Cain and His Wife
Where did he get her? From another human race? When were they married? Was their relationship incestuous?
ALL Bible readers are familiar with the fact that Cain was the first man to be born on earth. He was the firstborn son of Adam and Eve, whom God had created directly.—Gen. 4:1.
The Bible account records the creation of Adam and Eve, and their sin. (Gen. 2:7, 21, 22; 3:1-6) It describes God’s sentence of death upon them and their expulsion from the garden of Eden. (Gen. 3:14-19) God told Eve, however, that she would bring forth children.—Gen. 3:16.
Abel was the second boy born. (Gen. 4:2) The Scriptures are very brief and condensed in this early account, but they supply all that we need to know. They tell us that the two boys grew up, each to pursue his own profession or occupation. Cain chose what is the oldest of all professions—farming—while Abel became a sheepherder. This implies the lapse of a good number of years.
So the account reveals: “It came about at the expiration of some time” that the two men brought offerings before God to gain his favor. (Gen. 4:3, 4) We note also that when Seth, the third named son, was born, his mother Eve viewed him as a replacement for Abel. (Gen. 4:25) Adam was 130 years old at the time of Seth’s birth.
This indicates that there could well have been a number of other children of Adam by that time, including daughters. The Bible’s silence as to the names of Adam’s daughters presents no difficulty, since the birth of daughters was rarely mentioned and they were only occasionally named in the genealogical lists. But the Bible does actually tell us, in its summary of Adam’s life, that “he became father to sons and daughters.”—Gen. 5:4, 5.
There were no other races of humankind—no family of humans predating man, or having a separate origin, as some have conjectured in trying to answer the question about the origin of Cain’s wife. The statement of Adam and the name Eve itself preclude this. For the Bible says: “After this [after God’s passing of sentence] Adam called his wife’s name Eve [meaning “living”], because she had to become the mother of everyone living.”—Gen. 3:20.
The inevitable conclusion is, then, that Cain married one of his sisters.
ALL HUMANKIND FROM ONE SOURCE
The Bible statement, in Acts 17:26, that “[God] made out of one man every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth” is acknowledged by Bible students to be backed up by the facts. John Peter Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures,* a work that considers the arguments of a great number of scholars in an analytical and explanatory discussion of the Bible, says on page 191:
“That the Scriptures neither know nor will know of pre-Adamites . . . nor of various primitive aboriginal races, appears not only from Genesis i. and ii., but also from the consistent presumption and assertion of the entire Holy Writ; for example, Matt. xix.4; Acts xvii.26; 1 Cor. xv.47. . . . The original unity of the human race coincides with the doctrine of the unity of the fall of man in Adam, and the unity of the redemption in Christ. . . . The greatest naturalists have mostly declared themselves against the originality of different human races . . . in regard to the alleged fruitfulness of sexual combinations among the various races, the proof of such fruitfulness is justly pronounced one of the strongest proofs of unity. . . . The autochthonic theory [that living things (in this case humans) were formed or occurred in the places where they were found] [can]not deny the fact that the origin of the various types of men points back to a common home in Asia.”
This statement about the unity of the human race (that all are one race, one created kind, not “aboriginal” tribes or nations in the sense that they were separately created or separately originating) coincides with the Bible statements: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin,” and, “just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” Yet the Creator has arranged, through the countless genetic combinations, to provide in mankind the most delightful and interesting variations.—Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22.
For the reason that Adam was the father of all mankind, Christ can be called the “last Adam,” for he was a perfect man on earth, and now he can become father to all Adam’s offspring who exercise faith in his sacrifice. (1 Cor. 15:45) If men and women were from several different original fathers, the death of the one man, Jesus Christ, could not have provided a sufficient purchase price.—Deut. 19:21; Matt. 20:28.
Some readers of the Bible, particularly of the versions using archaic English, have thought that Cain procured his wife in the land of Nod (fugitiveness). The Authorized or King James Version of 1611 C.E. reads, at 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.”
The thought that one might gain from this text is that Cain went into the land of Nod (which means “Fugitiveness”) and there first “knew” his wife in the sense of meeting her. But Cain actually took a wife with him, for the expression “knew” was used in earlier English to mean to know carnally, or to have sexual intercourse. Accordingly, modern translations read: “With that Cain went away from the face of Jehovah and took up residence in the land of Fugitiveness to the east of Eden. Afterward Cain had intercourse with his wife and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch.” (New World Translation) Likewise, James Moffatt’s Translation, An American Translation and the Catholic Jerusalem Bible all here use the expression, “Cain had intercourse with his wife.” The New English Bible reads: “Cain lay with his wife.”
WAS CAIN’S MARRIAGE “INCEST”?
Was God fostering what is now called “incest” by arranging matters so that the first children of Adam would marry one another—brothers marrying sisters? No. For, in Adam’s original perfect state his children would have been born in perfection. (Deut. 32:4) There would have been no family weaknesses to be passed on and accentuated by the marriage of near relatives, as is the case today, when the sinful human race has greatly deteriorated and many genetic defects exist. Even after Adam had sinned, his descendants lived as long as 969 years in the days before the Flood.—Gen. 5:27.
Accordingly, it took a long time for genetic defects to become so numerous and so grouped in family lines that it became dangerous to the offspring for close relatives to marry. Even Abraham, some 2,000 years after the creation of Adam, married his half sister. (Gen. 20:12) Not until God gave the Mosaic law (about 500 years later) did He prohibit close family marriage unions among the people of Israel.—Lev. 18:6-18.
It is a wonderful arrangement of God that he made mankind one race, with one origin. All can have the same benefits from the atonement sacrifice of Jesus Christ. (1 Tim. 2:5, 6) All can approach God through this One as their “Eternal Father” and can come to have the same relationship as “children of God.” (Isa. 9:6; Rom. 8:21) Under Christ’s rulership humankind will again be one. (Eph. 1:9, 10) All national, ethnic, political and social barriers or boundaries will be permanently wiped out, bringing about the purpose that God had from the very beginning.—1 Cor. 15:24, 28.
1960 edition, 1976 printing, by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.