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Genesis 4:17-24

Context
The Beginning of Civilization

4:17 Cain had marital relations 1  with his wife, and she became pregnant 2  and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was building a city, and he named the city after 3  his son Enoch. 4:18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father 4  of Mehujael. Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.

4:19 Lamech took two wives for himself; the name of the first was Adah, and the name of the second was Zillah. 4:20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the first 5  of those who live in tents and keep 6  livestock. 4:21 The name of his brother was Jubal; he was the first of all who play the harp and the flute. 4:22 Now Zillah also gave birth to Tubal-Cain, who heated metal and shaped 7  all kinds of tools made of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah.

4:23 Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah! Listen to me!

You wives of Lamech, hear my words!

I have killed a man for wounding me,

a young man 8  for hurting me.

4:24 If Cain is to be avenged seven times as much,

then Lamech seventy-seven times!” 9 

1 tn Heb “knew,” a frequent euphemism for sexual relations.

2 tn Or “she conceived.”

3 tn Heb “according to the name of.”

4 tn Heb “and Irad fathered.”

5 tn Heb “father.” In this passage the word “father” means “founder,” referring to the first to establish such lifestyles and occupations.

6 tn The word “keep” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation. Other words that might be supplied instead are “tend,” “raise” (NIV), or “have” (NRSV).

7 tn The traditional rendering here, “who forged” (or “a forger of”) is now more commonly associated with counterfeit or fraud (e.g., “forged copies” or “forged checks”) than with the forging of metal. The phrase “heated metal and shaped [it]” has been used in the translation instead.

8 tn The Hebrew term יֶלֶד (yeled) probably refers to a youthful warrior here, not a child.

9 sn Seventy-seven times. Lamech seems to reason this way: If Cain, a murderer, is to be avenged seven times (see v. 15), then how much more one who has been unjustly wronged! Lamech misses the point of God’s merciful treatment of Cain. God was not establishing a principle of justice when he warned he would avenge Cain’s murder. In fact he was trying to limit the shedding of blood, something Lamech wants to multiply instead. The use of “seventy-seven,” a multiple of seven, is hyperbolic, emphasizing the extreme severity of the vengeance envisioned by Lamech.



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