Who Was the Wife of Cain?

A closer look at one of the most enigmatic women in Genesis

This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2013. It has been updated.—Ed.


 

Mary Joan Winn Leith explores the identity of the wife of Cain.

While there are many examples of strong and inspiring men and women in Genesis, the book is also packed with stories of dysfunctional families, which is evidenced from the very beginning with the first family—Adam, Eve and their two children, Cain and Abel. In no short amount of time—just 16 verses after announcing the birth of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4—Cain has murdered his younger brother and is consequently exiled from the land. In theory, this would have dropped the world’s population from four down to three. The narrative continues in Genesis 4 with Cain settling in the land of Nod and having children with his wife. Who did Cain marry? Where did she come from? Are there other people outside of Eden? In the November/December 2013 issue of BAR, Mary Joan Winn Leith addresses these questions and explores the identity of the wife of Cain in “Who Did Cain Marry?”

Given that the wife of Cain is only mentioned once in the Old Testament, she would not be counted among the famous women in Genesis. Nevertheless, her identity is still worth investigating. Who did Cain marry? Mary Joan Winn Leith first explores the traditional Jewish and Christian answers that contend that the wife of Cain was another daughter of Adam and Eve. According to this reasoning, Cain would have married his sister—one of Abel’s twin sisters no less, according to the Genesis Rabbah.
 


 
In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s latest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldeans, the birthplace of Abraham.
 

 
A different answer emerges when Leith turns from the traditional responses about the wife of Cain and delves into modern scholarship. Looking at recent work done by sociologists and anthropologists, she notes that when forming a group identity, we tend to define ourselves by how we differ from other groups. In the ancient Near East, sometimes those outside of a particular group or society were considered less “human” by those inside of the group. An important factor that contributes to this mindset is geography. People in the ancient Near East typically stayed close to home, which affected their perception of the world. Surely they knew that other groups of people—potential enemies or allies—existed far away, but if they never came into contact with these groups, what did they matter?

Mary Joan Winn Leith suggests that while the Israelite storyteller knew that other men and women in Genesis existed outside of Eden, they did not matter to him or factor into his account. He was concerned with Adam and Eve and their progeny—not those outside of this group.

Who did Cain marry? There are many answers. For Leith’s explanation of the identity of the wife of Cain—one of the often-overlooked women in Genesis—see her full column.

——————

BAS Library Members: Read the full column “Who Did Cain Marry?” by Mary Joan Winn Leith in the November/December 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Sign up today.
 


 
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on November 15, 2013.
 

 

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

What Happened to Cain in the Bible?

Cain and Abel in the Bible
Bible Review’s Supporting Roles by Elie Wiesel

The Adam and Eve Story: Eve Came From Where?
 


 

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  1. Rob says

    The story was about Cain and Abel, and it is only said they were children of Adam and Eve. It is obvious that there were other children. The pre-flood earth atmosphere shielded better against cosmic radiation permitting less genetic erosion and much longer lives. Original near-perfect genetics permitted intermarriage of siblings. It is so easy to understand that it is beyond me why people want to complicate things. Making themselves look interesting, maybe?

  2. Kenneth says

    Why don’t people read Genesis 5:4 which reveals that Adam begat sons and daughters. Case closed. Cain married a sister or niece.

  3. Lilith says

    Very simple: Gen. 5.4 says that the other sons and daughters of Adam have been born after seth. Cain hadn’t had any sisters at the time of his marriage. Cains wife only could come from the land of Nod (I remind Gen. 1.26-31).

  4. francois says

    According to the book of Jubilees there was a sister born, Awan, after Abel.
    Chapter 4: 1 And in the third week in the second jubilee she gave birth to Cain, and in the fourth she gave birth to Abel, and in the fifth she gave birth to her daughter Awan. And in the first (year) of the third jubilee, Cain slew Abel because (God) accepted the sacrifice of Abel…
    Chapter 4:9 …And Cain took Awan his sister to be his wife and she bare him Enoch at the close of the fourth jubilee. And in the first year of the first week of the fifth jubilee, houses were built on the earth, and Cain built a city, and called its name after the name of his son Enoch.)
    Adam had many children, so marriage was not a problem as mutations only appeared in the time of Leviticus 18:6 (2500 year later) where God prohibited inter-family relations.

  5. Henry says

    mmmh that’s interesting.never thought closely the story of Cain.thanks for revelation

  6. Karmen says

    The Bible states emphatically that God is the same today, as yesterday, as forever in the future you wish to query. IF marriage among siblings is prohibited once it is always against God’s laws and rules. Thus what say you now?

  7. fatima says

    We as humans can never understand God completely but going by the book of Genesis, Cain did not marry his one of his sisters. Why do we want to create or write our own bible?The bible clearly states his wife came from the land of Nod. We should concern ourselves with finding out more about the land of Nod rather than rewriting the book of Genesis.

  8. Bahati says

    If every account were to be written, the Bible could be so big the world couldn’t contain it. JUST ASK THE spirit if you may happen to have, He will reveal God’s secrets. NO NEED TO BOTHER YOUR HEAD.

  9. ROMEOEDSON says

    IF YOU SAY”CAIN GOT HIS WIFE FROM NOD TOWN OR VILLAGE”REMEMBER-GOD CREATED ADAM IN HIS LIKNESS & IMAGE THEN FROM SAME ADAM GOD MADE EVE. BOTH MET AND STARTED HAVING CHILDREN.The Question is WHO ELSE DID JEHOVA OUTSIDE THIS FSMILY?????

  10. ROMEOEDSON says

    CHILDREN OF THIS TIME ARE TOO CURIOUSE. THEY ASK TOO MANY QUESTIONS.

  11. ROMEOEDSON says

    CAN ANY HUMAN IMAGEN JEHOVAH GOD TO CONCLUSSION?

  12. Eric says

    Then let us try to find the real name of Cain wife and where he get her, we are learning

  13. Anthony says

  14. Price says

    The urànti as book

  15. Price says

    Read the urantia book

  16. Pastor says

    The cain wife is Abel twin sister, Because if you look at the books of Old Testament, there allows mention male but not female that is why Bible don’t mention har name because man are the head of the family

  17. pastor says

    the Cain wife is an Abel twins sister,because if you look at the book of Old Testament there allows mention males name not female name that is why the don’t mention her name and because man are the head of family

  18. Andy says

    Really people. What difference does it matter who Cain married? His bloodline ended with the flood.

  19. Valentine says

    i actually have this as an assessment based assignment …so please any more useful findings are very appreciated

  20. Elena says

    What abt Neanderthal genes among our own Sapien Sapien genes? Perhaps this is where these genes came into ours.

  21. Paul says

    “Mary Joan Winn Leith suggests that while the Israelite storyteller knew that other men and women in Genesis existed outside of Eden, they did not matter to him or factor into his account. He was concerned with Adam and Eve and their progeny—not those outside of this group.”
    As the Holy Spirit is the “story teller” (1 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21) to suggest that He did other than tell the truth is a violation of the direct Word of God (John 16:13).

    Adam and Ever are the progenitors of all mankind (Gen 3:20; Acts 17:26). By the time they gave birth to Cain and Abel (Gen 4:1-2), Seth (whose lineage we follow through Noah and beyond) and other sons and daughters (Gen 5) they had already disobeyed God and been cast out of the garden of Eden. Therefore, technically ALL of Adam’s progeny was always outside the garden – only Adam and Eve had ever been in the garden of Eden.

    So, since all humans on the planet earth came from Adam and Eve, and Cain had a human wife, and all humans were already outside the garden of Eden, therefore the proper conclusion, one borne by the revelation of the God the Holy Spirit, is that Cain’s wife, whom he took from the people outside the garden, was also a descendant of Adam and Eve.

  22. mitch says

    It’s a pity you didn’t read Genesis 1 v 26. There were already humans on the earth.

  23. Fabian says

    With Adam and Eve out of the garden, all activities were outside the garden. Now how old was cain and Able at the time of the incidence? Its obvious that Adam and Eve might have other children. The Bible was önly giving account od the incidence and not the geneology of Adam’s family.
    Also, Bible made no connection of the incidence with Adam and Eve. This tells that the brothers were not living together with their parents n likewise other siblings

  24. Gabriel says

    Hello Fatima, the bible did not states ‘his wife came from the land of Nod’ The bible say that Cain went to the land of Nod and knew his wife and not that he marry his wife. ‘knew his wife’ means that he slept with his wife there. he might go along with his wife while leaving his people.

  25. Nat says

    God is love..and God loves Cain so much (even after he murdered his brother) enough to provide him a wife. The words of God (bible) not necessary for us to know the details of cain s wife.God wants us to understand that He still love and blessed the sinners.

  26. trinity says

    not all sinners love by God…

  27. Dominic says

    Cain married his own sister at nod because the bible was not mention woman name at that time it was not prohibiter to marry your sister.

  28. Galv says

    Anyone ever thought that Cain’s wife was created the same way Eve was created. Men have less ribs than females. Cain’s blood line ever completely ended

  29. James says

    I quite agree that Cain married his sister as a wife since there is no human on earth before God created Adam and Eve. so more argument we take it as it stated in the Bible.

  30. Kanayochukwu says

    I strongly believe Cain already had a wife with him before getting into Nod. From the bibles explanation, Cain knew his wife and had a son means that Cain slept with his wife and had a son. So its certain he took along one his sister with him. Only God knows the truth…

  31. Kanayochukwu says

    He took his sister along with him certainly. Thanks for bringing up this matter… It has bn given me sleepless night… Just trying to understand it but all proved abortive.

  32. Brian says

    What other people? It is clearly denoted Adam and Eve were the first humans, Hence Eve being called the mother of all living. And for the point about incest being ok back than, yes it might have been but the whole pure blood negating any genetic defects associated with incest, doesn’t add up. We all are all direct decedent’s of Adam and Eve which would mean there is absolutely 0% genetic variation between us and them because every person came from the same mother and father, so if they had no ill effects from incest why would we with the same blood? It doesn’t matter if it’s been a few thousand years if we all came from the same dna there will be no alteration no matter how long the time period, you know hence why people can trace their family lineages using dna.

  33. James says

    Marriage between brother and sister was not made taboo until Moses. That being said, I think Cain probably married a Neanderthal or Denisovan. I fully believe that Christ was God in the flesh and was the atonement for my sins to reconcile me with a holy God, my Father in heaven. I also believe there were dinosaurs and other hominids that God also created. The missing link scientists are looking for I believe would be in reverse. There were what we call homosapiens, us, and other hominids, who’s DNA has been found in homosapien. Which means interbreeding. I believe that interbreeding took place initially when Cain was sent out into the world, met the wild people he met, took a wife, and had children. I believe that we are very arrogant to say other hominids or dinosaurs did not exist. That would imply that there was something God couldn’t do, wrong. If we could understand all that God has done, and still does, then he would not be worth our worship. We worship him because he is “set apart”, Holy and righteous. He is a creator, and I’m sure has created many things that we have no idea aboof or even a concept of. Now we see dimmly, but when we as believers in Christ Jesus are welcomed home as good and faithful servants we will see clearly.

  34. MAXWELL says

    Cain married her sister .Also the place called Nod was named after Cain lived there.

  35. Chris says

    Ladies and gentlemen, you are missing the big picture. The story is a recording of an event that has significance to the life of the believer. The fact that Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden is recorded because that story shows us what happens when we desire to have the things God has forbidden. The story of Cain and Abel shows us how pride, envy, jealousy, rage, and even vanity cause us to commit unthinkable acts that destroy Gods creation of love. The story said nothing of Cain repenting for the murder of his brother, only that he felt his punishment was unjust. The remainder of this story is, in fact, in keeping with what God told Adam and Eve, “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28), and the fact that God IS the same TODAY, YESTERDAY, AND TOMORROW. He still had commanded them to fill the earth and subdue it, no matter how He felt over Abel’s demise. The story shows us that no matter how far we have fallen, how great our sin, God is still Jehovah Jireah.. The provider. Things may have turned out differently should Cain have repented, accepted his punishment without complaint, and moved when The Lord said “Move.”(i.e. Abraham in Gen 22:2). Take the KNOWLEDGE, WISDOM, and LAWS of the Old Testament, and run them through the love of Jesus and the cross. Read the teachings of Jesus in how they relate to fulfill the prophecies, make a new covenant (law) and ask “did Jesus die for this to change?” OT law was eye for an eye, God smite my enemies, crucify the thief! Run those old covenant teachings through the blood of Jesus and they read very differently.. Forgive.. Seven times seventy times. Love your enemy, and Pray for those who have enmity towards you. If a man steals your jacket, give him your shirt, too. Just some thoughts.

  36. Doug says

    The answer to the question of where Cains wife came from is very simple. Cain got his wife the same way Adam did, God caused a deep sleep to come upon him and took one of his ribs and made him a wife. Adam and Eve were one flesh, and Cain and his wife were one flesh.

  37. Truth says

    I personally think Cain married one of the sons of God…can you remember when God said He will stop that and I also think Can might have given birth to giants.

  38. emma says

    we are say elot of things but never knew the right truth. So i think we all should just stop deffrents story and live as we are living just followe the commandment of all mighty God

  39. Johnny says

    People please STOP. You’re adding and detracting from the Bible. Our God doesn’t agree with incest.

  40. Cyb says

    What about Genesis 1 chapter 26 …. Then God said, ” and now we will make humans beings, they will be like us ……He blessed them and said, “have many children, so that your descendants will live all over the earth.”
    It is only in Genesis 2 chapter 7 ” Then God took some soil from the ground and formed a man….”

    Cy

  41. Mike says

    People dont even understand this bible at all. How can u say there is no human beings apart from Adams family? yes there are other people living on this earth. Ok who was Cain referring to when he told God that anyone who sees him will kill him? God has to put a mark on his forehead, so that anyone who finds him, will not kill him. This is a sign that they were other people living on earth. Cain didn’t marry his sister, he got his wife from the land of Nod.

  42. hilory says

    some of the things written in the bible can be understood just like that. if u feel u want to know more go learn bible histories

  43. Itoro says

    Gen 1 vs 26 down has made it knwn that humans were there before adam jst that he (God) wanted to point out that he want the best out of adams family wch is us, and he created adam after seventh days people should read their bible well before commenting.

  44. Lilith says

    I think it is obvious, that there were humans (so-called preadamites) before Adam and Eve. And of course it’s possible, that both of them had had brothers and sisters (and (grand-)parents, aunts, uncles and cousins as well). Not only possible, but highly propable, because only children were unusually in those days (5500 years b. C.).
    It’s about time to review our view of Adam’s and Eve’s reality of life!

  45. Emmanuel says

    interestingly, we must know that Adam and Eve was the very first creation of God. there was never any preadamic creations!. some of us are referring to Gen.1:26 yes that place shows God intentions to create man and what he wished to accomplish through man. but chapter 2 shows us of how God accomplished His intentions. The Bible said that Cain went to Nod. where and what is Nod. Nod means land of wandering so Cain went to land of wandering that means he left God’s presence and was wandering about east of the garden. and during this wandering he knew his wife and not married. We have to understand the account of people in the Bible. Gen.4 gave a random summary of Cain’s life. It was not accordingly to as the events unfolds or do you think Lamech Cains son is older than Seth Adams third son? No! So Adam must have given birth to so many children and had many other grandchildren before Cain even got married. So Cains story was just rounded off in Gen. 4. So he is got got married to one of his sister. And remember names of many wife in Genesis are mentioned e.g who did Noah got married to? They are only having babies which concludes that they could be getting married to their sisters and even their mother’s. Because they were very sinful and out of God’s regulations. That’s why God have regulate this actions when he redeemed man.

  46. Lilith says

    The very first creation was the cosmic space (Gen. 1.1). Next up, the animal souls (Gen. 1.21) and last but not least the human intelligence (NOT the human by itself (Gen. 1.26; asah means the preparation from preexisting material) and other human characteristics (image if God; Gen. 1.27). When Adam and Eve finally come into being, the whole world already is populated with human beings (Gen. 1.28). Adam and Eve aren’t creations (bara) at all!
    The “sons and daughters” of Adam and Eve come AFTER Seth. So the wives of Cain, Henoch, Noah etc. came from beyond Eden.

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