© 1998 Alice C. Linsley
Lamech Segment: Genesis 4
Explanation of Symbols
O Female Δ Male
/ Line of descent
Alice C. Linsley
Those following this research on Genesis know that Lamech the Elder and Lamech the Younger are of great significance. Their relationship sheds light on the kinship pattern that characterized rulers among Abraham's people. To understand how the two Lamechs are related, we must consider Naamah, sister of Tubal-Cain.
St. John Chrysostom didn't know that Naamah married her cousin Methuselah, but he did know that she was important. He called her "Noeman" and said about her, "Well, now for the first time it refers to females, making mention of one by name. This was not done idly, or to no purpose; instead the blessed author has done this to draw our attention to something lying hidden." (Chrysostom's Homilies on Genesis, CUA Press, Vol. 74, p. 38)
St. John’s interpretation of Lamech’s speech to his two wives is brilliant! Unfortunately, it is largely ignored. What he says about Lamech the Elder and his daughter Naamah sheds light on the text and clarifies the confusion surrounding the persons of Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4:23) and Lamech the Younger, his grandson (Gen. 5:26). The confusion arises from the assumption that the two Lamechs are the same person, and that the genealogical lists in Genesis 4 and 5 are about the same people, but from different sources or traditions. This assumption of mid-century source critics assigns the chapter 4 list to the Yahwist and the chapter 5 list to the Priestly source. Von Rad and E.A. Speiser promoted this interpretation in their commentaries on Genesis and many versions of the Bible assume that this interpretation is correct, noting the similarity of names in the two lists (Irad/Jared; Enoch/Enosh). I would argue that there is a single source: Habiru or Hebrew.
Using the tools of kinship analysis developed by E.L. Schusky in his Manual for Kinship Analysis, I have shown that the kinship information in Genesis 4 and 5 represents an intact, non-telescopic list of historical persons, with two distinct lines of descent. These are lines of Horite ruler-priests and their lines intermarried (endogamy). All of the Bible as about them, their interactions and their expectation that the Righteous Ruler would come from them who would defeat death and lead his people to immortality. So there is really only one source: the Habiru, a stiff-necked people loved by God.
This information matters because it affects the way we understand or interpret the Bible. It points us to God's love for us sinners, an undeserved love. It is part of a larger pattern that is seen throughout the Bible. For one thing, this overturns the idea that Cain's line died out. It also indicates that God never abandoned the descendants of Cain, contrary to the ignorant and racist notion that the black men Cain and Ham were cursed by God.
How did St. John Chrysostom, a great preacher, teacher and pastor of the early Church, come to understand Lamech the Elder as a repentant soul? Because he believed that everything in Scriptures is written for our edification, instruction and correction.
Genesis 4 tells us that Lamech had two wives. This was typical of the Horim or Horite ruler-priest caste. These rulers maintained two wives in separate households on a north-south axis. For example, Sarah lived in Hebron and Keturah lived in Beersheba. Lamech's wives (as with Mohammed's two wives Sauda and Aisha) were in separate households on an east-west axis. This means that Lamech the Elder and Mohammed were setting themselves up as God's equal since the east-west axis was regarded as the Creator's territory.
Among these Horite rulers the emblem or symbol of the Creator was the sun. The Creator's territory was marked by the sun’s rising in the east and setting in the west. So when Lamech positioned his two wives on an east-west axis he was setting himself up as an equal to God. The Hebrew scholar, Theodor Gaster, noted that the names of Lamech's wives: Adah and Zillah, mean “dawn” and “dust”.
The key to understanding the kinship pattern is Naamah, Lamech's daughter. As can be seen from the diagram above, she married her patrilineal parallel cousin Methuselah (Gen. 5:26) and named their first-born son Lamech, after her father. This pattern is evident throughout the Genesis 4 and 5 geneological record. Cain's daughter married her cousin Enosh and named their first-born son Kenan. Kain (or Cain) and Kenan are linguistically equivalent names. Irad's daughter married her cousin Mahalalel and named their first-born son Jared. Irad and Jared are linguistically equivalent. Methushael's daughter married her cousin Enoch and named their first-born son Methuselah, a variant of Methushael. The pattern of the cousin bride naming her first born son after her father is consistent throughout the Genesis 4 and 5 record of Horite kings.
Discovering this kinship pattern has taken time because until modern biblical scholarship regularized the names, the linguistic equivalents were not obvious. In his homilies on Genesis St. Chrysostom, who used the Septuagint, gives the name Gaidad instead of the more accurate Irad. St. Ephrem the Syrian used the Aramaic and possibly the Syriac and his name for Irad was Edar. The confusion surrounding the person of Irad has for centuries made it difficult to discover the kinship pattern, so the Fathers can't be blamed for not discovering it. And yet, blessed Chrysostom recognized that Naamah is mentioned "to call our attention to something lying hidden."
Related reading: St. John Chrysostom on Lamech's Speech; Is Enoch a Royal Title?; The Descendants of Noah; Methuselah's Wife; Lamech's Story and the Horite Kings; Two Named Esau; The Marriage and Ascendancy Pattern of the Horites