Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Genesis Notes: A Lesson in Contrasts

GENESIS 4:1-26
Did I ever pay attention to Lamech before? I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear the answer to that is no. He's the perfect example of how sin can increase when not fought at all by the individual.

Lamech and his two wives from The Phillip Medhurst Picture Torah
Lamech, who is the Bible's first polygamist, appears to be a violent, arrogant man. He boasts to his wives that even though he has killed a man, anyone who tries to take his life will be avenged "seventy-sevenfold." He reckons himself to be even greater and more important to God than his forefather, Cain. Something has gone very wrong among these people. They appear to know the details of their family history (how else would Lamech know to compare his deed with that of Cain?), but they have no knowledge of what the details mean. Because Cain was cut off from his family and the presence of the Lord, his spiritual blindness was not only perpetuated among his descendants, but it intensified. The father always teaches the son, either for good or for evil. This is how it is in families. See how Cain's sin of pride has progressed in Lamech to proud presumption. He presumes upon God's mercy in saving Cain from death, having no apparent understanding of what God's mercy was meant to produce humility, repentance, reconciliation. Through the rest of Scripture we see, over and over, what traits develop among men who, for whatever reason, have shut their hearts away from the presence of the Lord. This is our first example of it.

God Took Enoch, By illustrators of the 1728 Figures de la Bible,
Gerard Hoet (1648–1733) and others
Again, Enoch never made much impression on me either but now I can see the contrast he provides with Lamech. I don't think I realized that another prophet besides Elijah was ever "taken up" either. There's a definite lesson in those contrasts. Another lesson lies in the fact that two such minor characters can have such big stories to tell about themselves and about the human condition. Not a word is wasted in Scripture. It is all there for a definite purpose.
Enoch is the first man described as a "prophet" in Scripture. Hebrews tells us that he prophesied judgment on ungodliness. We learn from Old and New Testaments that Enoch did not see death. He was such a friend of God's that he was "taken up." It is amazing to see the difference between Enoch and Lamech. By it we are meant to comprehend that although sin entered the human race through Adam and Eve, bringing with it great spiritual and physical consequences, men are still able to respond to God's grace. By no means has God given up on all humanity!

Enoch was distinguished in his family by God's remarkable favor upon him. He represents the power that acknowledging God in family life can have on family members, as they pass on their tradition from generation to generation.
All quoted material is from Genesis: God and His Creation. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

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