Where Did Cain Find His Wife?

During this Christmas break I have been reading a book by Gerald L. Schroeder, God According to God, the same book I mentioned in a previous post, a book that had taught me much about the God of the Old Testament.

Schroeder is a physicist who combines his scientific research with his love and devotion for the Bible. In a commendation of the book, David J. Wolpe, Rabbi at the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, California wrote:

“A brilliant mix of ancient exegesis and modern science that will convince some and infuriate others. Schroeder’s book demands the attention of anyone who wonders if God must be exiled from the modern, enlightened mind.”

In the first chapter of his book, “A Few Words About What God Is Not,” Schroeder discusses some of the misconceptions people have about the God of the Hebrew Bible. Schroeder claims that these misconceptions about God exist among skeptics as well as among believers.

Skeptics believe that the God of the Bible is a man-made creation that exists only to satisfy human curiosity about the existence of human life in this vast universe. Skeptics also believe that God is irrelevant and unnecessary in an enlightened society.

On the other hand, some believers think that God is there to satisfy every human need, to answer every question dealing with the mysteries of life. Many believers have, what Schroeder calls “the parentlike image of an infinite, error-free God” and they believe in “an all-powerful, ever present, ever involved, never erring Creator” (2009:5).

This childlike view of God is, in many ways, contrary to the image of God revealed in the Hebrew Bible. Schroeder says that this view of God fails when one is confronted with the facts of life, the brutalities, the violence, and the injustices that are present in every human society.

Schroeder wrote his book in order to address this misperception about God. He wrote: “We are about to correct that misperception, and in doing so we’ll develop an understanding of the Divine as made manifest in our world” (2009:5).

There is much that Schroeder says in chapter one about the misconceptions people have about God. I will not summarize the whole chapter in this post. Rather, I want to quote a section of chapter one that made me think about one question that my students ask me in class every time I teach the Pentateuch, a question that you probably have asked yourself: “Where did Cain find his wife?”

Before I answer this question, let me quote Schroeder and say a few words about what he wrote. When discussing the age of the universe, Adam and Eve, and the fossils of hominids that date back thousands and thousands of years, Schroeder wrote:

The ancient biblical commentators, those whose writings predate by many centuries the discoveries of modern science (writers of the Talmud, ca. 400; Rashi, ca. 1090; Maimonides, ca. 1190; Nahmanides, ca. 1250), learned from the detailed wording of Genesis that the universe is young and old simultaneously. These ancient commentators actually discuss what science has only recently discovered, that the flow of time is flexible. The rate at which times passes varies depending upon the conditions and the temporal locations from which events are viewed. That is the nature of time in this amazing world of ours. And with that knowledge they describe the old/young age of our universe. They talk about “beings” that we today would refer to as hominids, being identical to humans in shape and in intelligence, lacking only the soul of humanity, the neshama, to make them human. According to these ancient biblical commentators they walked the earth at the time of biblical Adam and before. “Cavemen” were never a theological problem to these ancient commentators.

A superficial reading of the Bible misses all of this. But the Bible is anything but superficial (2009:22-23).

What interested me most in Schroeder’s quotation is the fact that these Jewish biblical commentators talk about pre-Adamic people from “the detailed wording of Genesis.” This statement raised two questions in my mind. The first question was: “Where in Genesis did the Rabbis see this?” The second question was whether the existence of these pre-Adamic people can explain what the Bible says about Cain’s wife.

I have not read what the Rabbis wrote about these pre-Adamic people. I am depending on Schroeder’s statement to reconstruct the possibility of pre-Adamic people in Genesis. My view is only a possible interpretation, not a fact that can be proved historically. Now, follow my discussion of this issue and then ask questions later.

In Genesis1:26, the New International Version (NIV) describes how God created man: “God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.’” The Hebrew word for “man” is ’ādām. Thus, when we read Genesis 1:26, we think of two people, Adam and Eve. If God created only two people, then Cain’s wife was one of his sister, since according to one tradition, Eve had 70 children.

However, the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) translates Genesis 1:26 as follows: “God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness.’” The Hebrew word for “humankind” is ’ādām, the same word translated as “man” in the NIV. In fact, the word ’ādām is a collective word that should be translated as “humankind.”

Now, how many people are there in “humankind”? More than one and more than two. If God created more than two people, then Cain found his wife among the women who were part of the “humankind” God had created.

When we understand the word ’ādām from this perspective, the Rabbis were right. This brings me to Cain. Where did Cain find his wife? There are three possibilities: either she was his sister or she was one of the women that were a part of the “humankind”God had created.

The third possibility is only a theory. This is a theory that is based on what the Rabbis said about the pre-Adamic people and not on the Bible.

Where did Cain find his wife? The answer to this question may be found in recent studies on the people whom we call Neanderthals. An article published in Wikipedia says the following about the Neanderthals:

The Neanderthals are an extinct species of human in the genus Homo, possibly a subspecies of Homo sapiens. They are closely related to modern humans, differing in DNA by only 0.3%, just twice the variability across contemporary humans.

Genetic evidence published in 2010 suggests that Neanderthals contributed to the DNA of anatomically modern humans, probably through interbreeding.

According to genetic evidence, two human traits present in people today were inherited from the Neanderthals: diabetes and red hair.

If, as the Rabbis wrote, there were people living before Adam and during the lifetime of Adam’s children, and if there was interbreeding between modern humans and the Neanderthals as the evidence seems to prove, then it is possible that Cain found his wife among those people who were alive at the time God put the neshama, the spirit of human life in Adam.

The possibility that Cain found his wife among these pre-Adamic people may find support in another passage in Genesis. When Cain went away from the presence of the Lord, he “settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain knew his wife, and she conceived and bore Enoch; and he built a city, and named it Enoch after his son Enoch” (Genesis 4:16-17).

The fact that Cain built a city in the land of Nod may indicate that there were many people living in the place he settled, people who were not the children of Adam and Eve.

Now, is this what happened? Probably not. This is only a possible interpretation of how Cain found his wife, but an interpretation that finds no support in the biblical text. Where did Cain find his wife? We still do not have a definite answer to this question and we many never know the true answer to this baffling question.

Claude Mariottini
Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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16 Responses to Where Did Cain Find His Wife?

  1. Craig Benno says:

    I wonder if he is tapping into the ancient KJV commentary understanding that Genesis says “In the beginning the world was ‘recreated’ from the chaos.” Certainly within the 2nd Gen account of the creation of Adam, he takes him and places him into the garden.

    While I have some reservations about it, there is some thought that says the authors intention in Genesis is a theological one of the beginning of a journey to the promised land and subsequent exile from it – thoughts which continue to echo throughout the OT.

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    • Craig,

      I fully agree with your last statement. The intent of the two stories of creation in Genesis is to teach theology. The first comment, about the “Gap Theory”, has been adopted by many people, but it has no biblical support. What Schoeder is doing is quoting the misdrash of the Rabbis.

      My post today is just to present a possibility. As I tried to emphasize in my post, what I wrote is just a theory that has no biblical support. This is the reason I used the word “possible”several times.

      Claude Mariottini

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      • Craig Benno says:

        Yes, you emphasized the lack of support well. I have to admit, I hadn’t really heard of ‘Midrash’ till I did my Micah studies in the context of the Minor Prophets. Since then I have found some helpful and some not so helpful midrash information.

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      • Craig,

        The Rabbis used a lot of Midrash in their interpretation of the Scriptures. The word “Midrash” appears twice in the Hebrew Bible: 2 Chronicles 13:22 and 24:27.

        Claude Mariottini

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  2. I enjoyed the article…there is so much that is past our finding out…but his theory has some explainable ‘meat’ to it…and the bible never says that Cain married his sister. If that were true.. I can’t see the writer leaving that bit of information out. If ‘commentary’ has no shred of evidence then it’s garbage…and it has no use and above all not to be quoted…in this instance (and I may be wrong) this ancient commentary had something that you could possibly hang your hat on concerning Cain’s wife…Now this won’t preach on Sunday morning…but it was some great information…I think I will get the book.

    Midrash |ˈmidˌräSH| (also midrash) noun (pl. Midrashim |midˈräSHim| )
    an ancient commentary on part of the Hebrew scriptures, attached to the biblical text. The earliest Midrashim come from the 2nd century ad, although much of their content is older.

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    • Janice,

      Thank you for your comment. The truth is that no one knows where Cain got his wife, but we all can speculate about this.

      I am glad that you enjoyed my post. Maybe you should subscribe to my blog and receive my posts by email. This way you can read every post when it is published.

      Claude Mariottini

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  3. Anthony Chia says:

    Prof, you said, “When Cain was expelled from the Garden, Cain left the Garden and “settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”

    We know from Gen 3:23 that Adam and Eve were already cast out of the Garden. Cain was born to Adam and Eve out of the Garden. The Garden of Eden was out of bound to men. Your statement was not quite correct.

    As to where did Cain get his wife, indeed it was not stated for us, in the Bible. I have one theory too; but I must also say it is a theory, a possibility; it too, is without any direct support from the Bible. This theory of mine goes this way:

    The Creation of Genesis 1 was both about how the heaven and earth was formed from formlessness, and the creation of the Garden of Eden as a “replica” of a section of the earth (complete with heaven or sky). The four rivers on earth were duplicated in the Garden. The Garden of Eden was of a kind of “parallel dimension”, and when Adam and Eve had sinned and were put outside of it, it was sealed off. That is why it cannot be found by men, even till today. It will not be found; the tree of life, God said, could no longer be accessed by mortal men.

    While the Garden of Eden were new then, the earth was not. Life was present on earth, in the dimension outside of the Garden, prior to Adam and Eve. The depiction of Creation of Genesis 1 was NOT in error; and when God asked Adam to name those creatures, likes birds, etc, in the Garden, they were in existence on earth, outside of the Garden, just as the four rivers were. When Adam named doves in the Garden, when he was placed outside of the Garden, and he saw them, and he would still called them doves, just as he named them. As the Garden was a section not the entire earth, not everything was in the Garden. In my theory, the “man-equivalent” creature of the earth was not in the Garden, Adam and Eve were. I am not suggesting man was created before Adam, any “man-equivalent” creature existing on earth, they only closely “resembled” men. Man was man in how he (Adam) was created. TO GOD,THE MEN CREATED IN EDEN WERE “SONS OF GOD”. In other words, God differentiated between the man He created in the Garden of Eden, and the “men” (man-equivalent) outside Eden.

    When Cain murdered Abel, God disowned him, and counted him with the “men” of the earth. We came from the line of Seth; and so, those from the line of Seth, were the “sons of God”. I believe Cain took his wife from the “men” (man-equivalent) of the earth. From Cain, who was of “sons of God” origin had mixed with man-equivalent of the earth, giving rise to what was then known as “sons of men” or for the females, “daughters of men”. This explained what the sons of God and daughters of men were, in Genesis 6. The daughters of men were referring to women descended from the line of Cain, from joining with man-equivalent of the earth. So before the Flood, God spoke, in Scripture, about how he abhorred the mixing of those who are His, descendants of Seth (Cain, He already disowned and banished out of His sight) and daughters of men (female descendants of Cain {from joining with “man-equivalent”}).

    As I have said, this is my theory, not that it was said as such, in the Bible.

    Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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    • Anthony,

      First of all, I want to thank you for alerting me to a mistake I made in the post. In the original post I said: “When Cain was expelled from the Garden, Cain left the Garden and ‘settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden.’” That, as you pointed out is incorrect. What I should have written was: “When Cain went away from the presence of the Lord.” I have corrected the post to reflect the correct information.

      Your theory has some merits. Although I have never written about some of these things before, I have some similar ideas. The only problem that I have with your views is that “the daughters of men” are the descendants of Cain and “the sons of God” are the descendants of Seth. This then, would mean that the flood came because of mixed marriage. Mixed marriage was not the cause of the flood as I have explained in a previous post.

      When I wrote my original post, I was not clear on the three possible answers to the original question, “where did Cain find his wife.” I have made a few additions to the post in order to make clear the three possibilities. If you want to reread the post, the changes are after I describe the creation of man in Genesis 1:26.

      Again, thank you for your comment and thank you for your correction.

      Claude Mariottini

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  4. Anthony Chia says:

    Ps: maybe it is more correct to say we, men, descended either from Seth or the line from Cain.

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  5. high.expressions says:

    I have NOT read your previous post on the Flood, but I am NOT saying that the mixed marriage was the reason for the Flood; the “sum-it all” reason was given us in Gen 6:5 – “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.”

    In verses before that verse 5, Gen 6:1-4, the author talked about the mixed marriage. The way I read Gen 6, which centered on the Flood, is that there was clearly a break from Gen 5, and so, the opening verses of Gen 6 would introduce the state of affair of the time, before God stated what He would do. The sons of God knowing the daughters of man, was part of the wickedness, I perceived.

    What was so bad about sons of God intermarrying the daughters of man, which I postulated as the descendants from Cain? In NT, in Gal 5:16-17, read this:

    “16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. ”

    Then we have Romans 8:14 – “because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”

    It would NOT be incorrect to say Cain was NOT led by the Spirit but his own desires. Looking from this angle, Cain had lost the status of “sons of God”. Now, even though God was gracious to Cain, still there was abhorrence, for God would no longer have Cain in his sight. In fact, I would even say, Cain epitomized the opposite of sons of God. Was mixed marriage NOT in general an objection to God? Yes, it was. Even in the days of old, OT, when the Israelites were to occupy the Promised Land, even then, after such long time since this mention in Gen 6, God prohibited His people to marry the pagans (the corruption – the issue). And in the NT, we are told NOT to be unequally yoked.

    Now then, did the Flood wiped out all the “mixed bloods”. Almost all, I reckoned. At first glance at Scripture, it would appear that only Noah and his family survived the Flood! My reading of accounts in OT Scriptures led me to believe there were “extraordinary men” from the mixed bloods, from Cain’s line; the Gen 6:1-4 there gave some indications. There were strong men, and even giants. Some of these were NOT wiped out, for we read there were giants or huge men still in the times of the Exodus, and David.

    It is true from the sons of Noah, the earth was populated, and genealogy from Noah could accounts for men all over the places; yet it was possible some from Cain’s line did survive, and perhaps continued to interbreed with sons of God coming from Noah. I don’t know if it is the right thing to say, but perhaps, God has “relented”, in that Jesus’ works, could take care of such, for even Gentiles were and are admissible, from the works of Christ, as sons of God, when previously, Gentiles were separately treated. The “heart-ware” is the focus. With the works of Christ Jesus, when the heart is right, it matters NOT, the bearer is a Jews, a Gentile or a mixed-blood, anymore.

    Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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    • Anthony,

      Thank you for your comments. There are several things in your comment that may not reflect what the Bible teaches. However, I appreciate what you have to say. Go to the article section of my blog and download and read my article on the Anakim and the Nephilim.

      Have a Happy New Year.

      Claude Mariottini

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  6. Heather says:

    Was Noah from the line of Seth? In that case wouldn’t we all be from the line of Seth since God destroyed everyone in the flood…

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  7. Anthony Chia says:

    The thing is that such giants or huge men, they existed before the Flood; and after the Flood, we still find them around. It could mean some of them did survive the Flood, unless we can trace them back to Noah who was from Seth. Even your article on Anakim and Nephilim said that they were dreadful men who existed before the Flood. They became extinct only subsequently; we don’t find them now, I think. And Scripture did record people of God fighting them after the Flood. As to any traces of their DNA or genes in mankind (from mixing) somewhere, in someone, in “inactive state” is anybody’s guess. Yes, despite that possibility, we all are descendants from Seth. I withdraw my one-line PS remark above, but my hypothesis still remains that it might have been possible that Cain took his wife NOT from the daughters descended from Adam and Eve.

    Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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    • Anthony,

      Your views contradict what the Bible says. How can they survive the flood, when the Bible clearly says that only Noah and his family survived the flood: “In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water” (1 Peter 3:20). What I wrote in my article explains how the spied believed they saw the Nephilim.

      Claude Mariottini

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  8. Anthony Chia says:

    You are right, we must NOT contradict the Bible even if we are hypothesizing or trying to “fill in the gap”. I have done more reading (including re-read) and although you quoted 1 Pet 3:20, that verse or the text of 1 Pet 3:18-22 are interpreted quite variedly in the various issues it posed. There are those who say that, the eight was referring to those in the Ark; and a common Jewish tradition was quoted as claiming Og (a huge man, indeed), king of Bashan, survived the Flood. There is however, an unambiguous verse that tell us no others survived, which I cannot dispute, and it is:

    Gen 7:23 – Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.

    I cannot but admit the aspect of my hypothesis that says that descendants of mixed bloods (of Cain with “man-equivalent”) or for that matter, giants or huge men or “extraordinary” men or man-equivalents, could have some survivors after the Flood, is in contradiction with scripture, the above Gen 7:23, for example. Readers, please ignore this aspect of what I said (in my earlier comments) of my theory. With this, I still do wonder where then the huge men or giants came from, post Flood? If they did not come from other survivors, they come from Noah or his sons? Mutation or what?

    I suppose it is still a possibility (hypothesis) that Cain married a woman from “man-equivalent” that existed outside of the Garden of Eden. My bringing in, of the ambiguous text of Gen 6:1-4 of “sons of God” marrying “daughters of man” was not necessary, and complicated matter.

    Lastly, I believe when we get to Heaven, we will realize that we had been wrong about much things! What is important is that we have to be right on the important things. If you are wrong about where Cain’s wife came from, it probably matters not! But I believe it pleases God we get to know Him and his ways, and be acquiring the right knowledge.

    Prof, thank you for your indulgence.

    And yes, have a blessed new year.

    Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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