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Bible Encyclopedias

The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia


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  1. Descendant of Cain (Genesis 4:18-24 ). He had two wives, Adah and Zillah. Adah bore him two sons, Jabal (the father of such as dwell in tents) and Jubal (the father of such as handle the harp and organ). Zillah had one son (Tubal-cain, instructor of those that wrought in brass and iron) and one daughter (named Naamah). Lamech is especially remembered for the address to his two wives given in Genesis 4:23-24 . The general opinion of modern scholars is that this utterance is a glorification by Lamech of the weapons forged by his son Tubal-cain, while Wellhausen holds ("Die Composition des Hexateuchs," p. 305) that it is simply a boastful outburst of the kind common in Arabic literature.

    The Talmudists and the ancient Jewish commentators, interpreting the words (Genesis 4:15 , "Cain shall expiate his crime after seven generations"), evolved the following legend: Lamech lost his sight and had to be led by his son Tubal-cain, who was of the seventh generation from Cain (comp. Genesis 4:17-18 ). One day Tubal-cain saw in the distance something that he took for an animal it was Cain, however, who had been killed by an arrow from Lamech's bow. When they found that it was Cain, Lamech in sorrow clapped his hands together, by which action he killed Tubal-cain. His wives deserted him (Rashi, ad loc. ). According to Gen. R. 23:5 , Lamech killed no one, but his wives refused to associate with him on the ground that the descendants of Cain would be destroyed after seven generations. Lamech, however, allayed their fears, saying: "Have I slain a man or a youth that my offspring should be destroyed? If Cain shall expiate his crime after seven generations, surely Lamech, who killed no one, shall expiate his sins after seventy-seven generations." This interpretation was adopted by Onḳ elos and pseudo-Jonathan. Josephus ("Ant." 1:2, § 2) saw in the word "seventy-seven" the number of Lamech's sons.

  2. Descendant of Seth and father of Noah (Genesis 5:28-30 ), whom Lamech begat at the age of 182 years his life covered a period of 777 years. The coincidence of the names "Lamech" and "Enoch" in the Cainite and Sethite genealogies, as well as the similarity between other names in the two lists, has led modern scholars to suppose that these are two different recensions of the same list.

E. G. H. M. Sel.

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Bibliography Information
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Lamech'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901.

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