Lamech was the son of Methuselah and father of Noah. A man famous for little more than being the answer to a trivia question: Who was the oldest person who ever lived? Lamech, though, lived at a crucial juncture in early human history—just before God destroyed the world in a cataclysmic flood.
Lamech’s brief quote reveals an acute awareness of how much things had deteriorated since his ancestors Adam and Eve fell from grace and were expelled from the garden. God’s promise of “painful toil” (Genesis 3:17; 5:29) had come true. The ground was cursed, and Lamech was looking for a reason to believe things might change for the better.
He placed that hope in his son Noah, whom he said:
When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah and said, “He will comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the LORD has cursed.”
Lamech’s words proved true, though perhaps not in the way he anticipated. A few years after Lamech died, God appeared to Noah and commanded him to start building an ark to preserve his family and a sampling of the animals during the judgment that was coming. It may seem like a strange way to bring comfort, but Noah also found himself on the receiving end of humanity’s first covenant with God.
Perhaps more significantly, the Gospel writer Luke counted both Noah and his father, Lamech, among the ancestors of hope personified, Jesus Christ. The previous chapter of Genesis features a quote from another Lamech—this one a descendant of Cain, the world’s first murderer.
The contrast is striking. While one—the descendant of Cain— boasted about making his own way in the world (mostly through violence), the other Lamech acknowledged his frailty as he anticipated a more hopeful future.