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Lamech said to his wives,
 “Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
  wives of Lamech, hear my words.
 I have killed a man for wounding me,
  a young man for injuring me.
 If Cain is avenged seven times,
  then Lamech seventy-seven times.”
(Genesis 4:23-24, NIV)

What is the significance of Lamech's boast? What role does it play in the Genesis narrative?

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I'm going to edit this to ask what the significance of Lamech's story is because asking who he killed is only inviting speculations –  curiousdannii Nov 7 '14 at 3:14
@curiousdannii user1054 was a previous account of The Freemason. Since he's active again, I wonder if he'll mind. –  fredsbend Feb 1 at 2:30
@fredsbend I edited it 3 months ago so I guess not. But I think this is really too opinion based. It's not collecting very good answers. –  curiousdannii Feb 1 at 2:44

11 Answers 11

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Lamech killed some younger man. Lamech represents the fifth and last generation mentioned of the Cainites, who by that time were probably a large multitude occupying cities. Lamech represents the culmination of those that turned away from the promise of the Messiah to Eve, in contrast to the Sethites which were the early church.

What we have in Lamech's short poem to his wives, whose names in Hebrew mean 'ornament' and 'shade', is the height of violent boasting.  He essentially say's 'I will kill (and have) who I want and anyone who avenges it shall suffer!'  Grabbing beautiful wives (a polygamy of ornament and 'shade', possibly cast from the lovely flowing hair by his second wife) and having children that were committed to establishing crafts and skills and building cities, implies that in addition to the violence of this people, they were vain, lustful and seeking permanent settlement into the pleasures and ambitions of this world.  The Sethites on the other hand were more like visitors to the world, looking for a better life by faith. Basically Lamech's great boasts, lusts and violence was the early version of Heathenism later represented so well by Greece and Rome.

Note: In my answer I have mostly summarized points learned from Alfred Edersheim's 'The Bible History, Old Testament  Volume I ' but the idea of two races developing with different agendas early in Genesis is common to most Bible Commentaries.

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How were the Sethites the "early church" . . . ? –  blaster Jul 10 '14 at 22:37
@blaster - 'people who believed', however weakly, in the Messiah promised to Eve, i.e, early church means those who had faith in God's promise that a seed would crush the head of the Serpent who brought the human race into death and sin. –  Mike Jul 12 '14 at 7:47
Where's your evidence the Sethites as a whole believed? –  curiousdannii Nov 7 '14 at 3:13

The Bible has no answer to this question. We do not the man's name or anything about him, other than that he was a young man.

The importance, then, is not who died, but rather who the murderer was. Lamech was a murderer, just as Cain was. Additionally, we see that Lamech appears to be unrepentant.

It is interesting to note that Cain's response to God's judgment was "My punishment is greater than I can bear". His focus was on his inability to bear up under the punishment for his crime rather than on the horror of his crime. Lamech also appears to refuse to see the evil he has done, choosing rather to wish for an exemption from capital punishment greater than that of Cain.

As an addendum, we know that Lamech did not kill his wife, with whom he was talking, or Abel, who had already been killed previously.

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I would have +1'ed this anyway as a sound and concise response, but I think it deserves and extra for the post script. I'm pretty sure we could also rule out Adam, Eve and probably anybody else older than himself. And in the end it doesn't matter. The importance is that he was a murderer :) –  Caleb Aug 10 '12 at 21:11

Although there seems to be no direct answer to This question in the bible, I don't think the person Lamech killed was Cain. Lamech is a fifth generation son of Cain. Even if Cain was still alive in the days of Lamech because poeple live long in those days, he wouldn't have been so young that Lamech will refere to him as a young man.

As stated in one of the previous answers, the main interest in the passage is not the one who died but on Lamech and his action. He did killed like his father did. Abel did no wrong to Cain but in his case he said the young man wounded him. He might have felt a bit justification compare to Cain to infer that if Cain is avenged 7 times then his should be a lot more (77).

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The clue is in the word "young". Lamech could not be referring to Cain as 'a young man'. –  user3973 Feb 18 '13 at 9:33

Everyone has a point, and makes a great argument. However to me La'mechs explanation is of two people. 1) A Man who he killed for wounding him. 2) A young who he killed men for injuring him. Both action seams to me to be self defense. He also had some remorse, for if he didn't he wouldn't have spoken about his actions. He wouldn't have care of the consequences that his action was bringing him. Also to me, God must have seen it as a self-defense, for he chose La'mech son Noah. Why restart humanity all over with the descendants of murderers. Unless La'mech didn't killed Cain, and didn't murder an innocent person. This is one of my reasons in naming my son Elijah La'mech Reyes

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Welcome to C.SE, and I hope you have the chance to read our FAQ. This is an OK answer, but I think it would be better if were sourced more closely. –  Affable Geek May 16 '13 at 18:58
Noah was a descendant of Seth's. Lamech was a descendant of Cain's. This Lamech is not the same Lamech as Noah's father.… –  Belinda Nov 12 '13 at 14:23

I have also been curious about Lamech...

It seems to me that he did kill Cain and the remark to his wounding was "blindness" the same MARK that was given to Cain to protect him from the horrors of the wilderness - Cursed to wander the earth forever for the murder of Abel...

Lamech also mentions the young man to his hurt... This is his son Jabal whom was the Shepherd son... An Apocryphal book - the forbidden book of Adam & Eve tells us that Lamech (A Mighty Hunter), shot Cain with an arrow guided by his son Atuh... The arrow kills Cain whom is mistaken for the BEAST that has been harassing the cattle... In his grief, Lamech whom is also unable to see as he is old, strikes his Shepherd son and thinks he has killed him... To make sure that his Sin is covered he smashes a rock onto his sons head killing him and leaving no witness...

Lamech cannot bear his guilt and confesses to his two wives (light & dark) and bears Cains curse 70 x 7 fold...

Lamech's Spirit is the same spirit that is the one seeking those whom he can devour...

Take a look at the history of famous blind people = Very curious... If you dig you will find a man that is in custody that is also the worlds biggest bargaining chip and possibly the last human body that carries the same evil that Cain & Lamech succumbed too... He also has the mark of the Beast and his name also is a name full of evil...

(Gen 4:23 [KJV]) 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.

(Gen 4:24 [KJV]) If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

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Welcome to C.SE, thank you for sourcing the nature of the tradition you brought in! –  Affable Geek Jul 15 '13 at 11:35

the reason for a seventy fold curse is because Lamech killed someone who was attacking him. It's not important who it was because that isn't the point of the passage. The point is to show that if someone who took revenge on Cain; (who was an unrighteous murderer) were to suffer a 7 fold curse then the person who took revenge on Lamech (who only killed in self defense) would receive 10 times the curse. All in all God wants us to let him seek vengeance.

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When Cain was given the sevenfold protection it was due to him doing something wrong. So for Lamech to believe he should receive a seventy and sevenfold protection leads me to believe he committed a murder far worse than his ancestor Cain. I tend to lean toward the notion that Lamech killed Cain on accident "to his wounding" meaning wounding his spirit man not his physical body meaning he was sorrowful. Then killing his own son for instructing him in error, to Cain's demise. This murder was done in rage and after the rage wore off and he realized what he did, his spirit was even more hurt "to my hurt" and sorrowful for murdering his own son. This remorse being conveyed by admitting his sins to his two wives. Just my thoughts after research.

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Welcome to Christianity.SE. You may want to read our tour page and this post on how we are different than other sites. The idea here is to provide answers that are a little more than our own personal opinion. Usually we like to see some suporting references, at the very least some links to supporting scripture, in answers. It would help a bunch if you could do that in your post. Thanks for posting here and I hope you continue. –  crownjewel82 Nov 10 '13 at 13:24

Lamech killed two people and was boasting about it to his wives. His character would likely be that of no remorse for wrong doing, like his grandfather Cain. He already had disrespected God by taking two wives instead of one. God only gave his great, great, great, grandfather Adam one wife. In Lamech we see evidence of what happens to a people when they wilfully take themselves from the presence of God. A self-serving, prideful, rebellious, violent, and murderous carnal nature goes unchecked. This is Cain's legacy to his descendants because he dilberately hid his face from God because he had little regard for God. He was the father of the first pagan group of people. Gen. 4:14,16.

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Lamech is trolling on Facebook!

We know is that the earth was exceedingly violent and wicked in those days, and so we generally assume that Lamech was a prominent person in this culture, but aside from that we don't know a great deal about this Lamech. To understand a bit better what he was really saying, maybe we need to compare his boast with Isaiah 14:13 - 14, where we are told that Lucifer said in his heart;

"I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the most high".

Apart from the two being extremely boastful, there is another thing that I can't help but notice; they're both extremely self-centred. After all, how many times does Lamech say "I", "me", "my"? "Adah and Zillah hear my voice", ".. hear my words", "I have killed..."

The passage in Isaiah 14 has some striking similarities, how many times does the devil say "I" or "my"?

If there was something like Facebook around in those days, this would undoubtedly be Lamech's status. Facebook, and social networking in general but especially Facebook, is an extremely selfish culture. It's all about "I", "me" "mine", "I want everyone to know what I think / did" etcetera, it's very rarely about anyone else except the writer (that's a generalisation of course, and there is always the exceptions to the normal, the point here is what is normal). No one in this forum was alive at the time of Lamech, but if there was anything at all like social media around in those days, we'd see that floating around as a status update, and for those of us who don't have Facebook, we would hear about it on the news.

That's what Lamech seems to be doing; he wants everyone to know about him, just like the devil in Isaiah 14:13. Cain was obviously famous and notorious for all the wrong reasons, and Lamech wants to be better.

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:) It was our very first tweet. He may have to cut it down a bit to 140 characters –  Beestocks Feb 21 at 21:12

Ellicott - "It would thus be a song of exultation over the armour which Tubal-cain had invented. It more probably records a fact, and is intended to show that, side by side with progress in the material arts, moral degradation was going on. Cain’s own act is spoken of, not as a sin to be ashamed of, but as a deed of ancient heroism: not comparable, however, with the glory of Lamech, whose wrath shall be ten-fold. "

Matthew Henry - "He seems to abuse the patience of God in sparing Cain, into an encouragement to expect that he may sin unpunished."

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This boast is very significant in the narrative. It shows us how God's mercy toward Cain in spite of his sin was distorted to mean approval of Cain's action. So this man summarizes the thought of the people in general, that since God would avenge Cain 7 times, God is expected to avenge Lamech 77 times. A very great distortion. God showed Cain mercy, not approval.

When the Flood narration starts in Genesis 6, we read that the wickedness of man was great on the earth. God decided that the only remedy, after waiting for generations for man to repent and change, was the Flood and starting over. Who knows what other bad distortions occurred because God "allowed" killing in retaliation over slights?

Immediately after the Flood, it is highly significant that God told Noah in Genesis 9:6, that whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man. God set the record straight. He does not condone violence to others, and those who kill must themselves be killed because of God's image in man.

In summary, Lamech's words were a window into the heart of man. His statement showed how they misinterpreted God and each other's worth over God's more-than-lenient treatment of Cain. It showed a progression of thought that probably helped lead to God's being "sorry" and using the Flood to start again with righteous Noah.

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