God Did What…?!: Who Was Cain’s Wife?

Two weeks ago many of you had the opportunity to be a part of our second night of equipping and training where we talked about “God Did What…?!” During that evening we discussed why some of the bizarre stories in the Old Testament matter and how they also point to the major covenants found throughout the Old Testament. If you did not get a chance to be a part of that evening we have the podcast, notes, and hand out online for you to check out. You can find the resources HERE. As I prepared for the evening I knew I would not be able to answer all of your questions; however, I wanted you still to have an opportunity to ask your questions and get some answers. So everyone that night received an index card where they could write their questions. I’ve selected six questions, some wacky and some serious, to answer for you.

This week we are going to discuss one of those wacky and bizarre questions: Who was Cain’s wife? We know from Scripture that God created the first human beings, Adam and Eve. After they sinned, God banished Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden and then they had two sons, Cain and Abel. In Genesis 4:17 the Bible says something very interesting. Scripture says “Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.” If Adam and Eve were the first humans and Cain was their son then who was Cain’s wife? The answer to this question is rather simple. Cain had to have married either his sister or his niece. First, some of you might be saying “Are you kidding me? That is disgusting.” Others of you might be saying “What? The Bible never says Adam and Eve had daughters.” Let me answer the second question first. In Genesis 5:4-5 the Bible says “The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters. Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.”

The text is clear that Adam had both sons and daughters. Imagine how many sons and daughters he could have had in 930 years. We don’t know but it certainly could have been a large number. So Cain could have married one of his sisters or one of his brothers’ or sisters’ daughters. Some of you are now asking yourself why is this alright, especially since God in other places in Scripture condemns incest (Leviticus 18:6-18)? While this sort of relationship seems gross and disgusting to us (and it should), God preserved the people from birth defects and genetic imperfections in order to multiply and grow the human race early on. As the human race grew and genetic imperfections became more possible, God placed restrictions upon who someone could marry and have children with.

While the answer to this question is a simple and bizarre answer, we have to see the importance God places upon humanity and marriage. God places his restrictions on sexual relations in Leviticus 18 because he cares for and loves humanity. He desires for their best and knows at this point in time restrictions must be placed upon sexual relationships for the sake of humanity’s physical health. Leviticus’ restrictions come as the people of Israel are on their way to the Promised Land. God knows that in the Promised Land are many different nations and people who do not follow him. If Israel is to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation they must be completely different and separated from the nations surrounding them. The people of Israel cannot act like the nations around them. Therefore in order both to protect and separate the people of Israel spiritually God places restrictions upon their sexual activity. Therefore God places these restrictions on sex for both humanity’s physical and spiritual health.

When we move to the New Testament we see the picture of marriage magnified. God still holds to the restrictions he placed on Israel but now has provided the world with a perfect picture of marriage. Ephesians 5:22-33 says marriage is a picture of Christ’s love for the church and the church’s submission to Christ. Therefore when we think about marriage we should think about Jesus and how he displayed his love for us upon the cross. What does this have to do with Cain marrying his sister or niece? As we read through Scripture we see God caring for and making a way for his people. At first he allows for his people to marry and have sex with their close siblings because they have to in order to multiply and fill the earth. Then we see him begin to place restrictions on who someone can marry and have sex with for the physical and spiritual protection of his people. Finally, in the New Testament God shows us just how important marriage is by allowing Jesus to be displayed through it. Throughout history God has been slowly unveiling his plan for humanity. He desires for humanity to multiply and fill the earth because he wants his image and glory to be multiplied throughout all creation. He restricts sexual relations because he wants the families of Israel to reflect holiness to the nations. Finally, he shows marriage between a man and a woman, which he created at the beginning of creation, is to demonstrate Christ’s love for all humanity. Cain marrying a close family member certainly seems disgusting but God still was working through it for his glory.