“28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.
32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Genesis 5:28-32
In a previous post, we looked at the Gospel Hope of Eve and her expectation that God would fulfill the promise given to her and Adam in the protoevangelion of Genesis 3:15. In that post we noted that her expectation that God would fulfill his promise was initially toward her first born, Cain, though we noted a shift in her expectation to Abel at some point, before finally being reached in Seth, the seed through whom the Messiah would come. Though speculative, it seemed reasonable to assume that Eve had faith in the promise of God to send a Deliverer or Redeemer, much like other OT saints (see Hebrews 11).
In the passage above from Genesis 5, we note a similar expectation through the words of Lamech, the father of Noah. Recall that in the post concerning Eve mention was given to the significance of the meaning of names in the Old Testament and we find again that idea conveyed through the name of Noah, which sounds like the Hebrew word rest. Lamech’s expectation for the fulfillment of God’s promise can be seen in the following verse, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” The word translated “relief” by the ESV is literally the word rest, which corresponding to Noah’s name and the expectation that he would be one to deliver the people from the “painful toil of our hands.”
To understand this better and see the connection with the protoevangelion we must turn again to Genesis 3:15, though this time in context with the entirety of the curse given to Adam, Eve, and the Serpent:
“14 The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” 17 And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:14-19
Of particular interest to us in this post is the curse pronounced on Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Notice here that the curse given to Adam is specifically related to the toil of the ground or land through the labor of his hands. God would no longer provide ease and abundance through the fruits of the land, but now it would require painful effort on the part of man to overcome the obstacles of thorns and thistles, and through sweat, i.e. hard work, the land would yield harvest.
Now we can begin to see the expectation of deliverance from this curse in the words of Lamech, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” Clearly the first part of Lamech’s expectation is related to the final statement of God’s curse on Adam:
The Curse on Mankind:
“till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19
Lamech’s Expectation of the Curse Reversed
“Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed” Genesis 5:28
It’s not difficult here to see an expectation for the reversal of the curse given in Genesis 3. Lamech’s expectation is that out of the very ground that had been cursed would come one who would bring relief. Like Eve before him, Lamech’s hope was in the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent, though he specifically has an expectation of relief, literally rest, from the curse of the ground. Further, he expects that this one from the ground will be his own child, Noah, who would bring about this rest. Again, like Eve, we know that it was not through their immediate offspring that the fulfillment of God’s plan would come, but through the Promised One, Jesus Christ.
It is certainly understandable in both the case of Eve and Noah that their hope in the promise of God would be fulfilled in their lifetime, but that was not God’s plan. His plan for a Redeemer would unfold through the covenant promise given to Abraham, a kind of reminder of Genesis 3:15, and then through the people of Israel, culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ.
The expectation of Lamech highlights an additional point worth noting, namely the ultimate Sabbath rest that comes in Christ alone. The Sabbath principle is far more than the 4th Commandment that so many have abrogated from the other 9 commandments. It is a principle rooted and grounded in the character of God, revealed in the days of creation, longed for in the expectation of Noah, further developed in the Mosaic Law with Sabbaths and Jubilee, and ultimately finding its destination in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 3 and 4 develops further the biblical theme of God’s permanent, Sabbath rest to which all other Sabbaths in the OT pointed, that comes only through Christ:
“7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. 10 Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” 12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
4 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” 5 And again in this passage he said, “They shall not enter my rest.” 6 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, 7 again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, Godwould not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Hebrews 3:7-19 – 4:1-13
Clearly this passage is worthy of a separate study, but we may conclude a few things in relation to the expectation of Lamech. From Lamech and the passage from Hebrews, we may observe the connection between the promised rest of God and the promised land of God. We may conclude that it is only in Christ that believers may find their rest from not only the physical labors of their hands, but the spiritual labor against sin. Through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, to all believers, by way of Christ’s obedient fulfillment of God’s law, we may rest from all efforts to earn our justification. Thereby we may now experience God’s Sabbath rest, even though, as in the days of Noah, we also look forward with eager expectation to the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring about our eternal, satisfying rest from all the toil of our hands in a land, namely the new heavens and new earth, that God Himself will prepare.