Cain killed his brother…The Lord said to Cain…“Now you are cursed…You will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth.” Cain answered, “My punishment is greater than I can bear…(A)nyone who meets me may kill me.” The Lord said, “Not so! Whoever kills Cain will suffer a sevenfold vengeance”…Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch…To Enoch was born Irad…Irad was the father of Mehujael…Mehujael the father of Methushael…Methushael the father of Lamech…Lamech said…“Hear my voice…If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Lamech seventy-sevenfold.”
The Bible’s first murder, a fratricide, is recorded in the 4th chapter of the first book. (It didn’t take long!)
In Cain’s era, the price of vengeance was sevenfold. Five generations later, Cain’s descendant Lamech could boast that retribution’s bounty had risen bountifully from seven to seventy-seven.
Born in 1952, I was raised under the cloud of the Cold War Era’s saber-rattling betwixt the United States and Russia. I often thought of the escalation of the cost of revenge in terms of the employ of nuclear armament. So far (and I emphasize, so far), this hasn’t happened. However, it seems to me that the American threat and reality of initiatory and retaliatory violence, heeding no restraint or limit, has come in the form of the unfettered and criminal use of an arsenal of assault weaponry.
Following the most recent incident of mass violence, our United States Congress, particularly the Senate, continues to forestall consideration of what I believe to be commonsense gun-control measures. I don’t know what it will take to make sense of (to bring sense to) this debate. What will be the cost of vengeance that sickens our corporate American body enough to act for the sake of health and peace?
© 2022 PRA
Illustration: Cain slaying Abel (c. 1600), Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)
 Genesis 4.8-24 (heavily abridged)
 This is to say, balanced at or restricted to a calculated or just response; seven being an ancient measure of wholeness or completeness; anything beyond that being considered excessive. Thus, the family of a person injured or killed could exact equal vengeance on seven members of the offending clan.