In Modern Hebrew, if you say the word Lemech- לֶמֶךְ (Lamed-Mem-Chaf sofit) it suggests you are speaking about a fool or clumsy person. However, in the Hebrew Bible, the word has an entirely different meaning. Lamech is found in Genesis 4-5 and is described in two different ways. Let me stress that the Lamech in Genesis 5 is not the Lamech that we will discuss today, since he is not the Lamech who lived in Cain’s time. The second Lamech is the father of Noah and he lived 777 years (See Genesis 5:25-31).
Let’s read about the first Lamech in the Hebrew Bible:
|” Lamech said to his wives, Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice,You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech,For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”(Genesis 4:23-24)||
“וַיֹּאמֶר לֶמֶךְ לְנָשָׁיו, עָדָה וְצִלָּה שְׁמַעַן קוֹלִי-נְשֵׁי לֶמֶךְ הַאְזֵנָּה אִמְרָתִי: כִּי אִישׁ הָרַגְתִּי לְפִצְעִי וְיֶלֶד לְחַבֻּרָתִי. כִּי שִׁבְעָתַיִם, יֻקַּם-קָיִן; וְלֶמֶךְ שִׁבְעִים וְשִׁבְעָה.”
Many questions can be asked about these verses, such as: What caused Lamech to kill a person? Did he kill one or two people? And why did he have two wives?
One question that was not asked is what exactly was Lamech telling wives – did he confess and regret his actions, or did he brag about the fact that he had killed people? The answer depends on the meaning of the letter lamed, which is marked above.
If this letter means “because of”, then it suggests Lamech regretted killing Cain as well as his son (for that reason the word “Lamach” today is understood as “clumsy”) and for that reason he had wounds.
If this letter means “by” then it suggests Lamech was bragging about having killed Cain and his son, being proud of having wounded them. By the way, Lamech was married to two women in the custom of the time; one was in order procreate and the other was his sexual object.
It’s amazing how understanding the additional meanings of just one letter can change the meaning of a whole text, isn’t it?
Have a blessed week and a Happy New Year,
Man-’îš – אִישׁ
Lamech- Lemech- לֶמֶךְ
Seventy- šiv’îm – שִׁבְעִים
Fertility-piryôn – פִּרְיוֹן