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All In The Family

"Then Cain went away from the presence of The Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch." (Genesis 4:16-17 RSV)

Who Was Cain's Wife?

The Garden Adam and Eve were the only created humans; Adam from the earth (Genesis 2:7), Eve from a part of Adam (Genesis 2:21-22). Adam and Eve first had two sons, Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-2). Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:8), and, as documented in the opening paragraph, was banished to the land east of Eden where he started a family with his wife.

But where did Cain's wife come from? The Bible provides only one answer: Adam "had other sons and daughters" (Genesis 5:4 RSV). Cain married one of his sisters.

While such a marriage would certainly be very wrong today (as God later decreed, see the Fact Finder below), the rules were quite different in the early days of humanity. It wasn't a matter of Cain making a "wrong" choice, since it was his only choice in order to be able to obey God's command for humanity to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28 RSV).

In those early times, the defects and disorders that could later possibly occur in children from such marriages, from recessive genes, would not have been as likely, since recessive genes would have had little time to develop. The children could actually have been much healthier than humans are today, as evidenced by the far greater life spans of the earliest humans (e.g. Genesis 5:1-32).

While Cain and his sister were very closely related, Adam and Eve could be considered even closer. Although Adam and Eve are the ancestors of all subsequent humans, Eve herself was actually created from a part of Adam, in a process that scientists today might call a sort of "cloning" (Adam and Eve were likely very similar in appearance), so, in a way, genetically, Adam married himself.

Fact Finder: After humanity had become established, did God specify relationship rules for marriage?
Leviticus 18:6-18

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