Whole Life Whole Bible Day 09

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Genesis 4:19-24 (NASB)

9 Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah. 20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

23 Lamech said to his wives,

“Adah and Zillah,

Listen to my voice,

You wives of Lamech,

Give heed to my speech,

For I have killed a man for wounding me;

And a boy for striking me;

24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold,

Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”


8: The way we are

Lamech typifies the contradiction within human existence. He enjoys God’s blessing of marriage… but (whether due to the desire for descendants or the passion for prestige) humanity has departed from God’s original ‘one flesh’ design (see Genesis 2:24). And he uses his God-given creativity to compose lines of poetry… which boast of excessive revenge and murder. Yet he fathers three sons, one of whom grazes cattle, one of whom makes music, and one of whom works with metal. Even this family advances agriculture, arts and technology in fulfilment of the creation mandate.

The tension is no surprise to those who take seriously the goodness of God’s original design but also recognise that we no longer live in Eden. We still bear God’s image, though it is damaged; and the tasks of subduing and ruling remain, though they are distorted. All of this means that we can be neither naively optimistic nor overly pessimistic about ourselves, other people, or the things we turn our hands to — like agriculture and arts and technology. Through these activities we simultaneously demonstrate that we are made in the image of God and act out our rebellion against him, our alienation from each other and our exploitation of the created world.

In such a context — ‘east of Eden’ (Genesis 4:16) — sin does not demolish economics but distorts it through selfishness and greed. Sin does not destroy sexuality but diverts it down harmful paths. Sin does not do away with the need for politics but directs it to serve the interests of the powerful few. Small wonder that two of the most significant areas of our lives — work and family — can be a source of frustration as well as fulfilment; places of hurt as well as healing.

The disobedience of Eden results in disordered lives, and Genesis 4-11 describes how that disorder spreads like ripples from a stone thrown into a pond, moving through individuals to families to society to the whole of creation. And laced through these chapters, as God said it would be, is death.

It will take the next instalment of the story to show us that human rebellion and failure are met by God’s grace, that God’s commitment to his world and to humanity stands firm, that the way we are is not necessarily the way we will always be.


For further reflection and action

  1. Where do you fall on the spectrum between ‘naively optimistic’ and ‘overly pessimistic’? How does that affect your daily life and relationships?

  2. Think about an experience from the last few days in which the tension of human existence in today’s world was evident — a film you watched, a task you did, a conversation you had. How might we distinguish between a ‘creational design’ and something that has been distorted by the parasitic nature of sin?

  3. Reflect on the significance of Matthew 18:22, where, echoing Lamech, Jesus commands extravagant forgiveness — ‘not seven times, but seventy-seven times’.

    Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.