4:19 And Lamech took two wives; the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. 20 Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have cattle. 21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. 22 Zillah bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Na’amah.
23 Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, hearken to what I say: I have slain a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. 24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
The use of the scriptural texts in Orthodox hymnography often “spiritualizes” the text so that the lesson can be applied personally to our lives. This method does not deny the literal reading of the text, but moves the scripture reader to apply the text to his or her own life. “Lamech cried, ‘I have killed a man for wounding me, and a young man for hurting me!’ … How well have I imitated those first murderers, Cain and Lamech! Through the desires of the flesh, I have killed my soul as did Lamech a man, and my mind as once he did a young man. I have also murdered my body as Cain murdered his brother.” (Thursday Canon of St. Andrew of Crete)
The genealogy of Cain will not be followed in the next chapters of Genesis. It certainly represents a “dead end” especially with the cataclysmic flood of Genesis 6-9. It is noteworthy that the ages of Cain’s descendents are not mentioned – but age is a pronounced feature in the Adam genealogy that is traced through Seth. The Wisdom of Solomon in the Septuagint offers this observation: “But the prolific brood of the ungodly will be of no use, and none of their illegitimate seedlings will strike a deep root or take a firm hold. For even if they put forth boughs for a while, standing insecurely they will be shaken by the wind, and by the violence of the winds they will be uprooted. The branches will be broken off before they come to maturity, and their fruit will be useless, not ripe enough to eat, and good for nothing” (Wisdom 4:3-5).
As God looks upon the world, it must be agonizing for Him. First there are genealogical lines, such as Cain’s, which are cut off from God, and whose descendants pursue an ungodly life. But then in the family trees which actually produce the righteous ones, God sees people whose hearts are continually on imagining and doing evil from their youth. The Lord in choosing humans to be His favored creatures has not given Himself much to work with for accomplishing His will in the cosmos. When God shaped the soil into the first human in Genesis 2, did He imagine that working with and shaping inert dust was going to be easier than working with or shaping supposedly “intelligent” humans? The entire universe does the will of God, except for humans who are the only ones who posses God’s image and supposedly are rational beings (Is that not the gist of the Vesperal Psalm 104 hymn of creation? – all created things do the very things they are appointed by God to do; only humans created in God’s image and favored by God resist doing the will of God). Human synergy with God is sorely lacking, and the history of salvation is reliant on the grace of God. This is why the Virgin Mary is such a unique person in history and so honored by the Orthodox Church. Though she is upheld as the fulfillment of humanity’s synergy with God, she also goes against the common grain of human intention – the continual wickedness in the human heart. She truly is full of grace (Luke 1:28). Indeed she is more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. The Cherubim and Seraphim have positions close to God – they are constantly in God’s presence – but they do not come from a race of beings whose hearts are constantly bent on evil. Mary on the other hand precisely has the same heart as any of us, and yet her heart is not continually conceiving evil, and in fact she is able to conceive God in the flesh. The fact that a woman was capable of being the Theotokos by her willful acceptance of God’s way and despite her being of the lineage of Adam and Eve is truly one of the greatest miracles recorded in the Bible. It explains the great reverence for Mary as Theotokos in Orthodoxy. And it tells us that we each do have the capacity to resist evil and to love both God and our neighbor.