Today I chanced upon a passage and was reminded of an old set of feelings that I once held onto for a very long time.
“Lamech said to his wives:
“Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say:
I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain’s revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech’s is seventy-sevenfold.””
– Genesis 4:23-24 ESV
A quick primer – the story of Cain and Abel is a pretty violent, lurching start to Genesis after the exit from Eden, and after Cain slays Abel out of jealousy he goes on to have kids, who have their own kids, and somewhere down the line you get an angry Lamech.
Now it’s quite clear, even just from the bit above, that Lamech is a vengeful man. But a more accurate translation of the above might read as such:
I have killed a boy (or a young lad) for merely bruising me.. my revenge will be had seventy-seven times (or seventy times seven)
And the significance of the last numerical bit is that it is a number of perfection. In essence, what Lamech is saying is that he will exact perfect and violent vengeance on anyone, even a child, who wrongs him, even if it is the slightest of wrongs.
And I know what that feels like.
It feels like being fourteen and skinny and getting pushed around at school for the first time, and going home and vowing afterwards that the next person to grab you and try to bully you will get a finger straight in their eye.
It feels like being eighteen and sharp-tongued and promising yourself that one humiliation is enough, the next time it happen, you will crush anyone who poses the tiniest threat under the weight of your words, mocking and sneering at them, taking harsh, ripping jabs at all their soft spots.
It is making a pact with yourself – never to be humiliated again, to be made to feel small, or embarrassed, or weak. And if that means taking the next person out by drawing on all the fear in you to tear into them till they go quiet, so be it.
(You might never actually get round to gouging out someone’s eyes, or stomping a person to the ground with your words. And for pieces of time, here and there, you might actually feel like you’re in control, in the driver’s seat for once. And perhaps you are! But what a terrible, lonely, fearful life it is.)