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Incest in Noah’s family?

Why there’s no problem establishing the human population from the eight survivors of Noah’s Flood

Published: 16 April 2016 (GMT+10)

The Bible teaches that all people trace their ancestry back to Adam and Eve, which means that there must have been intermarriage between close family members in the earliest years. Numerous CMI resources, like The Creation Answers Book, explain why this is not morally or genetically problematic. But, after the Flood, the population was again reduced to a small number, so it’s helpful to address that scenario as well.

We recently received this question from James B. in the U.S., who was having difficulty understanding how Noah and his small family could give rise to everyone else.

Dear CMI … I have always been intrigued and even stumped over the question of repopulation of the earth following the flooding in the time of Noah. Was it just Noah and his three sons (and their wives) that repopulated the earth? Would that not have been incest / intermarriage of family? It’s a question that continues to baffle me and I haven’t found a reliable rational answer. Hoping you can put an end to my questioning mind! Blessings!

CMI’s  responds:

Hi James,

Thanks for the question.

I encourage you to read what we’ve written about Cain’s wife, because the principles we have spelled out there also apply to the post-Flood situation. See Who was Cain’s wife? and Is brother-sister intermarriage intrinsically immoral?, for example.

The term incest encompasses a range of behaviors, some of which have always been immoral like father-daughter incest (cf. Genesis 19:30–38), but others which would not have been inappropriate in early human history, like brother-sister marriage. Again, the above articles explain why.

In Noah’s case, then, there’s even less of a problem, because Noah’s grandchildren would not necessarily have had to marry siblings—only cousins. Shem, Ham, and Japheth brought wives on the Ark which were selected from the pre-Flood population, so they need not have been close relatives. Then, in the following generation, Shem’s children could have married the children of Ham or Japheth, and vice versa. But even if there was some brother-sister marriage following the Flood, even this would have been unproblematic, because God had not yet given laws forbidding such practices.

The Bible is clear that we all go back to Adam through the 8 people that survived the Flood, based on passages like Genesis 3:20; Acts 17:26; 1 Peter 3:20; and 2 Peter 2:5. So marriage between close relatives early on is required, but we can understand how this makes moral and scientific sense.

In fact, modern genetics helps to confirm that all human beings are very closely related, which is not what evolutionists expected. See our Genetics Q&A.

Helpful Resources

The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $39.00
Hard Cover
The Genesis Account
by Jonathan Sarfati
US $20.00
eReader (.epub)
One Big Family
by Gary and Frances Bates
US $12.00
Hard Cover
One Human Family
by Dr Carl Wieland
US $10.00
eReader (.epub)

Readers’ comments

I. F.
Young earth creationists just do not get it. Blinded by literal intrerpretation, they simply do not understand that it is the Earth itself that is the Ark. Try reading some wisdom from the world's foremost environmental scientist Dr. Jim Hansen from his website a letter to Warren Buffett, "Mr Buffett's Ark": [link deleted per feedback rules]
Keaton Halley
I won't interpret your comment literally then. Instead, I'll take you to be offering a satirical parody of theological liberalism. I guess you're saying that it would be preposterous to interpret the Ark as a reference to the Earth, because the Bible's authors all took Genesis to be history. They thought the Ark was a big wooden boat, not a metaphor for avoiding global-warming-doomsday scenarios, so I'm glad you agree.
Robert R.
In evolution the first cells, the first developed of any new species that arises would need a female and male that would 'incestuously' breed as well.

I think more about how Lot was the best man God could find in Sodom and Gomorrah. If the best honest man would go out the sticks and get blind drunk and have sex with both his daughters, giving rise to new tribes (blaming them for seducing him - like Adam blaming Eve) then imagine how horrific the bad people were.

As long as genes are good at creation there is no crime with any female and male marriage.
James M.
What is the evolutionists' view of the first man on earth? Did evolution produce a number of human breeding pairs in the same time frame all over the world or in one place or just one pair? I am sure they have the same scenario in their dogma as the scenario that they raise so often in an effort to ridicule the Bible.
Keaton Halley
Evolutionists have been somewhat divided on their view of human origins. You can read about two historically rival evolutionary camps—the more popular 'Out of Africa' view and the minority 'Multiregional' view—in No bones about Eve. Nowadays, most evolutionists believe in a hybrid between these two perspectives, since the discovery that Neandertal DNA is present in many modern humans didn't fit with the classic 'Out of Africa' view.

In any case, evolutionists would say that humans came into existence as a relatively large population, not just a single couple. If you go back far enough, evolutionists would say all those people are related to one another, but (unlike the biblical view) their common ancestor was not human. So while there may be some difficulties for them along these lines, they wouldn't be faced with the exact same scenario as Bible-believers.
Stephen Ray H.
God seems to keep tabs on human development due to increasing entropy since the sin of Adam/Eve. God had no problem with sister/brother marriage until it got to be a problem and then outside of the mentioned father/daughter thing, then sister brother marriages were discouraged.

Another example in behavior was that of marrying sisters in plural marriages. It was fine even up to the time of Jacob/Israel, but due to the troubles in that marriage, by the time of Moses it was discouraged.
Keaton Halley
Polygamy is a little different. It was permitted, like divorce, but it was never the ideal since God intended one man and one woman to become one flesh, as with Adam and Eve. See Does the Bible really teach monogamy?
Terry D P.
We know that Evolutionism believes that all human beings were created by their non-existent and therefore unintelligent god called evolution. We also know that Evolutionism dismisses as myth God's claim in the Bible that He used his intelligence to create the first two humans Adam and Eve, male and female, and that the whole human race alive today is descended from their children. So it is taken for granted that when the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve married, they must have married their siblings because at that time they had no one else whom they could marry. And, as this Scripture implies, children were never permitted to marry and have sexual relations with their parents…
«/ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh. — Gn§2:24 /»

We know that today, despite our laws banning incest, marriages of brother and sister occasionally do occur. Sometimes those marriages are deliberate, but more often they are inadvertent, e.g. between siblings who did know, for whatever reason, that they were brother and sister. The fertility of the male-female reproductive system is not neutralised by laws banning incest.

Now homosexuals are often heard averring that their homosexual behaviour is normal because it is the consequence of the evolution/mutation of some reproductive gene. Actually, even by the theory of evolution same gender marriage/unions are abnormal, because with it the evolution of the species stops dead in one generation.

Which brings us to the question: Why does Evolutionism on the right hand embrace those laws in the Bible which ban incest (which can propagate the human species), but on the left hand nullify those laws in the Bible which ban homosexual relations (which contradict the law of Evolution)?
Trijntje O.
What is the book that speaks in chapter 8 about Cains wife? Can the book be downloaded? I would like to download it. I love your site and it strengthens my faith!
Keaton Halley
It's from The Creation Answers Book, available in softcover, or as an e-book: ePub or Kindle format.

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