Where did Cain get a wife? Not knowing the answer to this question could be a stumbling block to someone exploring Christianity and the Bible. No one wants to put her faith in fairytales, and indeed, when it comes to such important matters as how we got here, why we’re here at all, the existence of God and the question of whether the Bible is a reliable historical record, thoughtfulness and care should mark the quest for answers.
Cain, you will remember, shows up in Genesis chapter four. He was Adam and Eve’s first child. He was also the first murderer, but that’s another story. Genesis four is the story of how things went for the first family and their children after Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. So the curse was in place, and things were starting to unravel already.
In verse one of chapter four, Cain is born. In verse two, his brother Abel, the first murder victim, is born. You might assume that at this point there are four people on the planet, and perhaps there are. But by verse fourteen, Cain worries that “anyone who finds me will kill me.” He has murdered Abel by this time, and God has punished him by removing his ability to farm, and making him a vagabond.
By verse seventeen, Cain has a wife and builds a city. Clearly, there are far more than four people on the earth now. We’re only on page four of the Bible, and we’ve covered the creation of the entire universe, the planet and all life forms, the fall of man, exile from the garden, and some history of life on the outside. We shouldn’t be surprised that quite a few details in the story have not been recorded, but rather left for us to deduce. So let’s deduce some things.
First, Adam and Eve were the only two people directly created. All other humans descended from them. Cain, Abel, and Seth are mentioned by name, but Genesis 5:4-5 tell us that Adam lived for 930 years, and “had sons and daughters.” Lots of them, we can reason. Remember the earth was almost perfect at that point. No thousands of years of cosmic ray bombardment, genetic mutations, and human-generated pollution. Henry Morris, in The Genesis Record, calculates that even if each couple had only six or seven children, and each of their children married and did the same, you would still have a population of at least 120,000 during Cain’s lifetime. Plenty for building cities.
Second, Cain probably married one of his sisters, or perhaps a niece. Big yuck factor today, when taboos against incest are pretty much universal, and with good reason. But in the beginning, there were no such taboos, and no reasons for them. With no mutant genes yet, children born to close relatives would have no genetic troubles. Even Abram, a long while after the flood, married Sarai, his half-sister. Finally, by Moses’ time, the accumulated genetic deterioration made it necessary for God to forbid marriage between brother and sister, and of course, the genetic situation has only worsened since then. But for Cain, taking a near relative for a wife was not a problem.
Let me encourage you to always ask the hard questions that rise to the surface of your mind when reading Scripture, or that someone with objections to Christianity brings to your attention. The Bible is the Word of God, and can withstand rigorous analysis from any quarter, on any subject. Your faith will only be strengthened as you search out reasonable answers and anchor your worldview more firmly in the Rock of our salvation.
We can talk about this further in the Bible Basics Forum.