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

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.

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