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Where Did Cain's Wife Come From?

It's the classic Bible puzzle.

Genesis 4:17-24 (ESV)

Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch. When he built a city, he called the name of the city after the name of his son, Enoch. To Enoch was born Irad, and Irad fathered Mehujael, and Mehujael fathered Methushael, and Methushael fathered Lamech. And Lamech took two wives. The name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah. Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all those who play the lyre and pipe. Zillah also bore Tubal-cain; he was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron. The sister of Tubal-cain was Naamah.

Lamech said to his wives: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to what I say: I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for striking me. If Cain's revenge is sevenfold, then Lamech's is seventy-sevenfold.”

This passage raises one of the most famous Bible issues in history. Where did Cain’s wife come from?

That question was part of the Scopes Trial, and William Jennings Bryan’s failure to answer it has proved unfortunate.

Funny thing is, Bryan should have known the answer – Cain married his sister (or, possibly, some other close relative). This is not one of those issues with two sides – unless you view Genesis as just poetry or something – the case is simply too strong. Three references settle the issue.

  • In Genesis 1:28, God tells Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth.”
  • In Genesis 2:21, God makes Eve from Adam’s rib, which makes no sense if He made other women some other way.
  • In Genesis 3:20, Adam calls Eve the mother of all living.

There are other arguments based on how we inherit sin from Adam and Eve, but we don’t need them. These references leave little room for doubt. Cain’s wife must be a descendant of Adam and Eve.

The human genome is destined to degrade over time and marrying your sister will become unsafe. It’s eventually prohibited (cf., Leviticus 18:9 & 20:17).

Of all the people who need our prayers, our teens seem most profound. They have so many pressures and distractions that seeking God’s will in everything almost feels like too much to ask. Yet that is especially critical at this stage of life.

Pray that the Lord will continually remind them of His presence. Ask God to give them a sense of His love and His protection. Pray that they won’t be able to forget Him.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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