Who was Cain's wife?

By S. Michael Houdmann, Got Questions Ministries

While people wondered about the identity of Cain's wife long before the Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925, that trial is definitely what sparked interest in the question. In the trial, which was essentially over whether evolution should be taught in science classrooms, Clarence Darrow stumped William Jennings Bryan with the question of Cain's wife and thereby made him (and by connection all Christians) look foolish and unable to defend the teachings of the Bible. The question over the identity of Cain's wife, though, is not difficult to answer. Rather, many Christians are reluctant to give the answer because, well, basically, it's gross.

Without any human beings other than Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel being mentioned, Genesis 4:17 states, "Cain knew his wife, and she conceived..." If, at that time, Adam and Eve had only given birth to two sons, Cain and Abel, and Cain had killed Abel, where did the mystery woman that Cain married come from? There are all kinds of speculations and theories. Some see Genesis 1:26-28 as God creating humanity, and then Genesis 2 as God creating "the chosen line" of Adam and Eve. In this view, Cain's wife was simply one of the people God created in Genesis 1:26-28 (or one of their descendants). A variation of this view is the idea that God used theistic evolution to create humanity, and then created Adam and Eve to be the chosen line, and that Cain's wife was from the human beings who had evolved over the billions of years of time. There is another interpretation that views Cain and/or his wife as descendants of Satan (known as Serpent Seed). There is another interpretation which states that just as God created Eve for Adam, so did He also create wives for the first generation of descendants from Adam and Eve.

All of these interpretations essentially "bend over backwards" when there is a much simpler explanation. Cain's wife was his sister, or possibly his niece. After Cain, Abel, and Seth were born, Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4). While the Bible does not specifically mention it, it would seem likely that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters between Abel and Seth. When Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:8), both Cain and Abel were adults (or at least teenagers). It would be very strange for Adam and Eve, surely the most perfectly fertile couple in the history of humanity, to go a decade or more without having any children. After Abel's death, when Adam and Eve gave birth to Seth, Eve viewed Seth as a replacement for Abel, possibly indicating that between Abel and Seth, Adam and Eve had only given birth to daughters. Whatever the case, there is definitely room in the biblical creation account for Adam and Eve to have had many more children by the time that Cain killed Abel.
Incest dangers only applied after people's genetic code became corrupt; Cain probably married his sister.tweet
But, isn't that gross?!?! Doesn't the Bible command against incest? Yes, the Bible commands against various forms of incest in Leviticus 18:6-18. However, those commands did not exist in the time of Adam and Eve and their descendants. If God only created two human beings, Adam and Eve, their descendants would have had no other choice but to marry and reproduce amongst themselves. Incest is gross because God has written His law on our hearts (Romans 2:14-15) and because we know about the genetic risks to close intermarriage. But, in the beginning, there was no genetic risk because the human genetic code had not yet been mutated/corrupted. Adam and Eve were perfect genetically, and their children would have had very few, if any, genetic problems as well. The following graphic from Answers in Genesis illustrates it clearly:
So, who was Cain's wife? Cain's wife was very likely his biological sister. The first generation would have had no choice but to intermarry with their siblings (or possibly with their nieces/nephews). The second generation of humanity could have intermarried with their siblings, aunts/uncles, nieces/nephews, or cousins (which the Bible does not consider to be incest). By the third generation, humanity would not need to intermarry so closely. Whatever the case, there was no genetic risk to close intermarriage, as the human genetic code had not been significantly corrupted by that time. Cain's wife being his sister sounds nasty, but if the Genesis creation account is interpreted literally, it was necessity.

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Photo credit: Rod Waddington; "New Bride, Adigrat, Ethiopia"Creative Commons


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Published 5-11-11