Where did Cain get his wife? This seems to be a question that plagues everyone.
Many people, including Christians have a problem accepting that the Genesis account is factual. First there is the problem of evolution vs. creation. That is a major article in and of itself, so for the moment we will not deal with that. Then there is the question, were Adam and Eve real? That question can be answered here in my article on them http://bibleconundrumsandcontroversy.blogspot.com/2012/02/were-adam-and-eve-real-people-or-just.html.
The next question becomes “where did Cain get his wife?” For that matter where did Seth get his and all their children get theirs? In the Genesis record, we are told about Adam and Eve, and how they had two boys, Cain and Abel. Then we are told how Cain killed Abel. Then all of a sudden Cain is removed from the vicinity, gets married, has a child and builds a city. Genesis 4:16-17 “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 bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.”
Now where on earth (literally) did Cain find a wife, and how on earth could he build a city with no people to populate it? If we stop right there and don't use our heads and the Scriptures to come to a logical conclusion, it would appear that the Bible either leaves a lot of information out, or is just a myth as some say. The answer is not all that hard, although it is hard for many people to accept, as they do not understand God's ways, nor do they understand God's method of telling history.
In Genesis 4 we start with the birth of Cain. Genesis 4:1 “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the LORD.” God has begun the historical story of Cain and Abel, and He is going to finish the story of Cain and Abel before moving on to the next story. So the story is told of how, after the boys were grown (“in the process of time”), they both brought offerings to the Lord. Cain presented a non-blood offering (had he also given a blood offering the fruit offering might have been accepted also) and Abel offered a blood sacrifice. It is apparent from the first sacrifice which was a blood sacrifice, to cover Adam and Eve, that a blood sacrifice would be necessary to cover their sins. Although not recorded in the book, it is obvious that the ritual of sacrifice was understood and had been taught to them, otherwise why would the two men offer them? Abraham offered blood sacrifices, Moses had to again teach the children of Israel about blood sacrifices, and it was the blood sacrifice of Jesus Christ that was the final sacrifice given for mankind's sins. Blood sacrifices were something God had taught to those who believed in and loved Him from the beginning.
It was not only that Cain's offering was not a blood sacrifice, but it was also his heart's condition that caused the rejection. He deliberately disobeyed the rules God must have given them about a blood sacrifice to cover their sins, thinking that the offering he chose to give would be sufficient. He disobeyed the rules, just like his parents had. How often do we think that we know better than God about how things should be? We argue with His Word saying that we think certain things are acceptable, even though God makes it clear that some things are sins or are not acceptable no matter what we think. We determine that God will accept our viewpoint or behavior on these things or else. For example – homosexuality, pre-marital sex, abortion, etc. (There are articles on these found in my archives.) I don't think anyone has ever stopped to consider that God is thinking “or else what?” As if we can threaten Him? He calls the shots. He rules the universe. Exactly how is it that we think we are going to dictate to Him how things will be? But that's another issue. Let's get back to Cain.
So Genesis 4 tells the story of Cain and Abel from start to finish and beyond to the fifth generation of Cain's descendants. This small synopsis consisting of a few verses comprises the entire story of Cain's life and his achievements, as well as his descendants. Reader's Digest's condensed books can't hold a candle to God's condensed stories. From that point on, Cain's descendants are not mentioned in particular, although they populated the earth. His and his descendants stories are told and complete in one brief chapter. Then God moves on to the much more important story that will eventually lead to Christ, and we are told at the end of the chapter that God gives Eve another son to replace righteous Abel. His name is Seth. Genesis 4:25 “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.” Eve knew that God had promised a redeemer through her seed, and righteous Abel had been killed. Most certainly it would not come from Cain, so she understood that Seth was the replacement for Abel. Not as in simply a substitute of a child for a child, as children that we love dearly cannot be replaced in that sense, but in that a righteous seed through which the redeemer of mankind could come was replaced. We are not told exactly how old Cain and Abel were when this took place, (we can make an educated guess and will in a moment), but they were adult enough to be doing their own farming. Cain was a tiller of the ground and Abel a keeper of sheep. So on the face of it, it sounds as if no children were born to Adam and Eve from the time Cain and Abel were born, until Cain killed Abel. I say that, as the Scriptures seem to indicate this is the case in Genesis 5:4, but given the mandate from God to be fruitful and multiply, it seems a little odd that God would not have given them more children right away, as we do know that He did give them other children. But for the sake of staying as much with the indication of Scripture as possible, we will go with the premise that they had no more children until after Seth was born, which would have been after they were 130 years old.
Now we must take note of something. God tends to skip over many years without a thought. The boys were born in verses 1 and 2, and by verse 3 they were all grown up. So, many years may pass between verses. This seems to be the case with this beginning of humanity. Detailing every thing they did over many decades would not be very interesting, as the point of this narrative is to just give us a brief history of the world, and if there were only the four of them, (the other children not having been born yet), it would be rather boring. We find that in in verse 25, right after the story of Cain and Abel is concluded, we are told Eve gives birth to Seth. What are we told in the very next verse? “And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.” It jumps right from his birth to the birth of his first son. So time is condensed in these early records and much is not divulged. We need to keep this fact in mind that God tells the early history of mankind in this manner.
Now we go to Genesis 5:4 “And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters.” Seth and Cain were not the only children that Adam and Eve had. They had other sons and daughters, as well they should, since God's mandate was that they be fruitful and multiply. If it were not that the verse seems to put these children after the birth of Seth (although that doesn't insist that they had to be born after Seth, it could just be two separate statements of fact., the first fact being that Adam lived 800 years after he had Seth, and the second that he had other children), one might easily assume that the other children were born between Abel and Seth, since Abel was an adult when he was murdered and that certainly was enough time for Eve to conceive again. After all, why the delay if they were supposed to fill the earth? The implication is also that if Seth were born that late, (130 years after creation) that Cain and Abel were probably at least 100 when Cain murdered Abel, as it seems that Eve conceived Seth right after Abel was murdered. Remember that Adam and Eve only needed to be nine months older than their firstborn, as odd as that may seem. Here I give them a good twenty-nine years before conceiving Cain, by assuming the boys were about 100 when the incident took place. I think that it is highly improbable that God withheld children that long, given His command. Adam and Eve were created as adults. They did not have to grow up first to have children. We might assume that these other children were born after Cain and Abel. Either way, Eve probably had not had children for a good many years when Seth was born, since either she had probably had all the children long before then, or she still hadn't had them at all. Since we are told that Adam was 130 when Seth was born, that was a long time for them to go without having more than the two boys. As God had mandated that they fill the earth, it seems rather strange that He would withhold children from them for many decades, as the first two boys grew up. But even if He did so, these two were not the only two children they had. They had more sons and more importantly, they had daughters. Rather than go with the more logical assumption that the other children were born between Cain and Abel, we will stick with the more difficult interpretation that the other children were born after Seth, just to show that it is still possible to make this work.
Just as the narrative jumps from Seth's birth in one verse to his son's birth in the next, skipping over a hundred and five years, it is just as logical to assume that many years might have passed between verse 4:16 “And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.” and verse 17 “And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch.” If over a hundred years passed between the statement that Seth was born and the very next statement that he had a son, why would not the same rule apply for the information about Cain. No doubt it did. It would make sense. And he obviously did not build the city until after his son was born, for he named the city after him. So we can see that time is somewhat condensed in God's narrative. If Adam and Eve had (just as an estimate) another eight children (which is not unreasonable as she had no fertility problems, God wanted the earth populated, and we are told that they had other sons and daughters – plural, which means at least four more children, but one assumes God probably evened out the boys and girls for procreation purposes which would mean two more boys and four girls minimum), when the girls were old enough they would have become their brothers' wives. (I realize this statement is making some of you nervous, we will deal with that shortly.) If they each had eight children (not an unreasonable number, in fact it is probably on the low side), and nobody died, it would not take all that long for the earth to be populated. Remember that people lived hundreds of years so the population would only grow exponentially, not decrease or stay status quo.
Let us consider how the population would increase. If Adam and Eve had nine children (counting Abel as number nine) and they paired off to four couples, (we are assuming that since procreation was God's plan that He would make sure there was a gal for every guy) and each couple had eight children, (not an unreasonable number), the third generation from Adam would create a population of 170 people. Eight children per family would not be unreasonable back then. These size families were not unusual years ago. They are today because we practice birth control and have fertility issues. They did not back then.. So by the fifth generation from Adam, roughly 460 A.C. (after creation) according to the genealogy in Genesis, using this formula the population would be over 2700 people. This is probably a very low estimate. Remember that God does not list all of the descendants, only the important ones. We can see that the population was growing quite a bit, and probably was greater than this in fact. As few people died the first almost 1000 years, (Adam lived to 930) in several more generations we are talking tens of thousands of people. More than enough for Cain to build and fill a city after a few generations. As people lived hundreds of years, Cain would still be alive quite long into these generations, so his city may have been built several generations from the time he had Enos. Now while all this is speculation, it is reasonable and logical speculation given the facts. This may be in part why God had people live so long (which was also attributed to the different climate and conditions on earth, but that is another article). We are not told when Cain got married, or when he built the city. His entire life is condensed to a couple of verses. His life from birth to murdering Abel is one small step, so why should not these other things also be?
But now I hear some objections. It says in Gen 4:17-18 “And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech.” So you say, they didn't have eight children each (remember that was just a conservative estimate, not a factual number) they only each had one. No, that is not necessarily what is indicated. The purpose of only mentioning each of these names is to show Lamech's lineage, because the next person of interest is Lamech (Cain's Lamech, not Seth's Lamech). Notice that in the the line of genealogies in Chapter 5, only one son (the oldest) is ever mentioned by name, but it also says “and he begat sons and daughters.” The other children did nothing of note that God felt needed mentioning. And in particular, Cain's line would not cross the Flood, (at least not the human ones, we don't know about the nephilim descendants), so it was completely irrelevant how many children he begat as God was not concerned with his line as He was with Seth's. Cain's one line of lineage was only mentioned at all because of what Lamech did and what his sons did. Lamech is the second murderer in the history of the world. God gives us the lineage to show that sin's effects are felt for generations to come. It is only Lamech's lineage that is important, not all of Cain's descendants. Remember that Adam's other children did not have their names recorded either. Lamech is also guilty of polygamy. He is a sinner of note and gets his mention in the Bible, as do some of his descendants who were the originators of several things of importance such as musical instruments and metallurgy. Again, we must remember that God had given the mandate for them all to procreate and not just one child, but to be fruitful and multiply. He would not withhold children from women who would have been very fertile.
Now the objection comes, but you are saying they are marrying their sisters, nieces, aunts, whatever. That is incest and God specifically prohibited incest. Yes, He did - to Moses and the Israelites and everyone thereafter. Up until then not only was it not forbidden, it was necessary due to the fact that Adam and Eve were the only two people starting the entire human race. Incest was forbidden more due to the fact that close inbreeding has bad results, (I believe they could still marry their cousins, although not an aunt, or daughter-in-law, so God still allowed close relatives to marry) rather than it being considered immoral by God, even though we cringe at the thought today. Abraham married his half-sister Sarah, and God had no problem with that at the time. Many of the patriarchs married close relatives, sisters, half-sisters, or cousins. Most times these ancient patriarchs only chose a woman from among their family instead of going outside of it, as they wanted women who believed and worshiped the same God.
Seth's line was the only line that had any remnant of believers in it, and by the time Noah came along, his was the only family left of even Seth's line who was not wicked. One assumes that his wife must have also been his sister, as God tells us that Noah's bloodline was the only one left that was perfect in its generations. Genesis 6:9 “These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” It already tells us that Noah was a just man, so this was not a reference to his spiritual state in saying he was perfect. Especially as it includes the word “generations.” That word indicates a genealogy. And the word perfect implies that everyone else had something wrong with their genealogy or bloodlines. By saying he was perfect in his generations, God meant that Noah's parents were the only family left with bloodlines untainted by the Sons of God who were fallen angels. These angels had intermarried and bred with humans to the point that there was no other family on earth that did not have some angelic blood in it. This too (the addition of a number of angels) would have made for a much greater population. The Book of Enoch says that these angels came down during Jared's day (he was born in 460 A.C.). This information from the Book of Enoch is not Biblical truth and should certainly not be treated as such, but it may still be an accurate historical time frame given what we are told in Genesis. For all the family lines to have been corrupted would have required some time. From Jared's birth to Noah's birth was almost 600 years. This would give them the needed time to corrupt the bloodline of every family on earth. (See my article on this http://bibleconundrumsandcontroversy.blogspot.com/2012/01/giants-nephilim-aliens-do-they-exist.html.)
If Noah were the only man born with a clean bloodline, it follows that only his siblings also had clean bloodlines, hence he had to have married his sister. This was not forbidden at the time. So for Cain to marry his sister would not only have been acceptable to God, it is what has to have been done by virtue of no other answer. It was the answer for most of the early humans, as there was no other choice. There was not a separate creation of mankind or womankind to provide wives. He did not marry a primitive sub-human species (one did not exist in spite of what Arnold Murray teaches) and he most certainly did not marry an alien from another planet. The only possible answer, although I realize it is one people cringe at because of our views on incest, is that he married a sister, as did Seth and their other brothers and probably a lot of their descendants. Who else was there to marry? No one except family. The obvious answer is the only answer and the Scripturally correct answer. One must take into account that the timeline account in Genesis is highly condensed in the retelling and that Cain and Seth were not the only children that Adam and Eve had. So where did Cain get his wife? From his parents. She was his sister.