Oct. 2, 2003
Editors note: Due to two related questions being asked
at the same time. I am posting both.
Where did Cain get his wife, since he was a son of Adam and Eve??
Thanks for a very important and
appropriate question. Many apologists and columnists who deal with Bible
questions, especially from skeptics, say that this is actually the number one
question they get. So it was only inevitable I would get it eventually. This
woman, and debates about her existence, was even brought into the famous Scopes
trial (as "proof" the Bible was not to be taken at face value); mentioned in the
play/movie "Inherit the Wind"; and in agnostic Carl Sagan's book/movie
"Contact." And as mystifying as this question seems at first, the answer is
simple and fairly obvious; though for some it raises (unnecessarily) further
The dilemma: Cain, the first son of the first parents (Adam and Eve), is
mentioned in Genesis 4:17 as having a wife! Where in the world did he get her?
The main solutions you often hear circulate around these two scenarios:
1.) This craziness proves that the Bible is
fallible and untrustworthy.
2.) He found a wife who belonged to another race
(one not born of Adam and Eve), either in the land of Nod (where he is reported
to have sojourned in Genesis 4:16-17..but note, though a wife is mentioned at
this point, the text nowhere connotes that he met her there); or from some
"other-worldly" race, such as the Nephilim (Gen 6:4, Num 13:13).
Not many make the logical, and I believe correct, leap to what should be the
"final answer" of Scenario #3: ....(hold your breath; roll the drum and then
... he married his sister!
"Whoa, Nellie!, " some are objecting. Wouldn't that be incest, and therefore
create another dilemma regarding Cain breaking a law of God? No. When you think
about it, what other choice did Cain have but to marry a sister? Who else was
there? (I am making a crucial assumption that there is only one "race" of
humans, and that everyone is eventually related to Adam and Eve..if some see
that as quaint and fundamentalist. so be it!) God did not specifically "outlaw"
marriage with close relatives until 2500 years later...as spelled out in Lev.
18-20. And the classic reasons given against marrying a sister have to do with
genetic complications and risk. But how pure would Adam and Eve's genes have
been? By Moses' time, you can understand how that had changed.
Note that Cain was not the only child of Adam and Eve..only the first. We know
two brothers were born soon after Cain; Abel in 4:2 and Seth by 4:25. But now
some are asking the next necessary question: OK, Where did Cain get a sister,
then? Well, contrary to popular (mis)understanding (and sometimes skeptical
conspiracy), the Bible (check Genesis 5:4) DOES flat-out say that Adam and Eve
had other children:
"After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years, and had other sons and daughters."
Now, some are saying (I hear you!) :"Ah, I can see that, but considering the
long life spans of the day; and the potentially large number of children
eventually born to Adam and Eve, couldn't Cain have, if he waited long enough,
married a niece?" Yes, fair reader, fair insight. I think that is possible; and
I have no problem if that is your conclusion. But I believe that it was actually
a sister is a safer bet, due to how early on in the story Cain's "marriage"
seems to occur. (However, if this lessens your nervousness about incest; since a
niece is more distant than a sister; note that the biblical inunctions regarding
incest do indeed include no marriage to an aunt, uncle, or brother's wife..Lev
18:7-17; 20:11-12,14,17,20-21; Deut. 22:30; 27:20,22,23).
Below is a link to a helpful response to this question from
ChristianAnswers.Net, which basically agrees with my answer, but also sheds
probable light on some other "complications" that may be triggered here. By the
way, for such a "controversial" question, one will be hard-pressed to find a
Bible-believing commentator who doesn't point out that the answer I gave is a
"no-brainer" (which is why I could come up with it, you say :).....)
Finally, as you may have found out; as helpful and biblical as it is to study
such dilemmas in order to strengthen and defend our faith; giving "reasons for
the hope within", there is no arguing with a hardened skeptic. But rejoice in
the fact that we do have a Bible and a God that can be trusted. Both will
withstand any questioning and test; even if the wrestling is uncomfortable and
stretching. Though our faith is "beyond reason", it is not unreasonable. Believe
I have fallen in love with my third
cousin. I have read and re-read Leviticus Chapter 18 and the relationships
mentioned in this chapter are not cousin type relationships. Yet everyone I
speak to, says that it is wrong. Can you provide any guidance in this matter.
Thanks for asking. I
tremble at giving "marital advice" online. So let me say that in principle, the
marrying of a third cousin is nowhere specifically disallowed in Scripture, or
seen as incestuous. So, as "weird" as it may sound to some, it cannot be
forbidden by Scripture. What is clear is that by Moses' time, sex and marriage
with parents, stepmothers, siblings, half brothers or sisters, granddaughters,
daughters-in-law or sons-in-law, aunts , uncles or brother's wives were
forbidden: Lev 18:7-17; 20:11-12,14,17,20-21; Deut. 22:30; 27:20,22,23.
To be honest, you should weigh the potential problem to you of any (inevitable)
social stigma of those who do find that you are married to a cousin. That does
not mean the stigma or lack of understanding should bother or deter you, if the
two of you are destined for each other; just that it should be considered in the
mix and conversation, in the crucible of the discernment and ultimate decision
being honed. And the culture or country you live in may inevitably catapult this
factor into a heavier-weighing one.
And on more of a gut and subjective level, it might "feel" or "seem" to me, too
strange or incestuous to marry anyone as close as a second cousin; though I
admit that is not Scripturally forbidden; and may be just a function of my
particular family situation and my country's culture. I don't know what it feels
like to have to even ask the question you honored me by asking me.
Please see this link to my previous column on Cain marrying his sister for more
detail. Let that really be the bulk of my detailed answer.
But let me also say that whether or not this third cousin is the right choice
for a spouse is another question altogether. So just because there is no
technical reason to not marry her due to incest guidelines and religious mores;
that does not mean that one should marry anyone in the "unforbidden" category.
Just because she or he is theoretically in the pool of "legal" candidates,
doesn't mean they could or should legally win the election. That should have
gone without saying, but I didn't want it to.
And you may in fact have to check the laws of the state, province or nation you
live in; though I am unaware of any jurisdiction where marriage to third cousins
are against laws of the land.
So holy discernment and God's best to you as you may be moving into a new season
This question is a helpful one to cause us to ask the hard but vital question of
what is culture and what is commandment. I recommend everyone take the Paul
Hiebert survey here as honestly as possible.
And Holy Spirited discernment to all our readers as you do so.
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