“Then Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch.”[Genesis 4:16-17]
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times.
“If the Bible is true, then where did Cain get his wife?”
First of all, this is a loaded question with many false assumptions and misunderstandings. Let me consider those assumptions and bring some simple clarity to this objection.
ASSUMPTION #1 – Cain WAs an only Child Left All Alone
The first glaring assumption that skeptics make is that after murdering his younger brother, Abel, Cain must have been the only other human being on the planet besides his parents, Adam and Eve. There are usually two erroneous conclusions drawn from this assumption.
- Since Cain was the only child left in the family, then he would have no one to marry. Therefore the Bible is false.
- If Cain found a wife in Nod and married her, then from where did she come? Was there an entirely different race of people alive on the earth who did not descend from Adam and Eve? [This is often proposed by those who believe in the unbiblical theory that a pre-adamic race of people who evolved over millions of years.] Therefore the Bible is incomplete.
Fortunately, the Bible provides a simple answer in Genesis 5.
“When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.”[Genesis 5:3-4]
The genealogies in the Scriptures are not meant to provide a comprehensive account of every child born into a family, nor do they always support chronology. On the contrary, the genealogies serve an entirely different purpose altogether and deal uniquely with God’s covenant with man and His multigenerational faithfulness.
For example, in Luke’s account of the genealogy of Jesus, Judah is listed as the son of Jacob [Luke 3:33-34], but we know that Judah was neither the only son nor the first born son of Jacob. So it is with the genealogies in Genesis. Just because Seth is the only son listed under the line of Adam, we know that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters who are not identified by name.
Adam was 130 when Seth was born, but nothing in the text prohibits the possibility that many other sons and daughters were born to Adam before Seth. Even if Cain and Abel were the first two offspring of Adam and Eve, a lot can happen in 130 years. Dr. Henry Morris calculated that by the time of Adam’s death, there easily could have been nearly 3 million people on the earth. So by the time Cain was banished, he potentially could have been many other adult brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews and cousins alive on the earth.
The Scripture also tells us that Eve is the “mother of all the living” [Genesis 3:20], so obviously Cain’s wife had to be one of his relatives.
Assumption #2 – Cain Found His Wife in Nod
For those who attempt to harmonize Darwinian evolution with God’s six days of creation in Genesis, there is a fascination with Cain’s wife. They use Cain’s wife to insinuate that perhaps there were other people already alive on the earth who had settled long before God formed Adam and Eve. They contend that this pre-adamic race of humans, or sub humans, evolved over millions of years by naturalistic processes, which explains how Cain could have found a wife living in previously settled civilization.
To hear them tell it, after Cain was banished to the land of Nod in the east he found a flourishing community of other pre-adamic humans settling there, which is where he “found his wife.”
Yet if you read carefully, the Bible says Cain settled in Nod and then it says he knew his wife and she conceived. It never says that Cain found his wife in Nod, but only that after settling in Nod, Cain and his wife came together to produce a child.
Cain could have just as easily found and married his wife before leaving for Nod. There is nothing in the text that says that his wife was already settling there. Furthermore, Cain is the one who built the city there in Nod, so there is no indication that a thriving civilization was already in place.
Assumption #3 – Incest is Against God’s Law
Here in the south we joke about “kissing cousins,” and how some family trees don’t have many branches, if you know what I mean. Incest is frowned upon in today’s culture and rightfully so.
First of all, the Mosaic Law clearly forbids many unsanctioned sexual relationships, including incest [Leviticus 18, 20:17-21]. After the children of Israel were redeemed from Egypt, the LORD prescribed specific laws that would make them holy and distinct from the nations around them. Unlike the civil and ceremonial laws of the Torah, God’s moral code – including incest – remains in place and transcends all times and places.
Secondly, man’s genetic pool has become so diluted over time that families that practice incest suffer from degenerative birth defects, physical deficiencies, and genetic disorders.
So then for Cain to marry his sister, or niece, or cousin, it would have been a direct transgression of God’s law, right? Not to mention just gross.
Not so. The law of Moses wasn’t given to Israel until 430 years after Abraham, and before the law was given, there was no direct prohibition against incest. Even Abram married his half sister, Sarai, which would have been a violation of the Mosaic Covenant, but because it happened before the giving of the law, it was not a transgression. Over time, God progressively began to set parameters for mankind, knowing that the law would be needed to make man conscious of sin.
Once the moral law was given, incest and other sexual sins outside of monogamous marriage are an offense to God and must be avoided.
“For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” [Romans 2:12]
Also, Pauls says, “Now the law came in to increase the trespass, [Romans 5:20] and that the law “was added because of transgressions.” [Galatians 3:19]
Furthermore, man’s gene pool was pure and uncorrupted before the flood, which eliminated the common genetic mutations and birth defects that are associated with incest today. Although it seems weird to us now, it would have been common for people in the pre-flood world to marry siblings or close relatives.
It was no different for Noah and his family as they began to reproduce after the flood. Noah’s children and grandchildren, like Cain, would have married close relatives at the beginning, but as the effects of sin progressively corrupted the human genome, more problems with incestuous relationships began to surface.
So where did Cain get his wife?
Well, in short, Cain married either a sister or close relative and then settled in the land of Nod.
Even though incestuous marriages were both necessary and common in the ancient world, they did not directly violate God’s law because the law was given much later. Again, the integrity of the God’s word holds up under scrutiny and proves reliable as always.