And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD,
and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.
And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch:
and he built a city, and called the name of the city,
after the name of his son, Enoch.

The world is full of questions used to try to refute Christianity. Many of these are directed at the unanswered questions and contradictions found in the Bible. One of the earliest of these asks, "Who was Cain's wife?" For those of you who don't know, Cain was one of the sons of Adam and Eve who were supposedly the first human beings created by God. Cain killed his brother Abel, and was cast out of the Garden of Eden, and he and his descendents were forever cursed.

The Bible states that Cain took a wife. If Adam and Eve were the first two people, and Eve was the only woman, where did Cain's wife come from? Obviously this question is much more far reaching because even without Cain, you must ask how two people populated the entire earth. Cain's wife is simply a small part of this problem that is easy to focus on.

Without ever being named in the Bible, this woman has become quite famous. She was mentioned in the Scopes "Monkey" Trial, and was cited in Carl Sagan's book Contact (and in the movie as well), and in the play and movie Inherit the Wind. Who was this mystery woman, and where did she come from? There are many possible answers to this question:

The Easy Answer

If you believe in the literal creationist theory as expressed in the Bible, then the only acceptable answer is that Cain married one of his close relatives - possibly a sister or niece. While the book of Genesis does not specifically name any of Adam and Eve's children other than Cain, Abel, and Seth, it does specifically state in Genesis 5:4 that they "had other sons and daughters". Some Jewish traditions tell us that Adam and Eve had thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters. Considering God told them (just as he later told Noah) to be fruitful and multiply and that Adam lived to be over 900 years old, even 56 children might be a rather conservative estimate. Knowing that Cain was scared for his own life after killing Abel (Genesis 4:14), we can infer that there were others around for him to fear. If we consider that Cain married a close relative, we can assume that these other sons and daughters did the same, so after several decades of this, there would literally be thousands of potential mates for Cain (most of them much younger).

This idea, of course, brings up the problems of incest. Today, having a child with a sister or even a close cousin brings a high probability of birth defects. However, we must take into consideration that we are talking about a perfect gene pool (after all, God Himself created Adam and said "it was good"), and with only one or so generations from the first perfect humans, there would be little chance of negative recessive genes at this point. It should also be pointed out that the concept of marrying your sister is not deemed to be a sin until Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20 (more than 2000 years later according to young earth creationists).

If you are still concerned with the concept and problems of incest, think about this:
1.) Abraham married his half sister (Genesis 20:12) - a union that God blessed. It was still another several centuries before God forbade such things.
2.) Eve was even more closely related to Adam than any sister could be to Cain. Remember that Eve was created from Adam's rib (basically she was a clone), so was actually made from the same DNA.

The "Others"

Some try to explain the appearance of Cain's wife by saying that God created some more people after Adam and Eve. While this is a logical theory, most biblical scholars denounce this concept as there are many places in the Bible (especially the New Testament) that refer to God's love and mercy as it applies to the descendants of Adam. It would not be consistent with the rest of the Bible that there are whole groups of people that can never be saved because they don't have the right heredity.

Similar to this, some people suggest that this woman was actually not a Homo sapien, but rather a less evolved humanoid species such as Australopithecus, Homo erectus, Neanderthal, or Cro-Magnon. While at first, this concept of interspecies breeding may seem a likely possibility, it is actually completely illogical to discuss these pre-evolutionary stages of modern man with the presumably (for this argument) historical figure of the wife of the son of Adam and Eve*. It should also be noted that Adam had this same problem at first, and could find no solution. Genesis 2:20 tells us that while all the animals had a mate, Adam searched all over, and could find no compatible partner, and it was only after this that God created Eve. We can only assume that the man who encountered and named every species on the earth (Genesis 2:19) would have run across these other humanoid creatures first.

There is, however, mention of a breed of giants called Anakim (though some believe them to have been Nephilim) mentioned in Genesis 6:4 which Cain could have bred with. This verse specifically states that humans who "knew" these giants bore children who became the men of renown. Because a curse was placed upon Cain, it is unlikely that such an honor would have been given to his descendants.

* Please note that I do not consider evolution and creationism to be mutually exclusive, but the actual, historical individual, Adam, and evolution cannot exist together.

Cain Who?

Was the earth created in 4004 BC? Many people treat Genesis the same way they treat Revelations, or any of several other books of the Bible - as symbolism. Obviously if you don't believe in the literal 7-day creation story, then asking who this person was just doesn't matter. As stated in the note above, while creationism and evolution can easily exist together, a literal Adam and Eve cannot co-exist with evolution. See also: Creation science, Evolution vs. Creationism, and Theistic evolution

Don't Worry About It

The Bible specifically tells us not to worry about such things. Both Titus 3:9 and 1 Timothy 1:4 tells us not to "give heed to fables and endless genealogies". Even if you are not a Christian, unimportant and unanswerable questions are not what you are supposed to get out of the Bible.

Other Resources


Let's keep our priorities straight. A more important question than "Who was Cain's wife?" would be "Did Adam and Eve have navels?"

“Who was Cain’s wife?” is definitely one of the Top Ten Questions of the Bible. Genesis 4: 1-16 tells a curious story of Adam and Eve’s first-born sons Cain and Abel. Several themes appear in this story including sibling rivalry, the attraction of sin, crime and punishment, the futility of pretense before God and the moral distinction between civilization and barbarism. The editor of The Oxford Companion to the Bible Bruce M. Metzgar explains in his essay titled Names for the Nameless that the Bible contains many people with names as well as quite a few who play a part in scripture but are not named. And sometimes there is more than one name attributed to the same person.

At the beginning of the Hebrew Bible readers frequently ask So, who did Cain marry? Metzger explains that the answer is presented in a Jewish manuscript called “The Little Genesis” or also called the Book of Jubilee. The apocryphal text is thought to have been written in second century BCE and according to chapter four verse nine,’ after giving birth to Cain and Abel, Eve bore a daughter named Awan, who eventually became Cain’s wife.’ After the birth of his son Seth, Adam fathered another daughter and named her Azura, who later became Seth’s wife. The customary Christian and Jewish answer is that Cain married his sister.

During the earliest times of Israel the institution of marriage is closely linked to kinship in the Hebrew Bible. There are suggestions that marriage was considered an extension of kinship through an informal or written covenant or agreement. The position of women in ancient Israel is a central factor in understanding the foundation of marriage. A woman appears to always to have been under the safeguard and authority of her nearest male kin. Endogamy is the marriage within one’s group, however that is possibly defined and exogamy is marriage outside it. Both are demonstrated in the Bible. In the ancestral narratives, endogamy seems to have been the overriding practice. For example in Genesis 24 Abraham sends his servant back to Mesopotamia to find a wife for his son Isaac from among his own kin. 1 Yet exogamy is also accounted by Esau 2 and Joseph 3 The kings of Israel and Judah also practiced exogamy. For example David who had a number of marriages that were endogamous starting with Saul’s daughter Michal. 4 5 Solomon and Ahab are also described as having exogamous marriages. The Deuteronomic opinion of exogamy was antagonistic because of the apprehension over apostasy. 6 7 On the other hand the book of Ruth has been understood as adopting a stance in which exogamy is suitable.

In the New Testament Jesus does not present any teachings about marriages but it can be inferred from his thoughts about divorce 8 that he perceived it positively, with monogamy being the model. As in he Hebrew Bible, the marriage relationship is used in the New Testament to describe the bond between the community and God expressed as the church and Christ.

Sources:

Holy Bible

Oxford Companion to the Bible, Russell Fuller and Bruce Metzger, authors; Metzger and Coogan, edited by Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, p.547-547 and p.496-497.

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