After being banished for murder, the Bible says that Cain has a wife and starts a family. How could that be possible? Where did Cain’s wife come from?
In Genesis 1:27 we read that God created Adam and Eve. The second chapter includes a second perspective of this event, explaining that God made Adam first and delegated to him the responsibility to name all living creatures (verses 19-20). This task emphasized that no creature in all creation was a suitable mate for Adam.
It was then that God dramatically created Eve, a perfect match for Adam, forming her from one of Adam’s ribs (verses 21-24)!
Eve: mother of all living
Not until Genesis 3:20 do we learn that Adam named his wife Eve—and why. The verse says he chose that name, because she was “the mother of all living” (emphasis added throughout). So, the Bible reveals that this husband and wife (they were married, Genesis 2:25) were the parents of all humans. (This eliminates the possibility that Cain’s wife came from another family.)
Next, in Genesis 4:1-2, we are told of the birth of Cain and then Abel—in quick succession, it would seem. (Some commentators even suggest that they were twins.) Verse 25 announces the birth of Seth after Abel’s death. A cursory reading might make it seem like all of these events occurred relatively quickly; and there is no mention of daughters.
This chapter deals mostly with a tragic homicide—the first in history—when Cain murdered his brother Abel. God did not administer the death penalty, but rather exiled Cain from God’s presence. We are told Cain then went to “the land of Nod,” where he and his wife started a family (Genesis 4:16-17).
The brief biblical account leaves us with a mystery: Where did Cain get his wife?
Genesis only a basic summary
Few realize that approximately 1,650 years of mankind’s existence is recorded in the first six chapters of Genesis! Clearly, this is only a summary, and many details have been left out. Otherwise, Genesis would be an incredibly huge book!
Let’s take another look at what we know. God created Adam and Eve as fully mature adults, immediately able to marry and to reproduce. In fact, after creating them, “God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it’” (Genesis 1:28). In other words, God told them to have a family, a large family!
God intended Adam and Eve to have a large family
God gave more than just instruction; He gave Adam and Eve a blessing of fruitfulness: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’” It would therefore be reasonable to assume that Cain was born within a year after Adam and Eve were created and married and that Abel’s birth followed soon after, perhaps within another year. We mentioned the third son, Seth, and that a quick reading of the chapter might make it seem as though the three sons were born one after the other in a relatively short time frame.
But wait! The next chapter tells us that Seth was born when Adam was 130 years old (Genesis 5:3)! We are forced to conclude that much is left unrecorded about the family of Adam and Eve in Genesis 4.
Would it be reasonable to assume that Adam and Eve had produced only three children 130 years after God’s instruction and blessing about their “filling the earth”? The answer to that question also provides the answer to our principal question: Where did Cain get his wife?
More than a century unaccounted for
The Bible gives us only an abbreviated account of the lives of Adam’s dominant children—Cain, Abel and Seth—because of their profound effect on history. Cain was Adam and Eve’s firstborn; Abel was murdered; and Seth was to be “instead of Abel” (Genesis 4:25)—God-fearing and righteous like him (1 John 3:12).
In that long time between the births of Cain and Abel and the birth of Seth, 130 years after Adam’s creation, it is reasonable to assume that Adam and Eve had many additional children. As those children matured and married, they undoubtedly had children themselves. In that period of more than a century, it’s likely that there were literally generations that rose from Adam and Eve’s children and, in turn, from their offspring. Genesis 5:4 speaks of Adam having “sons and daughters,” so clearly there were more children, of which the Bible tells us nothing.
It is difficult for us to relate to the early world and the potential size of the first family, but keep in mind that Adam lived for 930 years (Genesis 5:5)!
His offspring undoubtedly spread out a considerable distance from Adam and Eve, so that there would be room for farming and ranching to produce food. One area to which some of them migrated was the land of Nod (Genesis 4:16), where Cain and his wife started a family.
Where did Cain get his wife?
Who was Cain’s wife? We can speculate about some details based upon what we can learn from secular history.
Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian, compiled a history of humankind from creation, titled Antiquities of the Jews. In chapter 2, section 1, he wrote of Adam and Eve, “They had also daughters.” In section 3, Josephus added about Adam: “He had indeed many other children. … As for the rest [besides Cain, Abel and Seth], it would be tedious to name them” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1).
Josephus implies that Adam and Eve had a large family!
While it is not possible to verify Josephus’ source, the suggestion that Adam and Eve had many other children is both reasonable and supported by Scripture (Genesis 5:4).
The only logical answer to the question “Where did Cain get his wife?” is that he married one of his many sisters. Centuries later in Moses’ day, God made a law forbidding marriage between close relatives (see Leviticus 18), but such a marriage was not illegal at the time Cain lived. Cain’s wife had to have been one of the many daughters born to Adam and Eve. There were no health dangers to the offspring of close relatives at that time in history. While unthinkable in today’s world, there was no prohibition against marriage between siblings then.
The seeming mystery is therefore solved. We invite you to peruse the FAQs section of the Learning Center of Life, Hope & Truth for the answers to other common questions about the Bible.