Where did Cain get his wife?

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D. and Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

Many infidels and skeptics have used this apparent inconsistency as evidence for the allegorical or mythological nature of the early Genesis record, in opposition to plain historicity as advocated by biblical conservatives.

While it is true the Bible is not specific on this matter, there is no difficulty in suggesting a reasonable solution that does no violence to Scriptural interpretation.

The most common solution is to propose that Cain married a near relative—perhaps a sister. Initially this may seem a radical idea, but as we will note, it is the most realistic option. We are told in specific terms that Adam and Eve had three sons—Cain, Abel, and sometime later, Seth. However, we also are told that Adam was the father of “other sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4). Eve had borne Cain and Abel soon after leaving Eden (Genesis 4:1-2), but she could have had other children between their birth and Abel’s death, and between that murder and the birth of Seth. In any case, one female offspring could later have become Cain’s wife. [Some have inquired as to whether or not Cain could have married someone else not of Adam and Eve’s family—viz., a woman of other people whom God had created. In light of Scripture, this is not a possibility. The Bible makes it plain (Genesis 3:20) that Eve was the “mother of all living” (emp. added). If Adam was the first man (1 Corinthians 15:45) and if Eve was the mother of all, then it is clear that there were no “other people” left for Cain to marry. The population of the Earth came directly through the lineage of Adam and Eve.] There would have been no shortage of potential mates. A glance at the rapidly growing population of the antediluvian world (Genesis 4-6) shows that the people of those times were prodigious; they took seriously God’s command to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:28)!

Many people immediately see a problem with marriages that must, of necessity, be incestuous in nature. Remember, however, that incest itself was outlawed only with the coming of the Mosaic covenant (Leviticus 18). There was no need for strict laws on marriage partners in the early Patriarchal Age (apart from the divine “one man, one woman, for life” institution), and for at least one good reason: during this time, man was in a relatively pure state, at least physically, having left not long before the perfect condition in which he was created and the Garden that had sustained his life. Adam and Eve could have lived forever had it not been for their corruption by sin, and their consequent expulsion from Eden (Genesis 3:1-6). Hence, no harmful genetic traits had emerged at this point that could have been expressed in the children of closely related partners. However, after many generations, and especially after the Noahic Flood (Genesis 6-9), solar and cosmic radiation, chemical and viral mutagens, and DNA replication errors, led to the multiplication of genetic disorders. God protected His people by instituting strict laws against incestuous marriages in the eighteenth chapter of Leviticus. Needless to say, more genetic disorders have arisen in the world population since the time of Moses, and thus it is even more important to avoid marrying a close relative. Christianity thus far has insured that such rules have been carried forward into modern laws in the western world.

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