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Lamech (Heb. לֶמֶךְ) was one of the antediluvian patriarchs in Genesis. According to the list recounting the lineage of Cain (Gen. 4:17–24 – ascribed to the J tradition), Lamech was the son of Methushael (4:18) and the father of three sons, Jabal, Jubal, and Tubal-Cain, and a daughter, Naamah (4:20–22). His wives were Adah and Zillah (4:19). He was thus the first polygynist and the father of the founders of nomadism, the musical arts, and metalworking. He is also the author of a song (4:23–24), which is structurally and linguistically an example of early Hebrew poetry.

Significantly, Lamech is the seventh human generation, and in his song the typological numbers 7 and 77 appear (4:24). Another genealogy of Lamech (assigned to the P tradition) is presented in a list of the descendants of Seth (5:25–31; I Chron. 1:3). In this list, Lamech is the son of Methuselah and the father of Noah. He was 182 years old when Noah was born, and he subsequently had other sons and daughters (Gen. 5:30). He is the seventh generation from Enosh. In this there is a numerical and structural parallel to the other tradition insofar as Enosh is a generic term for man, alongside Adam. Significantly, here, too, the number seven appears, for Lamech lived 777 years (5:31). The relationship between the two lists presents a problem. On the basis of related number typologies, parallel historical frameworks, the reduplication of names (e.g. Enoch; Lamech), and other resemblances, they would seem to derive from a common source, the first probably being the earlier since it records seven generations, while the second counts ten. It is presumed that the latter is an expansion of the former.

The origin and meaning of the name is not clear. An Akkadian noun lumakku, sometimes suggested for comparison, refers to a junior priest attested only in lexical lists (CAD L, 244–45). Alternatively, an Arabic etymology would explain this name as mighty youth, an epithet suitable to Lamech’s character.


M. Eliade, The Forge and the Crucible (1962), 97–104; S. Gevirtz, Patterns in the Early Poetry of Israel (1963), 26; W.F. Albright, Yahweh and the Gods of Canaan (1968), 85. See Commentaries to Genesis 4:17–24. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, index; L. Ginzberg, On Jewish Law and Lore (1955), 61–62. IN THE APOCRYPHA: M.R. James, Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament (1920), 10–11. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: K. Beyer, Die aramaeischen Texte vom Toten Meer (1984), 167–69; N. Sarna, JPS Torah Commentary Genesis (1989), 36–38; R. Hess, in: ABD, 4:136–37.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.