Genesis 4:17
Society without the Lord. The banished Cain and his descendants.

I. MULTIPLICATION apart from Divine order is no blessing.

II. CIVILIZATION without religion is a chaos of conflicting forces, producing violence, bloodshed, working out its own ruin. Compare France in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Arts of life may grow from a mere natural root. Music, mechanical skill, scientific discovery, and invention, in themselves contain no moral life. Luxury turns to corruption, and so to misery.

III. RELIGION IS THE BASIS OF SOCIAL PROSPERITY. It is the true defense against the "inhumanity of man." Lamech, with his artificial protection against violent revenge, suggests the true safety in the presence of the Lord and observance of his commandments. - R.







Built a city.
It was a very decided step towards civilization, when the idea of building a city was first conceived and realized. The roaming life of the homeless savage was abandoned; social ties were formed; families joined families, and exchanged in friendly intercourse their experience and observations; communities arose, and submitted to the rule of self-imposed laws; the individuals resigned the unchecked liberty of the beasts of the forest, and felt the delight of being subservient links in the universal chain. Social and personal excellence depend on and strengthen each other. Therefore, when the first communities were organized, the way to a steady and continuous progress was paved, and the first beams of dawning humanity trembled over the night of barbarism and ferocity. It is a deep trait in the Biblical account to ascribe the origin of cities to none but the agriculturist. Unlike the nomad, who changes his temporary tents whenever the state of the pasture requires it, the husbandman is bound to the glebe which he cultivates; the soil to which he devotes his strength and his anxieties becomes dear to him; that part of the earth to which he owes his sustenance assumes a character of holiness in his eyes; and if, besides, pledges of conjugal love have grown up in that spot, he is more strongly still tied to it; he fixes there his permanent abode, and considers its loss a curse of God. Thus, even in the "land of flight," the agriculturist Cain was compelled to build houses and to form a city. Many inventions of mechanical skill are inseparable from the building of towns; ingenuity was aroused and exercised; and whilst engaged in satisfying the moral desire of sociability, man brought many of his intellectual powers into efficient operation. Necessity suggested, and perseverance executed, inventions which safety or comfort required; and when man left the caverns which nature had beneficently provided for his dwelling place, to inhabit the houses which his own hands had built, he entered them with that legitimate pride which the consciousness of superior skill begets, and with the consoling conviction that, although God had doomed him, on account of his own and his ancestors' sins, to a life full of fatigue and struggles, He had graciously furnished him with a spark of that heavenly fire which strengthens him to endure and to conquer.

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

1. Nothing good is said of any one of them; but, heathen-like, they appear to have lost all fear of God and regard to man.

2. Two or three of them became famous for arts; one was a shepherd, another a musician, and another a smith; all very well in themselves, but things in which the worst of men may excel.

3. One of them was infamous for his wickedness, namely Lamech. He was the first who violated the law of marriage; a man giving loose to his appetites, and who lived a kind of lawless life. Here ends the account of cursed Cain. We hear no more of his posterity, unless it be as tempters to the sons of God, till they were all swept away by the deluge!

(A. Fuller.)

In Cain's building a city, and calling it after his son's name, we see the care of the wicked, ever more to desire to magnify themselves than to glorify God, more to seek after a name in earth than a life in heaven, more to establish their seed with towns and towers than with God's favour. But such course is crooked and like Cain's here. If we desire a name, the love of God and His word, the love of Christ and His truth is the way. You remember a silly woman that, in a true affection to her Lord and Master, poured upon Him a box of ointment, and what got she: "Verily," saith Christ, "wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the world, this shall be told of the woman for a remembrance of her." Here was a name well gotten, and firmly continued to the very world's end. The memory of the righteous shall remain forever, and the name of the wicked, do what they can, in God's good time shall rot and take an ending. For which cause Moses, if you mark it, maketh no mention of the time that either Cain or any of his sons lived, as he doth of the godly. Filthy polygamy, you see, in this place began with wicked Lamech, that is, to have more wives than one at a time: so old is this evil, that from the beginning was not so. That mention that is made of the children here of the wicked, telleth us how they flourish for a time with all worldly things whom yet God hateth. The last words show you what eclipses true religion suffereth often in this world, and let us mark it.

(Bp. Babington.)

I. IT IS SINGULAR HOW MENTAL EFFORT AND INVENTION SEEK CHIEFLY CONFINED TO THY RACE OF CAIN. Feeling themselves estranged from God, they are stung to derive whatever solace they can from natural research, artistic skill, and poetic illusion. It is melancholy to think that so many of the arts appeared in conjunction with some shape or other of evil. The music of Jubal in all probability first sounded in the praise of some idol god, or perhaps mingled with some infernal sacrifice. The art of metallurgy and its cognate branches became instantly the instruments of human ferocity and the desire of shedding blood. Even poetry first appeared on the stage linked with the immoral and degrading practice of polygamy. Gifts without graces are but lamps enabling individuals and nations to see their way down more clearly to the chambers of death.

II. THERE ARE CERTAIN STRIKING ANALOGIES BETWEEN OUR OWN AGE AND THE AGE BEFORE THE FLOOD. Both are ages of —

1. Ingenuity.

2. Violence.

3. Great corruption and sensuality.

4. Distinguished by the striving of the Spirit of God.

(G. Gilfillan.)

The natural man is fertile in all things pertaining to this present evil world; and Satan, the god of this world, sharpens and quickens his ingenuity and skill.

1. Pastoral pursuits make progress. Jabal was the father of such as dwell in tents, and have cattle (ver. 20). Jabal takes the lead as the great shepherd of his day — gentler, perhaps, and more peaceful in his nature — morn like Abel in his disposition. The Spirit of God does not here cast censure on such employments, as if there were sin in them. He simply points out these children of Cain as sitting down contented with earth, and engrossed with its pursuits. These children of Cain seem to have shrunk from tillage. The soil was too full of terror, as well as of toil, for them to attempt its tillage. How a man's sin finds him out! How it traces him out wherever he sets his foot!

2. The fine arts. Jabal had a brother by name Jabal, who betakes himself to the harp and the organ. Yes — music — the world must soothe its sorrows or drown its cares with music! The world must cheat its hours away with music! The world must set its lusts to music (Job 21:12). Yet, sweet sounds are not unholy. There is no sin in the richest strains of music. And God, by bringing into His own temple all the varied instruments of melody, and employing them in His praises, showed this. But these Cainites make music of the siren kind. God is not in all their melodies. It is to shut Him out that they devise the harp and the organ. Yet these inventions He makes use of for Himself afterwards; employing these men as the hewers of wood and the drawers of water for His temple.

3. The mechanical arts. Zillah bare Tubal-Cain to Lamech: and this Tubal-Cain was an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron. The arts flourish under Cain's posterity. They can prosper without God, and among those in whose hearts His fear is not. God suffers them to go on forgetting Himself, and occupying themselves with these engrossing employments. He does not interfere; and this not only because He is long suffering, but because one of His great purposes is, that man shall have full scope to develop himself mentally, morally, and physically. Man has torn himself off from God; and God will let it be seen how the branch can unfold its leaves and fruit, or rather what kind of leaves and fruit it can put forth when thus severed from Himself. God will let the world roll on its own way, that it may be seen what a world it is. What is earth without the God that made it, or the Christ by whom it is yet to be made new? What are the arts and sciences; music, painting, statuary? What are the wisdom, skill, energy, power, genius of the race, developed to the full? What are the mind's resources, the heart's fulness, the body's pliant power, man's strength or woman's beauty, youth's fervour or age's grey-haired wisdom? What are all these in a world from which its Creator has been banished; a world whose wisdom is not the knowledge of Christ, and whose sunshine is not the love of God?

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

In the Book of Genesis we have the first city built by Cain, in the Book of the Revelation the last city built by Christ. Now, what I specially wish to show is how the spirit of Christ will purify and exalt city life, how it will arrest the evil of the multitude within the city walls, how it will develop the good, and bring the corporate life to a glorious perfection. It was said of Augustus that he found Rome brick and left it marble; but Christ shall work a far grander transformation, for, finding the cities of the earth cities of Cain, He shall change them into new Jerusalems, holy cities, cities of God. We must not look for the city that John saw in some future world strange and distant; we must look for it in the purification of the present order, that city is already coming down from God out of heaven, it is even now purging and beautifying the cities of the earth, and it will never cease coming down until the corrupt cities of the nations are built up in the crystal and gold of truth and justice and peace. The city of Cain is the city of the past; it is also, alas! to a large extent the city of the present. It is impossible to think of London, Paris, Berlin, St. Petersburg, New York, without being deeply impressed by the spectacles they present of human genius and power and splendid aspiration. And yet in these very cities how much there is to give us pain! How much there is of ignorance, poverty, crime, suffering — of low life, sad life, shameful life. Now, what makes a great city a sad sight, what is the cause of its terrible and perplexing contrasts, and how will Christ cure these evils and bring the clean thing out of the unclean? Let us see.

1. The spirit of Cain was the spirit of ungodliness. It was the spirit of worldliness, it was the fastening to the earthly side of things and the leaving out of the spiritual and divine; it made material life a substitute for God, and in all things aimed to make man independent of God. It was government without God. "Cain builded a city" — he laid the foundation of the worldly rule, and laid it in the spirit of pride and independence. It was culture without God. It was wealth and power without God. It was fashion and pleasure without God. The names of their women signify their appreciation of personal beauty and adornment. The spirit of Cain was, throughout, the spirit of ungodliness, the acceptance and development of all the gifts of God yet ignoring the Giver, and in this spirit Cain built his city. The consciousness of God is the salt of our personal life, and the consciousness of God is the salt of our social and national life. National atheism, whether practical or theoretical, works national ruin. There is no adequate check then to our pride, our selfishness, our license. Without God, the more power we have the sooner we destroy ourselves; without God, the richer we are the sooner we rot. In opposition to this Christ brings into city life the element of spirituality. "Coming down out of heaven from God." It is in the recognition of the living God that Christ creates the fairer civilization. He puts into our heart assurance of God's existence, government, watchfulness, equity, faithfulness. It is comparatively easy to see God in nature, in the landscape, the sky, the sea, the sun, but Christ has brought God into the city, identified Him with human life and interests and duties and joys and sorrows, and just as we accept and enforce the divine element in city life so shall our cities flourish in strength and happiness. We cannot do without God in the city — here where temptation is most bitter, pleasure most enticing, sorrow most tragical, where material is most abundant, opportunity most common, secrecy most practicable, passion most excited, where character suffers most fiery trial, here can be no good thing except as we are kept in awe of God's majesty, comforted by His sympathy, strengthened by His government, inspired by His love. We cannot build cities without God, and if we do they fall to pieces again.

2. The spirit of Cain was the spirit of unbrotherliness. "Cain slew his brother." It was Cain who asked, "Am I my brother's keeper?" He specially denied the brotherly relation, he specially affirmed the selfish policy. And in Lamech you see how the hateful spirit has prevailed. The first city was built in the spirit of a cruel egotism, built by a fratricide, and Cain's red finger marks are on the city still. The blood stains of the old builder are everywhere. The rich things of commerce are stained by extortion and selfishness — the bloody finger marks are not always immediately visible; but they are generally there. There are red fingerprints on the palaces of the great, red stains on the gold of the opulent. Look at the gorgeous raiment of fashion, and the dismal blot is there. Go into the flowery paths of pleasure, and you will see selfishness spilling blood for its indulgence. And what is the outcome of this selfishness? It creates everywhere weakness and wretchedness and peril. It throws a strange black shadow on all the magnificence of civilization. The spirit of Christ is the spirit of brotherliness. "Cain slew his brother." "Christ died for us." Christ brings a new spirit and a new law into society; we must love one another. There are red marks once more on the new city, but this time they are the Builder's own blood teaching us that as He laid down His life for us so we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Oh! what a mighty difference will the working of this spirit make in all our civilization. Can you measure it? How it will inspire men, soften their antagonisms, lighten their burdens, wipe away their tears, make rough places smooth, dark places bright, crooked places plain.

3. The spirit of Cain was the spirit of unrighteousness. "Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." Cain acted in untruthfulness, injustice, violence. And in that spirit he built his city. "He was of that wicked one." The devil was the architect of the first city and Cain its builder, and the spirit of faction, lying, robbery, and fratricide has prevailed in the city ever since. Our great populations are full of wretchedness because there is everywhere such lack of truth and equity and mercy. The spirit of Christ is the spirit of righteousness. Christ comes not only with the sweetness of love, but with the majesty of truth and justice. He creates, wherever He is received, purity of heart, conscientiousness, faithfulness, uprightness of spirit and action. And in this spirit of righteousness shall we build the ideal city. Some time ago, in one of the Reviews, a writer gave a picture of the London of the future when all sanitary and political improvements shall have been perfected. No dust in the streets, no smoke in the air, no noise, no fog, spaces everywhere for flowers and sunlight, the sky above always pure, the Thames running below a tide of silver; but think of the city of the future in whose life, laws, institutions, trade, polities: pleasure, the righteousness of Christ shall find full and final manifestation Let us have great faith in the future. We say sometimes, "God made the country and man the town," but God will make the town before He finishes, and the town that He makes shall outshine all the glory of nature as much as living immortal beings are beyond all material things. Let us be co-workers with Christ. Put your chrysolite in somewhere. In our personal life, in our domestic life, in our public life, in our evangelistic life let us put in some real work. We are poor creatures if we have no part in this. We must have a brick in this time. Let us be true to the grand Master Builder, and when the earth in her beauty is taken to the breast of God we shall sit down at the bridal feast and share the immortal joy.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

Cain is a type of the worldling, cut off from God, whose all is in this life, and who has no hope of heaven.

I. His thought is of living here always. A city is a settled place of residence meant to endure long.

II. His ambition and pride. Great pomp and state in cities.

III. His covetousness. Money made and hoarded in cities.

IV. His luxuriousness. Cities are scenes of luxury and vice. There is Satan's seat.

(T. G. Horton.)

It is not difficult to detect the spirit he carried with him, and the tone he gave to his line of the race. The facts recorded are few but significant. He begat a son, he built a city; and he gave to both the name Enoch, that is, "initiation," or "beginning," as if he were saying in his heart, "What so great harm after all in cutting short one line in Abel? I can begin another and find a new starting point for the race. I am driven forth cursed as a vagabond, but a vagabond I will not be; I will make for myself a settled abode, and I will fence it round with knife blade thorns so that no man will be able to assault me." In this settling of Cain, however, we see not any symptom of his ceasing to be a vagabond, but the surest evidence that now he was content to be a fugitive from God, and had cut himself off from hope. His heart had found rest, and had found it apart from God. It is in the family of Lamech the characteristics of Cain's line are most distinctly seen, and the significance of their tendencies becomes apparent. As Cain had set himself to cultivate the curse out of the world, so have his children derived from him the self-reliant hardiness and hardihood which are resolute to make of this world as bright and happy a home as may be. They make it their task to subdue the world and compel it to yield them a life in which they can delight. They are so far successful that in a few generations they have formed a home in which all the essentials of civilized life are found — the arts are cultivated and female society is appreciated. Of his three sons, Jabal — or "Increase " — was "the father of such as dwell in tents and of such as have cattle." He had originality enough to step beyond all traditional habits and to invent a new mode of life. Hitherto men had been tied to one spot by their fixed habitations, or found shelter, when overtaken by storm, in caves or trees. To Jabal the idea first occurs, I can carry my house about with me and regulate its movements, and not it mine. I need not return every night this long, weary way from the pastures, but may go wherever grass is green and streams run cool. He and his comrades would thus become aware of the vast resources of other lands, and would unconsciously lay the foundations both of commerce and of wars of conquest. For both in ancient and more modern times the most formidable armies have been those vast moving shepherd races bred outside the borders of civilization and flooding as with an irresistible tide the territories of more settled and less hardy tribes. Jubal again was, as his name denotes, the reputed father of all such as handle the harp and the organ, stringed and wind instruments. The stops of the reed or flute and the divisions of the string being once discovered, all else necessarily followed. The twanging of a bowstring in a musical ear was enough to give the suggestion to an observant mind; the varying notes of the birds; the winds expressing at one time unbridled fury and at another a breathing benediction, could not fail to move and stir the susceptible spirit. The spontaneous though untuned singing of children, that follows no mere melody made by another to express his joy, but is the instinctive expression of their own joy, could not but give, however meagrely, the first rudiments of music. But here was the man who first made a piece of wood help him; who out of the commonest material of the physical world found for himself a means of expressing the most impalpable moods of his spirit. Once the idea was caught that matter inanimate as well as animate was man's servant, and could do his finest work for him, Jabal and his brother Jubal would make rapid work between them. If the rude matter of the world could sing for them, what might it not do for them? They would see that there was a precision in machine work which man's hand could not rival — a regularity which no nervous throb could throw out and no feeling interrupt, and yet at the same time when they found how these rude instruments responded to every finest shade of feeling, and how all external nature seemed able to express what was in man, must it not have been the birth of poetry as well as of music? Jubal, in short, originates what we now compendiously describe as the fine arts. The third brother, again, may be taken as the originator of the useful arts — though not exclusively — for being the instructor of every artificer in brass and iron, having something of his brother's genius for invention and more than his brother's handiness and practical faculty for embodying his ideas in material forms, he must have promoted all arts which require tools for their culture. Thus among these three brothers we find distributed the various kinds of genius and faculty which ever since have enriched the world. Here in germ was really all that the world can do. The great lines in which individual and social activity have since run were then laid down. This notable family circle was completed by Naamah, the sister of Tubal-Cain. The strength of female influence began to be felt contemporaneously with the cultivation of the arts. Very early in the world's history it was perceived that, although debarred from the rougher activities of life, women have an empire of their own. Men have the making of civilization, but women have the making of men. It is they who form the character of the individual and give its tone to the society in which they live.

(M. Dods, D. D.)

The inexorable necessaries of daily life absorbed no more the whole attention or the entire strength; the soul and the heart, also, demanded and obtained their food and nurture! Lamech was the first poet (vers. 23, 24), and his son the first musician; the "sweat of the brow" was temporarily dried by the heavenly sunshine of art; the curse of Adam was, in a great measure, conquered by the perseverance and the gentleness of his descendants. Everybody will readily admit that this was a most important step in the advancement of society; for, materialism with its degrading tendencies of cold expediency was, in some measure, dethroned; it became a co-ordinate part of a higher striving, which found its reward, not in selfish utility, but in a free and elevating recreation. It is true that most of the ancient nations ascribed the invention of musical instruments to their deities: the Egyptians believed that Thor, the god of wisdom and knowledge, the friend of Osiris, invented the three-stringed lyre; the Greeks represented Pan or Mercury as the first artists on the flute; and music was generally considered a Divine gift, and an immediate communication from the gods. But our context describes the invention of these instruments in a far deeper manner; it embodies it organically in the history of the human families, and assigns to it that significant place which its internal character demands. It is not an accidental fact that the lyre and the flute were introduced by the brother of a nomadic herdsman (Jabal). It is in the happy leisure of this occupation that music is generally first exercised and appreciated, and the idyllic tunes of the shepherd find their way, either with his simple instruments, or after the invention of others of a more developed description, into the house of the citizen and the palace of the monarch. But we must not be surprised to find here Jabal described as "the father of those who dwell in tents, and of those who have cattle" (ver. 20), although Abel had already followed the same pursuits (ver. 2). Every single remark proves the depth of thought, and the comprehensiveness of the views of the Hebrew writer. Abel had been murdered, most probably without leaving children; yet his occupation could not die out with him; breeding of cattle is a calling too necessary, and at the same time too inviting, not to be resumed by some later born individual. But in the family of Cain rested the curse of bloodshed; the crime was to be expiated by severe labour; in the fourth generation it was atoned for (Exodus 20:5); and now were the Cainites permitted to indulge extensively in the easy life of herdsmen; the blood of Abel was avenged, and with the restored guiltlessness returned affluence, and — mirth, which is aptly symbolized by the invention of music. Jabal and Jubal were Lamech's sons with Adah; but he had another wife, Zillah, who bore him also a son, Tubal-Cain. He was a "sharpener of all instruments of braes and iron"; and this seems to imply that he continued the ancestral pursuit of agriculture, but that he also improved the necessary implements; he invented the practical art of whetting ploughs, and of making, by the aid of fire, other instruments materially mitigating the toil and hardship which the cultivation of the soil imposes upon the laborious countryman. And are we not justified in finding in this alleviation of the manual labour also, a relaxation of the severe curse pronounced against his ancestor Cain?

(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)

I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

It may be translated thus: —Adah and Zillah! hear my voice;
Ye wives of Lamech I give ear to my speech:
I will slay men for smiting me,
And for wounding me young men shall die.
If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,
Lamech seventy and seven.This is the most antique song or poem in the world, the only poem which dates from before the Flood, the sole literary relic of the antediluvian race. Of course, it has been read in many different senses, and its meaning has at times been darkened by those who assumed to explain it. According to some, Lamech is a murderer stung by remorse into a public confession of his guilt. According to others, he, the polygamist, acknowledges that his sin will bear a more fruitful progeny of ills than that of Cain, that polygamy will prove more fatal to human peace than murder. But the interpretation which the ablest critics are rapidly adopting, and which I hold to be incomparably the best, is that which names it "the Song of the Sword." Whatever else may be doubtful, this seems certain, that Lamech is in a vaunting humour as he sings: that he is boasting of an immunity from vengeance superior to that of Cain; and that, because of some special advantage which he possesses, he is encouraging himself to deeds of violence and resentment. Now, just before the song of Lamech we have the verse which narrates that Tubal-Cain had learned to hammer out edge-tools in brass and iron. Suppose this great smith to have invented a sword or a spear, to have shown his father how effective and mortal a weapon it was, would not that have been likely to put Lamech into the vainglorious mood which inspires his poem? May we not rationally conclude that his song is "the Song of the Sword"; that, as he wields this new product of Tubal-Cain's anvil, Lamech feels that he has a new strength and defence put into his hand, a weapon which will make him even more secure than the mark of God made Cain?

(S. Cox, D. D.)

I. THE CASE OF LAMECH SHOWS THE EFFECT OF AN ABANDONMENT OF THE CHURCH'S FELLOWSHIP.

1. The end and use of ordinances.

2. These are enjoined only in the Church.

3. Cain and his posterity forsook the fellowship of the Church, and lost its privileges.

4. Mark the effect of this in Lamech.

(1)In his government of himself, unrestrained by Divine precepts, a polygamist.

(2)In household government, a tyrant.

(3)In his character as a member of society, a murderer. One sin leads to another.

II. THE CASE OF LAMECH SHOWS THAT OUTWARD PROSPERITY IS NO SURE MARK OF GOD'S FAVOUR.

1. We have seen Lamech's character.

2. He was remarkable for family prosperity (vers. 20-22).

3. God's dealings with His people have all a reference to their spiritual and eternal good.

4. Hence they have not uninterrupted prosperity.

5. To the ungodly, temporal good is cursed, and becomes a curse — increased responsibility, increased guilt.

6. Splendid masked misery — embroidered shroud — sculptured tomb.

7. The graces of poetry given here — speech of Lamech.

III. THE CASE OF LAMECH SHOWS THAT THE DEALINGS OF GOD ARE MISUNDERSTOOD AND MISINTERPRETED BY THE UNGODLY.

1. God protected Cain by a special providence, that His sentence might take effect.

2. Lamech argues from this, that he is under a similar special providence.

3. Common — they who despise Divine things still know as much of them as is convenient for their reasonings. Doctrines — depravity, election, justification by faith. Incidents — Noah, David, Peter, malefactor on the cross — "All things work," etc. "Because sentence against," etc. (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

4. Satan thus uses something like the sword of the Spirit — infuses poison into the Word of Life.

5. The Scriptures are thus by men made to injure them fatally. They rest them to their own destruction — food in a weak stomach — a weed in a rich soil.

(1)See the effects of a departure from God.

(2)Avoid the first step.

(J. S. Exell, M. A.)

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.)

1. As the first violator of God's primeval law of marriage. That law most strictly enjoined one wife; and doubtless had been observed till Lamech's time. It was the foundation of family peace, of true religion, of social order, of right government in the state. Take away this foundation, or place two instead of one, and the whole fabric shakes, the nation crumbles to pieces.

2. As a murderer. Lust had led to adultery, and adultery had led to violence and murder.

3. As a boaster of his evil deeds. He does the deed of blood, and he is not ashamed of it; nay, he glories in it — nay, glories in it to his own wives. There is no confession of sin here, no repentance, not even Cain's partial humbling. Thus iniquity lifts up its head and waxes bold in countenance, defying God and vaunting before men, as if the deed had been one of honour and not of shame (2 Timothy 3:2; Psalm 52:7; Psalm 10:3).

4. As one taking refuge in the crimes of others. He makes Cain not a warning, but an example.

5. As one perverting God's forbearance. He trifles with sin, because God showed mercy to another. He tramples on righteousness, because it is tempered with grace. He sets vengeance at nought, because God is long suffering.

6. As a scoffer. He believes in no judgment, and makes light of sin's recompense. Is not this the mocking that we hear on every side? No day of judgment, no righteous vengeance against sin, no condemnation of the transgressor! God has borne long with the world, He will bear longer with it still! He may do something to dry up the running sore of its miseries; but as for its guilt, He will make no account of that, for "God is love"! But what then becomes of law, or of righteousness, or of the difference between good and evil? And what becomes of God's past proclamations of law, His manifestations of righteousness, His declarations of abhorrence of all sin?

(H. Bonar, D. D.)

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