And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man for wounding me, and a young man for hurting me.
Read Chapter 4
Basil the Great
Some think that Cain was destroyed by Lamech on the grounds that he lived until that time to pay the longer penalty. But this is not true. For Lamech seems to have perpetrated two murders from what he tells us. “I have killed a man and a youth”—the man for wounding and the youth for bruising. Now, a wound is one thing and a bruise another; and a man is one thing and a youth another. “For Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, but Lamech seventy times sevenfold.” It is right for me to undergo four hundred and ninety chastisements, if truly God’s judgment against Cain is just, that he should undergo seven punishments. In fact, as he did not learn to murder from another, so he did not see the murderer undergoing the penalty. But I, having before my eyes the man groaning and trembling and also the greatness of the anger of God, was not brought to my senses by the example. Therefore I deserve to pay four hundred and ninety penalties.
Some, because they think that Cain was avenged for seven generations, say that Lamech was evil, because God had said, “All flesh has corrupted its path,” and also because the wives of Lamech saw that the line of their generation would be cut off. They were giving birth not to males but to females only, for Moses said that it was “when men multiplied on the earth and daughters were born to them.” When these wives saw the plight of their generation, they became fearful and knew that the judgment decreed against Cain and his seven generations had come upon their generation. Lamech, then, in his cleverness, comforted them, saying, “I have killed a man for wounding me and a youth for striking me. Just as God caused Cain to remain so that seven generations would perish with him, so God will cause me to remain, because I have killed two, so that seventyseven generations should die with me. Before the seventyseven generations come, however, we will die, and through the cup of death that we tas...
Still others say that Lamech, who was cunning and crafty, saw the plight of his generation: that the Sethites refused to intermingle with them because of the reproach of their father Cain, who was still alive, and that the lands would become uncultivated from the lack of plowmen and their generation would thus come to an end. Lamech, therefore, moved by zeal, killed Cain together with his one son whom he had begotten and who resembled him, lest through this one son who resembled him the memory of his shame continue through their generations. When he killed Cain, who had been like a wall between the two tribes to keep them from tyrannizing each other, Lamech said to his wives as if in secret, “A man and a youth have been killed, but take and adorn your daughters for the sons of Seth. Because of the murders that I have committed and because of the adornment and beauty of your daughters, those who refused to be married to us in the past six generations might now consent to marry with us i...
Said. This is the most ancient piece of poetry with which we are acquainted. (Fleury)
Lamech may be considered as the father of poets. (Haydock)
I have slain a man It is the tradition of the Hebrews, that Lamech in hunting slew Cain, mistaking him for a wild beast: and that having discovered what he had done, he beat so unmercifully the youth, by whom he was led into that mistake, that he died of the blows. (Challoner)
St. Jerome, 9. 1. ad Dam. acknowledges the difficulty of this passage, on which Origen wrote two whole books. (Worthington)
“Lamech said,” the text in fact goes on, “to his wives Ada and Sella, Listen to my voice, wives of Lamech, hearken to my words: I killed a man for wounding me, and a young man for striking me. On Cain fell sevenfold vengeance, but on Lamech seventy times sevenfold.” Apply your attention to the utmost. I beseech you, put aside all worldly thoughts and let us study these words with precision so that nothing may escape us, but rather we should proceed to their deepest meaning and be able to light upon the treasure concealed in these brief phrases. “Lamech said to his wives Ada and Sella,” the text says, “Listen to my voice, wives of Lamech, hearken to my words.” Consider at once, I ask you, from the outset how much benefit this man gained from the punishment inflicted on Cain. Not only does he not await accusation from someone else to the effect that he has been guilty of this sin or some worse one, but without anyone’s accusing him or censuring him he confesses his own guilt, admits his ...