Archive for the ‘OT:Genesis’ Category

Great Lent, the Second Week, Wednesday, Vespers – the good and bad example of Lamech – Genesis 4:23-24

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

And Lamech said … I have slain a man to the wounding of myself, and a stripling to my own bruising. Sevenfold vengeance shall be taken for Cain: but for Lamech seventy times sevenfold. (Great Lent, the Second Week, Wednesday, Vespers: Genesis 4:23-24, from the selection: Genesis 4:16-26)

What are we to glean from this first recorded instance of Hebrew poetry?

Lamech was a descendant of Cain One of his two wives, Zillah,

… bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron” Gen 4:22

Therefore, Lamech had available to him metal swords, which would give him a distinct advantage over his enemies.

To his wives, he confesses to two murders, of a “man” and a “young man” (stripling), and laments his sin, and predicts that his punishment would be greater than Cain’s (whereas Cain’s punishment would be “seven times”, Lamech’s would be “seventy seven times” (some interpret this number as 70*7 = 490))

Why the greater punishment? Is is because of of two murders and not one? No. It is because Lamech did not learn from the example of his father. St Basil the Great and St John Chrysostom make this very clear:

Cain had not learned to murder from another, and had never seen a murderer undergoing punishment. But I, who had before my eyes Cain groaning and trembling, and the mightiness of the wrath of God, was not made wiser by the example before me. Therefore I deserve to suffer four hundred and ninety punishments. “ (St Basil the Great, 365 letters, Letter CLXXXVII (187))

Cain was punished, but Lamech, who committed a murder after him, did not suffer near so great a punishment. And yet this was a murder, and that was a murder, and that so much the worse, because even by the example he had not become the better. (St. John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans, Homily XXXI, Romans XVI:5)

We have before us a terrible example! Lamech was senseless to the lesson of his father before him.

What examples might we be senseless to?

We have the example of the church, the writings of the Holy Fathers, the sublime services, and sacred writ to guide us; all of this in addition to the moment by moment guidance of the Holy Spirit abiding within us.

We are without excuse, with “no cloak for our sin” if we are too busy, or too lazy, or tired, or too this, or too that to learn how to live the righteous way of life.

Lamech’s sin accuses us today! Are we also guilty of some sin due to our negligence? Is there some sin of which the Lord asks us:

Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me?” (John 14:9)

There is more yet to learn from the murderer Lamech. Some of his example is to be emulated!

Hear John Chrysostom again:

“… since the one [Lamech] neither killed his brother after exhortation, nor needed an accuser, nor shrunk from answering when God questioned him, but even without any accuser both pleaded again himself, and condemned himself more severely, he obtained pardon. (St John Chrysostom, Commentary on the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans, Homily XXXI, Romans XVI:5 [comments added])

Lamech felt the great weight of his sin, and accused himself of his crime, unlike his father Cain, who only confessed when confronted by God. In this way he resembles, David, who was guilty of the double sin of murder and adultery, and begged God to forgive him in the fiftieth psalm.

Let us act in the same way. Let us confess our sins freely and obtain pardon. Let us learn from Lamech’s good and bad example, and take the self-recriminations of St Andrew of Crete to heart:

Whom do you resemble, O most sinful soul? Surely the first Cain and that wicked Lamech. For you have stoned your body with evil deeds, and you have murdered your mind with irrational appetites. Great Canon, Wed of first week, Ode 2:8

“I have killed a man to the wounding of myself,” said Lamech, “and a young man to my own hurt,” he cried out wailing. But you, my soul, do not tremble, while polluting the flesh and defiling the mind. Great Canon, Thu of first week. Ode 2:1

O how I have emulated that old murderer Lamech! By my pleasure-loving cravings I have killed my soul as the man, my mind as the young man, and my body as my brother, like Cain the murderer. Great Canon, Thu of first week, Ode 2:3

There is one more marvelous truth to be gleaned from Lamech’s confession. Our Lord alludes to this truth when He answers Peter who had asked: “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (Mat 18:21)

I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. [or “77”,] (Mat 18:22 [comments added])

Herein is a marvelous mystery! The Lord teaches to forgive ALWAYS by specifying a large number, but this is a special number. St Basil explains:

the sin of Lamech requires for its cure not a Flood, but Him Who Himself takes away the sin of the world. Count the generations from Adam to the coming of Christ, and you will find, according to the genealogy of Luke, that the Lord was born in the seventy-seventh. St Basil the Great, 365 letters, Letter CLXXXVII (187)

Only Christ, the Good Samaritan, is the one who alone can tend to the wounds of mankind!

Let us cleave to Him, confess our sins, and obtain pardon!

Great Lent. Second Week, Tuesday – Evil Jealousy – Genesis 4:8-15

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

And Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go out into the plain; and it came to pass that when they were in the plain Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.
Tuesday in the Second Week of Great Lent – At Vespers, Gen 4:8-15

Today the scripture gives us an account of the first murder in human history. Cain murdered his brother Abel because of jealousy:

And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: (5) But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.” (Gen 4:4-5)

How stealthily jealousy operates! Cain merely suggests that they take a walk into the field, all the time hiding in the darkness of his heart his plans.

How powerful our secrets are! If we look at ourselves carefully we would understand how they control us. Our secret feelings, or likes and dislikes, our irritations about and judgment of others are our cruel taskmasters. They are like Cain, making seemingly innocent suggestions to us, and leading us cunningly into sin.

Cain lied to his brother. His lie was not in words, but in intent. We lie to our brothers. Our lie is not in words, but in our thoughts, seemingly private musings, which we forget that God sees.

In the old law, it was forbidden to kill; in the new law, we understand the real meaning behind this rudimentary prohibition: we are not even to think evilly of our brother. We are not to be angry with him, or jealous, or clutch to our breasts, like some greedy miser holds coins, our carefully cultivated feelings of having been treated unfairly or slighted in some way.

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (22) But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Mat 5:21-22)

We must not be like Cain, but let us keep watch over our thoughts. His sin began with his secret thoughts. A Christian considers his thoughts to be as significant as his words; after all, the Lord knows both equally well. The model for how a Christian is to think and speak, with honesty, and no hidden agenda is summed up by our Lord:

But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil. (Mat 5:37)

Gen 4:8-15

8. And Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go out into the plain; and it came to pass that when they were in the plain Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him. 9. And the Lord God said to Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? and he said, I know not, am I my brother’s keeper? 10. And the Lord said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood cries to me out of the ground. 11. And now thou art cursed from the earth which has opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. 12. When thou tillest the earth, then it shall not continue to give its strength to thee: thou shalt be groaning and trembling on the earth. 13. And Cain said to the Lord God, My crime is too great for me to be forgiven. 14. If thou castest me out this day from the face of the earth, and I shall be hidden from thy presence, and I shall be groaning and trembling upon the earth, then it will be that any one that finds me shall slay me. 15. And the Lord God said to him, Not so, any one that slays Cain shall suffer seven-fold vengeance; and the Lord God set a mark upon Cain that no one that found him might slay him.