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Lamech

Lamech

Overview
Lamech is a character in the genealogies of Adam
Generations of Adam
"Generations of Adam" is a concept in in the Hebrew Bible. It is typically taken as name of Adam's line of descent going through Seth. Another view equates the generations of Adam with material about a second line of descent starting with Cain in Genesis 4, while Genesis 5 is taken as the...

 in the Book of Genesis. He is the sixth generation descendant of Cain
Cain and Abel
In the Hebrew Bible, Cain and Abel are two sons of Adam and Eve. The Qur'an mentions the story, calling them the two sons of Adam only....

 (Genesis 4:18); his father was named Methusael, and he was responsible for the "Song of the Sword." He is also noted as the first polygamist mentioned in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, taking two wives, Ada and Tselah. He is not to be confused with the Lamech
Lamech (father of Noah)
Lamech is a character in the genealogies of Adam in the Book of Genesis.- Family :Lamech is the eighth generation descendant of Seth , the son of Methuselah and the father of Noah , in the genealogy of Seth in Genesis 5. In Genesis 5:12-25, Lamech was a son of Methuselah who was a grandson of...

 in Genesis 5.

Sandwiched between two genealogical lines, the passage describing Lamech, son of Methushael, descendant of Cain and his children is fairly substantive:


There are various suggestions of the correct translations for the names:


The older Septuagint, unlike the Masoretic Text
Masoretic Text
The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible and is regarded as Judaism's official version of the Tanakh. While the Masoretic Text defines the books of the Jewish canon, it also defines the precise letter-text of these biblical books, with their vocalization and...

, has the name Tubal rather than Tubal-Cain.

Translating the names as well, it is possible to read the text of the story of Lamech as:
God's servant took two wives, light and darkness.
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Encyclopedia
Lamech is a character in the genealogies of Adam
Generations of Adam
"Generations of Adam" is a concept in in the Hebrew Bible. It is typically taken as name of Adam's line of descent going through Seth. Another view equates the generations of Adam with material about a second line of descent starting with Cain in Genesis 4, while Genesis 5 is taken as the...

 in the Book of Genesis. He is the sixth generation descendant of Cain
Cain and Abel
In the Hebrew Bible, Cain and Abel are two sons of Adam and Eve. The Qur'an mentions the story, calling them the two sons of Adam only....

 (Genesis 4:18); his father was named Methusael, and he was responsible for the "Song of the Sword." He is also noted as the first polygamist mentioned in the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

, taking two wives, Ada and Tselah. He is not to be confused with the Lamech
Lamech (father of Noah)
Lamech is a character in the genealogies of Adam in the Book of Genesis.- Family :Lamech is the eighth generation descendant of Seth , the son of Methuselah and the father of Noah , in the genealogy of Seth in Genesis 5. In Genesis 5:12-25, Lamech was a son of Methuselah who was a grandson of...

 in Genesis 5.

Biblical context


Sandwiched between two genealogical lines, the passage describing Lamech, son of Methushael, descendant of Cain and his children is fairly substantive:

Names


There are various suggestions of the correct translations for the names:
NameHebrewPossible translations
Lamech לָמֶךְ Pauper (via Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

), Priest/Servant of God (via Akkadian
Akkadian language
Akkadian is an extinct Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia. The earliest attested Semitic language, it used the cuneiform writing system derived ultimately from ancient Sumerian, an unrelated language isolate...

)
Adah עָדָה Ornament, Dawn
Zillah צִלָּה Shadow (Rashi
Rashi
Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

)
Jabal
Jabal (Bible)
Jabal is an individual mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, in .- Family :Jabal was a descendant of Cain, the son of Lamech and Adah, and the brother of Jubal, half-brother of Tubal-cain and Naamah...

יָבָל Shepherd
Jubal
Jubal (Bible)
Jubal is an individual mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, in .- Family :Jubal was a descendant of Cain, the son of Lamech and Adah, and the brother of Jabal, and half-brother of Tubal-cain and Naamah...

יוּבָל The ram's horn, Musician, (also) stream
Tubal-Cain
Tubal-cain
Tubal-cain is an individual mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, in . He was a descendant of Cain, the son of Lamech and Zillah, and the brother of Naamah.-Name:...

תּוּבַל קַיִן Thou wilt be brought of Cain (not translating Cain), Blacksmith (translating Cain)
Naamah נַעֲמָה Beautiful, Pleasure


The older Septuagint, unlike the Masoretic Text
Masoretic Text
The Masoretic Text is the authoritative Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible and is regarded as Judaism's official version of the Tanakh. While the Masoretic Text defines the books of the Jewish canon, it also defines the precise letter-text of these biblical books, with their vocalization and...

, has the name Tubal rather than Tubal-Cain.

Translating the names as well, it is possible to read the text of the story of Lamech as:
God's servant took two wives, light and darkness. The light brought forth the shepherd, who was the father of tent-dwellers, and herdsmen, and his brother was the musician, who was the father of harpists and pipers. But the darkness brought forth the blacksmith, the forger of brass
Brass
Brass is an alloy of copper and zinc; the proportions of zinc and copper can be varied to create a range of brasses with varying properties.In comparison, bronze is principally an alloy of copper and tin...

, and of iron
Iron
Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

, and his sister was pleasure.

Interpretation


When fully translated, the text has a strong resemblance simply to a basic mythology concerning the origin of the various forms of civilisation, the shepherds and musicians being products of the day, and pleasure being a product of the night. Blacksmiths, in carrying out their trade, are also associated with the darkness. Thus, in a sense, Lamech could be interpreted as a culture hero
Culture hero
A culture hero is a mythological hero specific to some group who changes the world through invention or discovery...

. Some of the names also appear to demonstrate punning - Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal rhyme, and appear to be derived from the same root - JBL (YVL in modern Hebrew): to bring forth, (also) to carry. A similar description existed amongst Phoenicia
Phoenicia
Phoenicia , was an ancient civilization in Canaan which covered most of the western, coastal part of the Fertile Crescent. Several major Phoenician cities were built on the coastline of the Mediterranean. It was an enterprising maritime trading culture that spread across the Mediterranean from 1550...

ns.

The names are instead interpreted in the Midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

 as an attack on polygamy
Polygamy
Polygamy is a marriage which includes more than two partners...

. Adah is there interpreted as the deposed one, implying that Lamech spurned her in favour of Zillah, whose own name is understood to mean she shaded herself [from Zillah at Lamech's side]. The Midrash consequently regards Adah as having been treated as a slave, tyrannised by her husband, who was at the beck and call of his mistress, Zillah. It further goes on to claim that part of the immorality, which had led God to flood the earth, was the polygamy practised by Lamech and his generation.

The rabbinical tradition is just as condemning of Naamah. While a minority, such as Abba ben Kahana, see Naamah as having become Noah's wife, and being so named because her conduct was pleasing to God, the majority of classical rabbinical sources consider her name to be due to her singing pleasant songs in worship of idols.

Song of the Sword


The last part of the tale of Lamech , takes the form of a brief poem, which refers back to the curse of Cain
Curse and mark of Cain
In Christianity and Judaism, the curse of Cain and the mark of Cain refer to the passages in the Biblical Book of Genesis where God declared that Cain, the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, was cursed for murdering his brother, and placed a mark upon him to warn others that killing Cain would provoke...

. In the poem, Lamech's stance resembles that of a supreme warrior, able to avenge himself absolutely. However, no explanation of who Lamech supposedly killed is ever given in the Tanakh
Tanakh
The Tanakh is a name used in Judaism for the canon of the Hebrew Bible. The Tanakh is also known as the Masoretic Text or the Miqra. The name is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the Masoretic Text's three traditional subdivisions: The Torah , Nevi'im and Ketuvim —hence...

. Some scholars have proposed that it is connected to the invention, contextually by Tubal-Cain, of the sword
Sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

, for which reason the poem is often referred to as the Song of the Sword. The poem may originate from the mysterious Book of the Wars of the Lord
Book of the Wars of the Lord
The Book of the Wars of the is one of several non-canonical books referenced in the Bible which have now been completely lost. It is mentioned in , which reads: "From there they set out and camped on the other side of the Arnon, which is in the desert and bounding the Amorite territory. For Arnon...

, though the greater context for it is likely to remain obscure.

However, this paucity of context did not stop a rabbinical tradition growing up around it. The Talmud
Talmud
The Talmud is a central text of mainstream Judaism. It takes the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history....

 and Midrash
Midrash
The Hebrew term Midrash is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible....

 present an extensive legend, told, for example, by Rashi, in which Lamech first loses his sight from age, and had to be led by Tubal-Cain, the seventh generation from Cain. Tubal-Cain saw in the distance something that he first took for an animal, but it was actually Cain (still alive, due to the extensive life span of the antediluvians) whom Lamech had accidentally killed with an arrow. When they discovered who it was, Lamech, in sorrow, clapped his hands together, which (for an unclear reason) kills Tubal-Cain. In consequence, Lamech's wives desert him. A similar legend is preserved in the pseudepigraphic Second Book of Adam and Eve
Books of Adam
The Books of Adam is a collective name of several apocryphal books relating to Adam and Eve.*The Book of Adam or "Contradiction of Adam and Eve", denigrated as "a romance made up of Oriental fables" by the 1913 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia. It was first translated from the Ethiopian version...

, Chapter XIII; in this version Tubal-Cain is not named, but is instead referred to as "the young shepherd." After Lamech claps his hands he strikes the young shepherd on the head. To ensure his death, he then smashed his head with a rock.

An alternate form of this negative attitude towards Lamech (such as Targum Pseudo-Jonathan) claims that even though Lamech did not kill anyone, his wives refused to associate with him and denied him sex, on the grounds that Cain's line was to be annihilated after seven generations. The poem is then given by Lamech to allay their fears. Other classical sources, such as Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

, see the word seventy-seven as the number of sons which Lamech eventually had.

Extending on this classical view of Lamech is the Book of Moses
Book of Moses
The Book of Moses is part of the scriptural canon of Mormonism dictated by founder Joseph Smith, Jr. It is an amalgamation of the "Vision of Moses," which Smith dictated in June 1830, the "Book of Enoch," dictated December 1830, and material deriving from Smith's revision of the Book of Genesis in...

, regarded in Mormonism
Mormonism
Mormonism is the religion practiced by Mormons, and is the predominant religious tradition of the Latter Day Saint movement. This movement was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. beginning in the 1820s as a form of Christian primitivism. During the 1830s and 1840s, Mormonism gradually distinguished itself...

 as scripture. According to this Latter-day Saint text, Lamech entered into a secret pact with Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

, as had Cain before him, becoming a second Master Mahan
Master Mahan
In the religious texts of the Latter Day Saint movement, Master Mahan is a title assumed first by Cain and later by his descendant Lamech. The title indicates that Cain and Lamech were each the "master" of a "great secret" whereby they covenanted with Satan to kill for personal gain...

. When Irad (an ancestor of Lamech) learned his secret and began to publicise it, Lamech murdered him. News of the murder was spread by Lamech's two wives, leading to his being cast out of society.