Thus far, the comparison between Cain and Seth’s descendants has revealed that there were two distinct groups, which remained more or less separate from one another for four generations. In the sixth generation, however, the two groups began to marry, which initiated a decline in worship. The increased interaction between the two groups, and their opposing ideologies, morals, and behavior, inevitably resulted in a clash. The first recorded instance of violence between these two groups occurred in the seventhgeneration, when Lamech attempted to murder Enoch.
Unlike most of the individuals mentioned in the genealogies, Genesis presents the details of Lamech and Enoch in greater detail.
“Methushael was the father of Lamech. Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah. 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’ ” (Gen 4:18-24).1
“When Jared had lived 162 years, he became the father of Enoch. And after he became the father of Enoch, Jared lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Jared lived 962 years, and then he died. When Enoch had lived 65 years, he became the father of Methuselah. And after he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived 365 years. Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Gen 5:18-24).2
Lamech and Enoch were both born in the seventh generation, but despite being contemporaries, Lamech was much older than Enoch, a detail that will become important to the narrative. Moreover — and this is key to understanding the events of Lamech and Enoch’s lives — Genesis 4:18-24 and 5:18-24 are not separate stories, but rather two different perspectives concerning the same narrative.
Lamech: The polygamist
One of Lamech’s defining characteristics, or one of the few details we are told about him, is that he took two wives: Adah and Zillah (Gen 4:18). Since polygamy is not previously mentioned in Genesis, we may assume that this was the first occurrence.
Polygamy violated one of the first laws God gave to humans: “A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Gen 2:24). The Creator intended men and women to be wed to one another. This is partly because this relationship — one man with one woman — mirrors the relationship between us and God;3 Christ and God;4 and Christ and his Ecclesia.5
Lamech’s brazen contempt for God’s marital ideal caught the attention of a young man. In Genesis 4:23, Lamech tells his wives: “I have killed6 a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.” This is an account of a violent encounter that Lamech had with an unidentified young man. That young man was none other than Enoch.
Recall that Lamech and Enoch were contemporaries. In spite of having both been born in the seventh generation, Enoch would have been considerably younger than Lamech, since he was a descendant of Seth. Adam’s third son was born after Abel’s death, and was therefore much younger than Cain, for he had reached sexual maturity when he made an offering to the Lord. By the time Seth had reached sexual maturity, Cain had already begun having children. This made Cain’s descendants older, though contemporaries. Thus Enoch, a descendant of Seth, would have been a young man in relation to Lamech, a descendant of Cain, yet both were considered to be part of the same generation.
This does not in itself prove that the young man mentioned by Lamech was Enoch (Gen 4:24). More evidence needs to be examined in order to convincingly show that the only logical candidate for the young man’s identity was Enoch.
Enoch: God’s mouthpiece
Enoch’s name means to “begin” or “dedicate.” It is indicative of his “dedication” to please God, which is reflected in Hebrews 11:5: “For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” Likewise, Genesis 5:24 declares: “Enoch walked with God.” Christ explained that “pleasing” or “walking with God” is the equivalent of obeying His commands (John 14:23). Thus Enoch’s name is a reflection of his efforts to obey God’s word.
Another possibility to the meaning of Enoch’s name is that it reflected his efforts in the seventh generation to “begin” or “dedicate” himself to reviving an ecclesia that had begun to decline in the sixth generation. How might he have done this? By preaching and exhorting from the word of God. The Hebrew root word hnk also yields the derivative hek, which means “speech, mouth, palate” — apt descriptions of a man who was a prophet of God. In his epistle, Jude7 includes one of Enoch’s prophesies:
“See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of his holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against Him” (v. 14).
Jude notes that Enoch condemned “ungodly ways.” Polygamy is an “ungodly way,” since it does not fit within God’s framework for marriage (Gen 2:24). As a prophet, it is doubtful that Enoch would have remained silent in the face of Lamech’s disregard for God’s command to be monogamous. Just as the prophets of old condemned the wickedness around them, Enoch, as God’s “mouth, palate, speech,” would have chastised Lamech for polygamy.
What effect might Enoch’s condemnation of polygamy had upon Lamech? Doubtless it would have embarrassed Lamech and injured his pride, but that assumes Lamech was a prideful man. So, was he?
Lamech: Wounded pride
One only has to look at Lamech’s words in Genesis 4:23-24 to realize what a prideful man he was. A Genesis commentator, Charles John Ellicott, wrote that they represent a “boastful poem” in “praise of armed violence and bloodshed” that “gives utterance to [Lamech’s] pride” (1897:32). In addition to the prideful nature of the poetic words he spoke,8 the answer to whether or not Lamech was a prideful man may be found in the meaning of his name.
Lamech or lmk is a combination that does not appear in Hebrew. Consequently his name has been shrouded in mystery. Strong’s Concordance suggests that lmk is “from an unused root of uncertain meaning,” but nevertheless suggests that his name be translated as “powerful” based on contextual evidence: Lamech had two wives, which Strong’s believes to be indicative of his sexual prowess, and he had the ability to take someone’s life, as demonstrated by the fact that he either killed or attempted to kill a young man (Gen 4:23). Such is Strong’s justification for translating Lamech as “powerful.” Gesenius’ Lexicon (1813-1875) arrives at a similar conclusion, but bases its decision on tradition: “Lamech, the son of Methushael, of the race of Cain; well known for his misuse of arms, which his sons had invented.”9 Gesenius refers to Lamech’s misuse of weapons, which his son, Tubal-Cain, forged. Genesis 4:22 affirms that Tubal-Cain was an artificer of all kinds of metal tools, perhaps weapons as well. However, there is no indication in Genesis or elsewhere in the Bible that Lamech “accidentally” killed anyone, nor was it through the misuse of his son’s weapons. This is pure fantasy; the result of scholars relying on tradition and not the Bible for an explanation.
Another commentator10 suggests that Lamech’s name is a combination of the Hebrew word le meaning “to” and makak (or mkk without the vowels) meaning “to be humbled” or “brought low,” which is undoubtedly a reference to wounded pride. Proverbs 29:23 says that “a man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.” The following example involving King David demonstrates how a man’s pride is able to “bring him low.”
“When the prophet Nathan told David about a man who had slept with another man’s wife and murdered the woman’s husband, he was filled with indignation: David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die!’ ” (2 Sam 12:5).
David’s pride made him feel justified in sentencing the man to death, but when Nathan revealed that this man was none other than the king himself, he was humbled. Upon reflection of these events, David likened the injury to his pride as a physical wound:
“My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear. My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly. I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning” (Psa 38:4-6).
Thus, if wounded pride can be likened to a physical injury, then it is possible that the nature of Lamech’s injury was also wounded pride; a conclusion supported by one of the meanings of Lamech’s name: to be “brought low” or “humbled.”
A tense situation
Having been chastised by Enoch for his disregard of God’s law concerning the unity of marriage, Lamech reacted violently. In Genesis 4:23 there is a footnote in the New International Version that suggests the phrase, “I have killed a man,” may also be translated in the future tense as: “I will kill a man.” The possible shift in tense provides another clue that Enoch was the object of Lamech’s wrath.
Genesis and Hebrews both state that Enoch did not die: “Enoch walked with God and then he was no more because God took him away,” (Gen 5:24) and, “He did not experience death” (Heb 11:5). But if Enoch was mortal, how could he have escaped death?
There have been many different explanations for Enoch’s disappearance, but the simplest, most logical, and Biblically-sound answer may be this: the “death” being referred to by Hebrews is not a reference to the inevitable death that all mortals eventually succumb to, but rather “death” refers to a specific form of death, such as murder. As such, Genesis 4:23 could be read as: “Enoch walked with God and he was no more because God saved him from being killed,” and Hebrews 11:5 as, “Enoch did not experience murder.”
This is not an improbable explanation, since there are other instances in the Bible when God miraculously intervened to save someone from the threat of violence. One such example is in Acts 12, which describes how Peter, who was placed in prison and who likely would have stayed there until he was killed — just as James, the brother of John was imprisoned by Herod and put to death (Acts 12:1-2) — was led out by an angel:
“Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision. They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him. Then Peter came to himself and said, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen’ ” (Acts 12:9-11).
Just as God saved Peter from the threat of violence, he may also have removed Enoch from a similarly threatening situation.
In Enoch’s case, that situation involved the threat of murder, and, as has already been discussed, the murderer was none other than Lamech. In Genesis 4:23, he conveyed to his wives his intent to kill Enoch: “I will kill a man for wounding [my pride], a young man [Enoch] for injuring me [my pride].” But Lamech was unable to carry out his threat because the Lord “took Enoch away,” so that “he could not be found” (Gen 5:24; Heb 11:5). The Bible never reveals where God took Enoch or for how long; all we are told is that Enoch disappeared, which prevented his murder.11
Lamech and Enoch reinterpreted
As discussed, scholars have had difficulty translating the meaning of Lamech’s name. Moreover, they have been unable to describe the nature of Lamech’s “injury” or identify the “young man” in Genesis 4:23-24. Yet, as has been shown, all of these questions can be satisfactorily explained by viewing Genesis 4:18-24 and 5:18-24 as two different perspectives on the same story. Based on the evidence presented thus far, the following summary is an attempt to merge the two perspectives into a single narrative:
In the seventhgeneration, Methushael, a descendant of Cain, became the father of Lamech. Many years later, Jared, a descendant of Seth, became the father of Enoch. When Enoch grew up, he became a righteous man and walked with God, pleasing Him by obeying His teachings. As God’s prophet, Enoch spoke out against the increasing wickedness on the earth: “See, the Lord is coming with thousands upon thousands of His holy ones to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” In particular, Enoch chastised Lamech for marrying two women, Adah and Zillah. In doing so, he injured Lamech’s pride. Enraged, Lamech declared his intent to murder Enoch: “Adah and Zillah, listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words. I will kill Enoch for chastising me, this young man for wounding my pride.” Before he could carry out his threat, however, God concealed Enoch so that Lamech could not find him. In doing so, God spared Enoch from suffering Abel’s fate.
“If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times” (Gen 4:24).
A final component of the story of Lamech and Enoch involves Cain. Lamech knew that if he killed Enoch, he would create in others the desire for revenge. He acknowledges this when he says, “I will be avenged seventy-seven times.” This is an echo of the words God spoke to Cain: “If anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over” (Gen 4:15). Lamech’s use of a similar-sounding phrase reveals an important connection to his ancestor.
Cain and Lamech were very much alike: they refused to obey God’s teachings because their pride blinded them to godly instruction, and they were both men of violence. As has been shown, there is a direct relationship between murder and vengeance, since killing creates in others a desire for revenge. Thus, because they were men of violence, they also were susceptible to vengeance.
In discussing Cain in previous articles, the narrative concluded with Cain building a settlement in Nod with his sister-wife, who gave birth to their first son, Enoch (Gen 4:17). However, Cain’s story does not end there. Lamech reveals that “Cain was avenged.” We may wonder how this was possible, since God had “put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him” (Gen 4:15). But as discussed, the mark was not a protective talisman; Cain could be killed.12 God alluded to this possibility when He said: “If anyone kills Cain…” Lamech’s account makes it clear that Cain was indeed murdered. Furthermore, Lamech reveals that the avenger’s motive for killing Cain was vengeance: “If Cain is avenged seven times…” The conclusion is that Cain was killed to avenge the murder of Abel. The avenger is not identified. However, it may be that Lamech believed that the person who killed Cain was descendant of Seth, who was the spiritual inheritor of his brother, Abel’s, legacy. Thus when Lamech professed his intent to kill Enoch, he did so in the belief that he was avenging Cain, since Enoch was a descendant of Seth.
Matthew Harrison (Ottawa, ON)
1. Also of note: Genesis devotes exactly six verses in each genealogy to Lamech and to Enoch. Moreover, Lamech and Enoch each occupy the same numerical position within their respective genealogies: Lamech is referred to in Genesis 4:18-24 and Enoch is referred to in Genesis 5:18-24. (All references are from the NIV.)
3. “And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father and He is in heaven” (Matt 23:9).
4. “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
5. “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother and shall be joined unto his wife, and the two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church” (Eph 5:22-32).
6. As will be shown, “killed” can also be translated as “will kill” (NIV), which is an important detail when it comes to identifying Enoch as the “young man.” Enoch was not killed, but he was “taken from this life, so that he did not experience death” (Heb 11:5). Therefore Lamech did not kill Enoch, but he certainly may have tried to do so.
7. There is much speculation surrounding Jude’s use of Enoch. Was he referring to the “seventh from Adam,” the actual antediluvian prophet, or was he quoting from the apocryphal Book of Enoch for some other purpose — perhaps, as some have suggested, to refute a popular myth about the prophet or to discredit the Book of Enoch, which was in circulation at the time of Christ? I have no doubt that Jude, who spoke with divine inspiration, was speaking about the actual prophet, since the context of his letter is on the ancient world, and includes other such ancient examples, such as an allusion to Korah’s rebellion (vv. 5-6, 11); Sodom and Gomorrah (v. 7); and Cain and Balaam (v. 11). Any coincidence between Jude and the Book of Enoch is either coincidence, or Jude and the unknown author of the Book of Enoch were drawing from an original source, now lost (just like the lost book: The Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num 21:14-15). This may account for the slight differences between the wording used by Jude and the author of the Book of Enoch.
8. Lamech probably did not phrase his words in this exact way, rather the author of Genesis included a poetic version of the words Lamech spoke, which had survived and was popular at the time of the author’s writing.
9. This particular tradition is thought to have originated from a poem entitled, “Song of the Sword,” which was apparently included in one of the lost books of the Bible, The Book of the Wars of the Lord (Num 21:14-15). There is no Biblical evidence to suggest that this lost book ever contained this poem however.
10. The commentator is Abrim-Publications.com, an online publication. It is not a scholarly publication. While some would dismiss any information the site contains outright — especially given its central thesis — it does contain some interesting ideas. And, as has been shown, older, well-established sources, such as Strong’s and Gesenius, have fared little better in providing Biblically-based explanations of Lamech and the events surrounding him in Genesis 4:23-24.
11. In spite of God’s intervention to miraculously free Peter from Herod, the disciple eventually died. His death was foreshadowed by Christ in John 21:19. Likewise, in spite of God’s intervention to save Enoch from Lamech, Enoch eventually died, since this is the fate of all of God’s creatures: “Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless. All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return” (Eccl 3:19-20). It is clear from the Preacher’s use of the word “all” that no one, not even Enoch, escaped natural death. However, it is evident from the example of Peter that God will, on occasion,