One of the most often-asked questions about the Bible is that of Cain’s wife. The Bible says that after he killed his brother Abel, Cain married a wife.
And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and born Enoch. And he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son – Enoch (Genesis 4:17).
There are many difficulties that arise with this statement since Genesis only records two children of Adam and Eve to this point-Cain and Abel. The issues to be considered are these:
1)If all humanity descended from Adam and Eve, then where did his wife come from?
2)In addition, where did all the people come from that are mentioned in the account?
3)If Cain married a relative, then doesn’t this indicate incest?
4)If Cain married his sister, then wouldn’t we expect any offspring to suffer degenerative effects?
Some have attempted to say that Cain’s wife came from a race of Pre-Adamic humans who were around before Adam and Eve. The idea of Cain marrying someone from this race creates more problems than it solves. The Scriptures are clear that Adam was the first man created (Genesis 2:7,18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45). Furthermore, his wife Eve was given her name because she was the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20). These two facts rule out the idea of some Pre-Adamic race from which Cain chose a wife.
Other Bible students have attempted to explain the existence of other humans apart from Cain and Abel by saying they were not necessarily the first two sons of Adam and Eve. They contend that other sons and daughters could have been born before Cain and Abel and that the Bible is merely singling out these two for emphasis. The Bible, however, knows nothing of any other children of Adam and Eve before Cain and Abel. Attempting to say that other children existed before Cain and Abel has no support in Scripture but it cannot be totally ruled out.
If all of humanity did descend from Adam and Eve and their first two sons were Cain and Abel then how do we explain the existence of Cain’s wife?
Time Not Stated
First, we must understand that no information is given as to when Cain killed Abel. The Bible does not tell us how old Cain and Abel were when this murder took place. It merely says it occurred at the end of days. It is not necessary to assume that they were mere teenagers or young men. If each of them were over fifty years of age, then there could have been a considerable number of people living at the time. We know this because the Scripture does state that Adam and Eve had many more sons and daughters than Cain and Abel.
The Bible says Adam was one hundred and thirty years old when Seth was born. He then lived another eight hundred years. God had promised Eve that he would greatly multiply her conception (Genesis 3:16). In fact Jewish tradition states that Adam had 33 sons and 23 daughters! Therefore many people could have existed at the time when Cain killed Abel. It has been conservatively estimated that 32,000 people could have been alive at that time this event occurred.
Long Life Spans
Furthermore, Genesis 5 records long life spans of the descendants of Adam. If we assume the couples gave birth to children for only half of their life span, then the population by the time of Adam’s death could have been very large. Moreover, the genealogy in Genesis 5 records that every descendant of Adam down to Lamech had other sons and daughters. These other sons and daughters were born to men not older than one hundred and eighty-seven years.
With these facts in mind, there would be no problem finding a wife for Cain. Prior to his banishment, Cain could have had many women from whom to take a wife.
What About Incest?
It seems then that Cain, or one of his brothers, must have married a sister. If the entire human race came from an original pair then this was unavoidable. Does this not present us with the problem of incest? The answer is no. These early intermarriages between brothers and sisters does not violate the commands God later gave in the Book of Leviticus which condemned these relationships.
Sister Or Niece
Though Genesis condemns incest- relations between children and parents-it does not forbid a man from marrying his sister or niece. The Bible records other examples of intermarriage within families. Abraham, for example. married his half-sister Sarah (Genesis 20:12) while Moses’ father Amram, married his father’s sister, his aunt Jochabed (Exodus 6:20).
Changed With Law
It was when God gave the people the law of Moses that He established laws forbidding a man from marrying a sister or niece.
None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am the Lord (Leviticus 18:6)
At that time God forbade marriage between the following: mother, father, sister, brother, half-brother, brother’s wife, aunt, uncle, stepmother, granddaughter, daughter-in-law, and son-in law. Before that time, it was not forbidden (Leviticus 18:7-17).
God forbade intermarriage at the time of Moses to protect the increasing chance of a deformed offspring resulting from such a union. In addition, the future health of the nation Israel was insured by this commandment. Furthermore, the commandment against this type of practice strengthened the structure of the family unit.
If this be the case, then what about the question of genetic damage? Today the risk of genetic damage is high among relatives who intermarry. However, in the beginning, there would not be the usual genetic defects arising from intermarriage among family members. Adam and Eve were created perfect with a perfect gene pool. The Bible says when God created everything it was very good (Genesis 1:31). The perfect world only began to degenerate with the entrance of sin. Cain and Abel would have few, if any, imperfect genes. Any defects that would occur from marriage within families would not begin to appear until later generations. Thus the danger of genetic damage by intermarrying between brothers and sisters was not an issue in those early days.
One final point to note, the command that God gave to Adam and Eve-to leave father and mother-assumes that you are not going to marry either one of them! Therefore the idea of marrying your child, or parent, was never found in Scripture.
As far as the account of Cain’s finding a wife when no other people were mentioned except Adam, Eve, and Abel, we can make the following observations:
1. The problem of the identity of Cain’s wife cannot be solved by arguing for some race of Pre-Adamic humans. The Scripture is clear that Adam was the first man and that Eve was the mother of all the living.
2. Some believe that the answer to the population problem is to say that there were older brothers and sisters of Cain and Abel. There is no biblical support for this view but it cannot be totally ruled out.
3. We are not told the age of Cain and Abel when the murder occurred. They could have advanced to a considerable age before Cain killed Abel. The limit the Bible puts on the age of Cain and Abel is 130 years.
4. Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters. We are not told specifically how many, but we are told that Adam lived 930 years. This raises the possibility of dozens of children from that couple alone. There were possibly as many as 32,000 people living at the time Cain killed Abel.
5. Genesis 5 tells us that some of Adam’s descendants also had long life spans. Likewise, the Bible says that they gave birth to many sons and daughters.
6. There would not be an issue of incest-parents sexual relationships with their children. This would be a matter of siblings intermarrying-something that was not condemned in Scripture until the Law of Moses. Abraham is one biblical example of a person marrying his half-sister.
7. The Law of Moses condemned intermarriage between brothers and sister to protect the health of the nation as well as the family unit.
8. Because Adam and Eve were created perfect, their gene pool would not have been corrupted until after the Fall. Children of close relatives that married soon after the Fall would not be subject to the same degeneration that would occur in later generations.
9. Genesis 1 says we are to leave father and mother when we get married. That assumes you don’t marry one of them!