The Overlooked Third Son of Adam and Eve

After their first son, Cain, kills their second, Abel, and is sent into exile by God, the biblical Adam and Eve have a third, named Seth, from whom Noah—and hence all of postdiluvian humanity—is born. The book of Genesis, after ignoring Adam and Eve for 22 verses, during which, it seems, 130 years have gone by, states that the two had a son. Eve “called him Seth, because God has granted me a new future in place of Abel, killed by Cain. To Seth also a son is born, and he named him Enosh.” In a 1999 essay, recently republished online, Elie Wiesel explored this oft-forgotten biblical character about whom the Bible tells us so little:

A curious thing: in midrashic literature, which is usually so expansive, rather little is said about this character to whom, we shall soon see, we owe so much. The midrash is more forthcoming regarding Seth’s family. A moving midrashic legend recounts that after the death of Abel, the mourning Adam and Eve fall into a profound, melancholy solitude. Far from paradise, they are no longer in harmony with their environment or with each other. We imagine them silent, lethargic. They no longer desire anything, least of all another child. Undoubtedly, Abel and his cruel fate are too prevalent in their thoughts for them to wish to give him a brother.

[I]n the Bible, it is always the woman who names the children. But if so, why did Seth name his son? Was this perhaps to mark the singularity of Enosh, who is so closely linked to Adam and to God? Like Adam, Enosh means “man.” Moreover, the next verse says, zeh sefer toldot adam: “this is the book of the generations of Adam.” In other words, we are present not at the beginning but at the second beginning of Creation.

Adam’s last son, Seth, resembles his father. We are all his descendants, states the midrash. It strains to reassure us. In case we were afraid to be Cain’s descendants and inheritors of his original sin, the midrash tells us, all the descendants of Cain will perish in the Flood, but not those of Seth.

The proof: we are here to tell his story.

Read more at Bible History Daily

More about: Adam & Eve, Cain and Abel, Elie Wiesel, Genesis, Hebrew Bible, Midrash

 

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood