Seth appears a total of seven times in both the Old Testament and the New Testament (NKJV). We get a brief glimpse of his life by stringing together all of the passages[i] that speak of him.
And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and named him Seth […], and as for Seth, to him also a son was born; and he named him Enosh. Then men began to call on the name of the LORD, (Genesis 4:25-26).
And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters. Seth lived one hundred and five years, and begot Enosh. After he begot Enosh, Seth lived eight hundred and seven years, and had sons and daughters. So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years; and he died. (Genesis 5:3-4, 6-8).
Here 130 years after creation, Adam has a son named Seth; then 105 years after that Seth had a son named Enosh. Thus we learn that a total of 235 years after creation men began to call upon the name of the Lord. The Hebrew term for Lord is YHWH which is the personal name of. God told Moses: “I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by My name LORD [YHWH יְהוָה] I was not known to them,” (Exodus 6:3). Thus to think that this was the first time that humans began to worship the Lord is unfounded. Rather we simply read that they began to use his personal name at that point for some purpose. While it appears to have begun with a son of Seth, we should not infer that it was limited to that line. After all, the Hebrew text very literally says az hukhal likro beshem YHWH] “then was begun (the) calling by (with, in) the name YHWH” (translation mine). The term hukhal (הוּחַל) is the passive (hophal) of begin. The subject of the verb hukhal is “calling” (likro’ לִקְרֹא). The word “men” does not even appear in the text. Thus we see that apparently, up until that point, men were not invoking God by His proper name. It could be that they didn’t know it, though we cannot be sure. Nevertheless this reading of the verse does not in any way substantiate the notion that Seth’s sons were the sons of God. Another reading is possible which may clarify the passage.
A Possible Translation
Conversely, the verb hukhal (הוּחַל) comes from the root (חלל) the basic meaning is “to profane, defile, pollute, desecrate, begin” according to Brown Driver Briggs’[ii] Lexicon of the Hebrew Bible. Thus, the alternative reading would be “then calling by the name of YHWH was profaned”. This alternative reading actually finds endorsement by the ancient Aramaic Targumim. Targum Onkelos interprets the passage as:
And to Sheth also was born a son, and he called his name Enosh. Then in his days the sons of men desisted [חָלוּ] (or forbore) from praying in the name of the Lord, (Genesis 4:26, Targum Onkelos, emphasis mine).
Targum Jonathan is similar though it amplifies that reading even more:
And to Sheth also was born a son, and he called his name Enosh. That was the generation in whose days they began to err [למטעי], and to make themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the name of the Word of the Lord, (Genesis 4:26, Targum Jonathan, emphasis mine).
While neither “began” nor “profane” supports the sons of Seth theory, the latter would seem to make more sense in light of the entire story of the Bible. The divine name seems to have been known from the very beginning of creation. Adam was familiar with it because he heard the voice of the LORD (YHWH) God in the garden after he had sinned. Calling by the name of the Lord was until that time respected and honored but it was in the days of Enosh when calling by the name of the Lord was defiled. God then destroyed the world because of the continual wickedness. Noah retains knowledge of the name and then apparently at the tower of Babel the name is forgotten or lost. God chooses not to reveal His name again until Moses has the encounter at the burning bush.
The Sons of Seth Were Not Sons of God
Regardless of which reading we take, there is simply no evidence whatsoever to support the concept that Genesis 4:26 can be used to interpret the sons of God as the sons of Seth. There is no indication that Seth’s sons were somehow more godly than the rest of humanity. Furthermore, it must not be missed that Adam lived another 800 years after begetting Seth and that he had sons and daughters. Likewise “Seth lived eight hundred and seven years and had sons and daughters,” (Genesis 5:7). All of the sons and daughters of Seth as well as the sons and daughters of Cain were in fact sons (and daughters) of Adam. Technically speaking every human ever born on this planet is a son or daughter of Adam; the Hebrew language uses the term to mean “human”. Thus the text is driving home the point that there are two dissimilar groups: the daughters of Adam on the one hand and the sons of God on the other. To suggest that the daughters of men were actually the daughters of Cain is fanciful. Rather, the daughters of Adam are contrasted with the sons of God: the daughters of men were human and the sons of God were not.
Furthermore, we can in no way infer that all of these sons and daughters remained so godly that they would be distinguished from the sons of Cain. After all, only eight people were saved out of the entire world. These sons of Seth must not have been so godly after all. Simply put, the sons of God do not refer to the lineage of Seth, but to direct creations of God, which before the redeeming work of Christ was limited to Adam himself and to angels. Therefore, the sons of God in Genesis six refers towho had relations with human women.
[i] The two other (out of seven) passages that speak of Seth merely mention his name: “Adam, Seth, Enosh,” (1Chr 1:1);”The son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God,” (Luke 3:38).
[ii] Brown Driver Briggs (BDB) Hebrew English Lexicon provides the following definition. The most common definition is “1. to profane, defile, pollute, desecrate, begin”. BDB then goes on to give the various forms of how the root is used in each of the binyanim (verbal paradigms). In the a. (Niphal) it means to: 1. to profane oneself, defile oneself, pollute oneself; b. ritually; c. sexually; 1. to be polluted, be defiled; d. (Piel): 1. to profane, make common, defile, pollute; 2. to violate the honour of, dishonour; 3. to violate (a covenant); 4. to treat as common; e. (Pual) to profane (name of God); f. (Hiphil): 1. to let be profaned; 2. to begin; g. (Hophal) to be begun” (emphasis mine). The Hophal is simply the passive of the Hiphil – therefore, if the Hiphil occasionally means to let be profaned then the one occurrence of the Hophal might also be translated as profaned rather than begin.