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Answers from the Book
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God, Who answers Gen 35:3
Where did Cain get his wife?
Genesis 4:17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: Where did Cain get his wife?
Answer: Genesis 4:17 is answered by Genesis 5:4 And the days of Adam after he had begotten Seth were eight hundred years: and he begat sons and daughters:
We know Adam and Eve had three sons: Cain, Abel, and Seth; but what’s forgotten in the Bible critic’s mind is that they many more children after that.
In Genesis 5:4 we read a statement that sums up the life of Adam and Eve: “After he begot Seth, the days of Adam were eight hundred years; and he had sons and daughters.”
Skeptics of the Bible have used Cain’s wife time and again to try to discredit the book of Genesis as a true historical record. Sadly, most Christians have not given an adequate answer to this question. As a result, the world sees them as not being able to defend the authority of Scripture and thus the Christian faith.
For instance, at the historic Scopes Trial in Tennessee in 1925, a man defending the Christian faith, failed to answer the question about Cain’s wife posed by the ACLU lawyer. Sadly, I believe the trial and the movies that followed helped popularize this question to a skeptical world as the question to stump Christians.
In recent times, this same example was taken up by Carl Sagan in his book Contact (which was on the New York Times best-seller list) and then used in the movie Contact which was based on the book.
But really, it’s not a difficult question at all. Scripture doesn’t tell us how many children were born to Adam and Eve, but considering their long life spans (Adam lived for 930 years—Genesis 5:5), it would seem logical to suggest there were many. Remember, they were commanded to “be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). We have families today that have 20 kids, and we only live 70 years. They lived 900+… certainly they did a good job of repopulating the earth like God said to do.
If we work totally from Scripture, without any personal prejudices or other extra-biblical ideas, then back at the beginning, when there was only the first generation, brothers would have had to marry sisters or there wouldn’t have been any more generations! We’re not told when Cain married or many of the details of other marriages and children, but we can say for certain that Cain’s wife was either his sister or a close relative.
Argument #1: Many people immediately reject the conclusion that Adam and Eve’s sons and daughters married each other by appealing to the Bible law against brother-sister marriage. Some say that you can’t marry your relation. Actually, if you don’t marry your relation, you don’t marry a human! A wife is related to her husband before they are married because all people are descendants of Adam and Eve—all are of one blood. The Biblical law forbidding close relatives marrying was not given until the time of Moses (Leviticus 18–20), a mere 2500 years later. Provided marriage was one man for one woman for life (based on Genesis 1–2), there was no disobedience to God’s law originally (before the time of Moses) when close relatives (even brothers and sisters) married each other.
Argument #2: Now today it is true that children produced in a union between brother and sister have a greater chance to be deformed. As a matter of fact, the closer the couple are in relationship, the more likely it is that any offspring will be deformed. It is very easy to understand this without going into all the technical details.
Each person inherits a set of genes from his or her mother and father. Unfortunately, genes today contain many mistakes (because of sin and the Curse), and these mistakes show up in a variety of ways. For instance, people let their hair grow over their ears to hide the fact that one ear is lower than the other. Or perhaps someone’s nose is not quite in the middle of his or her face, or someone’s jaw is a little out of shape. Let’s face it, the main reason we call each other normal is because of our common agreement to do so!
The more closely related two people are, the more likely it is that they will have similar mistakes in their genes, inherited from the same parents. Therefore, brother and sister are likely to have similar mistakes in their genetic material. If there were to be a union between these two that produces offspring, children would inherit one set of genes from each of their parents. Because the genes probably have similar mistakes, the mistakes pair together and result in deformities in the children.
Conversely, the further away the parents are in relationship to each other, the more likely it is that they will have different mistakes in their genes. Children, inheriting one set of genes from each parent, are likely to end up with some of the pairs of genes containing only one bad gene in each pair. The good gene tends to override the bad so that a deformity (a serious one, anyway) does not occur. Instead of having totally deformed ears, for instance, a person may have only crooked ones. (Overall, though, the human race is slowly degenerating as mistakes accumulate generation after generation.)
However, this fact of present-day life did not apply to Adam and Eve. When the first two people were created, they were perfect. Everything God made was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). That means their genes were perfect—no mistakes. But when sin entered the world because of Adam (Genesis 3:6), God cursed the world so that the perfect creation then began to degenerate, that is, suffer death and decay (Romans 8:22). Over a long period of time, this degeneration would have resulted in all sorts of mistakes occurring in the genetic material of living things.
RECAP: Once you understand that the laws against close relatives marrying didn’t come about until the time of Moses (Leviticus 18 – 2500 years after Adam)—and that you don’t marry a close relation today because of accumulated mutations on our genes—the answer really is quite simple.
Thanks, Casey! Great post. :)