A Sad Story About Someone Who Missed the Point

After Genesis 4 records the sad account of Cain murdering his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-8) and Cain’s subsequent punishment by God (Genesis 4:9-15), it begins to trace Cain’s family tree. Cain seemingly manages to overcome the ignominy of his punishment, starting a family and even becoming founder of a city (Genesis 4:17). After only a handful of generations, his descendants go on to make notable strides in agriculture, music, and metallurgy (Genesis 4:20-22). However, the inspired pen determines that Cain’s family’s story is no longer a story worth telling in detail when one of Cain’s descendants chooses to murder again.

It’s sad but not surprising that Lamech, the great-great-great-grandson of Cain, becomes a murderer. The entire world was heading towards a state of sinfulness so great that God would bring judgment and destruction upon it (Genesis 6:1-7). On top of that, Lamech’s crime had a clear motive (vengeance - Genesis 4:23), and he had already shown a disregard for God’s ways by becoming the first recorded polygamist (compare Genesis 4:19 with Genesis 2:24). What is surprising is what Lamech assumed would be the outcome of his crime as evidenced by his words to his wives:

“Then Lamech said to his wives: ‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! For I have killed a man for wounding me, Even a young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold’” (Genesis 4:23-24).

Cain had indeed been told by the Lord that his death would be avenged sevenfold (Genesis 4:15), but this was meant as a concession for a punishment that Cain said was greater than he could bear (Genesis 4:13-14). How exactly Lamech saw this concession as applying to himself is unclear. Given that his statements about vengeance follow a description of his vengeful crime, was he claiming that he would exact his own revenge, boasting about himself both as someone who was harsher than God and as someone who didn’t need God’s protection? Did he assume that his crime demanded more leniency from his fellow man than Cain received, even though he himself had granted none to the young man he had murdered? Or was he all at once both assuming God’s gracious protection and demanding it to an even greater degree than had been shown before? Whatever the case, it’s clear that though Lamech was aware of what had transpired between God and Cain, he had totally missed the point of their exchange.

Lamech’s sad story is a part of the inspired record given to us for our learning and warning (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). What can we learn? Besides learning from Lamech’s clear disregard for both God’s ways and the sanctity of human life, I’d suggest that we learn from the way Lamech engaged history. Instead of looking to learn from the past and to avoid its mistakes, Lamech looked for justification for his behavior and possibly for an even greater grace from God than what God had previously shown.

Did you know that people do the same thing with the Bible today?

Friend, Jesus did not come to protect you in your sinfulness, but, as was prophesied, to “turn away ungodliness” from you (Romans 11:26). Jesus did not intend for his gracious salvation to taken as a license to sin but to be received as an opportunity to live a new life (Romans 6:1-4).

So, the question is, have you missed the point like Lamech did? Do you pridefully assume you are the exception to God’s rules? Do you demand for yourself greater leniency than others have received, greater grace than God has ever offered? Don’t let your story become another sad story of someone who missed the point.
-Patrick Swayne