Skeptics frequently gloat over a question they think discredits Genesis:
“Where did Cain get his wife?”
The question regarding whom Adam’s son Cain married seems difficult for some because of an evolutionary mindset. Actually, from a Biblical worldview, it’s easy to answer.
This very question flummoxed the former Secretary of State and three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, who was unprepared at the 1925 Scopes Trial. Defense attorney Clarence Darrow goaded prosecutor Bryan into taking the witness stand to testify as a Bible expert.
Darrow: Did you ever discover where Cain got his wife?
Bryan: No, sir. I leave the agnostics to hunt for her.
Darrow: The Bible says he’s got one doesn’t it? Were there other people on earth at that time?
Bryan: I cannot say.
Darrow: You cannot say. Did that ever enter your consideration?
Bryan: Never bothered me.
Darrow: There were no others recorded, but Cain got a wife.
Bryan: That is what the Bible says.
Darrow: Where she came from you do not know.
Bryan was a Christian celebrity, a national figure who averaged 200 speeches yearly as the nation’s premier anti-evolution crusader. He blanketed the nation with his syndicated column, “Weekly Bible Talks.” His Bible class in a Miami park numbered 5,000 weekly. Bryan’s 1924 Nashville lecture, “Is the Bible True?” was distributed nationwide. Bryan volunteered for the Scopes Trial to defend a principle he had championed for years.
Darrow made Bryan look foolish with his question about Cain’s wife and other similar questions. The public, listening to the trial’s nationwide radio broadcast and reading transcripts telegraphed worldwide, heard Bryan’s weak responses. They concluded that Genesis couldn’t be defended. In the popular view, Biblical credibility was damaged and Christianity was impugned when evolutionist Darrow confounded Bible-champion Bryan. Where Cain got his wife has been vexing Christians ever since.
Jesus’ reply to the Sadducees fits this situation perfectly:
“Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures, or the power of God?” (Mark 12:24)
So where did Cain get his wife? Before using Scriptural clues to answer this question, we’ll consider some wrong answers.
Where Did Cain NOT Get His Wife?
Some argue that Cain’s wife came from another already existing race. They claim Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are contradictory accounts of man’s creation. To resolve this they posit the creation of a different human race in Genesis 1 before God created Adam and Eve in Genesis 2. They suggest this pre-Adamic race produced Cain’s wife.
This is not true. First, Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are not contradictory. Genesis 1 gives an overview of Creation Week. Genesis 2 focuses on man’s creation on Day 6, fleshing out the preceding overview.
Jesus Himself substantiated the harmony of these two chapters. When questioned about marriage, He applied quotations from both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 to the first man and woman, thereby confirming the chapters’ harmony (Matthew 19:4-5). Jesus knew both passages, yet He saw no contradiction, for He used both together. Jesus attested that both chapters speak of Adam and Eve.
Second, Jesus declared that the first marriage occurred at the Beginning (Mark 10:6). His statement allows no window of time for a pre-Adamic race. From that first marriage, Jesus derived a marriage standard which He applied to all Adam’s offspring. Jesus’ words show He believed everyone descended from Adam.
Third, when Adam looked for a wife among the animals, no suitable helpmate was found (Genesis 2:18-20). No human female existed; thus no other race could have existed. Yahweh then created Eve who was the mother of all living (Genesis 3:20). Therefore all humans descended from Eve, including Cain’s wife.
Scripture explicitly says,
He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth (Acts 17:26). Each person all over the globe descends from Adam. In the beginning there was only one man Adam and one woman Eve. There was no pre-Adamic race. Mankind is a single race, and Cain’s wife belonged to that race.
Another argument points out that Cain was afraid of being killed when God exiled him for murdering Abel (Genesis 4:13-14). They say this indicates the existence of a substantial human population whom Cain feared. Allegedly this population came from somewhere besides Adam and Eve; supposedly Cain found his wife there.
First, such speculation contradicts Scripture’s clear teaching that all men descended from Adam.
Second, Adam and Eve were 130 years old at Seth’s birth (Genesis 5:3). Eve identified Seth as the replacement for the murdered Abel. Well over 100 years could have elapsed from Cain’s birth to Abel’s death – plenty of time for Adam and Eve to produce many descendants, including women for Cain to marry.
Third, Cain’s fears of revenge are accounted for by Abel’s close friends and allies among his brothers and other relatives.
Where Did Cain Get His Wife?
What is known of Mrs. Cain Adamson? Besides her name, almost nothing. Yet she sparks more speculation than any other Bible woman. Who was she?
Genesis 5:4 gives a clue to the answer:
Then the days of Adam after he became the father of Seth were eight hundred years, and he had other sons and daughters.
Adam and Eve had many sons and daughters as they obeyed God’s command to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:27-28). Adam lived to age 930, so he could have had hundreds of sons and daughters.
Many sons married sisters and other sons married nieces or grand-nieces to begin filling the earth. How else could two people carry out God’s command, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28)? If brothers had not married sisters, mankind would have died out in one generation.
Thus Cain’s wife was one of his sisters, or possibly a niece.
This is not as strange as one might think. I married a relative. Everybody does. There is nobody else to marry.
All humans today are related, because we all have common ancestors. Everyone descended from Noah’s three sons, either Japheth or Shem or Ham (Genesis 9:18-19). Thus our nearest common ancestors are Mr. & Mrs. Noah. Adam through Noah comprises 10 men, all of whom along with their wives and their wives’ ancestors are common ancestors. Thus all alive today have dozens of common ancestors from Mr. and Mrs. Noah back to Adam and Eve.
Today boys are repulsed by the idea of marrying their sisters. Cain did not have that option. No one existed for him to marry except sisters or nieces.
There was no reason for Cain to feel reluctant to marry one of his sisters. Cain and his siblings were first-generation offspring of Adam and Eve. Even for generations thereafter the gene pool was relatively clean. Enough harmful genetic errors had not accumulated to make marrying close relatives unwise. This developed as the consequences of sin compounded over the years.
Today degeneration of the gene pool has intensified; marriage between close relatives now risks severe problems in the offspring when identical defective genes occur in both closely related parents.
Restrictions against marrying close relatives did not exist until the time of Moses, 2500 years after Creation. In early generations the restriction was unnecessary. Adam himself married a closer relation than anyone else ever has, for Eve was bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh (Genesis 2:23). Eve was practically a clone of Adam, having been made from his rib. Noah’s grandchildren married siblings or cousins. Abraham and Isaac each married close relatives.
Whom Did Adam’s Sons Marry?
Certainly in the first generation after Adam, some of the brothers needed to marry sisters to continue the race. Other brothers could have married nieces or grandnieces. Adam’s daughters-in-law were his daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters.
The Creator established marriage; therefore, His Word is the defining standard for marriage. Those who reject Scripture’s authority have abandoned the basis for judging what is legitimate in marriage. Thus they have no grounds for criticizing Cain and his brothers for marrying sisters and nieces.
Questions to Ponder
- If you had been on the witness stand at the 1925 Scopes Trial, how would you have answered Clarence Darrow’s question, “Where did Cain get his wife?”
- What other questions do skeptics use in trying to discredit Scripture? Are you prepared to answer them (1 Peter 3:15)?
Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the 22nd of a series of weekly blog articles on Adam.
Read the prequels:
1. Was Adam in the Garden of Eden?
2. Did Moses Believe in Adam?
3. Did Jesus Believe in Adam?
4. Did Paul Believe in Adam?
5. Does Belief in Adam Matter?
6. Adam and Puppies
7. Why Did Adam Sin?
8. What Should Adam Have Done?
9. What Did Adam Cause?
10. What Was Adam’s Forbidden Fruit?
11. How Long Was Adam in Eden?
12. Was Adam’s Garden of Eden Real?
13. Christmas & Adam (with videos)
14. Where Was Adam’s Garden of Eden?
15. Did Adam Wear Clothes in Eden?
16. Was Adam Backward or Brilliant? (with video)
17. Who Was Mrs. Adam?
18. Adam’s Dream Girl
19. Adam’s Prolific Princess
20. Adam’s Problematic Princess
21. How Many Children Did Adam Have?
Read the sequels:
23. Did Adam Ride a Unicorn?
24. How Long Did Adam Live?
25. Did Adam Swat Mosquitoes in Eden?
26. Did Adam’s Garden Have a Talking Snake?
27. Why Should Adam’s Sin Affect Me?
28. Did Roses Have Thorns in Adam’s Garden?
29. Adam the Image-Bearer & Harambe the Gorilla
30. Did Adam Ever Return to Eden?
31. What Was Adam’s Tree of Life?
32. Will Adam Be in Heaven?
33. Did Adam See the Big Dipper?
34. Did Adam Know Earth Is Round?
35. Did Jesus Say When Adam Was Created?
36. Did Adam See Dinosaurs?
37. Did Adam Like Steak?
38. Could Adam Read & Write?
39. Did God Use Evolution to Make Adam?
40. Adam & the Olympics
41. Adam and the Gospel
42. Adam and the Genesis Road
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday April 13, 2016 A.D.
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 2:16; 3:1-6)