Table of Contents
Study GuideLesson 1
The Answers Book
Updated & Expanded
Cain’s wife—who was she?
First published in The Answers Book - Updated and Expanded
It is not lawful to marry your sister, so who did Cain marry? Were there other people on the earth? Who lived in the land of Nod? Does this have any relevance to the Gospel?
We don’t even know her name, yet she was discussed at the Scopes trial, mentioned in the play and movie Inherit the Wind1 and the book and movie Contact2, and has been talked about in countries all over the world. Is she the most-talked-about wife in history?
Skeptics have used Cain’s wife time and again to try to discredit the book of Genesis as a true historical record. Sadly, most Christians have not been able to give an adequate answer to this question. As a result, the world thinks Christians cannot defend the authority of Scripture and, thus, the Christian faith.
For instance, at the historic Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925, William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor who stood for the Christian faith, failed to answer the question about Cain’s wife posed by the outspokenly anti-Christian ACLU 3 lawyer Clarence Darrow.4
The world’s press was focused on this trial, and what they heard has affected Christianity to this day—Christians are seen as unable to defend the Biblical record. And skeptics then make the logically fallacious jump of concluding that the Biblical record is indefensible!
The atheist Carl Sagan used this same question in his book Contact5 (which was on The New York Times best-seller list), and the movie Contact, which was based on Sagan’s book, also used it.
In the book, the fictional character Ellie relates that she could not get answers about Cain’s wife, and other questions, from a minister’s wife, who was the leader of a church discussion group.6
Sagan cleverly used common questions—such as ‘Who was Cain’s wife?’—questions that are often directed at Christians in an attempt to prove the Bible cannot be defended.
Sadly, most Christians probably could not answer these questions! And yet, there are answers. But, since most churches are lacking in the teaching of apologetics,7 particularly in regard to the Book of Genesis, most believers in the church are not ‘ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope in you’ (1 Peter 3:15).
Why is it important?
Many skeptics have claimed that, for Cain to find a wife, there must have been other ‘races’ of people on the Earth who were not descendants of Adam and Eve.
To many people, this question is a stumbling block to accepting the creation account in Genesis and its record of only one man and woman at the beginning of history—a record on which many Old and New Testament doctrines depend.
Defenders of the Gospel must be able to show that all human beings are descendants of one man and one woman (Adam and Eve)—as only those people who are descendants of Adam and Eve can be saved. Thus, believers need to be able to account for Cain’s wife and show clearly that she was a descendant of Adam and Eve. (The relevant Bible passage is Genesis 4:1–5:5.)
Before we answer this question, we will first show how important it is to the meaning of the Gospel.
The first man
‘Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed on all men inasmuch as all sinned (Romans 5:12).’
We read in 1 Corinthians 15:45 that Adam was ‘the first man.’ God did not start by making a whole group of men.
The Bible makes it clear that only the descendants of Adam can be saved. Romans 5 teaches that we sin because Adam sinned. The death penalty, which Adam received as judgment for his sin of rebellion, also passed on to all his descendants.
Since Adam was the head of the human race when he ‘fell,’ we who were in the loins of Adam ‘fell’ also. Thus, we are all separated from God. The final consequence of sin would be separation from God in our sinful state forever. However, the good news is that there is a way for us to return to God!
Because a man brought sin and death into the world, all the descendants of Adam need a sinless Man to pay the penalty for sin and the resulting judgment of death. However, the Bible teaches that ‘all have sinned’ (Romans 3:23). What is the solution?
The last Adam
God provided the solution—a way to deliver man from his wretched state. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15 that God provided another Adam! The Son of God took on a human nature in addition to His full divinity, becoming a perfect God-man—Jesus Christ. In His humanity He was a descendant of Adam (through Noah, Abraham and David)—He thus became our relation! He is called ‘the last Adam’ (1 Corinthians 15:45), because he took the place of the first Adam. He became the new head and, because he was sinless, He was able to pay the penalty for sin:
Christ suffered death (the penalty for sin) on the cross, shedding his blood (‘without shedding of blood is no forgiveness’ Hebrews 9:22) so that those who repent of their sin of rebellion and put their trust in His work on the cross can be reconciled to God.
Since the Bible describes all human beings as sinners, except the God-Man Jesus, and we are all related (‘And He has made all nations of men of one blood to dwell on all the face of the Earth’ Acts 17:26), the Gospel makes sense only on the basis that all humans alive and all who have ever lived are descendants of the first man Adam.9 If this were not so, then the Gospel could not be explained or defended.
The Book of Hebrews amplifies how Jesus took upon himself the nature of a man to save mankind (Hebrews 2:11–18). Seven centuries before this happened, the Prophet Isaiah spoke of Him as literally the ‘Kinsman-Redeemer,’ i.e. one who is related by blood to those he redeems (Isaiah 59:20, uses the same Hebrew word גוֹאל (gôēl) as used to describe Boaz in relation to Ruth).
Thus, only descendants of the first man Adam can be saved.
Thus, there was only one man at the beginning—made from the dust of the Earth (Genesis 2:7).
This also means that Cain’s wife was a descendant of Adam. She could not have come from another ‘race’ of people and must be one of Adam’s descendants.
The first woman
Eve was made from Adam’s rib (or side, Hebrew tsela, Genesis 2:21–24)—this was a unique event. Jesus (Matthew 19:4–6) and Paul (Ephesians 5:31) use this historical and one-time event as the doctrinal foundation for the marriage of one man to one woman.
Also, in Genesis 2:20, we are told that when Adam looked at the animals, he could not find a mate—there was no one of his kind.
All this makes it obvious that there was only one woman, Adam’s wife, at the beginning. There were never any other women around who were not Eve’s descendants.
If Christians cannot defend that all humans (including Cain’s wife) can trace their ancestry ultimately to Adam and Eve, then how can they understand and explain the Gospel? How can they justify sending missionaries to every tribe and nation? Therefore, one needs to be able to answer the question about Cain’s wife, to illustrate that Christians can defend the Gospel and all that it teaches.
Cain’s brothers and sisters
Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve recorded in Scripture (Genesis 4:1). His brothers, Abel (Genesis 4:2) and Seth (Genesis 4:25), were part of the first generation of children ever born on this Earth.
Even though only these three males are mentioned by name, Adam and Eve had other children. In Genesis 5:4 a statement sums up the life of Adam and Eve—‘And the days of Adam after he had fathered Seth were eight hundred years. And he fathered sons and daughters.’ This does not say when they were born. Many could have been born in the 130 years (Genesis 5:3) before Seth was born.
During their lives, Adam and Eve had a number of male and female children. The Jewish historian Josephus wrote that, ‘The number of Adam’s children, as says the old tradition, was thirty-three sons and twenty-three daughters.’11
The Bible does not tell us how many children were born to Adam and Eve. However, considering their long life spans (Adam lived for 930 years—Genesis 5:5), it would seem reasonable to suggest there were many! Remember, they were commanded to ‘Be fruitful, and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28).
If we now work totally from Scripture, without any personal prejudices or other extra-Biblical ideas, then back at the beginning, when there was only the first generation, brothers would have had to have married sisters or there would be no more generations!
We are not told when Cain married or any of the details of other marriages and children, but we can say for certain that some brothers had to marry their sisters at the beginning of human history.
Many people immediately reject the conclusion that Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters married each other by appealing to the law against brother-sister intermarriage. Some say that you cannot marry your relation. Actually, if you don’t marry your relation, you don’t marry a human! A wife is related to her husband even before they marry because all people are descendants of Adam and Eve—all are of ‘one blood.’ The law forbidding marriage between close relatives was not given until the time of Moses (Leviticus 18–20). Provided marriage was one man to one woman for life (based on Genesis 1 and 2), there was no disobedience to God’s law originally when close relatives (even brothers and sisters) married each other.
Remember that Abraham married his half-sister (Genesis 20:12). God blessed this union to produce the Hebrew people through Isaac and Jacob. It was not until some 400 years later that God gave Moses laws that forbade such marriages.
Today, brothers and sisters (and half-brothers and half-sisters, etc.) are not permitted by law to marry because their children have an unacceptably high risk of being deformed. The more closely the parents are related, the more likely it is that any offspring will be deformed.
There is a very sound genetic reason for such laws that is easy to understand. Every person has two sets of genes that specify how a person is put together and functions. Each person inherits one gene of each pair from each parent. Unfortunately, genes today contain many mistakes (because of sin and the Curse), and these mistakes show up in a variety of ways. For instance, some people let their hair grow over their ears to hide the fact that one ear is lower than the other—or perhaps someone’s nose is not quite in the middle of his or her face, or someone’s jaw is a little out of shape—and so on. Let’s face it, the main reason we call each other normal is because of our common agreement to do so!
The more distantly related parents are, the more likely it is that they will have different mistakes in their genes. Children, inheriting one set of genes from each parent, are likely to end up with pairs of genes containing a maximum of one bad gene in each pair. The good gene tends to override the bad so that a deformity (a serious one, anyway) does not occur. Instead of having totally deformed ears, for instance, a person may only have crooked ones! (Overall, though, the human race is slowly degenerating as mistakes accumulate, generation after generation.)
However, the more closely related two people are, the more likely it is that they will have similar mistakes in their genes, since these have been inherited from the same parents. Therefore, a brother and a sister are more likely to have similar mistakes in their genes. A child of a union between such siblings could inherit the same bad gene on the same gene pair from both, resulting in two bad copies of the gene and serious defects.
However, Adam and Eve did not have accumulated genetic mistakes. When the first two people were created, they were physically perfect. Everything God made was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31), so their genes were perfect—no mistakes! But, when sin entered the world (because of Adam—Genesis 3:6ff, Romans 5:12), God cursed the world so that the perfect creation then began to degenerate, that is, suffer death and decay (Romans 8:22). Over thousands of years, this degeneration has produced all sorts of genetic mistakes in living things.
Cain was in the first generation of children ever born. He (as well as his brothers and sisters) would have received virtually no imperfect genes from Adam or Eve, since the effects of sin and the Curse would have been minimal to start with (it takes time for these copying errors to accumulate). In that situation, brother and sister could have married with God’s approval, without any potential to produce deformed offspring.
By the time of Moses (a few thousand years later), degenerative mistakes would have built up in the human race to such an extent that it was necessary for God to forbid brother-sister (and close relative) marriage (Leviticus 18–20).12 (Also, there were plenty of people on the Earth by now, and there was no reason for close relations to marry.)
Cain and the land of Nod
Some claim that the passage in Genesis 4:16–17 means that Cain went to the land of Nod and found a wife. Thus, they can conclude there must have been another race of people on the Earth, who were not descendants of Adam, who produced Cain’s wife.
‘And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bore Enoch: and he built a city, and he called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.’
From what has been stated previously, it is clear that all humans, Cain’s wife included, are descendants of Adam. However, this passage does not say that Cain went to the land of Nod and found a wife. John Calvin, commenting on these verses, states:
‘From the context we may gather that Cain, before he slew his brother, had married a wife; otherwise Moses would now have related something respecting his marriage.’13
Cain was married before he went to the land of Nod. He didn’t find a wife there, but ‘knew’ (had sexual relations with) his wife.14
Others have argued that because Cain built a ‘city’ in the land of Nod, there must have been a lot of people there. However, the Hebrew word translated as ‘city’ need not mean what we might imagine from the connotations of ‘city’ today. The word meant a ‘walled town’ or a protected encampment.15 Even a hundred people would be plenty for such a ‘city.’ Nevertheless, there could have been many descendants of Adam on the Earth by the time of Abel’s death (see below).
Who was Cain fearful of? (Genesis 4:14)
Some claim that there had to be lots of people on Earth other than Adam and Eve’s descendants, otherwise Cain would not have been fearful of people wanting to slay him for killing Abel.
First of all, in the days before civil government was instituted to punish murderers (Genesis 9:6), someone would want to harm Cain for killing Abel only if they were closely related to Abel! Strangers could hardly have cared. So the people Cain was afraid of could not have been another race of people.
Second, Cain and Abel were born quite some time before Abel’s death. Genesis 4:3 states:
‘And in the course of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering to the Lord.’
Note the phrase ‘in the course of time.’ We know that Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old (Genesis 5:3), and Eve saw him as a ‘replacement’ for Abel (Genesis 4:25). Therefore, the period from Cain’s birth to Abel’s death may have been 100 years or more—allowing plenty of time for other children of Adam and Eve to marry and have children and grandchildren. By the time Abel was killed, there could well have been a considerable number of descendants of Adam and Eve, involving several generations.
Where did the technology come from?
Some claim that for Cain to go to the land of Nod and build a city he would have required a lot of technology that must have already been in that land, presumably developed by other ‘races.’
Because of intense evolutionary indoctrination, many people today think that our generation is the most intelligent that has ever lived on this planet. But just because we have jet airplanes and computers, it does not mean that we are the most intelligent. Modern technology results from the accumulation of knowledge. We stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.
Our brains have suffered from 6,000 years (since Adam) of the Curse. We are greatly degenerated compared with people many generations ago. We may be nowhere near as intelligent or inventive as Adam and Eve’s children. Scripture gives us a glimpse of what appears to be great inventiveness from the beginning.16
Many Christians cannot answer the question about Cain’s wife because they focus on today’s world (and the problems associated with close relations marrying), and do not understand the clear historical record God has given to us.
They try to interpret Genesis from our present situation, rather than understand the true Biblical history of the world and the changes that have occurred because of sin. Because they are not building their worldview on Scripture, but taking a secular way of thinking to the Bible, they are blinded to the simple answers.
Genesis is the record of the God who was there as history happened. It is the word of One who knows everything, and who is a reliable witness from the past. Thus, when we use Genesis as a basis for understanding history, we can make sense of questions that would otherwise be a mystery.
- A ‘Hollywood’ version of the famous Scopes Trial. The play claimed not to be based on the real Scopes, but it was clearly intended to be seen as a representation of the Scopes Trial.
K. Ham, ‘The Wrong Way Round!’ Creation 18(3):38–41, 1996.
D. Menton, ‘Inherit the Wind: An Historical Analysis,’ Creation 19(1):35–38, 1997. Menton documents the gross distortion and anti-Christian bigotry of the play. Return to text.
- Contact. Released 11 July 1997, a Robert Zemeckis Film, Warner Bros., based upon Contact by Carl Sagan, Pocket Books, New York, 1985. Return to text.
- American Civil Liberties Union—an organization at the forefront of attempts to remove all vestiges of Christianity from public life in the United States. Return to text.
- The World’s Most Famous Court Trial, The Tennessee Evolution Case (a word-for-word report), Bryan College, p. 302, 1990 (reprinted original edition). Return to text.
- Sagan, C., Contact, Pocket Books, New York, 1985. Return to text.
- Ibid, pp. 19-20. Return to text.
- Apologetics—from the Greek word apologia, meaning to give a defense. Christian apologetics provides a defense of our faith in Jesus Christ and our hope in him for our salvation (1 Peter 3:15). This requires a thorough knowledge of Scripture, including the doctrines of creation, original sin, curse, flood, virginal conception, life, and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, the Cross, Crucifixion, Resurrection, Ascension, the Second Coming, and the New Heaven and New Earth. It involves explaining these doctrines logically, so as to justify one’s faith and hope in Jesus Christ. Finally, one needs to be able to defend these doctrines, and the Bible in general, from attacks by unbelievers. See Q&A: Apologetics. Return to text.
- In this passage, the Greek word for ‘man’ is in the singular (‘a man’). Return to text.
- Eve, in a sense, was a ‘descendant’ of Adam in that she was made from his flesh and thus had a biological connection to him (Genesis 2:21–23). Return to text.
- The Hebrew literally means ‘she was to be the mother of all living.’ Return to text.
- Josephus, Flavius, (translated by William Whiston, A.M.) The Complete Works of Josephus, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI, p. 27, 1981. Return to text.
- Some have claimed this means God changed His mind by changing the laws. But God did not change His mind—because of the changes that sin brought, and because God never changes, He introduced new laws for our sake. Also, there is in the Bible a progressive revealing of the Messianic program which was in the mind of God from eternity. See R. Grigg, ‘Unfolding the Plan,’ Creation 20(3):22–24, 1998. Return to text.
- John Calvin, Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis, Baker House, Grand Rapids, MI, Vol. 1, p. 215, 1979. Return to text.
- Even if Calvin’s suggestion concerning this matter is not correct, there was still plenty of time for numerous descendants of Adam and Eve to move out and settle areas such as the land of Nod. Return to text.
- Strong’s Concordance: ‘city, town, a place guarded by waking or a watch in the widest sense (even of a mere encampment or post).’ Return to text.
- See D. Chittick, The Puzzle of Ancient Man, Creation Compass, Newberg, OR, USA, 1997. Return to text.
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