Thursday, July 26, 2007
St. Chrysostom on Lamech
© 1998 Alice C. Linsley
Lamech Segment: Genesis 4
Explanation of Symbols
O Female Δ Male
/ Line of descent
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)
How did this great preacher, teacher and pastor of the early Church know? 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 Afro-Asiatic chiefs before Abraham and after Abraham. Lamech is unusual however. Unlike other chiefs, he maintained his wives in separate households on an east-west axis. The location of the wives is significant because their positions marked the boundaries of the chief’s territory.
Among the Neolithic Afro-Asiatic peoples God’s emblem was the sun. We see remnants of this in the Psalms where it speaks of God riding the sun as a chariot. 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, again linguistically equivalent names. So it is evident that the pattern is consistent throughout the Genesis 4 and 5 record.
Discovering this kinship pattern has taken time because until modern biblical scholarship regularlized 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."