And he named him Noah, saying, “This same will comfort us in our work and in the toil of our hands, because of the ground which Yahweh has cursed.” (Genesis 5:29, WEB)
At first glance, this reads as if Lamech is prophesying over Noah’s life – and many have drawn that very conclusion. After all, it makes a compelling argument, as some of the details spoken by Lamech seemingly come to pass. For instance, during Noah’s lifetime, YHVH declares “I will never again curse the ground on account of man” (cf. Genesis 8:21). Furthermore, in the very next breath (vs. 22) God declares that the Earth’s new climate will feature a clear-cut “seedtime and harvest” – which allows us a bit of “rest” in between – as opposed to the constant, undefined planting/gathering times as might have occurred prior to the Flood.
So it’s easy to see why Lamech’s words are traditionally read in a positive light, but what happens when we read the events declared by Lamech in chronological order? Well, they might have a different feel to them:
“Yahweh cursed the ground,
And because of that our hand is full of stress [itzavon].
But this one will relinquish [nacham] us from our work.”
[Note: “hand” should be interpreted metaphorically as it appears in singular form (“not hands as many Bibles say). Also, I think itzavon should be understood as “stress.”]
Read in chronological order, it’s easier to detect a little hostility and blame in Lamech’s words, isn’t it? So whatever Lamech meant, it’s tricky – so we need to understand his words, beginning with what Lamech intended with the name “Noach”.
‘Noach’ is derived from the Hebrew verb nacham, which can mean “comfort” or “consolation” (as is often translatied), but usually means a complete reliquishing from abrasive situations, such as a rainstorm after a long drought, or “turning a wasteland into the Garden of Eden” (i.e. Isaiah 51:3). Whenever nacham is used, something abrasive is turned away for someone else’s benefit, such as:
“I will give thanks to You, the LORD; for though you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and You comfort [nacham] me (Isaiah 12:1, emphasis mine).”
Isaiah loved using this word nacham, and I imagine that’s because Isaiah often wrote about complete turnarounds in Israel’s present and future. Probably the most famous has to do with the advent of the “voice of the wilderness”. Interestingly enough, there appears to be striking coincidences designs in word choices between what Isaiah declared over Israel and what Lamech declared over Noah:
Comfort ye [nachamu], comfort ye [nachamu] My people, saith your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and call to her, that her warfare [tsava] hath been completed… accepted hath been her punishment, that she hath received from the hand [yad] of Jehovah Double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40:1, YLT)
Put in a different way, Isaiah showed how Israel received “double” for her offenses (in contrast to a double payment for a job well done) – a ‘jackpot’ for transgressions against the LORD. However, YHVH also promised a time of “relinquishment” (nacham) and turning away from His punishment.
So now that we understand the meaning of nacham, let’s understand Lamech’s intent in naming his son “Noach”. The first question I have is, from what did Lamech seek relinquishment? Of course he wanted a relinquishment from the curse of the ground started by YHVH. However, where I get hazy is he didn’t want YHVH to relinquish it but… Noah?!!
The truth is, Noah didn’t relieve the earth from any curse – … it was actually YHVH who gave the earth the respite Lamech wanted, but it was also YHVH who first relinquished Himself from mankind, as is written: “and Jehovah repenteth [nacham] that He hath made man in the earth, and He grieveth Himself — unto His heart.” (Genesis 6:6, YLT) So if you’re still with me, there are two competing destinies for Noah – one from Noah’s flesh and blood father, and the other from his Father in Heaven. It appears they have a different idea of what is relinquished from the Earth.
Let’s remember, when Noah was born, there was already an ever-increasing heap of offenses which started when “men began to profane the name of YHVH” (Genesis 4:26). And with an abundance of offenses already evident in that world, what was Lamech expecting? Did he think his fellow man was somehow worthy to be relieved of such a curse?
I think it’s time we read these words with a negative connotation, as Lamech appears to pin all blame on YHVH for earth’s peril (where have we heard THAT before?) – not to mention expecting Noah to somehow ‘cheat’ the curse of God.
And why wouldn’t Lamech think that? After all, others had seemingly ‘cheated’ their own relief through innovations and accruing wealth, and I’m speaking of the “other Lamech”, who was fifth from Cain (Lamech the father of Noah was seventh from Enosh). The sons of this “other Lamech” made him famous and powerful – why couldn’t Noah do the same?
When our children are born, we’re beaming with pride, and expect them to save the world. We hope they’ll grow up and build rockets travelling at light speed or find cures for every cancer. However, what we don’t say is “my son will cure the cancer that YHVH created” – but this is exactly how I read Lamech naming his son. I detect an undertone of hostility and despair to YHVH – not a prophecy.
I’ve written before about the similarities between the two Lamechs – not just as namesakes, but that they act as ‘bookends’ for the genealogies, they are both quoted, they both evoke a previous curse from YHVH, but now I’m going to expand this thought even further… they both act as gods. Lamech the fifth from Cain made up his own vengeance (see Genesis 4:24), while Lamech the seventh from Enosh thought that a man – his son – was going to out-fox God and His curse.
To reiterate, these similarities between the two aren’t coincidence; they’re signs. This is a road map showing when the offenses – which began with profaning the name of YHVH – reached their completion, marking when the two main peoples (of Adam and Enosh) reached the fullness of transgression.
If you don’t believe the former coincidences are a sign… you will believe the next one.
It’s easy to read the Scriptures and catch that the number seven stands for the completion, fullness, or complete end of something. The sacrifice of high Holy Days are only complete with seven animals, the wall of Jericho fell on the seventh turn, the prophet Daniel says “seventy sevens are determined… to make an end of sin, to seal up…” (cf. Daniel 9:24), and so it is countless other times, especially in the book of Revelation, where EVERYTHING ends with seven, i.e. “seven angels with seven trumpets, preparing themselves to sound…” (Rev. 8:6)…
So to the naked eye, Lamech the father of Noah might die insignificantly, but we who are learned might see something prophetic in Lamech’s death:
And all the days of Lamech were seven hundred seventy and seven years, and he died. (Genesis 5:31, KJV, emphasis mine).
But wait, there’s more! It would seem “the other Lamech” of Cain’s stock ALSO had his phenomena attached to him:
“If Cain be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:24, KJV, emphasis mine)
So these “777 jackpots” if you will mark the reward of transgression for the sons of Adam. It took Cain’s ancestors five generations to win it, while the sons of Enosh reached it in seven.
The 777th year of Lamech’s life occurred just five years before the Flood, and I like to believe that’s when the fullness of sin evoked the “relinquishing” (nacham) of Mankind, as God said to Noah: “The end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:13)
So the sum of these things is this: Lamech was banking on a different jackpot than the one YHVH had in store. True to Noah’s name, there was a “relinquishment”… but not the one Lamech foresaw.
There will be a day when the world wins the “777” jackpot – i.e. when the seventh angel sounds the seventh trumpet after the seventh last plague… so let’s make sure we’re preparing for the reward of righteousness, and not the jackpot of wickedness. ◊