You may have noticed that Cain, after killing his brother Abel, being banished, and settling in the land of Nod, "knew his wife" and had children by her (Genesis 4). This woman is not named, yet she has managed to become one of the most controversial people in the Bible, mentioned in the famous Scopes Trial (also known as the "Monkey Trial") in 1925, as well as in anti-Christian books and documentaries. Unfortunately, the majority of Christians have not given much thought to Cain's wife, giving the impression that Christians are incapable of defending their faith.
During the Scopes Trial, which was under great media scrutiny, there was recorded this famous exchange between ACLU lawyer Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan (the man prosecuting on behalf of the Christian faith):
Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife? -- No, sir; I leave the agnostics to hunt for her. -- You have never found out? -- I have never tried to find. -- You have never tried to find? -- No. --The Bible says he got one doesn't it? Were there other people on the earth at that time? -- I cannot say. -- You cannot say. Did that ever enter your consideration? -- Never bothered me. -- There were no others recorded, but Cain got a wife. -- That is what the Bible says. -- Where she came from you do not know.
The negative impact of this exchange has affected the impact of Christianity on many to this day. The purpose of this article is to clear up the confusion regarding Cain's wife, showing that it is biblically likely that she was his relative--a descendant of Adam and Eve just like Cain.
A Descendent of Adam & Eve
Cain's wife must have been a descendent of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2 we see that God created one man and one woman from whom humanity would spring. Had there been more than one man and woman created by God, and had the Bible chosen not to include a record of them, the message of Romans 5:12 would not make sense: "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (Emphasis added). From this passage it is apparent that Adam's sin permeated through the rest of creation and spread down through the bloodline of Adam. "All men" leaves nothing to be considered. There has never been a human who did not sin and sin stemmed through Adam and Eve, meaning all humankind descended from them. Therefore, Cain's wife must have been a descendent of Adam and Eve.
Cain Married His Sister?
Yes! Cain married his sister, or a niece--there would not have been anyone else to marry! Detractors might object on the basis of incestual relationships causing defects which would have wiped out the human race. However, they forget that Adam and Eve were created perfect and lived for nearly 1,000 years! Their genes were complete and contained nearly no defect. It was not until much later (see Leviticus 18-20) that God completely condemned the idea of marrying a close relative.
In fact, even Abraham's wife, Sarah, was his half-sister (see Genesis 20:12) and God chose to create his covenant with him (see Genesis 12). It was only over the course of much inter-marriage that mankind's genetic structure became weakened enough that God instituted the law concerning marrying close relatives (See illustration below).
Confusion Regarding the Timeline
Some people may not understand when Cain's wife could have been born to Adam and Eve as only Cain, Abel, and later, Seth, are mentioned by name as being their children. Cain is mentioned first in Genesis 4:1 and Abel in Genesis 4:2. The Bible then moved right into the story of Cain and Abel followed by Cain's genealogy. This can cause some confusion, as Cain has a wife but there is no mention of any other children up to this point!
The next mention of a child from Adam and Eve is recorded in Genesis 4:25 "And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, 'God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.'" So, this would imply that there had been no male children born to Eve between Abel's death and Seth's birth. Here some may wonder: if this is the case, where did everyone else come from? We still haven't located Cain's wife!
If we move to Genesis 5 we will find a genealogy of Adam and Eve's descendants which tells us that Adam had a son named Seth when he was 130 years old. Then, in Genesis 5:4 we read "The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters." The phrase "he had other sons and daughters" is not limited to the time after Seth, it should be understood as saying that Adam had other sons and daughters in addition to the children already mentioned.
Here's the good stuff: Adam and Eve were created as adults. Therefore, at "0" years of age they were fully formed. Cain could have been born when Adam was 1 and Abel when he was 2 or 3. With the life-spans that the early humans enjoyed (e.g., often 700-900 years) Cain and Abel could have been any age under 128 years old when Abel was murdered. Considering the lack of birth control in those days it seems highly unlikely that Adam and Eve did not have other sons and daughters in the hundred or so years that Cain and Abel may have been alive. Remember: the only qualifier here is that Seth was seen as Abel's replacement and was born when Adam was 130 years old.
This is why I say that it is possible Cain had married a niece. If Cain and Abel were around for 40 years or longer, with Ancient humanity's tendency for men to marry significantly younger women[ref] This practice even continued on into the Middle Ages when it was common for a girl to be married as soon as she had her first period to men ranging in age from 30 to 60 years of age. [/ref] it would be very possible that Cain had other brothers and sisters who had married and had children, one of whom he could have married.
In summary, it is very likely that Cain's wife was his sister, but the possibility does remain that she was actually his niece!
The great thing about what we have looked at here is that it is applicable to another objection surrounding Cain: "Who he was fearful of in Genesis 4:14"? He was afraid of the wrath of his relatives (of which there were probably getting to be many)!
May God bless you richly as you continue to read through His Word!
--Pastor Stephen Valcourt