Where did Cain get his wife from?

A diligent reading of the Bible reveals the most difficult question often asked: “Where did Cain get his wife from?”. From Genesis 4: 1-2, we find the birth of Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4: 25, Adam had another son called Seth. In-between the births of Cain and Seth, we are introduced to the wife and genealogy of Cain in Genesis 4: 17-24: “Cain lay with 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.” Since Cain abandoned his biological home, and Adam and Eve had only sons, who did he marry?

This question has led many to doubt the authenticity of the Genesis narratives.Though the Bible does not provide obvious information concerning the wife of Cain (such as birth and name), we can still trust the Bible about why her birth and name is not revealed.

For the purpose of getting a better understanding, many theologians try to postulate hypotheses to give sense to the Cain’s-wife-mystery. The first hypothesis (though unpopular) is the argument that Adam and Eve were not the only human beings that were created. God created so many human beings other than the biblical couple. Well, except one would like to skip the Biblical evidences, this hypothesis has no Biblical foundation. We are informed from Genesis 1: 26-27 about the origin of human beings in creation:

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God created only two human sexes, thus, male and female in the persons of Adam and Eve. There are no evidences anywhere in the entire Bible that confirm the creation of many other human beings.

The second hypothesis is the post-woman creation for Cain. This hypothesis teaches that God made another woman for Cain. Once again, this is a pure guessing without any Biblical evidence. Creation was done and finished in six literal days according to Genesis 2: 1-3 and Exodus 20: 11. There wouldn’t have been any extra creation of human beings; at least not recorded in the Bible. What took place after the creation of plants, animals, and human beings was procreation in fulfilment of Genesis 1: 22, 28 “Be fruitful and multiply”.

There is also a strong argument against the post-woman creation hypothesis. The Bible says Eve was the mother of all the living. We read this from Genesis 3: 20: “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living”. Hence, the Bible does not give any hint of the creation of any human being other than Adam and Eve. All humanity are the descendants of Adam and Eve according to the Bible.

The next hypothesis—and the most widely accepted—is on incest marriage, that is to say, Cain married his own sister or cousin. So we have a generation that married themselves. It was until Sinai that God gave a commandment to the Israelites against incest marriage (Leviticus 18: 6). In Genesis 4, incest marriage was the only means of procreation.

Again, the genealogy of Adam reveals other sons and daughters. Genesis 5: 4 reads: “After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had sons and daughters.” This text appears to suggest that the “sons and daughters” were born after Seth. Many people have questioned whether these sons and daughters were all there before Seth was born or after? The same phrases appear in Genesis 5: 7, 10, 13, 16, 19, 22, 26 and 30. The answer may be difficult, and may be more difficult since the Hebrew word for “to born” yalad in this context is in the imperfect tense. Therefore, it wouldn’t be a theological flop should one think of these sons and daughters as in the sum total of the children of Adam and Eve. The only problem we encounter in Genesis chapter 4 to 5 is a story of Adam’s family that focuses on Cain, Abel and Seth but no other persons else.

The last hypothesis that I shall postulate is the silence of women’s birth in the Genesis narratives. The early generation was patriarchy. In patriarchy, only the names of the men are mentioned as ancestors. Genesis chapter 5 presents the birth and names of men only. There are no accounts of women’s birth even though people had daughters. This happened not only in Cain’s wife but in the genealogy of Cain as well. There are only three women whose names appear in Genesis 4. They are the two wives of Lamech named as “Adah and Zillah” (Genesis 4: 19), and their grand daughter named Naamah (Genesis 4: 22). Even with these, their birth accounts are not given. Other than these three women, we have little information about women in the antediluvian age.

In conclusion, it is true that the Cain’s-wife-mystery poses some difficulty. However, it is quite clear that God didn’t create many people during creation. It is also a biblical fact that creation was done in six literal days and therefore God never created another woman for Cain. All humanity came from Adam and Eve. It shouldn’t be confusing to think of the wife of Cain as also a descendant of Eve. We can again trust the Bible that Adam and Eve had sons and daughters other than Cain, Abel and Seth. And finally, the silence of the accounts of women’s birth in the antediluvian age explains why Cain’s wife birth and name is not mentioned. In the best of my opinion, I think the last two hypothesis best explain where Cain got his wife from.

Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi

Pastor/PhD Student
I am a Seventh-day Adventist pastor designate for the Adventist Fellowship Geneva in Switzerland, and studying for a PhD at the University of Geneva.
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi
- 2 months ago
Clifford Owusu-Gyamfi