Sharon Wilharm Bible Storyteller

Lamech’s Wives

In the seventh generation from Adam, Lamech, a descendant of Cain, married two wives. This is the first recorded example of polygamy.

Way·yiq·qaḥ, the word used for married in this example, means to “take for himself”. Apparently, Lamech thought that while one wife was good enough for everyone else, he needed two. So he married Adah then Zillah.

The name Adah means “ornament” or “adornment”. Zillah means “shady” or “shadows”. Was Lamech attracted to them for their beauty? Were they trophy wives that he could show off, one on either arm? Why did the two women submit to such an agreement? Did they have a choice? It had to be degrading when other women had a husband of their own, but Adah and Zillah had to share.

We get a glimpse further into the true character of Lamech in his poetic discourse known as the “Song of the Sword” found in Genesis 4:23-24.

“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice;

Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech!

For I have killed a man for wounding me,

Even a young man for hurting me.

If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,

Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.”

What arrogance to brag about killing someone, then to compare himself to Cain and boast that he’s more criminal than Cain! And yet, what an odd choice to announce his crime through poetry. The polygamous murderer was also a poet.

As we’ll learn from the sons of Adah and Zillah, this family possessed power, talent, and ingenuity. But they had no regard for the laws of God.

It’s easy to get caught up in ourselves and our worldly pursuits, but no matter who we are, we are never above the authority of God.

Lamech’s wives in the Bible: Genesis 4:19-24

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