleep.
Sleep, Seth, sleep;
The ways of God are deep.
Gone are your brothers two.
The promise now must come through you;
Sleep, Seth, sleep.
In her confession she praised God who in his elective love had opened the door, there where human flesh could only perceive a blind wall.
Through this door could prosper and continue the flow of the generations – the seed of the woman – until the Servant of the LORD, the Righteous One, would come.
There was happy laughter again in Eva’s tent, as the suckling grew to manhood, ready to carry on the torch, as his name implied. And the Genesis account hardly gives us a chance to catch our breath as it hurries on: to Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. No time for stalling now; things are happening; history is on the move!
Then, with the growth of the different family units among God’s people came the time to turn the house congregation into an instituted church and to praise God’s holy name in public worship.
Is not remarkable that the historical account of those early days, brief as it is, contains two narratives about the birth of Seth?
The beginning of Chapter 5 looks like a fresh new start: Adam was created in the image of God, and Adam fathered Seth in his image and he gave him his name. It is introduced as the account of the generation of Adam, in the same manner as later there would be a book of the generation of Jacob. God created a new thing, a turning point in history. But praised be his name, He did not cut off the continuity from the beginning.
The promise had been given to the woman. Adam fathered Seth, true. But it was also in the continuity of the paradise-given mandate that Eve mothered him. Eve mothered again. She brought forth a replacement. A sword had gone through her heart, but this replacement brought healing; she accepted it in faith.
Therefore let all generations honor her name:
Ave, Eva, mother of all the living;
The LORD is with you.
Blessed are you among women,
And blessed is the fruit of your womb,
Whose name is Seth, replacement.
Abel’s blood was shed, and although dead, through his blood, he still speaks today. From Seth would come forth the final Replacement, not of Abel whose blood was shed, but of Adam. That second Adam, the Christ, has shed his blood for Adam, for Eve, for Abel, and for all of us.
And we are called to attend to that sprinkling of blood, which spoke more graciously than the blood of Abel.
Yes, blessed are you, Eve, because blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
In this reflection the author wants to direct us back to the text to look at it with new eyes – an oh-so-familiar story startles us once again when viewed under this different light. But like any commentary on Scripture, it shouldn’t be read instead of the text itself. Read on its own, it could become confusing as to what are the author’s thoughts, and what the text actually says. So an important follow-up then is to look up Genesis 3-5. John de Vos was Reformed Perspective’s very first editor and this article was first published in the October 1993 issue as part of a series of articles (and later a book) on “women in the history of salvation.”