Genesis 4:23

23 One day Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; listen to me, you wives of Lamech. I have killed a man who attacked me, a young man who wounded me.

Genesis 4:23 Meaning and Commentary

Genesis 4:23

And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah
Confessing what he had done, or boasting what he would do should he be attacked; or in order to make his wives easy, who might fear from his fierceness and cruelty; and the murders he had committed, or on account of Abel's murder, ( Genesis 4:15 ) that either the judgments of God would fall upon him and them, or some man or other would dispatch him and his; wherefore calling them together, he thus bespeaks them,

hear my voice, ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech;
this he said in an imperious manner to them, demanding their attention and regard, and as glorying in, instead of being ashamed of his polygamy, and in a blustering way, as neither fearing God nor man; or rather speaking comfortably to them, to remove their fears:

for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt;
which, as some say, were his great-grandfather Cain, and his son Tubalcain: according to a tradition of the Jews F9, it was after this manner; Cain being old, and blind, and weary, sat in a thicket among the trees to rest himself; when Lamech, who was blind also, and led by Tubalcain hunting, who seeing Cain, and taking him for a wild beast, bid Lamech draw his bow, which he did, and killed him; but coming nearer, and finding it was Cain, was wroth and angry, and slew the young man: the Arabic writers F11 tell the story with a little variation, and

``Lamech being in a wood with one of his sons, and hearing a noise in it, supposing it to be a wild beast, cast a stone, which fell upon Cain, and killed him ignorantly; and the lad that led him said, what hast thou done? thou hast killed Cain; at which being very sorrowful after the manner of penitents, he smote his hands together, and the lad standing before him, he struck his head with both his hands, and killed him unawares; and coming to his wives, Adah and Zillah, said to them, hear my word, he that slew Abel shall be avenged sevenfold, but Lamech seventy times seven, who killed a man with a cast of a stone, and a young man by clapping of his hands.''

And our version, and others, imply, that he killed both a man, and a young man, or some one person or more, and that he was sorry for it, made confession of it; it was to the wounding and grief of his soul, which does not so well agree with one of the wicked race of Cain: wherefore the words may be rendered, "though I have slain a man" F12, that is nothing to you, you are not accountable for it, nor have any thing to fear coming upon you by reason of that; it is to my own wounding, damage, and hurt, if to any, and not to you. Some versions render it, "I would slay a man" F13 any man, young or old, that should attack me; I fear no man: if any man wounds me, or offers to do me any hurt, I would slay him at once; I doubt not but I should be more than a match for him, be he who he will that shall set upon me, and kill him; though I might receive some slight wound, or some little hurt in the engagement, and therefore you need not be afraid of any man's hurting me. The Arabic version reads interrogatively, "have I killed a man &c.?" and so some others F14, I have not; with which agree the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan,

``I have not killed a man;''

for which he or his posterity should be punished, as they interpreted it; and therefore his wives had no need to fear any ill should befall him or them, or that the murder of Abel should be avenged on them, this being the seventh generation in which it was to be avenged, ( Genesis 4:15 ) wherefore it follows,


F9 R. Gedaliah, Shalshaleth Hakabala, fol. 74. 2. Jarchi in loc.
F11 Elmacinus, p. 7. apud Hottinger. Smegma Oriental. l. 1. c. 8. p. 224, 225.
F12 So the particle (yk) is sometimes used; see Nold. Part. Ebr. Concord. p. 399.
F13 (ytgrh) "interficerem", Vatablus; "certe ausim interficere", Piscator; "sane occiderem, ant occiderim", Muis, Rivet.
F14 "An virum inferfeci?" De Dieu.

Genesis 4:23 In-Context

21 His brother’s name was Jubal, the first of all who play the harp and flute.
22 Lamech’s other wife, Zillah, gave birth to a son named Tubal-cain. He became an expert in forging tools of bronze and iron. Tubal-cain had a sister named Naamah.
23 One day Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; listen to me, you wives of Lamech. I have killed a man who attacked me, a young man who wounded me.
24 If someone who kills Cain is punished seven times, then the one who kills me will be punished seventy-seven times!”
25 Adam had sexual relations with his wife again, and she gave birth to another son. She named him Seth, for she said, “God has granted me another son in place of Abel, whom Cain killed.”
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