What should we do when someone harms us physically, financially, or emotionally? Should we harm them? Should we harm them twice as much as they harmed us so they don’t do it again? Should we harm them 3 times more than they harmed us and make them an example so that no one else will harm us? What about harming someone 4 times, 5 times, or even 6 times more than they harmed us?
The concept of revenge first appears in the Bible in Genesis 4 in the story of Cain and his descendants. Before we look at what the Bible says about revenge, let’s first establish a little context. Genesis 4:8 tells us that Cain killed his brother.
Gen. 4:8 Cain told Abel his brother. And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
Next, Genesis 4:15 tells us that even though God punished Cain for the murder, God protected Cain from being killed. Notice the word sevenfold.
Gen. 4:15 So the LORD said to him, “Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him.
God promised that anyone killing Cain would be harmed 7 times more than the harm inflicted on Cain. Now let’s look at Cain’s descendants.
Gen. 4:17 ¶ Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son.
Gen. 4:18 Now to Enoch was born Irad, and Irad became the father of Mehujael, and Mehujael became the father of Methushael, and Methushael became the father of Lamech.
Gen. 4:19 Lamech took to himself two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other, Zillah.
Gen. 4:20 Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock.
Gen. 4:21 His brother’s name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe.
Gen. 4:22 As for Zillah, she also gave birth to Tubal-cain, the forger of all implements of bronze and iron; and the sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.
Now that we have the context, let’s read about revenge. Notice in the following verses what was done to Lamech and what Lamech did in response. Notice the word seventy-sevenfold.
Gen. 4:23 ¶ Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me;
Gen. 4:24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
Lamech was wounded by a man and he was struck by a boy. Lamech’s response was to kill both of them. In other words, Lamech harmed his attackers much more than they harmed him. When telling his wives what he did, Lamech stated very clearly that while God would have avenged Cain sevenfold, he was going to avenge himself seventy-sevenfold.
Lamech’s response was a natural human instinct. It is natural to seek revenge. It is natural to inflict more harm on an attacker than was suffered from the attacker. However, for those of us who follow the one and only true God, we are instructed to act differently. Read what the Apostle Paul tells us about revenge.
Rom. 12:17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
Rom. 12:18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Rom. 12:19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.
Rom. 12:20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.”
Rom. 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
When we have been harmed physically, financially, or emotionally, our natural response is to seek revenge; however, the Godly response is to do the exact opposite. The Godly response is to overcome evil with good. So the next time someone harms you, instead of responding the way Lamech responded, resist the urge to get revenge. Let God take care of the justice and focus instead on doing good.
Do you believe that those of us who follow the God of the Bible should live in a manner that differentiates us from our culture?
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“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”