What’s in a Name? by Israel Bible Center
What Does “Abel” Mean?
In Hebrew, Abel (הבל; Hevel) means “vapor” or “breath” – something that is here today and gone tomorrow. Based on the meaning of Abel’s name, readers should not be shocked to see that a mere six verses after Abel’s birth, “Cain rose up against his brother Abel and murdered him.” Those who can read the Bible in its original language don’t need an explicit explanation for why Abel gets his name; when we hear that Eve has a son named הבל we know that, like a vapor, he won’t be around for long!
What About “Seth”?
Despite this tragedy, God’s love has the last word. Soon after Abel’s death, “Eve bore a son and called his name Seth (שֵׁת; Shet), for she said, ‘God has substituted (שַׁת; shat) for me another offspring in place of Abel.” Although Abel leaves the world like a wisp at the hands of his brother Cain, God reinforces Adam and Eve’s family line by appointing Seth who, according to Jewish tradition, is one of the most virtuous people in all of biblical history.