Sunday, June 2, 2024

Where Did Cain Get His Wife?


by Dr. Maxwell Shimba

One of the most frequently asked questions about the Bible is, "Where did Cain get his wife?" Skeptics have discovered that many Christians struggle to answer this question, but the answer is not as difficult as you might think.

### What Does the Bible Say?

"Where did Cain get his wife?" or "Whom did Cain marry?" To find the answer, we need to look carefully at the Scriptures.

**Creation of Adam and Eve:**

In Genesis 2:7, we read about the creation of Adam:

> “Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

Genesis 2:21–22 recounts the creation of Eve:

> “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”

**God’s Command to Multiply:**

In Genesis 1:28, we read God's command to Adam and Eve:

> “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.’”

**Adam and Eve's Offspring:**

Genesis 5:4 makes it clear that Adam and Eve had multiple sons and daughters:

> “The days of Adam after he fathered Seth were 800 years; and he had other sons and daughters.”

Additionally, Genesis 3:20 states:

> “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.”

Scripture is clear that every human being is descended from Adam and Eve. Although it is common to classify people into “races” based on skin tone, eye shape, and so on, there is actually only one race.

Since we are “one blood” descended from Adam and Eve, the only people Cain could have married would have been his sister or niece.

### The Spread of Humanity

**Genesis and Human Diversity:**

Adam and Eve’s offspring multiplied and filled the earth for approximately 1,500 years before Noah’s flood. At that point, an important event happened in human genetics: the population was reduced to Noah’s family of eight aboard the ark (Genesis 7:13, 7:23).

After the flood, the human race multiplied again. In disobedience to God, they did not fill the earth. God judged their disobedience by confusing their language at the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:1-9), and from there, they migrated, filling the earth as God intended.

As people became isolated in different groups around the world, certain physical characteristics became dominant, such as dark skin in Africa and almond-shaped eyes in Asia.

Despite the diversity in physical characteristics we see today, the Bible (and the science of genetics) confirms we are all one race. As Acts 17:26 states:

> “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place.”

### Can You Marry Your Relation?

The immediate reaction to Cain marrying his sister or niece is often shock or disgust. Today, marrying close relations is called incest. However, approximately 6,000 years ago, God did not forbid marriage between close relatives. Why?

**Genetic Purity of Early Humanity:**

Adam and Eve were created perfect. It wasn’t until after the fall that suffering and death affected mankind and every other living thing. One aspect of this suffering would have been mutations in the DNA that result in disease. Since Adam and Eve were created genetically perfect, their children would have had few mutations. Mutations in subsequent generations would have continued to increase and accumulate. Eventually, it became too dangerous to marry a close relation because of the increased likelihood of inherited disease.

During the time of Moses, approximately 2,500 years after creation, God forbade marriage between close relatives (Leviticus 18:6–18). It seems that one reason was health. Although the Israelites knew nothing of DNA, God did, and He knew close relatives were likely to have the same mutations. Since many diseases occur only when a child has two copies of the same mutation (one from Mom and one from Dad), marriage between close relatives would be harmful to the Israelites. This is one of the reasons such marriages are prohibited today—to prevent diseases that can afflict children of this kind of union.

### How Does the Answer to This Question Affect the Gospel?

Some Christians say that it doesn’t matter whether Genesis presents true history, such as the marriage of Cain. Creation is a side issue; it’s not a primary doctrine, and the most important thing is to “trust in Jesus.” While the gospel is indeed central to our message, people must depend on the Bible to know what the gospel is. If the Bible that relates the gospel is not accurate and truthful in Genesis, then how do we know it is telling the truth about Jesus Christ?

**Genesis and the Gospel:**

The history of Adam’s race in Genesis is foundational to understanding how the gospel applies to all people. Because all people are descendants of Adam and Eve, all people are sinners (Romans 3:23, 5:12). Christ died and rose again to redeem Adam’s race (Romans 5:15, 17; 1 Corinthians 15:21–22, 45). If Cain married someone other than a descendant of Adam and Eve, that would contradict the clear teaching of Scripture, not only in Genesis but also as it relates to the gospel. If there are other races, then how can the gospel be for all people (1 Timothy 2:4)? It can’t—the gospel depends in part on the accurate biblical answer to where Cain got his wife. So it’s not just a side issue, it’s part of the main issue!

Peter admonishes us to be ready always to give an answer for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15). The history in Genesis, including the identity of Cain’s wife, is crucial to understanding that we are all sinners and in need of the forgiveness and salvation offered through Jesus Christ.

Dr. Maxwell Shimba is president of Shimba Theological Institute

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