As years passed after the creation, and people began to multiply, we find that Cain murdered his own brother, Abel, in Genesis the fourth chapter. Most people who have heard anything at all about the Bible, knows of this story. The first recorded physical death of a human, a murder. These two young men were the sons of Adam and Eve, the couple created by God.
After this incident, Cain later fathered a son named Enoch. He then built a city and named it after his son, Enoch. Enoch is the first city recorded in the Bible. Then in the 18th verse of chapter 4, we have this recorded:
"And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methushael; and Methushael begat Lamech." (Genesis 4:18 KJV)
So it is Lamech, the great, great, great grandson of Adam with which our story is concerned. Lamech becomes the first recorded person to engage in polygamy. He married two wives, one of whom was named Adah, and the other named Zillah. His first wife, Adah, gave birth to two sons who were named Jabal and Jubal.
Zillah then gave birth to a son which they named Tubal-cain and a daughter whose name was Naamah. Tubal-cain was a gifted creator of weapons such as spears and swords, metal work
One day, Lamech came in and confronted his wives with this statement, first, from the King James Version:
"And Lamech said unto his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: For I have slain a man for wounding me, And a young man for bruising me: If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold." (Genesis 4:23-24 KJV)
This scripture is somewhat confusing in the KJV but is partially clarified if we read other versions and some comments by biblical scholars who are learned in Aramaic and Hebrew languages. Here is the American Standard version which, in itself clarifies a great deal of understanding:
"And Lamech said unto his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: For I have slain a man for wounding me, And a young man for bruising me: If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold." (Genesis 4:23-24 ASV)
This makes it a little more understandable but still leaves room for question. But after reading some of the scholars of the Aramaic and Hebrew languages, if becomes better clarified. The more reliable ones believe that the manner in which he addresses his wives was simply the manner used in those days and is equivalent to what might be reduced down into today’s English to:
"Alright you ladies, listen up. I have killed a young fellow because he was beating me and hurt me badly. But don't worry, if God promised to avenge Cain seven fold if anyone harmed him, then certainly I would be avenged seventy-seven fold if someone came after me for this."
This sounds reasonable and we have no further evidence that he was not speaking of a self defense killing. Some biblical scholars having analyzed this short passage, make rather surprising presumptions from it. One of their remarks is listed here for your consideration, but it difficult to understand how they could reach such conclusions from such limited information. Here is a paragraph taken from a highly reputable and widely used source, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE):
"It is very instructive to note that this "father of polygamy" at once becomes the first blustering tyrant and a braggadocio; we are fully permitted to draw this conclusion from his so-called "swordlay" (Genesis 4:23). He does not put his trust in God, but in the weapons and implements invented by his sons, (Genesis 4:22) or rather these instruments, enhancing the physical and material powers of man, are his God. He glories in them and misconstrues the Divine kindness which insured to Cain freedom from the revenge of his fellow-men." (ISBE)