Who was Cain’s wife? Some of you know why we are answering this and some may not. If you start reading the Bible at the beginning then you may encounter something weird. Through Genesis 1:1–4:16 all is well and good, meaning that it makes sense and we are on point. When you reach Genesis 4:17 you hit a curve ball.
Genesis 4:17 (NIV)
“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.”
Wait, what? Where did she come from? Who exactly is his wife? Well, that is exactly what we are here to answer for you in this article.
Who was Cain’s wife? The Bible doesn’t give a name, but I’m sure she had one. We can see by reading Genesis 4:17 that Cain’s wife bore him a son named Enoch whom he named after a city he built. That is an amazing accomplishment for anyone. Of course the city didn’t look like ours do today but still a major event in anyone’s life.
In regards to inter-family marriage (when a brother marries a sister) it wasn’t against God’s law until Leviticus 18:6-18. You may think that it’s disgusting to do that, but at that time it was okay. I’m sure that it was probably along the lines of cousins and other relatives, not direct brothers and sisters, though that’s my personal opinion.
To go back to my original point, nobody knows exactly who she was, but she may have been related somehow. The book of Genesis isn’t 100% clear on many details and it seems as if from one verse to the next many years have passed, so it’s difficult to pinpoint her.
“Ewww, that’s nasty,” is just about the appropriate response when you realize that there was probably a lot of inbreeding in some Biblical times. There were two major periods where it is assumed that inbreeding was not only acceptable, but also necessary. The first time, the one we’ll be discussing here, was shortly after the fall of man and their banishment from the Garden of Eden. The second time was after the great flood when only Noah and his family survived (his three sons may have brought their wives with them and not have had children with their sisters).
Yes, Cain most likely married one of his sisters, or possibly a niece whose parents were brother and sister. However, since we think of Cain as the first child of Adam and Eve it’s more likely that he married a sister rather than a niece, but we don’t know that for sure. Either which way you look at it the idea of it still makes you feel gross and wonder if all the kids were weird and had crazy birth defects.
When I think about this problem, something I happen to remember from an episode of the TV show House comes to mind. In the episode of House, a young couple came into the hospital for some crazy weird diagnosis (I honestly can’t remember). As the story unfolds you find out that they are actually half siblings because their dad had an extra-marital affair which resulted in a child. Crazy drama right?
The kicker was that this young couple, who just found out that they were siblings, was expecting a child and she was several months into the pregnancy. Dr. House consoled them by saying that the child would most likely be fine and that genetic defects are more likely in the offspring of close relatives, but not always significantly so until several generations of inbreeding had occurred.
I always was curious about if this was true, but had no real reason to do any research on the subject until I was asked to be a part of this article. I have now done a bit of online research and have found out that what Dr. House said on the show is pretty much correct.
There is a significant risk of receiving recessive genes (the bad genetic code which causes deformities and mental handicaps) when a child has parents who are related. This risk is increased when the relation of the parents is closer and if the inbreeding has been going on for several generations. There are several examples of times when inbreeding has resulted in severe physical and mental handicaps, but those examples are usually after many generations of close inbreeding. In the case of a child who comes from parents who were closely related, but were not from long line of inbreeding, the child has a high probability of being just fine.
To bring this back around full circle to Cain and his sister-wife, or any of the immediate descendants of Adam and Eve, their children most likely did not have any notable deformities or handicaps due to inbreeding. They were likely completely fine as long as they didn’t have more than one generation of siblings having kids together–even though I understand all of this it still makes me feel “icky” just thinking about it.
Today incest is very taboo in most cultures and we understand both biologically and socially why this is so. If you were thinking that there is also something morally wrong about it you would be 100% right. We find several scriptures that condemn incest in Deuteronomy 27:20–23, Leviticus 18:6–7, Leviticus 20:17, and 1 Corinthians 5:1. However, all of the scriptures which discourage incest are found long after the incidences where it was necessary in order for humanity to survive.
If you’re wondering where I got my information here are some of the more helpful sources I found:
The question itself may seem trivial to many. Which, in all honesty, is to me too. I mean I am curious, but it isn’t something I found to be a big deal. Well, first things first, who was Cain? Cain was the first child of Adam and Eve (Genesis 4:1). Then we find out that Adam and Eve had other children. Abel (Genesis 4:2) and also Seth (Genesis 4:25).
Now since it isn’t explicitly mentioned that they had other children, many critics say that there must have been other races or other people already on Earth. After all, how did three boys populate the Earth? Well if you did indeed read Genesis up until Genesis 4:17, you may recall how God commanded us to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). Adam and Eve did just that.
Genesis 5:4 (NIV)
“After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters”
Adam had many, many children who are not named which means one thing … Cain had have to married one of his sisters. First thing we all think, “That is gross. Incest is disgusting.” I agree with your sentiments. Do recall that we are all related since we all came from the same two human beings.
You may also think, “Isn’t it unlawful to marry a relative?” (Leviticus 18:6-7, 20:17) Well actually, yes. This law was handed down in the book of Leviticus from God. However, this was way later in the time of Moses. After Abraham and certainly after Cain.
“Wouldn’t that cause deformities or something like that?” It certainly would today. We have seen it many times, unfortunately. However, Adam and Eve were made to be perfect (Genesis 1:31), but later in Genesis 3:6 we see that God cursed the world and sin entered as a result. In Romans 8:22, we see the perfect creation that God created has been deteriorating.
Luckily for Cain and his kids, they were created at the beginning of time. Not much had happened to them genetically and such to cause the issues we see today. You can see how sin deteriorated the world just by looking at the ages of people early on in history and the people now. Major difference for sure.
In conclusion, Cain’s wife would have had to be a relative plain and simple. It was not against God to do so and it was a necessity back in the day. Do not take Cain as a role model though. It is unlawful for us to inbreed and Cain killed Abel so he is not the best of role models to begin with.