Lamech

LAMECH (lā'mĕk, Heb. lemekh, meaning undetermined). The name of two men in the antediluvian records.

1. A son of Methushael (Gen.4.18-Gen.4.24). This man, a descendant of Cain, had two wives, Adah and Zillah. Lamech’s sons by Adah, Tubal and Jubal, founded the nomadic life and the musical arts. Lamech’s son by Zillah, Tubal-Cain, invented metalcrafts and instruments of war. Lamech also had a daughter Naamah, by Zillah. As far as the record reveals, this man was the first poet. His song (Gen.4.23-Gen.4.24) expresses every feature of Hebrew poetry (alliteration, parallelism, poetic diction, etc.). It is addressed to his wives and has been interpreted variously. Some hold that it is nothing less than a bombastic boast of revenge on any man who will dare to attack him while he is armed with the weapons forged by his son Tubal-Cain. Others, with greater probability, maintain that Lamech, having already killed a man who attempted to murder him, is now claiming immunity on the ground that he acted in self-defense; thus, he logically asserts, his act will receive at the bar of justice a seventy-times-seven acquittal over Cain’s cold-blooded murder of Abel.

2. The son of Methuselah (Gen.5.28-Gen.5.31). This man, a descendant of Seth, became the father of Noah. His faith is attested by the name he gave his son, Noah (meaning “rest”), and by the hope of “comfort” (Gen.5.29) that he anticipated in his son’s life. Thus, basing his faith on the promised deliverance from the Adamic curse (Gen.3.14-Gen.3.19), he foresees, even if faintly, the coming of One of his seed (cf. 1Chr.1.3; Luke.3.36) who will remove that curse (cf. Rom.8.18-Rom.8.25). He died at the age of 777.——WB


LAMECH lā’ mĭk (לָֽמֶכְ, LXX and NT Λαμεχ, etymology uncertain, perhaps meaning strong man, or strong youth.) 1. A descendant of Cain, the son of Methushael (Gen 4:18-24) and the first polygamist. He was married to Adah and Zillah. By Adah he produced Jabal, the first tent dweller and Jubal who invented the harp and pipe, indicative of leisure time. By Zillah he begat Tubal-Cain, the first artificer in metals, and a daughter, Naamah. Lamech’s poem in Genesis 4:23f. is an example of early Heb. poetry with perfect parallelism. There are at least two interpretations of the poem: (1) Historical—Lamech had committed murder, and in remorse and self-justification he excused his crime as self-defense; (2) Anticipatory—It was a threat of what Lamech could do since his son, Tubal-Cain, had invented the sowrd. Cain could be avenged sevenfold, but with the sword Lamech could exact seventy sevenfold, going beyond the lex talionis that limited vengeance to exact equivalents. In either case Lamech, drunk with self-confidence and self-sufficiency, was not willing to wait for God’s justice to operate. He did not trust in God, but rather his weapons became his gods—a phenomenon paralleled in Mesopotamian religion. Delitzsch (Genesis, KD p. 119) called the poem an expression of titanic arrogance. In Lamech, Cain’s trend toward obstinate estrangement from God reached its climax.

2. A descendant of Seth, the son of Methusaleh, and the father of Noah (Gen 5:25-31; 1 Chron 1:3). This Lamech was tired of the unproductive toil spent on the unfruitful land. He expected the birth of his son (Noah) to remove the curse of Adam (Gen 5:29; 3:17ff.). As the son of Methusaleh, he was in the godly line of Seth. The Qumran Genesis Apocryphon also points this out. Since the number ten represented completion or conclusion to the Semite, Lamech hoped that the tenth generation from Adam would bring fulfillment of the Edenic promise. He had lived 182 years when Noah was born and died at the age of 777.

According to some critics, the Cainite Lamech of Genesis 4 and the Sethite Lamech of Genesis 5 were originally identical, with the two genealogies coming from one common legend or source. The J document (ch. 4) preserved one variant list, and the P document (ch. 5) preserved another. However, the differences of spelling and order of names is as striking as the similarities. A discussion of the objections to this theory is found in J. P. Lange, Genesis, tr. by Taylor Lewis (1882), pp. 261-273.

The genealogy of Christ (Luke 3:36) traces His ancestry back to Adam through the Lamech of the line of Seth.

Bibliography

G. Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testament (1959), 57-59; E. Speiser, Anchor Bible, Genesis (1964).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(lemekh; Lamech, "a strong youth"?):

(1) The name is first mentioned in Ge 4:18-24. Here Lamech, the son of Methushael, is named as the last of the descendants of Cain. He was the father of Jabel, Jubal, Tubal-cain, and Naamah. As the husband of two wives, namely, Adah and Zillah, he furnishes the first recorded instance of polygamy. It is very instructive to note that this "father of polygamy" at once becomes the first blustering tyrant and a braggadocio; we are fully permitted to draw this conclusion from his so-called "swordlay" (Ge 4:23 f). He does not put his trust in God, but in the weapons and implements invented by his sons, or rather these instruments, enhancing the physical and material powers of man, are his God. He glories in them and misconstrues the Divine kindness which insured to Cain freedom from the revenge of his fellow-men.

(2) Another Lamech. is mentioned in Ge 5:25,28 (compare 1Ch 1:3; Lu 3:36), the son of Methuselah and the father of Noah. His words (Ge 5:29) show the great difference between this descendant of Seth and the descendant of Cain. While the one is stimulated to a song of defiance by the worldly inventions of his sons, the other, in prophetical mood, expresses his sure belief in the coming of better times, and calmly and prayerfully awaits the period of comfort and rest which he expected to be ushered in by his son Noah.