Where Did Cain Find His Wife?

How to Solve the Riddle

The Family of Cain Wandering by Paolo Veronese
Heritage Images / Contributor / Getty Images

Who did Cain marry? In the Bible, all the people on earth at that time were directly descended from Adam and Eve. Where, then, did Cain find his wife? Only one conclusion is possible. Cain married his sister, niece, or great niece.

Two facts help us solve this age-old mystery:

  1. Not all of Adam's descendants are named in the Bible.
  2. Cain's age when he married is not given.

Cain was the first son of Adam and Eve, followed by Abel. After the two brothers presented offerings to God, Cain murdered Abel. Most Bible readers assume Cain was jealous of his brother because God accepted Abel's offering but rejected Cain's.

However, that is not explicitly stated. In fact, before the killing we have only one short, puzzling statement:

"Cain spoke to Abel his brother." ( Genesis 4:8, NIV)

Later, when God curses Cain for his sin, Cain replies:

"Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me." (Genesis 4:14, NIV)

The phrase "whoever finds me" implies there were many other people already besides Adam, Eve, and Cain. By the time Adam fathered his third son, Seth, a replacement for Abel, Adam was already 130 years old. Several generations could have been born in that time.

Genesis 5:4 states:

"After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters." (NIV)

One Woman Accepts Cain

When God cursed him, Cain fled the presence of the Lord and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Because Nod means "fugitive or wanderer" in Hebrew, some Bible scholars think Nod was not a literal place but a state of roaming, without roots or commitment.

"Cain knew his wife and she conceived and bore Enoch," according to Genesis 4:17. Although Cain had been cursed by God and left with a mark that would prevent people from killing him, one woman consented to be his wife. Who was she?

Who Did Cain Marry?

She could have been one of his sisters, or she could have been a daughter of Abel or Seth, which would have made her a niece. She also could have been one or two or more generations later, making her a great niece.

The vagueness of Genesis at this point forces us to speculate on the exact relationship between the couple, but it is certain Cain's wife was descended from Adam as well. Because Cain's age is not given, we don't know exactly when he married. Many years could have gone by, increasing the possibility his wife was a more distant relative.

Bible scholar Bruce Metzger said the Book of Jubilees gives the name of Cain's wife as Awan and says she was a daughter of Eve. The Book of Jubilees was a Jewish commentary on Genesis and part of Exodus, written between 135 and 105 B.C. However, since the book is not part of the Bible, that information is highly questionable.

An odd turn in Cain's story is that his son Enoch's name means "consecrated." Cain also built a city and named it after his son, Enoch (Genesis 4:17). If Cain was cursed and forever separated from God, it raises this question: to whom was Enoch consecrated? Was it God?

Intermarriage Was Part of God's Plan

At this point in human history, intermarriage with relatives was not only necessary but was sanctioned by God. Although Adam and Eve had been tainted by sin, genetically they were pure and their descendants would have been genetically pure for many generations.

Those marriage combinations would have paired the same dominant genes, resulting in healthy, normal children. Today, after thousands of years of mixed gene pools, a marriage between a brother and sister could result in recessive genes combining, producing abnormalities.

The same problem would have occurred after The Flood. All of the people would have descended from Ham, Shem, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and their respective wives. Following the Flood, God commanded them to be fruitful and multiply.

Much later, after the Jews had escaped slavery in Egypt, God handed down laws forbidding incest, or sex between close relatives. By then the human race had grown so much that such unions were no longer necessary and would be harmful.

Resources and Further Reading

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Fairchild, Mary. "Where Did Cain Find His Wife?" Learn Religions, Feb. 16, 2021, learnreligions.com/where-did-cain-find-his-wife-4126647. Fairchild, Mary. (2021, February 16). Where Did Cain Find His Wife? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/where-did-cain-find-his-wife-4126647 Fairchild, Mary. "Where Did Cain Find His Wife?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/where-did-cain-find-his-wife-4126647 (accessed June 3, 2023).