The Book of Genesis in the Bible, says that Adam and Eve had two sons: Cain and Able. In the story, Cain kills Able and eventually moves away to a land east of Eden. The Bible mentions Cain had a wife, but it doesn’t say where she came from, or when they got married, or where they met. It simply says this:
Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain had relations with his wife and she conceived, and gave birth to Enoch; and he built a city, and called the name of the city Enoch, after the name of his son. -Genesis 4:16-17
So where did Cain get that wife? Surprisingly, despite all the attention given this question over the years, when one looks at the circumstances in the story itself, the answer isn’t hard at all. The problem seems to be more that we don’t like the answer.
Of course, many people never look closely at this question, assuming from the outset that the Bible cannot be taken literally, but when we do look closely, we begin to realize there’s a lot the Bible doesn’t say. There’s no mention, for instance, of what exactly Cain did on his 70th birthday. It never says how long Adam and Eve were in the garden of Eden before they sinned, and according to the story, they could have lived there indefinitely before that fateful moment. It says very little about how things went when Noah was building an ark. We assume people scoffed, but no one really knows. We are left with the realization that the Bible isn’t required to write about everything, anymore than you or I are required to include every single detail about our life when talking about ourselves. The story-teller has every right to include what he or she wants, and leave out the rest. To put it more bluntly, that’s just how it is.
So when we listen to what exactly the Bible says and doesn’t say in regards to Cain’s wife, an answer isn’t hard to come by. Genesis says Cain went out from the presence of the Lord and settled in Nod which is east of Eden. Nod literally means “vagrancy” or “wandering,” which may indicate that this particular piece of land was actually named after Cain. Not only would Cain have been one of the first, if not the first person to live there, but he also calls himself a “restless wanderer” in verse 14, same as the area. Of course, maybe he just thought a land named “vagrancy” or “wandering” was the perfect place for him? You see, it doesn’t say, so it’s important to leave those things open as possibilities. We can’t know for sure.
Second, the Bible says Cain “had relations with his wife and she conceived.” That’s it. It does not say he met her in Nod. It does not say how old Cain was when they met or began having children.
And that’s pretty significant since the people in this part of the Bible were living to very, VERY old ages.
The Bible goes on to say that Eve had another son after Cain killed Able, and probably after he moved out to Nod. “Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.” -Genesis 4:25
It says that altogether, 130 years passed while Adam and Eve had their children Able, Cain and Seth. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.” -Genesis 5:3-5
And again, that’s a long time to live. So for Cain, it appears he left for Nod just before Seth was born, which would have made Cain at the very most, 129 years old. That’s assuming Eve got pregnant almost immediately after being created (or immediately after getting kicked out of the Garden of Eden, depending on when the count started for their ages.) Regardless, Cain was 129 at the oldest. He may very well have been younger, and when you live to be 900+ years old, 127 is the equivalent of being 10 years old today. During that time, the Bible says Adam was “having other sons and daughters.” In other words, there were other children, plural… not just Cain.
Going by the circumstances of the story then, it appears Cain would have had plenty of time, and plenty of opportunity to marry a sister or a relative. As mentioned earlier, the answer isn’t hard to come by, but we probably don’t like the answer. Marry a sister? Let’s all give a collective….Ewww. Nevertheless, if Cain had left and settled in Nod, taking a sister with him, OR if he had settled in Nod but traveled back later to find a wife, either way the very short statement about Cain’s wife having a child would be true. Take note, Genesis does NOT say he met his wife in Nod, but that she gave birth to a son while they lived in Nod. That’s it.
Another thing that often comes as a surprise is that in the Bible, marrying a close relative isn’t even a big deal. And in fact, marrying a sister was not forbidden by God in the Bible for the first few thousand years. Abraham’s wife, you may be interested to know, was also his half-sister.
Today, of course, this would result in high rates of birth defects because of mutational errors that have built up in human DNA over time. However, again appealing to the circumstances of the story, if God created man in the beginning with no DNA damage at all, then DNA mutations would have been almost non-existent in the first few generations. Crazy as it sounds to us, marrying a close relative would not have had the problems we have today thanks to thousands of years of mutations in the DNA.
Besides, she [Sarah, Abraham’s wife] really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. -Genesis 20:12
Again, ewww…. I know. I know.