Genesis 4: 16 “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.”
This is probably one of the most common questions asked in regards to Genesis, Adam and Eve, and the post-sin world in terms of marriage. Who did Cain marry? I’ve been asked about this question on a number of occasions. What I have come to notice is that, I’ve probably heard just as many Christians ask this question as non-Christians.
The answer is actually quite simple and as Christians, we should not allow questions like these ones to cause us to doubt our faith, or bog us down when we are put on the spot by a sceptic. 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”
The context of the situation
We have to look at the context of the situation to get a better understanding of what we are dealing with here. In Genesis 1, God creates Adam and Eve the first two humans. In Genesis 3, Satan causes them to sin, and because of this God sadly has to cast them away from his presence and so they begin to physically and spiritually die (before this, they were sinless and in perfect union with God). In Genesis 4, we see that Adam and Eve have their first two children, Cain and Abel. Cain is a farmer, and Abel is a keeper of animals. On one particular day, they both bring offerings unto God, however God rejects Cain’s offering because Cain tries to present his offering based on his own works and in the wrong heart and mind. Cain conspires and kills His brother Abel, and at this point God sends Cain out of his presence. It is at this juncture that the question arises.
Who did Cain Marry?
Genesis 4: 16 “Then Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and dwelt in the land of Nod on the east of Eden. 17 And Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch.” As we can see from this verse, Cain makes love to his wife in the land of Nod east of Eden. But who is his wife? Scripture hasn’t mentioned any other female names apart from Eve by this point. Firstly take note that this verse says that Cain knew his wife (had sexual intercourse) in the land of Nod, he did not find her there and then marry as many people mistakenly assert. He was already married to her and just brought her along to Nod.
To answer the Question at hand, Cain married his sister…I know what you might be thinking right now, as most people do as soon as the answer is given. That’s incest! How can he marry his sister! The bible is immoral! Before you make your judgements too quickly, allow me to explain to you why this was perfectly acceptable back then, but not now.
In genesis 5:4 we read, “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.” What we see here is that Adam and Eve actually had many other sons and daughters after Cain, Abel and Seth (who is their third son) were born. This means that the only options for marriage were their own sisters (or brothers). Secondly there would be no one to report incest to apart from their own brother or sister and so that wasn’t an issue at the time. Thirdly, incest is a modern word. There was no such thing at that time almost 6000 years ago.
The two most important points to bring up about this actually lie in genetics, and history however.
The Genetic Reason
Scientifically speaking, the only reason why incest is incest, is because since the time of Adam, humans have slowly accumulated mutations and degenerations due to the fact that we are a copy off of a copy off of a copy off of a copy…off of Adam and Eve, (just try to copy a CD a few thousand times, and then compare how much information is left on the last CD as opposed to the first one…Not much!). We are now at a point where, if you were to marry a really close relative, say cousin or sister, your genes would more than likely have a high chance of harbouring the same defects. This means that when you have your child, he or she will now exhibit those deformities (look at the case of Charles Darwin who married his cousin and had 10 children of which, most of them had serious defects and some of them died very early). If humans carried on in this way, before long all humans would pretty much be wiped out. The further away you marry from yourself, the less of a chance that your genes will have the same defects as your partner. Now your child has a much stronger chance of survival as the good genes from one parent will mask over the bad genes from the other parent causing very minor issues if any, as oppose to life threatening ones.
Since Adam and Eve were created perfect, sinless and mutation-less, they had perfect genes and so when they had their sons and daughter, only extremely minor (if any at all) genetic issues started to arise. This means that they could marry each other no problem, and so incest was not a problem. This then leads into the historical reason.
The Historical Reason
God knew that at some point, because of sin and slowly accumulating mutations, there would come a point where extremely close relatives couldn’t marry anymore. This defining point is seen in the book of Leviticus 18:6-18 over 2000 years after Adam and Eve, where God gives an entire list of DO NOT’S to Moses for the Israelites to follow in regards to sexual relations and marriage.
So if God establishes all laws and before this point there was no law against marrying a close relative because of little to no genetic issue, then we can safely say that there truly was nothing wrong with close relatives marrying before this point, it broke absolutely no laws!
It is always good to know that when we come across difficulty in scripture, there is almost always an answer. The answer might not be obvious at first, but because God’s Word is true and he wants us to understand it, he will make sure to provide a way for us to make sense of it!