As I mentioned in my previous posting about the story of Cain and Abel, through God’s mercy of appointing a mark on Cain so others would not take his life, Cain was able to start a family (and even a city, named after his first son, Enoch), as well as go on to find other means of survival and livelihood, since God cursed the ground to not bear fruit for him. He and his children, grand-children and beyond took up various skills and arts. Aside from Cain’s encounter with God upon murdering his brother, God is not mentioned in the lives of Cain’s family, and sadly, the line of Cain, seven generations worth, is summed up in half a chapter.
At the end of chapter four, we are introduced to Lamech, who, in verse, tells his wives:
“Adah and Zillah,
Listen to my voice,
You wives of Lamech,
Give heed to my speech,
For I have killed a man for wounding me;
And a boy for striking me;
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
This is one of those passages we read and are not quite sure why it is there. Are Lamech’s words a self-proclaimed threat? Or did Lamech have a similar encounter with God as Cain did after the murder of Abel? In a nutshell, I believe the story of Cain and his descendants is the story of a people’s lives without God: There isn’t much to show for it and ultimately it ends badly. And by that I mean the flood is coming soon – within the next two to three generations. But it also ends, in scripture, with noting that Lamech killed two people – twice what Cain did, and possibly the reason he added the extra “7” onto Cain’s proclamation of protection: 77 instead of merely 7. So ultimately the fruit of Cain is wickedness. Even though Cain was allowed to live due to God’s mercy, the story of God’s mercy on Cain may have been passed down the seven generations to Lamech, but only part of the story: Obviously the the part about the mark of protection was, but Cain didn’t seem to bother to pass down the part about God telling him that sin was crouching at the door and it must be mastered. In short, it didn’t stop Lamech from actually going through with murder. Twice.
Another reason I think the purpose of chapter four is to show the fruitless life without God is that, as many almost near stories go, the chapter ends with a glimmer of hope – Adam and Eve have another son, Seth, and within a generation, people again began to call upon the name of the LORD again (Gen. 4:25-26).
Also a theme that emerges here is that things are drawing to a close. I believe this is evidenced by several items from the text: Lamech’s wives names have interesting meanings. Adah means “dawn” and Zillah means “dusk”. The chapter itself begins and ends all that we know about Cain’s descendants. Also, there is a progression of numbers, specifically the number seven. Cain would be avenged sevenfold. Lamech says he would be avenged seventy-sevenfold. Then lastly, just before the flood, a different Lamech from the line of Seth, lived seven hundred and seventy-seven years. The number seven in scriptures is used to signify completion. In Genesis, it shows us that God rested on the seventh day because He had completed His work. In the book of Revelation, the number is used several times:
7 seal judgments
7 trumpet judgments
7 bowls of wrath
7 heads/7 mountains
And so chapter four marks a coming to a close of the history of Cain’s descendants, as well as hinting at the end of an era: The pre-flood age.