Lamech was the bold grandson of Cain, the first recorded polygamist and a quick-tempered braggard who killed a young man for wounding him. His was the second murder that we read in Genesis, but Lamech took no shame in the act.
His was pride: he’d outdone Cain. Where Cain had avenged himself seven times, Lamech had one-upped him: seventy-seven times.
Cain had only one murder to his name, but Lamech praised Cain for properly avenging his name. Use of “seven” indicated whole or complete. But if Cain did a good job in seeking vengeance, then Lamech had done even better: seventy-seven times, meaning unsurpassed completeness.
Lamech boasted of his conquest: “If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times." (Gen 4:24)
That’s how vengeance works. Always there’s the intent to even the score but it’s never evened. Vengeance is a greedy monster, taking more and more.
But the Bible is full of contrasts. Where there’s hatred, there’s love. Into defeat comes hope. Into loss comes life. And into vengeance comes forgiveness.
Jesus discussed the very matter with Peter who, proud of his goodness, intended to forgive a man seven times. That should be complete.
But Jesus one-upped him: "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matt 18:22)
Cain’s lineage trumpeted unsurpassed vengeance. Seven’s not enough, try for seventy-seven.
Jesus had an answer: forgive. Seven’s not enough, try for seventy-seven.