The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament/Lamech

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1952647The Lost Apocrypha of the Old Testament — Fragments: Lamech1920Montague Rhodes James


Lamech is the next title in the lists of Apocryphal books which concerns us. There are two antediluvians of the name recorded in Genesis: in iv. 25 ff. we have the descendant of Cain, the author of the Song; in v. 25 ff. the descendant of Seth and father of Noah. The former has been the subject of more legend than the latter. The enigmatical Song has had explanations invented for it, of which that which has attained the widest currency is as follows. Lamech was blind, and used to go out shooting with bow and arrow under the guidance of the young Tubal Cain. The function of Tubal was to tell the old man where the game was, and direct his shot. One day Tubal was aware of something moving in the thicket; he turned Lamech's aim upon it, and the creature fell dead. It proved to be their ancestor Cain—covered with hair and with a horn growing out of his forehead—for such was the mark set upon him by God. Lamech, on learning what he had done, smote his mighty hands together in consternation, and in so doing smote and slew Tubal Cain. Thus it was that he "killed a man to his wounding and a young man to his hurt."

This tale is current in a separate form in Slavonic.

No one has made a better conjecture than that the lost book of Lamech had this for its principal subject. Many are the Jewish writers and mediæval Western commentators who tell the story, and through the medium of the latter it became one of the regular episodes to be illustrated in continuous Bible histories of the twelfth and later centuries. In England it may be seen on the west front of Wells Cathedral and in the bosses of the nave of Norwich Cathedral; abroad, on the west front of Bourges, of Auxerre, at Toledo, at Orvieto—all these showing it in sculpture; while in MSS. it is very frequently to be met, and in glass—in "Creation" windows—is by no means uncommon.