Saturday, May 11, 2024

The Hebrew Rulers of Genesis


Naamah named her firstborn son Lamech after her father, Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4). Lamech the Younger was one of Methuselah's sons (Gen. 5). 

According to the Bible scholar Umberto Cassuto, the name "Lamech" is related to the Akkadian word lumakku, meaning “priest” (Commentary on Genesis, Vol. 1, p. 233). Further, Lamech is related to the Akkadian word malku (ruler-priest). It also is related to the Hebrew word melek, meaning “king”. 


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

The men listed in the Genesis “begats” were of high social standing in the ancient world. They were rulers, priests, and kingdom builders. Their successors ruled according to a long-established ascendancy pattern. Having an heir was extremely important, and two wives increased the likelihood of having a male heir. The Hebrew rulers who controlled territories maintained two wives in separate settlements usually on a north-south axis.

The marriages of the Hebrew rulers cannot be considered "biblical" and cited as models for Bible believers today. The Hebrew marriage pattern pertains to kingdom builders long before Judaism emerged. These were regnal marriages involving a bride and a groom from related Hebrew clans or between half-siblings. Royal marriages are not like the marriages of commoners because of political complexities and the need for an undisputed heir. Further, the kingdom to which Christians are committed is the Kingdom of Christ our God.

The firstborn sons of the two wives had different rights according to the Hebrew hierarchy of sons. The firstborn son of the first wife was the proper heir to his father’s holdings. The firstborn son of the second wife (usually a cousin) was to serve in the territory of his maternal grandfather.

The two-wife pattern pertained to rulers only, not to lower status Hebrew men. Two wives helped to "build up the house" of the ruler and strengthened the house of the cousin bride's father. The firstborn son of the first wife (usually a half-sister) ascended to rule in place of his father, and the firstborn son of the second wife (usually a patrilineal cousin) became a high official in the service of his maternal grandfather.


The early Hebrew regarded territorial expansion and many children as a sign of the Creator’s blessing upon them. This is evident in Abraham’s petition before God concerning his need for a proper heir (Gen. 15) to rule over his territory in ancient Edom. That territory extended between the settlements of his two wives, Sarah in Hebron and Keturah in Beersheba. Both locations are shown on the map above. 

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