city building

Genesis 4


17 Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch. 18 To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad was the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael was the father of Methushael, and Methushael was the father of Lamech.
 19

 Lamech married two women, one named Adah and the other Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play stringed instruments and pipes. 22 Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. Tubal-Cain’s sister was Naamah.


 23 Lamech said to his wives,
   “Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
   wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
   a young man for injuring me.
24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
   then Lamech seventy-seven times.”


***

After all that talk of restless wandering, Cain starts building a city.  Was his punishment more of a command – is he being disobedient?  As is so often, the bible narrative refrains from commenting.  We are left to draw our own conclusions, to play with our own guesses.  Part of the challenge of bible reading!  But in spite of difficulties, I love the freedom to discuss and think about implications and events as they are recorded.

But back to the text (!).

Now, we are hearing talk of what we might call ‘civilisation’.  Not only is this a passage about city building, but it makes reference to tools, and musical instruments.  Human creativity is emerging.

It’s also the first reference to polygamy.  Lamech had two wives. Instead of man and woman becoming one flesh, we have man + woman + woman.  Not the formula proposed in Genesis 2, before it all goes pear shaped (that feels like a terrible pun on the forbidden fruit).

Lamech doesn’t make a good impression.  We have gone from Cain’s lying to cover up Abel’s murder to Lamech’s boasting to his wives of another life taken – another killing.  Hah!  I am better than Cain, stronger than Cain, I will have the same protection as Cain but far better – seventy seven times!!  He sounds proud to be a murderer.

Not, I think, a very appealing character.

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