“Nothing hurts my world

Just affects the ones around me

When sin’s deep in my blood

You’ll be the one to fall.”

Avenged Sevenfold, “Unholy Confessions”

“How do you do it?” he asked Lamech, appreciation in his voice. Lamech preened, ” Yeah, not bad, huh? I liked Adah, she’s a pretty girl, but…” and he glanced sideways at his young admirer, “A man’s got appetite, you know?” Oh yes, all the guys nodded, they knew. But Lamech, wow, he’d actually gone out and done something about it. No one had gotten themselves two wives, it was unheard of. Until now.

“Yeah, and that’s not all,” Lamech went on, laughing with his signature hearty baritone, “Nobody messes with me or my women.” Taking a long pull on his drink, Lamech smacked his lips and grabbed Zillah by the arm, dragging her through the group till she was pressed up against him. Adah, his first wife, never far off, shouldered her way through as well, marking her turf. Seeing her, Lamech smiled wide and said, “Listen to what I say.” His voice got low and deep as he looked around the room, his head lowered, “I have killed a man for wounding me.” That’s right, his smirk said. I did that. He flexed the muscles of his left arm, then held his now empty cup over his head like a club, “I killed a young man for striking me.

The group shuddered and sighed, awed by Lamech’s display. You all remember well the story about Cain, he continued. Well, I’ve got something to say about that. “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.

Methushael’s son Lamech set the tone for the generations to come. He appears to have been the first person to depart from the divine ideal for marriage as described in the second chapter of Genesis. One wife was not enough for him, so he took two, Adah and Zillah, showing the first signs of sexual excess.

And what of the two women Lamech chose to marry? Adah’s name meant “adornment” or “ornament,” and Zillah’s meant the “tingling of things that ring” or a “shadow.” Think of their mothers and fathers, greeting their daughters’ births. What birthright did these women and men wish to give to their little girls? What hopes did they have for their daughters’ futures? How were these little girls raised? What was expected of them, as they passed from childhood into womanhood?

It seems women, in Cain’s culture, were seen as ornaments to adorn the arms of the men they kept company with. They were to be the pleasant background music of windchimes, a shadow whose presence was felt, perhaps, but who knew better than to speak, to make her needs known, to interfere in the sphere of men. Or, perhaps, “shadow” implied her ability to follow her man everywhere, intuiting his every thought and need, his own personal shadow who would serve him without ever having to be asked or thanked, or even tended to.

You would think nothing good could come from such a man, but it is from Lamech’s offspring that great cultural and scientific contributions came.

One son became the father of nomadic herdsmen, another was the first in a line of musicians, and another was the first of the great metal workers. Lamech himself penned the world’s oldest song. Lamech’s name means “Strong and Powerful,” and of his sons, Jabal means “Traveler,” Jubal means “Trumpeter” and Tubalcain means “Metalworker,” with a special emphasis on jewelry and ornaments. All these extraordinary names, exalting the achievements of humankind, yet significantly, none of them gave honor to the Lord. Only men.

What does a civilization without God look like? Activity, growth, progress, technological advancement, wealth, sophistication, an appreciation for towering intellect, and powerful art. All stem from God’s grace to humankind, yet without God, civilization degenerates.

Lamech bragged to his wives of killing a young man who had just assaulted him; he had a brutal spirit, vengeful, looking out for himself alone. Worst of all, Lamech showed a total disdain and disregard for God’s word. “If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold,” he crowed, of himself. The Lord had spoken these words to assure Cain he would not be killed by the hands of humankind. God also warned all the people of the seriousness of such an act. These words were spoken to reveal how the Lord valued human life. Lamech twisted and distorted God’s words to become a boast to Lamech’s own violence and aggressive hostility toward humankind, and toward God.

Now picture civilization: Technical brilliance, producing comforts and luxuries; the trend toward human construction over living in harmony with the earth; the increasing tolerance of sexual excess; and increasing, even random, acts of violence. In the end, all of Cain’s civilization would be destroyed in a vast tsunami of water, welling up from the bowels of the earth itself, falling in great sheets from the sky, cleansing the pollution of what Cain had wrought in his offspring. For all its sophistication, inventions, and beauty, none of Cain’s legacy was salvageable.

Sin is what separates humankind from God. The kind of unbelief talked about in the Bible has several characteristics: it is jealous, it resists warnings, it repudiates responsibility for sin, and it protests punishment. Understanding how totally wicked and depraved sin really is gives us a depth of appreciation and gratitude for God’s grace transforming you and me — if we let Him — from within our inner being.

Cain’s true legacy was godless accomplishment and descendants that degenerated into total, depraved corruption. Cain didn’t want to listen to God, he didn’t care about doing right and he didn’t want to master sin, he wanted to be significant on his own terms.

[Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]]

[1] Genesis 4:24 (NRSV)

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