Interesting poetic parallelisms and contrasts occur in the Genesis narrative at the end of chapter 4. The story picks up after Cain kills Abel (4:1-8). The Lord deals with Cain by casting him out from his family, after which it states, “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord….” This statement is likely more than geographical but one of spiritual condition.
The story then shifts back to the brother of Cain, Seth. Seth would be Cain’s younger brother and was declared by Eve to be an “offspring” to replace Abel (see Genesis 5:15). The text says of Seth’s offspring, “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”
In a poetic contrast, Cain and his line went out from the presence of the Lord while Seth and his line drew near to the Lord – and worshipped.
This text has always intrigued me. Unlike some I have heard, it seems to me Lamech may have been referencing Cain’s killing of Abel as just revenge for the wrong Cain had suffered. In Lamech’s killing of the young man, it seems Lamech took pride in retaliation for a personal offense. Now Lamech rejoices in the vengeance he has meted out. It is amazing how family members can justify and even glorify the actions of their forefathers.
In the context of the time this story was written, Seth’s offspring would have been justified in seeking vengeance against Cain and his family. In our culture, many would have justified such a move. Instead, they sought the face of God.
Now, a final parallel. In Jesus’ interaction with Peter regarding forgiveness in Matthew 18:21-22 Jesus states, “Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
If Jesus had the Genesis story in mind, does it add any insights to his instruction?