Who did Cain marry?

Posted by on Apr 16, 2013 in Knowing for Sure Blog, Tough Questions | 10 comments

Who did Cain marry?

Question: Adam and Eve we know about, (Genesis). They had 2 sons: Cain and Able. According to the Bible, they were the first people. Yet to my knowledge, the Bible does not state who Cain and Able married? If God created Adam and Eve, where did they find wives? Same again for Noah’s family.

A friend of mine asked me this question not long ago. The short answer is obvious, brothers and sisters had to marry one another. The problem with this kind of answer is that it often makes Christians feel uncomfortable because of the incest that must have taken place.

The Bible does not state how many children Adam and Eve had, but according to the Jewish historian Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews, book 1 chapter 2,
they had 33 sons and 21 daughters. Adam and Eve were perfect, and their children would have also been genetically perfect, so for a time, brothers and sisters could marry without the genetic problems we would encounter today. To non-believers, this would sound absolutely ridiculous. It is important, and I can’t emphasize this enough, that we look at why they are asking the question. Let’s face it, many who might ask, “Who did Cain marry?” might not even believe in God. What would be the point of giving them an answer that dives into the creation of Adam and Eve, the Genesis account with the subsequent fall of man. Then continue, trying to explain the consequence of sin, how Jesus died for our sins, and he is our only hope, if they don’t even believe in a higher power which created existence as we know it? If they don’t believe in God, Adam and Eve, and the Genesis account, why would they listen to any reasoning behind who Cain and Able married? Often the question is simply asked to belittle Christians. But, if they are asking because they candidly don’t know, or don’t understand, then by all means spend some time on a thoughtful reply, which is why I want to answer this.

In the famous Scopes trial, (1925), made popular by the movie Inherit the Wind, Clarence Darrow the atheist, (played by Spencer Tracy), and the Christian, William Jennings Bryan, clashed over this very question. Bryan was unable to answer the question about Cain’s wife, or was uncomfortable in doing so. The same theme played out again in the movie Contact, when the main character Ellie could not get satisfactory answers concerning Cain’s wife from a minister’s wife. Even Carl Sagan asked this question, which is usually directed at Christians to demonstrate that:
1. Christians don’t know the answer.
2. Christians are uncomfortable with the answer.
3. The Biblical record must be in error or cannot be defended.

Today, because of the high risk of genetic damage, inter-family relations is outlawed in many states. For example, if you were to look up the California family code 2200 on marriage, you would find it states: “Marriage between parents and children, ancestors and descendants, and between sisters and brothers half related or full blood, aunts and nephews, uncles and nieces, are considered incest, they are not allowed from the beginning whether it is legitimate or illegitimate.” Some states do outlaw the marriage of first cousins, but in all states it is legal for second cousins to marry. In the United States, each state has its own laws governing incest. For example, in 1989, Rhode Island repealed its crime on incest. In Hawaii, someone could be jailed up to 5 years for incest, which include an in-law relationship. We have a neighbor whose parents were first cousins in Italy, prior to World War II, and had to receive permission from the Pope to be married. The laws concerning incest from country to country varies as much as they do from state to state.

Despite the assorted views on incest, it has been and will likely remain, taboo in most social circles for obvious reasons. So the question is raised why it would have been acceptable in early Biblical times for close relations to marry? One theory I have read involves a race of humans prior to Adam and Eve, or a Pre-Adamic Humanity. It is suggested that Cain’s wife came from this “other” race of humans, but embracing this view undermines a Biblical view that Adam was the first man, (Genesis 2:7) and (1 Corinthians 15:45), and that Eve was the mother of all living, (Genesis 3:20). This is not the only time that marriage between family members was present in the Bible. Abraham married his half-sister, and from that union came Isaac and Jacob and the Hebrew nation. It was hundreds of years later that God would not allow marriages between close relations.

So for a period of time after man was created, man had to marry one of his sisters. It was sometime after the flood, (Leviticus 18:6), that God commanded close relatives should not marry. Had that command been given to Adam and Eve, then our race would have ended with the children of Adam and Eve. It has been suggested that by the time of the flood, genetic weaknesses would have been appearing, and the marriage of close family members would have caused difficulties. I was questing this, more specifically why these genetic problems would have come about. The only sensible answer that I came across was sin, and the consequence of disobeying God. If Cain murdered his brother, I am sure other laws may have been ignored. Today people consume foods that are extremely unhealthy, and after several years, they pay for it in miserable health. The consequences of poor diet can be far reaching and may shave off years in an individual’s life. Poor diet may also manifest in the health of infants, and it goes without saying that the birth defects due to drug abuse by mothers is unmistakable. It has been suggested that diet may have been a contributing factor in the weakening of our genetics. The Old Testament is quite clear on dietary restrictions for the Jews, and even today science has confirmed the wisdom of the many restraints God handed down.

After reading about this topic and asking others, I was reminded what I learned long ago, the Bible does not answer every question we may have, nor is God required to answer all of our questions. The Bible is not a science book, and if you think you will find all your answers concerning science in the Bible, you are mistaken. Nevertheless, the Bible has had many answers concerning science within its pages for thousands of years before science confirmed them. For example, in Genesis 22:17 the Bible mentions the number of stars found in the heavens.
“I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies,”
In Ecclesiastes 1:7 it describes the recirculation of water.
“All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.”
Job 26:7 reveals the fact that the earth is suspended in space with nothing holding it up.
“He spreads out the northern skies over empty space;
he suspends the earth over nothing.”
Isaiah 40:22 talks about the expanding universe.
“He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.”

These are just a few examples, but you can find more if you do your homework. The Bible does provide a wide variety of answers to difficult questions. The truth and wisdom, coupled with the practicality found within Scripture, underscores the divine origin of the Bible. William Lane Craig said that he does not believe everything the Bible says is true, but he believes everything the Bible teaches is true. If you not heard that before think about it, or have never given it some thought, you should. I know I was uncomfortable the first time I heard it, but he went on to give an example. Just read Revelation 16 where it talks about the bowls being poured out on the earth. Do you believe that there will actually be giant bowls pouring their contents over the earth, or do you believe the bowls represent something else? If you believe that Adam and Eve were the first man and woman, and all of mankind is in some way related, is it that much of a stretch to think that God would have provided a way for their offspring to safely prosper?


  1. I of course don’t who Cain married, but I am absolutely certain it wouldn’t have been Frank, John, Rick or Joe.

  2. What about the union of angels and humans?

  3. Never thought of it in terms of process of elimination Gary. 😉

    Is that mentioned in scripture Christine? I have not heard of that.

    • Between men and women only. No other choices were allowed, or even considered.

    • Genesis 6:1-4 it talks about the sons of God marrying the daughters of men. I have read several websites about this, and I am now pretty certain that the sons of God were not angels.

  4. One thing to consider is the probability of a thick vapor covering before the flood. You could speculate that this water vapor releasing from the atmosphere could have been the source of the water for the flood. Ken Hamm has explored this idea, but I don’t think there is conclusive evidence.

    Another thing to consider is that the length of time people lived began to drop rapidly after the flood. My own speculation is, again, the now missing vapor barrier. It probably provided protection from intense solar rays.

    Sin has always been with us, but the wallowing in sin and the complete ignorance (deliberate?) of God’s dietary laws is a contributing factor IMHO. I am well aware of our freedom from the law, but to be free from the common sense of eating simple, biblical meals is foolish and causes endless genetic problems.

    Man was close to perfect at the time of Adam, and not quite as close, but closer than now, at the time of Noah. There would be no obvious bar to siblings marrying. After the flood, things changed. You can see this in other areas as well. It only made sense, when man had moved so far from physically perfect, to ban inter-family marriages.

    Great blog post!

  5. Christine, I assume you are referring to Genesis 6?

    “6 Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.

    3 And the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not strive[a] with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.”

    James, if you talk to Pastor Dennis, he can give you the three basic interpretations of this scripture. We studied it a few years ago and he was very helpful. This is around the same timeframe, I believe. Sadly, I cannot remember everything he told us. It is really interesting though….. Maybe another blog post?

  6. James and Christine, I found a good blog post on the Genesis 6 Passage. You can find it here:


  7. It is interesting that we do tend to think of things from our frame of reference. Incest is wrong now mostly because of the genetic problems. I would think that at first there may have been beneficial genetic mutations that actually led to all the various eye, hair, skin colors, etc. If people were living hundreds of years, eating non processed foods, then bodies, (& genes), must have been healthier.
    As for who Cain and Able married, and who did their siblings marry, it must have been relatives. Think about this: In several hundred years, with a lot of children being born, it wouldn’t take long to have cousins upon cousins of similar ages, but in different generations – that would dilute the gene pool nicely! 🙂 50 kids born to one set of parents!!! How many generations would Child One have by the time Child Fifty was born? I saw a chart that figured out the overlap of generations starting with Adam. According to that, Adam would have been alive for the first 56 years of Noah’s dad’s life. It’s to think about.

  8. Thanks for the link Cindy, and for the reply. 🙂
    Another link on the topic, http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/archive/index.php/t-13121.html
    but I don’t know how accurate it is. I have several apologetic sites I trust, but I am unfamiliar with theologyweb.com
    Gloria also has some notes specific to what you mentioned, which she took when Pastor had a study on that specific topic. All new information for me. Very cool. 🙂

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