Why Seth?

When I read the Bible, I often encounter passages that I do not understand. As I study, I ask “why?” in the same way as if I’m reading a technical paper on some topic in mechanical engineering. It’s my way of learning; eventually enough logical questions lead me to that wonderful “aha” moment. [Side note: did you know that the saying “Eureka!” came from an engineering moment of clarity? It’s attributed to Archimedes. Look it up.]

Let me give you two recent examples. One that I think I understand and one that I haven’t yet figured out.

First, the one I don’t yet grasp. I’ve been reading in Luke (actually I’ve been reading the Gospels and I’m now in Luke). Starting in Luke 2:41, the story of Jesus staying behind after the His family’s annual trip to Jerusalem for the Passover festival is recounted. [Remember that the Passover was a foreshadowing of Jesus — He is the sacrificial lamb that alerts the angel of death to “pass over” those who believe in Him. Read Exodus 12.] Jesus remains in Jerusalem after His family departs. His family finds him “in the temple complex sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46).

I understand that Jesus would spend time in “His Father’s house” (verse 49), but I have a question. Why did this happen when Jesus was 12? Was that an important age in the Jewish tradition at that time? Was there another reason? Today, the bar mitzvah or “son of commandment” is observed when a boy reaches the age of 13 (the bat mitzvah age is 12 for girls). At this age, the children become obligated to obey the 10 commandments. Hmmm… I don’t know. An interesting argument for the timing of Jesus’ temple visit is provided at the web site Bible Time. It places the significance of this year on a 500 year temple visit cycle starting with Jacob. You can read and decide.

The second example is the genealogy of Jesus from Luke 3. It begins with Joseph and traces His lineage back to Adam. Starting with Adam, Jesus is from the line of Adam’s third son, Seth, not Cain or Abel. This led me to ask: “Why Seth?”

Genesis 4:25 says: “Adam knew his wife intimately again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, for [she said,] “God has given me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” Seth stands in the place of the one (Abel) destroyed by sin (Cain). This is my own conjecture, but I think Jesus comes from the line of Seth because Jesus also stands in our place under the penalty of sin.

Read the Bible and ask God to speak to you through His word. I’m certain that He will.


About Tony Schmitz

Tony Schmitz received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from Temple University in 1993, his MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1996, and his PhD in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Florida in 1999. He is a mechanical engineering professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
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