“Where did Cain get his wife?”
Adam was made from the dust of the earth, Eve was formed from one of Adam’s ribs, but Cain was formed by the union of Adam and Eve – he was not only the firstborn child of Adam and Eve but also the firstborn child of all humanity. “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth a man,” Eve exclaimed (Gen. 4:1). I have to chuckle trying to imagine her surprise!
Well, perhaps you know the story… awhile later Eve gives birth to her second child, Abel… also a male. As the two brothers grow Cain becomes a farmer while Abel tends to flocks. Both boys decided to bring an offering to God. The Bible tells us what happened,
In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Gen. 4:3-5)
Despite reassurances and warnings from God Cain lets his anger burn and in the end commits the first murder, killing his brother. (see Gen. 4:6-8)
Because of this great sin the Lord banishes Cain from the area and sentences him to become “a restless wanderer on the earth” (v.12). Cain heads east and eventually settles in a place he names Nod. He is fearful for his life though thinking others may kill him. But God marks Cain in some way to prevent this (v.13-16).
The last thing we hear about Cain is this: “Cain made love to his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.” (Gen. 4:17). For generations skeptics and Christians alike have asked “Where did Cain get his wife? Did God make other first couples like Adam and Eve? Did Cain marry his own sister? Where did this wife come from?”
I believe the answer to this enigma has more to do with genetics than it does with theology.
Genesis chapter 3 we read “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” (Gen. 3:20). That statement alone demonstrates that there were no other divinely created couples on the earth. All of humanity sprang from Eve or by procreation by her offspring. Cain’s wife must therefore have been a close relative. (As would have been all those Cain had feared might kill him.)
Now… a little Genetics 101…
We all have two copies of most of our genes: one from each parent. If one parent’s gene is defective in some way the copy from the other parent is usually sufficient to ensure the health of the offspring. If both offspring get one good and one bad version of the same gene pair and then have children together the likelihood of their offspring having two defective genes of the same gene pair (one from each parent) is much higher. If that happens then the child will develop the disease or genetic disorder associated with that gene pair.
This is much less likely to occur when the parents are from separate family lines. While their offspring may receive some defective genes it is far less likely that they will be of a common gene pair, so the complementary good gene will protect them.
It’s all actually somewhat more complex than this, but boils down to the same thing: defective genes of the parents.
Adam and Eve were created by God, flawless in their genetic makeup. Neither Cain nor Abel could have received any defective genes from their parents because their parrnts had none — nor could have Seth or any of the “other sons and daughters” (Gen. 5:3-4) born to the genetically unflawed Adam and Eve.
As the gene pool grew, however, the possibility of defects in some genes grew too, simply by virtue of being copies of copies of copies of… You get the idea. At this point the danger of siblings transmitting defective genes of the same pair emerged.
But at this point too our wise and loving Creator stepped in, giving the law to His people, and defining the sin of incest: “Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.” (Leviticus 18:9). Subsequent verses in this chapter apply the rule to various other family members, explaining “because [he/she] is a close relative.” Thus today we recognize the sin of incest, provided by our loving Creator for our good.
Got a question? Use the Contact page and send It to me. We’ll search the Word for God’s answer.