Family Lessons 110: Septimus

My maternal great-grandfather was called Alfred Septimus Airey, which is a rather majestic name for an Edwardian lad from a modest home in a northern English town. Alfred was the great Saxon king, while Septimus is Latin for seventh son: his six elder brothers George, Charles, Henry, Harold, James and William unwittingly affording him this mysterious moniker. There was some superstition about a son of the seventh son, which claimed such a one would be particularly powerful. This Septimus had three lovely daughters, one of whom still lives, so the Airey family could never put such a claim to the test. It is possible that the orgin of this myth may be Gad, son of Israel in Genesis 30:

And Leah said, A troop cometh: and she called his name Gad. 30:11

...though the text hardly warrants such a belief. Likewise, Job had seven sons, but his seventh suffered the same dreadful fate as his elders. Another explanation has been put forward concerning Acts 19:14:

And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.

Any familiar with Sceva and his seven sons know they were given a sound thrashing by the demon they sought to exorcise; the seventh came off little better than the first.

Whether Grandad Sep enjoyed his unusual Latin name, or whether his brother William was just relieved not to have been called Sextus, I cannot now discover. It is traditionally the first son who was the most fortunate for receiving the lion’s share of an inheritance; the youngest often received nothing but outgrown clothes. Birth order ultimately determines little; familial love or property rights make no eternal difference. Only our relationship with God’s own Son, the Firstborn over all creation, matters good or ill:

“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28