This past Sunday I heard a wonderful sermon from my pastor that I want to share some thoughts from. Rev. D Mark Davis is the pastor at Heartland Presbyterian Church in Clive, IA, where my family and I attend. He’s been preaching for the last three weeks from Genesis 4 and this week focused on Lamech, the great-great-great-grandson of Cain. After Cain killed his brother he encountered God and was cursed for his murder and banished to a wandering life,
“Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear! Today you have driven me away from the soil, and I shall be hidden from your face; I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and anyone who meets me may kill me.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance.’ And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no one who came upon him would kill him.”
Several generations later Cain’s descendents had been successful and had grown strong. They became the fathers of cities and Lamech became the father of the Bedouins and the artists and the metalworkers. Pastor Mark highlighted these verses (4:23-24):
“Lamech said to his wives:
‘Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;
you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for striking me.
If Cain is avenged sevenfold,
truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.’”
Mark made a clear distinction between the mark God gave Cain and the mark Lamech claimed for himself. God’s protection of Cain was an act of divine mercy. God was responding to Cain’s desolation and fear. Lamech co-opted God’s words for his own purposes. The promise was not given by God but was taken by Lamech in the service of his own hubris.
In that regard, I think Lamech is a helpful type through which we may view our own hermeneutics. Lamech’s is a cautionary tale that reminds us that we do not have the right to unilaterally requisition God’s words for our own purposes, particularly when the driving energy behind our interpretation is that kind of self-serving arrogance or the defense of our own violence (physical, spiritual, relational or otherwise). He will be a helpful character against which I will judge my own reading of the Bible and also a useful category by which I can understand the proof texting of others. Good stuff.