Genesis 4:17-24
And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bore Enoch: and he built a city, and called the name of the city…

Without professing to regard him as either "an antediluvian Thug — a patriarchal 'old man of the mountain' — the true type of the assassin in every age, whose sacrificial knife is a dagger, whose worship is homicide, and his inspiration that apostate spirit who was a liar and a murderer from the beginning" (Revelation J.B. Owen, M.A., "Pre-Calvary Martyrs," p. 97); or, on the other band, "the afflicted one, a type and prophecy, in the first ages of the world, of afflicted Israel in the hour of Jacob's trouble, when they shall look on the pierced Saviour with godly sorrow" (Revelation T.R. Birks, M.A., in Family Treasury, February, 1863, p. 85); we see in him —

I. A VIOLATOR OF THE DIVINE LAW OF MARRIAGE. Lamech was a polygamist. Monogamy was the Divine law of marriage, and in all likelihood this rule had been observed till Lamech's time. Dr. Cox says, "He is the first of the human race who had more wives than one. The father of a family of inventors, this was his invention, his legacy to the human race — a legacy which perhaps the larger half of men still inherit to their cost and ours" (Sunday Magazine, 1873, p. 158). Kitto quaintly remarks, "Lamech had his troubles, as a man with two wives was likely to have, and always has had; but whether or not his troubles grew directly out of his polygamy is not clearly disclosed."

II. A PROOF THAT WORLDLY PROSPERITY IS NO NECESSARY SIGN OF THE DIVINE FAVOUR. Lamech was a prosperous man, as things went in those primitive times. His family was numerous and rarely gifted (vers. 20-22). But gifts and graces do not necessarily go together.

III. A CASE OF GOD'S DEALINGS BEING MISCONSTRUED AND PERVERTED. "If Cain be avenged sevenfold." The mark set on Cain was not only a protection but a punishment. Whilst it saved him from death, it confined him to a vagabondage almost worse than death. Lamech, however, sees in it not punishment, but only protection. He interprets Cain's case as a premium put by God upon violence; as a Divine connivance at murder. "If God," he argues, "took the part of a homicide, I need not scruple to destroy with my glittering blade any man, old or young, who dares to molest me. God is merciful to murderers." A true case of turning the grace of God into licentiousness, of sinning that grace may abound.

IV. AN INSTANCE OF CULTURED AND CIVILIZED GODLESSNESS. Lamech argues that, if God avenged Cain sevenfold (Genesis 4:15), he, with his new weapon, the sword, will not need nor ask a Divine avenger. He will act for himself on the principle, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," and that not merely seven fold but seventy-and-seven times. The song thus "breathes a spirit of boastful defiance, of trust in his own strength, of violence, and of murder. Of God there is no further acknowledgment than that in a reference to the avenging of Cain, from which Lamech argues his own safety" (Edersheim). Looked at in the light of this savage "sword song," we cannot but see that the culture and civilization introduced by Lamech and his family were essentially godless; "of the earth, earthly."

(T. D. Dickson, M. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

WEB: Cain knew his wife. She conceived, and gave birth to Enoch. He built a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.

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