Who was Lamech in the Bible and What Can We Learn from Him?

Lamech was known for arrogance, polygamy, and violence. In the account of Cain’s descendants, Lamech was purposefully singled out as if to conclude the story of Cain with hopelessness and corruption.

Contributing Writer
Updated Aug 18, 2023
Who was Lamech in the Bible and What Can We Learn from Him?

Genesis 4 gives us the account of Cain, the wicked son of Adam and the hateful brother of the righteous Abel, whom he murdered. Rather than killing Cain, God graciously spares his life and puts a mark on him to deter other family members from hunting him down to avenge Abel. As punishment, however, God curses Cain and expels him from the land of Eden, away from His presence. Cain settles east of Eden in the land of Nod.

Who Was Lamech in the Bible?

At this point, we are given the proceeding descendants of Cain. Although they still experienced God’s mercy in that they were able to bear children (Genesis 1:28), the dreadful curse of Cain overshadowed the future of his people. Verse 16 sets the precedent as Cain settled in a land “out from the presence of the Lord” (Genesis 4:16 NASB). No matter the achievements or feats accomplished, it is clear these people existed outside God’s divine blessing. 

This hopeless state of the Cainites is further emphasized in verses 25 and 26Here, the restoration of divine favor is now retraced through Adam’s son Seth, who is seen as Abel’s replacement. Cain is treated as a severed appendage who no longer holds a place in Adam’s lineage. This brings us to Lamech, who is, without doubt, the most infamous Cainite recorded in Genesis 4. If we trace the lineage from Adam, Lamech would mark the seventh generation.

What Was Lamech Known For?

Lamech was known for arrogance, polygamy, and violence. In the account of Cain’s descendants, Lamech was purposefully singled out as if to conclude the story of Cain with hopelessness and corruption. In a sense, Lamech is the epitome of God’s warning to Cain, “sin is crouching at your door and its desire is for you” (Genesis 4:7 NASB). Lamech demonstrated this very thing—a man who is ruled by sin. Let’s take a closer look at each of his sins.

Polygamy. Humans are made in the image of God. That means there are attributes of God that we share to some extent (these are called God’s communicable attributes). These common attributes make a relationship with God possible. Marriage is a sacred institution created by God since the beginning of creation. From the start, we read God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman (Genesis 1:27-28; 2:23-24). 

To some extent, marriage is an imitation of God’s triune nature. Just as God is one Being Who exists in three distinct, co-equal Persons, marriage is a covenant relationship that joins together two distinct persons (male and female) who become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Ultimately, marriage is a picture of Christ’s union with the Church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Any alteration to God’s design for marriage corrupts it. 

Although Scripture does not provide any explicit rebuke for polygamy, it never portrays it in a positive light. In fact, Scripture always illustrates the hardship and grief caused by polygamy. Furthermore, there are passages of Scripture where monogamy is a prerequisite for a leadership role (Deuteronomy 17:17; Titus 1:5-7). Lamech is the first recorded polygamist in human history.

Violence. The expressed trade of Lamech’s son, Tubal-Cain, as a forger of bronze and iron gives the impression the Cainites digressed in a downward spiral, perfecting Cain’s life-taking craft. With the trade of metallurgy among them, they could now make more effective weapons and exact violence with greater efficiency. This is implied given the violent nature of Cain and Lamech. God demonstrated immense restraint in taking life. 

Although Adam and Eve eventually died, God allowed them both to live after the Fall. Likewise, God also preserved Cain’s life after he killed Abel by putting a mark on him to deter anyone from acting in violence to avenge Abel. Lamech is a complete contradiction to God’s regard for human life. His willingness to take another person’s life demonstrates little respect for people who are made in the image of God.

Arrogance. Lamech is also the first person recorded to openly endorse his sin. In the Garden of Eden, both Adam and Eve tried to disown their sin by shifting the blame onto another party. Cain, although he was wicked, at least demonstrated a weak disapproval for sin when he tried to cover up his brother’s murder by lying to the Lord. The fact that he tried to distance himself from his brother’s murder showed he wasn’t flamboyant about his sin. Though hypocritical, Cain acknowledged God’s moral law in his attempt to appear innocent when God confronted him.

When we first encounter Lamech, we see no attempt by him to hide his sin. On the contrary, he makes an open proclamation of it. Furthermore, not only does Lamech openly embrace his violent act of murdering a man, he makes a poem/song about it as if to celebrate the incident. Such arrogance reveals a man who has placed his own laws and standards above God’s. There are at least two things about Lamech’s poem which highlight his arrogance. 

First: the disproportionate response. Lamech had been wounded by a young man and he retaliated by taking the young man’s life. This blatant overreaction was not justice. It was murder. Second: Lamech touts his violent act as if he gained glory by it. He exclaimed, “if Cain is avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold” (Genesis 4:23). It should be noted, God was the One Who protected Cain’s life, saying vengeance would be taken sevenfold on anyone who killed Cain (Genesis 4:15). Lamech put himself above God by saying the vengeance carried out in his name exceeded the vengeance forewarned by God regarding Cain.

Why Is Lamech's Arrogance Dangerous?

Arrogance, which is synonymous with pride, marks the root of all sin that flows out of the wicked sinner’s heart. Arrogance turns a person’s gaze inward to seek moral judgment and counsel based on their own understanding—not God’s. Sinners create the idols in their hearts through arrogance. This plunges them into darkness, away from God’s light. It ignores the divine restraints placed on one’s life which preserve our God-given integrity. 

In turn, it deludes us into placing ourselves on the throne of God, where we seek to rule our lives according to our wicked desires. The human heart is desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and the arrogance demonstrated by Lamech is dangerous because it makes the human heart the authority by which we live. The result is always disastrous.

Lamech serves as a warning, but also a mirror of the sinner’s heart. When going through the descendants of Cain, various advances in civilization are recorded: Cain built the first city, Jubal invented the lyre and pipe, and Tubal-Cain was the forger of bronze and iron. However, this didn’t matter because it didn’t bring humanity any closer to God. Often, the advances of society give opportunity for people to proliferate their sins. The juxtaposition of the Cainite advances which precede Lamech’s poem may communicate that very thought.

Is There More Than One Lamech in the Bible?

There are two men named Lamech mentioned in Scripture. The second one is found in Genesis  5. This Lamech was a descendant of Seth and was nothing like the Cainite Lamech. The last two verses in Genesis 4 set the stage for the descendants of Adam traced through Seth. These were the people who “began to call on the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). 

The Cainite descendants were recognized for their advances in civilization, whereas the Sethite descendants were set apart (and above) by the fact they carried Adam’s divine blessing by faithfully bearing the image of God (Genesis 5:1-3). The Lamech mentioned in Genesis 5 was the father of Noah, who was favored by God to rescue humanity from His divine wrath.

Comparing the two Lamechs in Scripture should give us pause to reflect on our own lives. Harboring a proud heart puts us in opposition to the Lord, Who opposes the proud (James 4:6). That’s a scary place to be. A proud heart is incapable of subjecting itself to the life-giving instruction of the Lord. Only when we come to the end of ourselves and yield to the Lord will we be able to fulfill our calling to be His image-bearers.

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Prostock-Studio

Stephen Baker headshotStephen Baker serves as the Associate Pastor at Faith Fellowship Church in Minerva, OH where he is discipled by pastor Chet Howes. He is currently a student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the writer of a special Scripture study/reflection addendum to Someplace to Be Somebody, authored by his wife, Lisa Loraine Baker (End Game Press Spring 2022).

This article is part of our People of Christianity catalog that features the stories, meaning, and significance of well-known people from the Bible and history. Here are some of the most popular articles for knowing important figures in Christianity:

How Did the Apostle Paul Die?
Who are the Nicolaitans in Revelation?
Who Was Deborah in the Bible?
Who Was Moses in the Bible?

King Solomon's Story in the Bible
Who Was Lot's Wife in the Bible?
Who Was Jezebel in the Bible?
Who Was the Prodigal Son?


Christianity / Life / People / Who was Lamech in the Bible and What Can We Learn from Him?