September 4, 2008

Brueggemann on Lamech

Category: Bible - OT - Genesis :: Permalink

How strange is this?  Here’s a chunk of Walter Brueggemann’s commentary on Genesis 5:

Worth noting is the attitude and presentation of Lamech here (vv. 28-31), quite a contrast to the vengeful man of 4:23-24.  While the contrasting presentation of the same man may be explained on grounds of different sources, it is important that this two-sidedness is preserved in the tradition.  Lamech prefigures the tendency we all know of trying to serve two masters (Matt. 6:24); in his case, self-security (4:23-24) and the vision of uncursed earth (5:29) (p. 69, emphasis added).

Why in the world does Brueggemann think that the Lamech in Genesis 5 is the same guy as the Lamech in Genesis 4?  According to the text of Scripture itself, Genesis 4’s Lamech is a descendent of Cain, while Genesis 5’s Lamech is the descendent of Seth.  I suppose with some genealogical jiujistu you might be able to construct some way for them to be the same person, but why?

It’s far more fruitful to notice the similarities between these two Lamechs and to compare and contrast them.  Not only do they share the same name, but they are both associated with the number seven: Cain’s Lamech is the seventh from Adam and he speaks of a vengeance that involves multiples of seven; Seth’s Lamech lives seven and seventy and seven hundred years.  But what a difference in character: the one a violent and self-reliant man, but the other hoping in God’s promise of rest through the seed, the son.

I’ve heard people recommend Brueggemann from time to time, but my opinion of him as an exegete has reached a new low.  Anyone read the rest of this commentary?  Any reason to keep it?

Posted by John Barach @ 10:19 pm | Discuss (0)

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