Genesis 4:19
And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.
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(19-22) Lamech took unto him two wives.—Whether polygamy began with Lamech is uncertain, but it is in keeping with the insolent character of the man. The names of his wives bear testimony to the existence, even at this early date, of considerable refinement; for I can scarcely believe that we need go to the Assyrian dialect for the meaning of two words for which Hebrew suffices. They are explained in Assyrian as being edhatu, “darkness,” and tzillatu, “the shades of night.” In Hebrew Adah means ornament, especially that which is for the decoration of the person; while Zillah means shadow, which agrees very closely with the Assyrian explanation. Both have distinguished children. Jabal, Adah’s eldest son, took to a nomadic life, whence his name, which means wanderer, and was looked up to by the nomad tribes as their founder. The difference between their mode of life and that of Abel was that they perpetually changed their habitation, while he remained in the neighbourhood of Adam’s dwelling. The younger, “Jubal,” that is, the music-player, “was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.” Of these instruments, the kinnôr, always translated “harp” in our version, was certainly a stringed instrument, a guitar or lyre. The other, in Hebrew ‘ugab, is mentioned only in Job 21:12; Job 30:31; Psalm 150:4. It was a small wind instrument, a reed or pipe.

The son of Zillah attained to higher distinction. He is the first “sharpener (or hammerer) of every instrument of copper and iron.” Copper is constantly found cropping up in a comparatively pure state upon the surface of the ground, and was the first metal made use of by man. It is comparatively soft, and is easily beaten to an edge; but it was long before men learned the art of mixing with it an alloy of tin, and so producing the far harder substance, bronze. The alloy to which we give the name of brass was absolutely unknown to the ancients. The discovery of iron marks a far greater advance in metallurgy, as the ore has to be smelted, and the implement produced is more precious. The Greeks in the time of Homer seem to have known it only as a rarity imported from the north; and Rawlinson (Anc. Monarchies, i. 167) mentions that in Mesopotamia, while silver was the metal current in traffic, iron was so rare as to be regarded as something very precious. The name of this hero is “Tubal-cain.” In Ezekiel 27:13, Tubal brings copper to the mart of Tyre, and in Persian the word means copper. Cain is a distinct name from that of Adam’s firstborn, and means, in most Semitic languages, smith; thus Tubal-cain probably signifies coppersmith.

The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.—The same as Naomi (Ruth 1:2), and meaning beauty, loveliness. As women are not mentioned in the genealogies, and as no history follows of this personage, her name must be given as an indication that a great advance had been made, not only in the arts, but also in the elegancies of life. Women could not have been mere drudges and household slaves, nor men coarse and boorish, when Naamah’s beauty was so highly appreciated. The Rabbins have turned her into a demon, and given free play to their imagination in the stories they have invented concerning her.

Genesis 4:19. Lamech took two wives — It was one of the degenerate race of Cain who first transgressed the original law of marriage, that two only should be one flesh, and introduced a custom which still subsists in many parts of the world. Christ fully laid open the iniquity of this practice, and restored marriage to its first form, Matthew 19:8.

4:19-24 One of Cain's wicked race is the first recorded, as having broken the law of marriage. Hitherto, one man had but one wife at a time; but Lamech took two. Wordly things, are the only things that carnal, wicked people set their hearts upon, and are most clever and industrious about. So it was with this race of Cain. Here was a father of shepherds, and a father of musicians, but not a father of the faithful. Here is one to teach about brass and iron, but none to teach the good knowledge of the Lord: here are devices how to be rich, and how to be mighty, and how to be merry; but nothing of God, of his fear and service. Present things fill the heads of most. Lamech had enemies, whom he had provoked. He draws a comparison betwixt himself and his ancestor Cain; and flatters himself that he is much less criminal. He seems to abuse the patience of God in sparing Cain, into an encouragement to expect that he may sin unpunished.This is the first record and probably the first instance of polygamy. The names of the two wives, Adah, "beauty," and Zillah, "shade or tinkling," seem to refer to the charms which attracted Lamek. Superabundance of wealth and power perhaps led Lamek to multiply wives.

Genesis 4:20 is the first notice of the tent and of cattle. The tent was the thin shining and shading canvas of goats' hair, which was placed over the poles or timbers that constituted the original booth. In process of time it would supplant the branches and foliage of the booth as a covering from the sun or the wind. The cattle are designated by a word denoting property, as being chattels personal, and consisting chiefly of sheep and oxen. The idea of property had now been practically realized. The Cainites were now prosperous and numerous, and therefore released from that suspicious fear which originated the fortified keep of their progenitor. The sons of Jabal rove over the common with their tents and cattle, undismayed by imaginary terrors.

19. Lamech took unto him two wives—This is the first transgression of the law of marriage on record, and the practice of polygamy, like all other breaches of God's institutions, has been a fruitful source of corruption and misery. Lamech, the wicked branch of that cursed root of Cain,

took unto him two wives, against God’s first institution, Genesis 2:24 Malachi 2:15, and without God’s leave.

And Lamech took unto him two wives,.... He was the first we read of that introduced polygamy, contrary to the first institution of marriage, whereby only one man and one woman were to be joined together, and become one flesh, Genesis 2:24. This evil practice, though it began in the race of wicked Cain, was in later ages followed by some among the people of God, which was connived at because of the hardness of their hearts; otherwise it was not so from the beginning. This was the first instance of it known; Jarchi says it was the way of the generation before the flood to have one wife for procreation of children, and the other for carnal pleasure; the latter drank a cup of sterility, that she might be barren, and was adorned as a bride, and lived deliciously; and the other was used roughly, and mourned like a widow; but by this instance it does not appear, for these both bore children to Lamech.

The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah; whose daughters they were cannot be said, no doubt of the race of Cain; the name of the one signifies an "ornament", or beauty, and might seem to answer to the account Jarchi gives of the wife for pleasure, if there were any foundation for it; and the other signifies a "shadow", being continually under the shadow of her husband.

And Lamech took unto him {q} two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.

(q) The lawful institution of marriage, which is, that two should be one flesh, was first corrupted in the house of Cain by Lamech.

19. Lamech] The seventh of the Cainite line has three sons, as Noah, the tenth of the Sethite line, has three sons.

two wives] Lamech is the first recorded instance of polygamy. The custom, prevalent in patriarchal times and in the days of the kings (e.g. David, Solomon), was recognized in the Law of the Pentateuch and placed under restrictions, Deuteronomy 21:13-23, Leviticus 18:6-20.

On the ideal of monogamy, from which Israel fell far short, see note on Genesis 2:24. Lamech, the Cainite, is its first transgressor.

Adah] The name appears in Genesis 36:2 as that of one of Esau’s wives. If of Hebrew origin, possibly connected with the word meaning “adornment,” but also possibly derived from a root = “brightness,” found in Arabic and Assyrian, and, if so, may mean “the dawn.”

Zillah] Probably from the Heb. ṣêl = “shade” or “shadows,” implying “comfort” and “coolness” in the glare of a day in the desert.

Verse 19. - And Lamech took unto him two wives. Being the first polygamist of whom mention is made, the first by whom "the ethical aspect of marriage, as ordained by God, was turned into the lust of the eye and lust of the flesh" (Keil). Though afterwards permitted because of the hardness of men's hearts, it was not so from the beginning. This was "a new evil, without even the pretext that the first wife had no children, which held its ground until Christianity restored the original law - Matthew 19:4-6" (Inglis). The names of Lamech's wives were suggestive of sensual attractions. The name of the one Adah, the Adorned (Gesenius), and the name of the other Zillah, the shady or the tinkling (Keil), the musical player (Lange), the shadow (Wordsworth). "Did Lamech choose a wife to gratify the eye with loveliness? and was he soon sated with that which is so short-lived as beauty, and then chose another wife in addition to Adah? But a second wife is hardly a wife; she is only the shadow of a wife" (ibid.). Genesis 4:19The family of the Cainites. - Genesis 4:16. The geographical situation of the land of Nod, in the front of Eden (קדמת, see Genesis 2:14), where Cain settled after his departure from the place or the land of the revealed presence of God (cf. Jonah 1:3), cannot be determined. The name Nod denotes a land of flight and banishment, in contrast with Eden, the land of delight, where Jehovah walked with men. There Cain knew his wife. The text assumes it as self-evident that she accompanied him in his exile; also, that she was a daughter of Adam, and consequently a sister of Cain. The marriage of brothers and sisters was inevitable in the case of the children of the first men, if the human race was actually to descend from a single pair, and may therefore be justified in the face of the Mosaic prohibition of such marriages, on the ground that the sons and daughters of Adam represented not merely the family but the genus, and that it was not till after the rise of several families that the bands of fraternal and conjugal love became distinct from one another, and assumed fixed and mutually exclusive forms, the violation of which is sin. (Comp. Leviticus 18.) His son he named Hanoch (consecration), because he regarded his birth as a pledge of the renovation of his life. For this reason he also gave the same name to the city which he built, inasmuch as its erection was another phase in the development of his family. The construction of a city by Cain will cease to surprise us, if we consider that at the commencement of its erection, centuries had already passed since the creation of man, and Cain's descendants may by this time have increased considerably in numbers; also, that עיר does not necessarily presuppose a large town, but simply an enclosed space with fortified dwellings, in contradistinction to the isolated tents of shepherds; and lastly, that the words בנה ויהי, "he was building," merely indicate the commencement and progress of the building, but not its termination. It appears more surprising that Cain, who was to be a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth, should have established himself in the land of Nod. This cannot be fully explained, either on the ground that he carried on the pursuits of agriculture, which lead to settled abodes, or that he strove against the curse. In addition to both the facts referred to, there is also the circumstance, that the curse, "the ground shall not yield to thee her strength," was so mollified by the grace of God, that Cain and his descendants were enabled to obtain sufficient food in the land of his settlement, though it was by dint of hard work and strenuous effort; unless, indeed, we follow Luther and understand the curse, that he should be a fugitive upon the earth, as relating to his expulsion from Eden, and his removal ad incertum locum et opus, non addita ulla vel promissione vel mandato, sicut avis quae in libero caelo incerta vagatur. The fact that Cain undertook the erection of a city, is also significant. Even if we do not regard this city as "the first foundation-stone of the kingdom of the world, in which the spirit of the beast bears sway," we cannot fail to detect the desire to neutralize the curse of banishment, and create for his family a point of unity, as a compensation for the loss of unity in fellowship with God, as well as the inclination of the family of Cain for that which was earthly.

The powerful development of the worldly mind and of ungodliness among the Cainites was openly displayed in Lamech, in the sixth generation. Of the intermediate links, the names only are given. (On the use of the passive with the accusative of the object in the clause "to Hanoch was born (they bore) Irad," see Ges. 143, 1.) Some of these names resemble those of the Sethite genealogy, viz., Irad and Jared, Mehujael and Mahalaleel, Methusael and Methuselah, also Cain and Cainan; and the names Enoch and Lamech occur in both families. But neither the recurrence of similar names, nor even of the same names, warrants the conclusion that the two genealogical tables are simply different forms of one primary legend. For the names, though similar in sound, are very different in meaning. Irad probably signifies the townsman, Jared, descent, or that which has descended; Mehujael, smitten of God, and Mahalaleel, praise of God; Methusael, man of prayer, and Methuselah, man of the sword or of increase. The repetition of the two names Enoch and Lamech even loses all significance, when we consider the different places which they occupy in the respective lines, and observe also that in the case of these very names, the more precise descriptions which are given so thoroughly establish the difference of character in the two individuals, as to preclude the possibility of their being the same, not to mention the fact, that in the later history the same names frequently occur in totally different families; e.g., Korah in the families of Levi (Exodus 6:21) and Esau (Genesis 36:5); Hanoch in those of Reuben (Genesis 46:9) and Midian (Genesis 25:4); Kenaz in those of Judah (Numbers 32:12) and Esau (Genesis 36:11). The identity and similarity of names can prove nothing more than that the two branches of the human race did not keep entirely apart from each other; a fact established by their subsequently intermarrying. - Lamech took two wives, and thus was the first to prepare the way for polygamy, by which the ethical aspect of marriage, as ordained by God, was turned into the lust of the eye and lust of the flesh. The names of the women are indicative of sensual attractions: Adah, the adorned; and Zillah, either the shady or the tinkling. His three sons are the authors of inventions which show how the mind and efforts of the Cainites were directed towards the beautifying and perfecting of the earthly life. Jabal (probably equals jebul, produce) became the father of such as dwelt in tents, i.e., of nomads who lived in tents and with their flocks, getting their living by a pastoral occupation, and possibly also introducing the use of animal food, in disregard of the divine command (Genesis 1:29). Jubal (sound), the father of all such as handle the harp and pipe, i.e., the inventors of stringed and wind instruments. כּנּור a guitar or harp; עוּגב the shepherd's reed or bagpipe. Tubal-Cain, "hammering all kinds of cutting things (the verb is to be construed as neuter) in brass and iron;" the inventor therefore of all kinds of edge-tools for working in metals: so that Cain, from קין to forge, is probably to be regarded as the surname which Tubal received on account of his inventions. The meaning of Tubal is obscure; for the Persian Tupal, iron-scoria, can throw no light upon it, as it must be a much later word. The allusion to the sister of Tubal-Cain is evidently to be attributed to her name, Naamah, the lovely, or graceful, since it reflects the worldly mind of the Cainites. In the arts, which owed their origin to Lamech's sons, this disposition reached its culminating point; and it appears in the form of pride and defiant arrogance in the song in which Lamech celebrates the inventions of Tubal-Cain (Genesis 4:23, Genesis 4:24): "Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: Men I slay for my wound, and young men for my stripes. For sevenfold is Cain avenged, and Lamech seven and seventy-fold." The perfect הרגתּי is expressive not of a deed accomplished, but of confident assurance (Ges. 126, 4; Ewald, 135c); and the suffixes in חבּרתי and פּצעי are to be taken in a passive sense. The idea is this: whoever inflicts a wound or stripe on me, whether man or youth, I will put to death; and for every injury done to my person, I will take ten times more vengeance than that with which God promised to avenge the murder of my ancestor Cain. In this song, which contains in its rhythm, its strophic arrangement of the thoughts, and its poetic diction, the germ of the later poetry, we may detect "that Titanic arrogance, of which the Bible says that its power is its god (Habakkuk 1:11), and that it carries its god, viz., its sword, in its hand (Job 12:6)" (Delitzsch). - According to these accounts, the principal arts and manufactures were invented by the Cainites, and carried out in an ungodly spirit; but they are not therefore to be attributed to the curse which rested upon the family. They have their roots rather in the mental powers with which man was endowed for the sovereignty and subjugation of the earth, but which, like all the other powers and tendencies of his nature, were pervaded by sin, and desecrated in its service. Hence these inventions have become the common property of humanity, because they not only may promote its intended development, but are to be applied and consecrated to this purpose for the glory of God.

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