Legends of Old Testament Characters/Chapter 12

XII.

LAMECH.

"Mefhusael begat Lamech. And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ. And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah. And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt. If Cain shall be avenged seven-fold, truly Lamech seventy and seven-fold."[1]

The speech of Lamech points to a tradition unrecorded in the Sacred Text, with which the Israelites were probably well acquainted, and which therefore did not need repetition; or else, there has been a paragraph dropped out of the original text. The speech is sufficiently mysterious to raise our curiosity. Whom had Lamech slain? and why should Lamech be avenged?

The Targums throw no light on the passage, merely paraphrasing it, without supplying the key to the speech of Lamech.[2] But Rabbinic tradition is unanimous on its signification. The book Jasher says that in those days men did not love to have children, therefore they gave their wives drink to make them sterile. Zillah had taken this drink, and she was barren till in her old age she bare Tubal-cain and Naamah. Now Lamech became blind in his old age, and he was led about by the boy Tubal-cain. Tubal-cain saw Cain in the distance, and supposing from the horn on his forehead that he was a beast, he said to his father, "Span thy bow and shoot!" Then the old man discharged his arrow, and Cain fell dead.

But when he ascertained that he had slain his great ancestor, he smote his hands together, and in so doing, by accident struck his son and killed him. Therefore his wives were wroth and would have no communication with him. But he appeased them with the words recorded in Genesis.[3] The same story is told in the book of the "Combat of Adam."

Some Jewish writers adopt a tradition that Tubal-cain was not slain, but was severely injured by his father; according to some, he was lamed. Connecting this tradition with his name, a striking analogy springs up between him and the Vulcan of classic antiquity, and the Völundr of Norse mythology. Both were lame, both were forgers of iron, and the names Vulcan and Volundr bear some affinity to Tubal-cain; for, cutting off Tu, we have Balcain or Vulcan. A very learned and exhaustive monograph on Völundr has been written by MM. Depping and Michel.[4]

Tubal is said by Tabari to have discovered the art of fermenting the juice of the grape, as well as that of music. Eblis deceived the young man, who was full of gaiety, and taught him many things, amongst others how to make wine. Tubal took grapes and crushed them, and made must, and let it grow bitter. Then he took it and put it in a glass jug. He made flutes, lutes, cymbals, and drums. When he began to drink the wine he had made, he jumped and danced. All the sons of Cain looked on, and, pleased with his merriment, they also drank and played on the instruments Tubal had made.[5]

Naamah, the sister of Tubal-cain, became the wife of the devil Schomron, by whom she became the mother of Asmodeus.[6]

  1. Gen. iv. 18-24.
  2. Targums, ed. Etheridge, i. p. 173.
  3. Yaschar, tr. Drach, p. 1092; the same in Midrash Jalkut, c. 38; Midrash, Par. Bereschith, fol. 2; Rabbi Raschi on Genesis; &c. &c.
  4. Véland le Forgeron; Paris, 1833. There is an English translation by Wright.
  5. Tabari, i. c. xxi.
  6. Eisenmenger, ii. p. 416.