The Great Consummation – Genesis 4:17-26
Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch … To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain … And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth,
Generation upon Generation, humans fill the earth. The end of chapter 4 details for us seven generations after Adam, with Cain as the first and Jubal and Tubal-Cain as the last. This number is not insignificant – Scripture will time and time again give us generation patterns of seven (see the Matthian geneaology of Jesus), indicating God’s perfect plan.
Despite the fact that Cain is a murderer he is also a Patriarch, fulfilling God’s plan for the multiplication of humanity. The perfect seven generations also end as they begin, with a pair of men who have divergent paths. Cain’s brother Abel is dead, murdered in an act of emotive fratricide. At the other end of the chain, two men, one a worker of bronze, another a musician, illustrate the divide in humanity between the chore of work and the longing for leisure.
And then there is this curious verse at the end.
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’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.
Another three line stanza mirrors the verses in previous chapters. Lamech and Cain are both murderers (interestingly Lamech is the sixth generation, the number of man, the number of fallenness) but both despite their sin will be defended by God. God will defend Cain seven times, but he will defend Lamech seventy time seven (Matthew 18:22). Cain’s name means “received” and Lamech’s mean “powerful” – they are both motifs for the salvation of a God who gives freely and abundantly in grace and love.
The chapter ends with another new blood line, this time through Seth and Enosh whose names mean “appointed” and “mortal man” respectively. Although there is one procreative blood line that begins and ends in sin and death, another through the “annointed mortal man” results in humanity calling on the name of YHWH. These are not just lists of men and women, these are signs and symbols of the divine plan and hand of God.