Lamech (descendant of Cain)

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Lamech and his two wives from The Phillip Medhurst Picture Torah

Lamech (/ˈlmɪk/;[1] Hebrew: לֶמֶךְ Lémeḵ, in pausa לָמֶךְ Lā́meḵ) is a person in Cain's genealogy in the fourth chapter of the Book of Genesis. He is a sixth-generation descendant of Cain (Genesis 4:18); his father was named Methushael, and he was responsible for the "Song of the Sword". He is also noted as the first polygamist mentioned in the Bible, taking two wives, Adah and Zillah (Tselah).

Biblical context[edit]

Sandwiched between two genealogical lines, the passage describing Lamech, son of Methusael, descendant of Cain and his children is fairly substantive:

19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one [was] Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.
20 And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and [of such as have] cattle.
21 And his brother's name [was] Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.
22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain [was] Naamah.
23 And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.
24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.
Genesis 4:19–24

This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;  Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.  And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:  And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:  And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.  And Seth lived an hundred and five years, and begat Enos:  And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters:  And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.  And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan:  And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters:  And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died.  And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel:  And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters:  And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died.  And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared:  And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters:  And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died.  And Jared lived an hundred sixty and two years, and he begat Enoch:  And Jared lived after he begat Enoch eight hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:  And all the days of Jared were nine hundred sixty and two years: and he died.  And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah:  And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:  And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:  And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.  And Methuselah lived an hundred eighty and seven years, and begat Lamech:  And Methuselah lived after he begat Lamech seven hundred eighty and two years, and begat sons and daughters:  And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years: and he died.  And Lamech lived an hundred eighty and two years, and begat a son:  And he called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.

Genesis 5:1‭-‬29 KJV

https://bible.com/bible/1/gen.5.1-29.KJV

Names[edit]

There are various suggestions of the correct translations for the names:

Name Hebrew Possible translations
Lamech לֶמֶךְ,
in pausa לָמֶךְ
Powerful? (cf. Arabic yalmak = powerful),
Adah עָדָה Ornament
Zillah צִלָּה Shadow (Rashi)
Jabal יָבָל leader, stream?
Jubal יוּבָל led, stream ?
Tubal-cain תּוּבַל קַיִן Tubal = probably leading, leadership. Tubal-Cain = Tubal of/from Cain. The name Cain is probably added, to distinguish from Tubal son of Japheth in Genesis 10. Cain means "smith" but can also mean "gotten"[2] He was the first blacksmith. See the older text of Septuagint, where his name is simply Thobel.
Naamah נַעֲמָה Beautiful, Pleasure[3]

Interpretation[edit]

When fully translated, the text resembles mythology concerning the origin of the various forms of civilization, the shepherds and musicians being products of the day, and pleasure being a product of the night. Blacksmiths, in carrying out their trade, are also associated with the darkness. Lamech could be interpreted as a culture hero.[citation needed] Some speculate the names demonstrate punning - Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal rhyme, and possibly derive from the same root - JBL (YVL in modern Hebrew): to bring forth, (also) to carry. A similar description existed amongst Phoenicians.

The names are instead interpreted in the Midrash as an attack on polygamy. Adah is there interpreted as the deposed one, implying that Lamech spurned her in favour of Zillah, whose own name is understood to mean she shaded herself [from Zillah at Lamech's side]. The Midrash consequently regards Adah as having been treated as a slave, tyrannised by her husband, who was at the beck and call of his mistress, Zillah. It further goes on to claim that part of the immorality, which had led God to flood the earth, was the polygamy practised by Lamech and his generation.[citation needed]

The rabbinical tradition is just as condemning of Naamah. While a minority, such as Abba ben Kahana, see Naamah as having become Noah's wife,[3] and being so named because her conduct was pleasing to God, the majority of classical rabbinical sources consider her name to be due to her singing pleasant songs in worship of idols.[citation needed]

Song of the Sword[edit]

The last part of the account of Lamech (Genesis 4:23–24), takes the form of a brief poem, which refers back to the curse of Cain. In the poem, Lamech's stance resembles that of a supreme warrior, able to avenge himself absolutely. However, no explanation of who Lamech supposedly killed is ever given in the Tanakh. Some scholars have proposed that it is connected to the invention, contextually by Tubal-Cain, of the sword, for which reason the poem is often referred to as the Song of the Sword. The poem may originate from the mysterious Book of the Wars of the Lord, though the greater context for it is likely to remain obscure.[citation needed]

Каин и Ламех.jpg

However, this paucity of context did not stop a rabbinical tradition growing up around it. The Talmud and Midrash present an extensive legend, told, for example, by Rashi, in which Lamech first loses his sight from age, and had to be led by Tubal-Cain, the seventh generation from Cain. Tubal-Cain saw in the distance something that he first took for an animal, but it was actually Cain (still alive, due to the extensive life span of the antediluvians) whom Lamech had accidentally killed with an arrow. When they discovered who it was, Lamech, in sorrow, clapped his hands together, which (for an unclear reason) kills Tubal-Cain. In consequence, Lamech's wives desert him. A similar legend is preserved in the pseudepigraphic Second Book of Adam and Eve, Chapter XIII; in this version Tubal-Cain is not named, but is instead referred to as "the young shepherd." After Lamech claps his hands he strikes the young shepherd on the head. To ensure his death, he then smashed his head with a rock.

An alternate form of this negative attitude towards Lamech (such as Targum Pseudo-Jonathan) claims that even though Lamech did not kill anyone, his wives refused to associate with him and denied him sex, on the grounds that Cain's line was to be annihilated after seven generations. The poem is then given by Lamech to allay their fears. Other classical sources, such as Josephus, see the word seventy-seven as the number of sons which Lamech eventually had.

Extending on this classical view of Lamech is the Book of Moses, regarded in Mormonism as scripture. According to this Latter-day Saint text, Lamech entered into a secret pact with Satan, as had Cain before him, becoming a second Master Mahan. When Irad (an ancestor of Lamech) learned his secret and began to publicise it, Lamech murdered him. News of the murder was spread by Lamech's two wives, leading to his being cast out of society.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "the definition of Lamech". Dictionary.com.
  2. ^ Alter, Robert. The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. W. W. Norton & Compan (2008). ISBN 9780393070248.
  3. ^ a b According to Genesis Rabbah, p.56, Naamah was the wife of Noah, the son of the other Lamech. – Source Text